Overcoming the Gimmickry: 7 Smart Smartphone Features

Image courtesy of adamr /

With the tight competition among several manufacturers, recently released smartphones have become gimmicky. Some have introduced features that don’t really translate to real benefits but only serve as marketing tools.

Samsung’s “Group Play” and dual camera capture, for instance, are pure gimmickry. Even the “Smart Pause” feature is not that convincing. Likewise, curved smartphones from Samsung and LG have been released and they don’t really offer any significant advantage. Extremely high pixel density screens and 4K video capture — who needs them? Companies seem to have run out of real innovative ideas.

There are some good features worth appreciating, though. LG G2’s “knock on” and Xperia Tablet Z’s “tap to wake” are very useful. Waterproof smartphones are also good to have. We just hope companies introduce more useful features like the ones below:

Audio Feedback to Avoid “Shout-y” Calls

Modern smartphones still primarily serve as phones but few manufacturers seem to focus on improving their (phone) call functions. For instance, nobody has come up with something to remedy “shout-y” calls. Some people talk on their phones while shouting because they are unsure if the other party can hear them.

To address this, an audio feedback feature during a call can be implemented. This could be the voice of the person talking being “mirrored” on the speaker to let the person talking know how loud his voice already is, as heard by the other party in a call. This will help them speak moderately even while using a headset. “Shout-y” calls make you look awkward and annoying. This should be a good solution to have.

Call Sound Amplification

Yes, it’s already possible to make the sound coming from the speakers louder during a call. Call voice or sound amplification here, however, means something more advanced. It would be better if your smartphone can enhance the volume of even the faintest of sounds coming from the other side in a call. It’s very inconvenient not being able to hear someone who is already trying to shout to be heard.

A way of increasing even faint voices aimed at the microphone of a phone (on the other side of a call) should be very useful. Smartphones today still don’t have this option. The Xperia Z1 from Sony can slow down conversations in real-time to make it easier to talk to fast talkers but it does not have the ability to increase sounds from other party beyond the standard volume.

Direct Wi-Fi to Wi-Fi / Wi-Fi Network Calls

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to make calls or send messages through a Wi-Fi network? Wi-Fi signals can go up to a hundred meters outdoor and some good distances (passing through walls) indoors. With the help of Wi-Fi repeaters, these ranges can be extended farther. This means that if you are in an office or building, you can easily contact someone without having to pay for the call if you can only place calls via Wi-Fi.

This will be similar to how walkie-talkies work, only cleaner and clearer. It will certainly be a major convenience having this feature on smartphones. Telcos will dislike the idea but consumers certainly welcome something like this. If only smartphone manufacturers don’t have to deal with the politics of getting their smartphones carried by telcos alongside subsidies.

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG /

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG /

Physical Buttons with Functions that Can Be Custom-Assigned

Seriously, why do smartphone makers insist on having none of the physical buttons? Having physical buttons can be very convenient. Activating and using the camera app, for example, can be quicker and more intuitive with the presence of a physical shutter button. If we add around 6 additional physical buttons (with personalizable functions) along the sides or even at the back, they can provide a faster way of accessing certain functions.

Sound recording is one feature that can be more quickly accessed if you don’t have to look at the display of your smartphone to turn it on. Call record as well as call ending or cancelling can be faster by having a physical button to conveniently press.

Direct Power from External Batteries or DC Power from AC via an Adapter

Third party companies have been offering battery cases for smartphones but what they usually do is to charge the batteries inside the smartphones. It would be better if they can actually be used directly by the phone so there’s no more waiting time for the charging. Even better, it would be great to let a smartphone feed from AC power via a DC-converting adapter.

This will make it more enjoyable to watch successive movies without the need to stop and recharge. Likewise, it can help preserve the useful life of the batteries of smartphones, especially for those that have non-removable batteries inside unibody designs.

Twin Displays: Standard LCD/AMOLED and e-Ink

Smartphones nowadays already include multimedia playing and web browsing capabilities as standard features. They can be used to enjoy a movie and to surf the Internet. Wouldn’t it be more power efficient if we can choose to view messages with an e-ink panel while opting for the color LCD/AMOLED display only during web browsing and multimedia watching activities?

The e-ink panel does not have to be a big one. It can be a relatively small display at the bank of a smartphone to be used in viewing messages, schedules, reminders, notes, news, or weather forecasts. This should help conserve a smartphone’s battery considering how displays are generally the highest power-consuming parts of a smartphone.

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG /

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG /

Foldable Displays

Padphones, tabphones, phablets and other phone-tablet hybrids have been introduced in recent years. If it’s already possible to create foldable displays, these awkward devices will no longer be that attractive or in-demand. By having foldable displays, smartphones can become mini-tablets in a matter of seconds. This also makes it more convenient to carry a mini-tablet.

Samsung is said to have already developed a foldable display. We really hope they can produce a real smartphone-to-tablet transforming device soon.

Smartphone users will really appreciate if manufacturers incorporate the features mentioned above. They are not impossible features. The technologies needed to implement them are already existent. Here’s hoping 2014’s flagship smartphones will include some of them.