I was thinking about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S4 when I decided to throw together a 2013 Hardware guide. While some of 2013ís Android flagships have already been announced I thought it would be fun to discuss upcoming features plus make a wish list for them. Anyone have any features they'd like to see on the upcoming offerings from Samsung, LG, Motorola?
Like all phones, they all have to play the hardware game, so spec-wise, theyíre all going to be similar.
So far phones like the Huawei D2, Sony Xperia Z, etc have:
- 5" 1920x1080
- water resistance
- quad-core processors
- 2GB RAM
- 2500-3000mAh batteries
- 13MP camera
To me, the most important new features will be the bigger batteries and water resistance. The Note II has a 3000mAh+ battery which makes it one of the only 'full day' phones I've tried.
As for water resistance you no longer to worry about using your phone in the rain. You can send Tweets from the shower (Taking a shower! #clean #dropped the soap), post Facebook status updates (Howard is cleaning his junk), take pictures underwater when you're on vacation. Need I say more?
The 5" full HD display will be nice too. While I don't think a full HD screen will make THAT big a difference over existing 720p displays, I think it will make a difference if Samsung decides to stick a full HD Super AMOLED display with a pentile matrix in the S4. If that's the case, I think pentile will no longer be an issue for anyone - unless you happen to have microscopes for eyes.
Speaking of screen size, 5Ē+ is getting really big. Now we all know that bigger is better - just think soda, hamburgers, cars, clothes. But if I may go against the grain for a second. Last yearís flagships, with possibly the exception of the Xperia T were all way too big for me to hold and use with one hand.
I normally carry at least 2 phones with me; a Galaxy S III and an iPhone 5. When Iím standing still or sitting down I tend to use the GS3 more, when Iím moving around I prefer the iPhone. When Iím moving around chances are I want a free hand to a) hold my kidís hand, b) push a shopping cart, c) anything else. On the other hand, if I want to force people, I mean show them a picture or video of my kid the GS3 with itís bigger screen is a no-brainer.
So a bigger screen brings more benefits and more trade-offs. Clearly, you canít have your cake and eat it too
The higher res cameras aren't a big deal to me. I just hope that they have improved low light performance. Faster focusing would be nice too. I guess a 60fps 1920x1080 video mode would be a welcome addition though most people donít really need this. Hopefully someone can put optical image stabilization like Nokia has in the Lumia 920. It can make a huge difference in video.
Remember the HTC EVO 3D and LG Optimus 3D? Whatever happened to 3D phones and their wacky 3D screens?
If you have a TV; one feature that would be neat is a built-in TV remote complete with IR blasters. The Xperia ZL actually has this but I'd like to see software that knows when you're home and puts a TV remote function on the lock screen. I have a Samsung SmartTV that has a remote app for it, but it's a pain to use because it can't turn my TV on.
Phones are starting to get Miracast and on the Samsung side, AllShare Cast. Basically wireless screen sharing. I haven't tried it at home but the demo's I've seen are laggy and if you're watching video, choppy. Hopefully they can fix this with a) fast screen encoders b) faster WiFi. Since phones are getting bigger there should be more room for more WiFi antennas. While pretty much all fancier phones support 802.11n they all appear to only support one stream. Here's a very quick WiFi primer. If you have a 450Mbps WiFi router chances are it's got 802.11n and supports 3 streams. Pretty much all phones only support a single stream. If they supported 3 streams then you'd get speeds of up to 450Mbps.
I actually came up with a WiFi test for phones last year but didn't get around to publishing results. The Optimus G was actually capable of almost 60Mps. Imagine if it supported 3 streams with a real-world performance of up to 180Mbps over wireless.
Another feature Iíd like to see on all higher end phones is 5Ghz support. My iPhone 5 and GS3 already support it but not all my devices are this fortunate. Then again, if my neighbours all move to 5Ghz this might dirty the air at my house so forget I said it.
Built-in storage is tricky. If a phone doesnít come with a memory card slot then the amount of built-in storage is very important. Itís the main reason why I have difficulty recommending many HTC phones. If a phone does come with a slot then the amount is not terribly important since memory is so cheap. Iíve seen 64GB for 60 bucks.
2GB of RAM seems to be a good amount right now. 1GB sounds like enough but if youíve used an HTC One X youíll notice that it has be somewhat aggressive about closing programs in the background. Phones with 2GB like the Optimus G, Nexus 4, GS3 and Note 2 are able to juggle lots of programs at once. When you switch between them itís often instant because they donít have to re-launch them. 2GB of RAM will be a great compliment to the bigger batteries that are around the corner.
While the race has slowed down, some manufacturers still vie to have Ďthe worldís thinnest smartphoneí. Personally I donít care about this. If adding 1mm means another 500mAh of battery Iíd take it in a second. A perfect example is my iPhone 5. Yes, itís very thin and yes it has a pathetic 1400mAh battery.
Wireless charging sounds cool but for me personally, itís not a feature I absolutely must have. When Iím charging my phone, often times Iím still using it. When Iím lying down playing games on my GS3 itís usually plugged in. You canít pick up your phone to use and charge it at the same time with wireless charging.
What I'd like to see, is the first true wireless charging, something that has a radius even of 1 to 2 metres would be cool wouldn't it? Night stand hub charges your phone while youíre watching netflix in your lap, not tangling wires? One day I suppose. Then again, when that comes out I want a phone that can convert the acoustic energy from my snoring (or other involuntary bodily noise) into energy.
When it comes to processors weíre starting to see 8-core models. Itís important to note that at least with the new one from Samsung that itís really a slow, 4-core processor plus a cutting-edge 4-core processor. Itís like having a car with a powerful 8 cylinder engine and a 4 cylinder engine. When youíre going slow and loafing around town all you need is the 4 cylinder. When the pedal is on the floor the 4 cylinder shuts off and the 8 cylinder kicks in.
From a marketing perspective 8 cores sounds great but really, when I look at it, it sounds like a case of the cutting-edge processor not getting cutting-edge power management. I think ideally, it should be a 4 core processor that can throttle down to the point that you donít need another 4 low-power cores. But even then, can we expect software to really utilize this?
Hopefully soon we wonít have to have a different version of each phone for each market because of network banding. I remember back in the GSM/GPRS days when a quad-band phone would mean it works with everything (at least GSM/GPRS wise). Wouldnít it be great to have one phone that would work with everything? It would simplify things from a software perspective for manufacturers, roaming would be a piece of cake (assuming you can unlock), etc.
What about you? What new features would you like to see?
Written by Howard with contributions from Tendenzi