The biggest misfires in the world of smartphones

Nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition that smartphone manufacturers would go to their heads. They will look at customers' expectations, stop their impulses and give them what they really want. And yet. We did not expect changes in these three trends.

Progress does not like to stop. Once a speeding locomotive changes, it is difficult to slow down, especially when the shareholders are in the neck and consumers have increasingly high expectations.

Over the past years, we've seen several trends that have dominated the smartphone market:

  • The devices were getting slimmer. There was a moment when barely 0.5 cm thick devices appeared on the market!
  • Plastic enclosures have been almost completely supplanted by glass and metal.
  • Fingerprint readers went under the screens.

The first two trends we could observe especially in the years 2014-2018, and 2019, in turn, brought a real plague of smartphones with fingerprint readers under the screens. Also in mid-range devices, where these readers ... well, were not top flight.

However, 2020 has come and what do we see? Strangely, each of these trends is in reverse.

Smartphones are getting thicker again.

Enthusiasts of new technologies perfectly remember the race for slenderness that took place a few years ago between producers. The record Oppo R5 was just 4.85 mm thick!

Companies competed in slimming their smartphones. Probably the most memorable failure of this race was the iPhone 6 Plus, which, although it was not the slimmest phone (measured 7.10 mm thick), it was so structurally badly designed that it could be broken like a Christmas Eve wafer.

Bendgate apple mishaps
Bendgate

The slim enclosures brought two compromises: reduced heat dissipation and smaller batteries. It was the era of telephones that barely withstood the entire day's work on a single charge, because their design physically prevented larger cells from being pressed there.

Fortunately, this trend began to reverse, and even Apple, usually unwavering in its resolutions, along with the iPhone XR decided to minimally thicken its device to fit a larger battery.

Today, among the novelties on the medium and upper shelf it is not difficult to find phones that are over 9 mm thick and cells with a capacity of 5000 mAh, and thus - two days of work.

At presentations of new smartphones, we no longer hear "the slimmest in history", but "with the largest battery".

And very well.

Plastic doesn't have to be fantastic .

After the Google Pixel 3a smartphone test, I wrote about how much I would like to be able to hang out with my phone . Once, when phone cases were made of polycarbonate, they were much more resistant to scratches and cracks, and they could not be accused of being "cheap". It is enough to mention the Nokia Lumia line - plastic phones made a fantastic impression.

In recent years, manufacturers have massively abandoned plastic in all but the cheapest models. Glass and metal, or a combination of glass backs and a plastic frame, dominated the market.

Plastic is unlikely to return to higher price shelves, but in 2020 the lower and medium shelves are again full of phones with polycarbonate housings.

Manufacturers have also found a way to make plastic look like glass, so in most cases the wolf is full and the sheep are whole. Telephones with plastic backs are difficult to distinguish today from those covered with glass, and the use of plastic translates into a longer life of the housing and much greater resistance to falls.

And very well.

We say firmly to the screen readers: not yet.

There is no good fingerprint reader under the screen yet. That is, one that would be as fast and secure as the physical module on the housing. There are only those that are safe, but tragically slow (Samsung) or those that are very fast, but they can be deceived by fingerprint scanning (OnePlus).

Over the past two years, manufacturers have been overwhelmed by screen readers. This technology allows you to completely get rid of the physical module, which - depending on the placement - would either disturb the design of the backs or force a thick chin under the screen. And nobody wants to watch it anymore.

Therefore, smartphone manufacturers began to push fingerprint readers under the screen even for mid-range phones, where they worked even worse than in high-end smartphones.

And while this trend will undoubtedly not disappear, until the invention of readers under the screen with a higher accuracy, phone manufacturers reached for the forgotten option number 3: fingerprint reader in the lock key.

Once such a solution strongly promoted Sony, but in general it was rare. On the fingers of one hand you could count the phones whose start button was also a biometric security feature.

Now, however, it has changed. Like mushrooms after rain, there are phones from manufacturers such as Oppo, Xiaomi, Realme and Motorola, which have a physical fingerprint scanner on the right edge of the housing.

This is a perfect compromise. The physical button works much faster and more accurately than the reader under the screen, and placing it on the edge releases the back and chin. To some extent, the possibility of its use is combined with the first trend described here, which has passed - if the smartphones were slimmer, it would not be possible to push the fingerprint reader button.

However, since obsessive slimming of phones is a thing of the past, there is enough space on the edge to stuff the fingerprint reader.

And very well.

Next up: removing 3.5mm sockets and curving screens.

If I were to indicate two trends that should next pass, it would be removing the headphone jack and curving the displays.

Time has shown that although removing the headphone connector from smartphones at first seemed a good idea, in retrospect it turned out to be a failure.

  • Read also: Wireless future has not come. The headphone jack should return to smartphones

Similarly, it is with curved edges. Even the pioneer of this solution, Samsung, had to admit that the excessive curvature of the screen does no good; hinders the use of the phone and increases its vulnerability to damage.

Therefore, none of this year's new Samsung has a curved screen. Even the most expensive Galaxy S20 Ultra. Samsung finally saw that it made no sense. LG has long known that it does not make sense. Apple has always known that it makes no sense. Now I would like to see how other producers come to the same conclusion, who caught up with trends too late and are still launching phones that are difficult to hold with one hand, because there is nothing to grab, and which regularly catch the touch that was not there.

samsung galaxy s20 ultra 5g review

There is nothing wrong with experiments. Well, sometimes I would like the cell phone industry to return to the crazy period of the early 2000s, when the R&D departments came out with such quirks that it is hard to believe today. Back then it was telephones!

Today, however, we often see not innovation and experimentation, but sheep's momentum. One manufacturer does something that seems to work? Others immediately copy it, in the hope that it will also work for them.

And then we have to wait years until the producers either understand their mistake or ... start copying someone else's.



The biggest misfires in the world of smartphones

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