4 key areas that need innovation in the smartphone world

Today, in the mobile market, it all seems to be about who can make the biggest, fastest and meanest handsets. Big displays make some devices impractical and drain battery quicker than you can say “where’s my charger?” Each manufacturer seems to be in a race against the next to rush out the top specced phone. Here’s the deal though: we’re all getting bored. Smartphones have become less about innovation, and more about pumping more junk in to the handsets to wow consumers with impressive sounding spec sheets. Granted, our iPhones generally don’t fit in to that category, but often it’s a case of beauty over performance with Apple.

In my mind, each company should sit down – together if they must – and put their brains together on what’s really important. Here are four areas that would make a huge difference to our day-to-day experience of our handsets. Reality check: it’s pretty unlikely that any competitor would sit down with another to discuss how to improve each other’s devices. That in mind, let’s assume our favorite company, Apple, will be leading the innovation. It normally does – think multitouch displays, Siri, web browsing, App Store etc.

1. Battery

I’ve complained about this before, and I won’t stop until something is done. Battery life is poor on all smartphones. A new technology needs innovating, whether it’s hydrogen cell based, or something completely new, it doesn’t matter. We can’t keep loading our devices with multi-core chips, higher resolution displays and faster connectivity if the phone isn’t going to last a day. We’ve now gotten to the stage where if a phone lasts an entire day, we make a big song and dance and say it’s incredible. It shouldn’t be that way.

Motorola released a beefy version of the Droid RAZR, the MAXX  comes with a battery that boasts 21 hours usage, which is awesome. However, anyone could double the size of their phone and make its battery last longer. Heck, if I wanted to do that with my iPhone, I’d just by a Mofi Juicepack. Making something bigger is not innovation.

2. Connectivity/3G/4G

This area kind of tags along with the battery life thing. Currently our 3G and 4G chipsets are a huge battery drain. Don’t believe me? Try switching to “2G only” on your handset and see how much longer your phone lasts. I’d often go from 1 day use to 3 days. Even when your phone’s sat doing nothing, it’s constantly connected to a 3G/4G data source. Someone needs to devise a low-power version of the radio chip. It may be technically impossible (I don’t know, I’m not a chip manufacturer), but, that shouldn’t stop engineers from trying.

3. Wireless Charging

Having to plug your phone in via 30-pin connector, or MicroUSB is something that should have died in the early part of this century. The fact is that with companies like Apple creating and designing its own proprietary method of charging and syncing, it means that we still have to insert some type of cable in to our phone to get it charged up. Companies like Powermat, Energizer and Duracell are all attempting to create a solution by building inductive charge mats with compatible cases. (Again, making our phones fatter, what’s with that?) If the FCC or US government ruled that all manufacturers use a standard form of wireless charging it would be in the best interests of the consumer.

Let’s say Powermat is chosen as the licensor. Each manufacturer from x-point onwards has to build in Powermat compatibility in to its devices, whether they be phones, tablets or media players. Imagine it. You pay a one-off fee for the mat that sits in the most convenient area of your home. Get home from work/school and place your device on the mat, and it charges. No need to purchase a new compatible battery door/case each time you upgrade. To use an Apple-ism “it just works.” Wouldn’t that be cool? It would force companies together, and by licensing, it ensures that the patent holder still makes money.

4. Damage protection

Yesterday we covered an interesting, scratch proof case designed by Nissan that “self heals”. When scratched or damaged, it simple fixes itself leaving no visible blemish. (Time taken to heal depends on extremity of damage.) Taylor from Phonedog posed the question as to whether or not our handsets should be painted in this stuff. You’d never have to buy a case again.

Another incredible technology to show up at CES this year was a water resistant, invisible coating. HzO has developed this “WaterBlock” technology that can cover gadgets from the inside out, ensuring that you’ll never again be victim of water or moisture damage. The company is currently in talks with major manufacturers to strike a deal ensuring that its product is used to protect future devices (Apple’s name was mentioned).Imagine that, a waterproof and self-healing iPhone. Who would need insurance then?

So there you have it, my thoughts on the areas most needing innovation. What are your thoughts? Do you have any other technologies that need serious consideration?

Powermat Image via: TechRadar
HzO video via: MacworldUK YouTube

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