Why smartphones aren’t amazing… yet

Many people can’t live without their smartphones as they rely on them for managing their social lives and organising their meetings, etc. but at the moment there are still a few flaws with them that hold us back from saying that they are perfect.

Battery life:

Pretty much every other aspect of smarphones has improved over the years: from the processors, the flash storage, and also the basics like speakers and microphones but one thing has always stood out as an issue for when people buy a phone: the battery. Instead of developing new battery technologies, many companies have opted to use the standard Lithium-Ion batteries (Li-on) which are relatively good but over time (about two to three years) they lose their ability to hold charge.

But hold on for a moment, why has the battery life stayed roughly the same (lasting for one whole day and needing to be charged in the night) if the processors and other components are more demanding? Well, that’s where the software comes in; the operating system, whether that is Android or iOS, is developed so that it is efficient and uses less power. On Android, the system only allows apps to check the internet (for example checking for mail) every so often, instead of whenever they like. The system also goes into a deep sleep mode when the phone is stationary for a while, such as resting on a table. On iOS there are also such mechanisms trying to push the battery to its limits.

In the days when most people had a “brick” phone such as a Nokia, there was no worry of battery life as they lasted weeks. However the battery industry isn’t completely stagnant: a new technology called Lithium-Oxygen batteries is being developed which uses the much abundant oxygen as a part of the battery. The main issue of lithium is that it is very reactive and forms useless compounds with substances in the air which means it loses its capacity, therefore oxygen is there to prevent this.

Using your phone as a computer

Smartphones are great, they allow us to do many things without needing to resort to using a computer, such as writing a quick email, however there is always something like a macro or a large document that our phones tend to struggle with. Programming and other jobs such as video editing just have to be done on a dedicated machine with expensive video cards and high end CPUs. For the rest of us a dock to put our phone in that would transform a screen into a computer is perfectly adequate.

 There are cloud services such as Google Drive which aim to bridge the gap but there’s still a physical difference which means we still have to carry around a phone and a computer. Microsoft already has a solution: Continuum for Windows 10 which allows you to plug your phone to a screen and use full Windows 10. However that requires that you have a Windows 10 Mobile phone, which is relatively rare nowadays due to the lack of apps (it has about 2% market share worldwide). Canonical and Ubuntu also has a solution: Convergence for Ubuntu, which does the same as Continuum for Windows but this is for Ubuntu a distribution of Linux. At a glance, both of these look like viable options.

However, across the world Android and iOS together hold 92% of the market share of mobile phones and both of these operating systems do not have an official alternative to this. For iOS there’s no unofficial alternative while for Android there’s a custom operating system (a ROM) which when a Nexus 5 is connected to a screen turns into Debian, another Linux distribution. (Here’s a link if you’re interested). For most of us though, we’ll just have to wait for an official solution to this.

Camera

It’s an often occasion: we see something and we want to quickly take a picture to remember that occasion. However that usually meant bringing a dedicated camera such as a DSLR. Eventually manufacturers started adding back cameras for taking pictures and a front facing camera for video calls and selfies. But like the battery standards of phones, the improvment rate has just plateaued.

Manufacturers just tend to add more and more pixels which allows them to boast to unknowing consumers. Unfortunately they rarely use good sensors and they often don’t perform very well in low light. Only a few phones such as the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy series have been able to get a good point-and-shoot into their phones.

There has been an improvement though, a few years ago, the cameras were terrible in just about every phone while nowadays most phones can take at least a decent picture in normal lighting conditions, though as I said most phones struggle with low light.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I feel that in areas such as the processor and the flash storage, phone technology development is stagnating – which is a good thing as they are generally pretty good now. However areas such as the battery, camera and a continuum like service still need a great deal of improvement.

Thanks for reading!

tech189

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About tech189

Casual blogger on technology, photography, and science at www.tech189.wordpress.com

2 responses to “Why smartphones aren’t amazing… yet”

  1. Gilly says :

    You make some good points here – particularly about battery life! Even though I was a press and pr photographer for many years, carrying ‘proper’ cameras day and night – my iPhone has freed me from having to drag my camera bag everywhere ‘in case I miss a good shot’ – of course it is nowhere near the quality of a pro camera but it does save my shoulder from all that weight!

    One more thing – the coming of phone cameras has made standards slip in newspapers – we are seeing some REALLY bad images in publications that would never have got past the picture desk in the past. And all because Joe Bloggs was there with his camera and grabbed a shaky shot. Not good.

    • tech189 says :

      I think cameras in phones is still a long way off, especially as point and shoot cameras which try to be DSLRs with manual controls and huge sensors are still very expensive and not very accessible, such as the Sony RX100 range.

      Yeah, you are definitely right about newspapers and even TV news stations using terrible quality pictures and video but partly the internet is to blame, many online services will compress the images and videos so they are smaller.

      Thanks for commenting!

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