Smarter, stronger phones

Smart­phone mak­ers think they know what we want. Alex Kid­man sees five trends that de­fine the mar­ket this year

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE -

CAM­ERAS ARE KEY

There isn’t a pre­mium hand­set on the mar­ket that doesn’t try to sell you on the con­cept that its cam­era is the lat­est and great­est.

Nokia still leads the pack in pure megapixel terms with the 41MP Lu­mia 1020 smart­phone, al­though at its re­cent launch LG talked down the megapixel race.

Ac­cord­ing to LG’s mo­bile busi­ness di­rec­tor for Sin­ga­pore David Yoh: “Con­sumers un­der­stand that higher megapixel count doesn’t con­trib­ute to good- qual­ity pic­tures.”

In­stead, LG is bank­ing on a laser- guided fo­cus sys­tem, while Sam­sung sells it­self on phase de­tec­tion fo­cus for the same quick- fo­cus abil­ity. HTC uses two cam­eras to en­able a va­ri­ety of depth- of- field ef­fects on the HTC One M8.

BIG­GER, MORE DE­TAILED SCREENS

LG leads the smart­phone screen race with the Quad- HD 5.5- inch dis­play on the LG G3, which will be launched in Aus­tralia in Au­gust.

It re­mains to be seen how much of a bat­tery hog its screen is, but the days when Ap­ple could throw around terms such as “retina dis­play” for its 326ppi iPhone and wow crowds are in the past.

Then again, the cur­rent ru­mour mill sug­gests we’ll see a larger- screened iPhone 6 this year.

TOUGHER, SMARTER SMART­PHONES

A de­cent num­ber of the top- end smart­phones of 2014 have some kind of “ruggedi­s­a­tion” fea­tures built in. For in­stance, both Sony’s Xpe­ria Z2 and Sam­sung’s Galaxy S5 fea­ture wa­ter and dust­proof rat­ings.

This doesn’t mean you can treat them as in­de­struc­tible, but they can sur­vive a few more ac­ci­dents. Many man­u­fac­tur­ers are start­ing to of­fer im­proved lock­ing, lo­ca­tion and re­mote wipe func­tion­al­ity on their range of hand­sets.

Ap­par­ently we’re not good at lock­ing down our de­vices – at the launch of the LG G3 in Sin­ga­pore, an LG spokesman said about 62 per cent of users did not bother lock­ing their smart de­vices with a code.

STYLE MAT­TERS – BUT IT’S FIXED

When you’re pay­ing top dol­lar for a se­ri­ous smart­phone, you want some­thing that looks good.

The top- end hand­sets are gen­er­ally those with a metal fin­ish, or at least plas­tic that looks like a metal fin­ish.

If you look over this year’s smart­phone crop, there’s a dis­tinct feel­ing of deja vu. Cor­ners are smoothed and smart­phones are get­ting thin­ner ev­ery year, but ev­ery large firm has set­tled on their de­signs.

If you’re a fan it’s great, but if you’re af­ter some­thing gen­uinely dif­fer­ent, it’s too bad.

GIM­MICKS THAT DIF­FER­EN­TI­ATE

Most mid­dle range, and some budget, hand­sets do a very good job. That only leaves style and some pre­mium fea­tures for the high- end set to tout.

While these can be use­ful, there are many gim­micks on of­fer, whether it’s the heart­beat sen­sor in the Sam­sung Galaxy S5, the dot view or cir­cle cases for the HTC One M8 and LG G3 re­spec­tively, or the fin­ger­print sen­sors on the S5 and iPhone 5s.

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