HWM (Malaysia) - - FEATURE -

2015 was a dis­ap­point­ing year for many smart­phone en­thu­si­asts. Google failed to de­liver on its Pro­ject Ara mod­u­lar smart­phone con­cept, and Qual­comm was plagued with over­heat­ing con­tro­ver­sies with its flag­ship Snap­dragon 810 pro­ces­sor. Worse still, there’s a grow­ing sen­ti­ment that to­day’s devices are so good, there’s no room for real im­prove­ment. Ev­ery time a new de­vice is launched, de­trac­tors point to in­cre­men­tal up­grades or gim­micky fea­tures, rather than true game-chang­ing tech­nol­ogy. Has mo­bile tech­nol­ogy hit an in­no­va­tion plateau? Is this re­ally as good as it gets?

A few years ago when ph­ablets first started hit­ting the mar­ket, it seemed like ev­ery few months some­body would re­lease an even big­ger ph­ablet, as brands con­tin­u­ally one-up’d each other. In 2015, al­most ev­ery­one has set­tled on two sizes: 5-inches and 5.5-inches. Now, the war seems to have turned to dis­play res­o­lu­tion. LG started it last year with the G3, which boasted the world’s first 2,560 x 1,440 pix­els res­o­lu­tion QHD dis­play. This year, Sam­sung also adopted QHD as its res­o­lu­tion of choice, which we saw on the S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+ and Note5, and in Septem­ber, Sony took the res­o­lu­tion war to the next level when it re­vealed the Z5 Pre­mium, a smart­phone with a ridicu­lous 4K dis­play at 3,840 x 2,160 pix­els res­o­lu­tion. That’s 806 pix­els per inch by the way, all on a 5.5-inch screen. While this all sounds great, the ac­tual ben­e­fit to the con­sumer is ques­tion­able. At this size, most peo­ple won’t even be able to tell the dif­fer­ence on a dis­play past 400 or so pix­els per inch – which is the level of most Full HD dis­plays – and re­mem­ber also that more pix­els means higher power con­sump­tion, which means shorter bat­tery life.

So if in­creas­ing pixel den­sity isn’t the an­swer, what is? Ap­ple has stub­bornly stayed out of the pixel game, with the iPhone 6s Plus us­ing a mod­est Full HD dis­play, and the 6s fit­ted with a pos­i­tively pedes­trian 720p dis­play. But it’s the tech­nol­ogy Ap­ple has de­vel­oped be­hind the dis­play that might be 2015’s sav­ing grace. 3D Touch is the sig­na­ture fea­ture of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, and is with­out a doubt the big­gest break­through tech­nol­ogy in smart­phones this year. To­gether with Corn­ing, Ap­ple de­vel­oped a pli­able cover glass for the iPhone 6s. Swipe it, and the phone works the way it al­ways has. But press it, and 96 sen­sors em­bed­ded in the back­light of the dis­play mea­sure mi­cro­scopic changes in the dis­tance be­tween them­selves and the glass. Those mea­sure­ments then get com­bined with sig­nals from the touch sen­sor to make the pres­sure of your fin­ger sync with the im­age on screen. Es­sen­tially, 3D Touch in­tro­duces a se­cond way to in­ter­act with your touch­screen. It en­ables short­cuts, sec­ondary func­tions, and pres­sure­sen­si­tive con­trols. It’s a right-click for your smart­phone. In fact, we’d go as far to say that it’s the sin­gle big­gest im­prove­ment to the touch­screen since its cre­ation. And with a few An­droid-de­vel­op­ers, in­clud­ing Sam­sung and Xiaomi, now say­ing that they’re work­ing on a sim­i­lar tech­nol­ogy for their next phones, 3D Touch looks like it could be the next big thing.

Fi­nally, there’s one more player we’ve had our eye on this year: Mi­crosoft. Sur­prised? Since ac­quir­ing Nokia two years ago, Mi­crosoft has mostly fo­cused on en­try-level and midrange Lumia handsets. But that looks set to change with the in­tro­duc­tion of the Lumia 950 and 950 XL, specif­i­cally be­cause th­ese two handsets are the first to in­clude a lit­tle fea­ture called Con­tin­uum. One of the big prob­lems fac­ing con­sumers to­day is hav­ing too many devices, all of which run on their own OS. That might soon change how­ever with Con­tin­uum, a fea­ture that will turn Win­dows 10 phones into full-blown PCs when they’re con­nected to dis­plays. You’ll be able to con­nect pe­riph­er­als to your smart­phone and turn it into a mini lap­top, or plug it into a dis­play and turn it into a full PC. The day may come when the only de­vice you need is your Win­dows 10 smart­phone.





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