ISTHIS AS GOOD AS ITGETS?
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.
“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