Time after time we’ve seen Google Duplex in the news, but it’s always been just on the horizon for the mass market. Well here’s some news that isn’t just a tease: Duplex is now on your phone!
Pixels Now Have Duplex:
Ok, sorry to get your hopes up if you’re not team Pixel, but if you are, then this is good news for you. Google has just rolled out Duplex to Pixel phones in 43 states. This means that if you own a Pixel and live in one of these states, you can now have your Google Assistant call on your behalf. Looking for a restaurant reservation? Just say “Ok Google, make a reservation at ___”.
That’s it. Duplex will call the restaurant and take care of everything else. Ok, it will ask you a few more details (such as for what time and for how many people), but it takes care of all the conversing on the phone. The future is now.
Just how good is it?
Google actually received a ton of criticism after I/O last year when Duplex made its debut. People were concerned that it mimicked a human toowell. In June the company promised that Google Assistant would introduce itself before engaging in any conversation. If you’ve used Google’s call screening feature before then you’re somewhat familiar with this introduction.
Duplex uses Google’s WaveNet audio processing neural network, and as such it sounds incredibly natural. It throws “ums” into the conversation to mimic how people actually converse. While these may seem arbitrary, the VP of engineering for Google Assistant said that they are actually the key to keeping people engrossed in conversation. Otherwise things start to feel too artificial and people hang up.
While this technology is incredible, there are certainly going to be people that want nothing to do with it yet. And as such Duplex makes it very clear that the call is automated, and informs everyone it calls that their being recorded. If they respond with anything along the lines of “I don’t want to be recorded” or “I don’t want to speak with this” then the call is handed off to a human operator.
There’s sure to be some legal/ethical issues that arise despite this, but it’s good to at least see people are given the option to opt out. Duplex is going to continue its rollout to other devices over time, and eventually it will just be taken for granted. But for now its cutting edge tech and Pixel users can take advantage of it.
What are your thoughts on Duplex and its rollout? Let us know in the comments below!
Mark your calendars, Google 1/0 2019 has been announced! The company’s annual developer conference will be kicking off May 7th and run though the 9th. Google tweeted about the event yesterday, and as usual it looks like there are some exciting things on the agenda.
Flash Back To 2018:
Last year’s I/O was a particularly exciting one, and there were a few core themes behind it. While buzz-wordy, the event revolved around the ideas of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. We got to see demonstrations of Google’s Duplex making a phone call, as well as learning about what Android P brought to the table. It offered improved battery life, brightness, and app suggestions to refine the mobile experience for users.
Up This Year:
Last year had a lot of interesting concepts, and this year is sure to be even more impressive. It’s far too early to say everything that will be taking place in this year’s reveals, but there are a few things we can be certain are on the agenda. The first of these is of course a new version of Android. Following it’s alphabetical trend, Q is next on the roster.
We’ve talked a little about Q here before but very little has been revealed thus far. Rumors have it that the new version will be featuring an expansive Dark Theme for battery saving and, well because dark themes are all the rage right now. There is also discussion about a change to the android activity life cycle to include a multi-resume. This could allow for easier interaction with multiple apps at the same time when using split screen on your phone.
Watch and Learn:
Many believe we are about to see the reveal of a Pixel Watch. iOS has definitely been the dominant culture when it comes to accessories for your primary device, but that’s all the more reason for Google to try and match it. No leaks have come yet regarding what it will look like but news that Google bought $40 million of smartwatch technology and researchers from Fossil is a definite hint that big things are coming.
There are also bound to be Google Assistant improvements this year, an we could see these play a big role in how the watch functions for things like speech-to-text. Duplex was demoed last year but we haven’t seen to much of it in the real world up until the last few months either. I would predict the artificial intelligence of the Assistant opens up a few new doors this year.
Fuchsia is the Future:
And of course there is the ever prevalent mystery that is Fuchsia in development. Said to be Android’s replacement, Fuchsia is on the rise and will likely be utilized in some demos this year. It’s a ways off from being the new OS for smartphones, but it’s been development for a few years now and it is starting to make it’s way into the limelight.
For the fourth consecutive year the event will be held at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California. What are you most excited about for Google I/O 2019? Do you have any predictions about what we may see this year? Let us know in the comments below!
Pie made its debut earlier this year on Pixel devices, and
since then other users have been waiting patiently for it to expand. Now Christmas presents have been delivered and
Android has begun rolling out Pie to a number of other devices. So read on and see if Google got you anything
for the holidays.
Android Is SLOW:
Android’s OS offers some incredible experiences, but there’s no denying that rollouts take forever. Roughly a year after Oreo’s release it made it onto 12% of Android phones. Five months after its release it was only at 1%! While these statistics aren’t perfect due to factors such as the Play Store’s unavailability in China, it still paints a good picture. Things move slow.
With rollouts taking so long, every new wave of devices is
big news when it’s yours. Today rollouts
have begun to a number of new phones.
These include the Galaxy S9/S9+, the OnePlus 5/5T, and the Infinix Smart
2 (a very popular phone in India). Older
phones will be receiving this update as the year goes on, but Christmas came
just in time for these parties.
Times Are Changing:
The Android circle of life must continue. As new versions like Pie come out, they replace the older ones. With a shrinking number of phones running earlier versions of Android support for them becomes difficult in an efficient manner. Earlier this month Google Play Services ceased support for Ice Cream Sandwich. The version came out seven years ago, and it’s userbase has dwindled below the 1% mark for a while.
And along with this new Android apps must target at least
Oreo when they are released to the Play Store.
It may seem tough to leave users behind, but it really just makes sense. At a certain point upgrades need to take
place so that companies/developers can make new features available in their
apps without having to worry too much about ancient versions.
There is still a span of versions that run any app on the
Play Store, but the line has to be drawn somewhere. The good news with this is that deprecating
versions simply means that new and improved versions are being released.
Pie Is Hot
And for the most part Pie has been just that; new and improved. Having played around with a Pixel 3XL running Pie for some time I have to say that its user interface has been very pleasant. Pixel users have experienced a some bugs over the past months, but nothing has come close to outweighing the pro’s the new version has offered. My personal favorite has been Google Call Screen to identify unknown numbers. I’ve taken 0 calls from telemarketers since upgrading to this phone!
There are certainly things users wish Pie could do that it doesn’t. One of these being multi-resume. The software allows users to have two different apps open simultaneously, but as the Android Activity Lifecycle is currently implemented only one can be in the resumed state at a time. This can lead to funky behavior if you’re trying to play two videos as the same time, but there are already rumors that this is in the works.
The bottom line is Pie rolling out is good news, and it’s
sure to continue doing so as time goes on.
Hopefully Pie proves to roll out faster than previous Android versions,
but only time will tell. And if you want
to run your phone on a different version flashing is always an option. What are your thoughts on the Pie
rollout? Let us know in the comments
Mobile users have developed a rigorous set of standards in
the past few years. If an app takes more
than a few seconds to launch, they’re annoyed.
If a button takes more than one second to react to a click, there will
be some uninstalls. With such high
expectations for performance app developers need to make sure they do
everything in their power to speed up their apps.
The Android OS has grown alongside user expectations. New libraries and views have emerged to offer improvements to an app’s efficiency. One of these that EVERY Android developer should know is the RecyclerView. RecyclerView is (as defined byAndroid) a flexible view for providing a limited window into a large data set.
Basically, think about every list you scroll through on an
app. Odds are that list is a RecyclerView. The idea is you can map out how large you
want the space to be on a user’s screen, and then that portion of the screen will
be scrollable showing a number of smaller layouts. Each of these can be designed however you see
Think of Spotify’s list of songs in your library for
example. Each layout in the list holds TextViews
displaying the song name, artist, an ImageView of the album cover, and an arrow
on the right indicating you can click on it for more information. This layout is used again and again but
different information is loaded into it each time.
But How Is It Efficient?
So if you saved 2000 songs to your library then every time
you open the app you’ll have to load 2000 layouts? That sounds like an awful
user experience as they have to wait. No
you won’t, and that’s the beauty of a Recyclerview. Your app is only going to create 10-15 of
those layouts. Then as you scroll it will empty the top layout’s info, kick it
back down to the bottom of the RecyclerView, and load it with new data.
Your app has all the info from the list, but it only has to create
views for items as they appear to the user.
And once a few views have been created, it won’t ever have to make new
views since it recycles them as you scroll.
I wonder how they came up with the name RecyclerView…
Adding a RecyclerView to your app’s layout is not too complicated, but there is a fair amount of work involved. Phonlab’s Android App Developer Course shows a detailed step by step tutorial, but we’ll cover the 30,000ft view here. The process essentially breaks down into two parts: Your layout and your adapter. The layout is more straightforward; it’s you creating an xml wireframe view for where you want the info to load. What should a layout look like when it’s given the proper info?
The adapter is a little more complicated. There are three methods that your RecyclerView adapter will override. These are onCreateViewHolder(), onBindViewHolder(), and getItemCount(). In order these tell your adapter what to do when creating a new layout, adding new data to a layout, and how many items are in the list total. onCreateViewHolder will be called every time we need to make a new layout, but once the initial work is done and a user begins to scroll onBindViewHolder will be where you add click listeners and other interaction logic.
Seeing it in action:
After you have all of your logic for loading the data into a
ViewHolder (layout) you need to create an instance of the RecyclerView in your
app. Then set the RecyclerView’s LayoutManager
and Adapter using the class’s methods. If
everything is set up correctly and you’ve added an xml RecyclerView in your
parent layout, then clicking run should show your scrollable list of views.
It’s essential your app meets current standards for
efficiency. RecyclerView is a great way
to improve responsiveness. With it you can
present users with immense amounts of data without slowing down their
experience at all!
Mobile OS or the operating systems used in smartphones, smartwatches and other mobile devices are the epitome of advancement and progress. These systems are very different from the ones that are found on laptops and desktops. Various companies have different features and different ways of functioning. Android and the iOS are two of the most popular operating systems that are used and preferred. Although Microsoft’s Windows OS had some fans, Android and iOS continue to dominate the markets.
But the market wasn’t always like this. We had multiple operatingsystems with each bringing something unique to the table in terms of functionality, design and features.Today, we look at some of the mobile operating systems that no longer exist.
The many flavours of Linux before Android:
At this moment, almost 81% of the world’s smartphones run on Linux OS, Android being one of the most popular ones of all. However, not all the Linux OS have had a good past, some version of Mobile Linux is no longer in use. Maemo OS is one of those OS.
This open source OS was developed by Nokia, for smartphones and tablets. Like many hand-held devices,this OS featured a home screen, which allows the users to access other applications, a Google Search bar and a menu. This OS projects from Linux kernel, Debian, and GNOME and is based on Debian GNU/Linux. Further more, it draws from GUI, frameworks, and libraries from the GNOME project.
The last known version of the OS in any smartphone was called Maemo 5 which was found on Nokia’s N900 smartphone. However, in 2010, Nokia announced that Maemo was being merged with Moblin OS, another Linux OS, to create MeeGo.
Moblin stands for Mobile Linuxwas produced by Intel. However, this OS has been discontinued and only surfaced in one smartphone. This OS first featured in the Acer netbooks.LG Electronics chose to use Moblin OS 2.1 for mobile Internet device class smartphone, the LG GW990.
This OS was known to enhance the power management policy, UI framework and other things.
MeeGo is a discontinued Linux version, hosted by the Linux Foundation. This OS made use of the source code obtained from Moblin produced by Intel and by Maemo produced by Nokia.This OS was developed in order to offer a better operating system to the hardware of various appliances, including smartphones.
The best part about this OS was that it offered various kinds of interface options which were termed as user experiences inside the OS.
Depending on the hardware of the smartphone, the users could find applications for their smartphone by making use of Nokia Ovi digital software distribution systems or the Intel App Up. The MeeGo OS was seen in the Nokia N9and N950 models.
Windows for mobiles and phones:
For some years Nokia had favored the Windows OS for their new line of smartphones. However, Windows Mobile phones and software have been permanently discontinued and are not being manufactured anymore.
Nokia Lumia was the brand face of the OS, which featured a different UI and a totally different look than your regular Android phones. Although the Windows OS was aeons ahead of what Apple and regular Android smartphones were offering in terms of smoothness and design, the fact that it joined the race a bit too late did not fare well for Microsoft.
The biggest aspect to Windows success had been that the phones were well-built and had great features along with being priced affordably. However, players such as Vivo, Oppo and Xiaomi killed the game for it. Furthermore, the lack of developer support also had a large part to play in the downfall of the Windows OS. The last version to released was Windows 8.1, which now has been updated to Windows 10. Microsoft has nothing planned for these phones, and there will be no updates in the future.
The other big players:
The Palm OS was one of the most popular OS from the 90s, this OS was found in the PDAs manufactured and marketed by Palm Inc. The now discontinued OS came with an easy to handle OS, which made the use of touchscreens easy. Furthermore, there was a personal suite of applications which allowed the users to manage their personal data.Later versions of the OS were even adapted to work with smartphones.
Although Palm had a lot of things planned, the ideas and the plans simply did not work as they should have. Palm’s marketing for Pre and Pixi were nothing to sneeze at. What’s more is that Palm did not allow developers to develop WebOS applications until too late. So, all in all, Palm’s downfall was just like BlackBerry’s and similar to what happened to Nokia’s Lumia series while they offered great functionality there was always something missing.
There was a time when BlackBerry enjoyed the popularity that Apple’s iPhone enjoys now, but now things have changed, and BlackBerry is a thing of the past now. The BlackBerry OS is a proprietary OS specifically made for the BlackBerry line of smartphones. The OS supported multitasking and was adapted in order to offer away to various features such as trackball, track wheel and touchscreens, as seen more recently.
The success of this giant began with its pagers, seen on the belts of lawyers, doctors and various other kinds of successful people; BlackBerry had made it possible for you to reach just about anybody. Then came BBM, a way to get in touch with everyone.However, when the world was evolving, and Android smartphones along with iPhones began dominating the markets, BlackBerry stuck to what it did. In 2013,BlackBerry did try to enter the game with its touchscreen, BlackBerry 10, butit was already too late.
The BlackBerry name still remains even today but is merely licensed to TCL to making Android-powered devices that are overpriced and just do not have the same appeal as the older BlackBerry’s.
Once the Symbian OS was the king of all OS’. Used by Samsung, Nokia and Motorola, this OS was one of the most popular ones, at one point. Nokia made use of the Symbian OS the most out of all the other brands and rose to prominence in the smartphone market.
However, right about the time, the iPhone came around, Symbian tech started to fall behind. The main attractive component of this OS was the UI, and iPhone had a better, bolder and slicker interface. However, the death of Nokia’s popularity and Symbian OS came slowly with the popularity of Android and iPhones, which were easier to use and had a ton more apps in their app stores.
Android, today is one of the most popular OS alongside iOS. However, the massive popularity enjoyed by these two does not simply stem from the ease use of the OS but also from the support of the developers.
As we just read about the other kinds OS that came around, and are no more, the only drawback was that they joined the race a bit too late or refused to change themselves quickly to adapt to the new generation. By the time Nokia made its come back with Android, or even brought in Microsoft, which offered top-end features seen in no Android or Apple phone, it was too late.
Furthermore, Palm and BlackBerry also decided to jump in a bit too late. By the time the other OS decided to join in, Android and iPhone had developed by leaps and bounds and was out their reach.
As smartphone technology has advanced over the years there have been efforts to make sure no users are left behind. Android Accessibility features have evolved alongside to help users with disabilities. These have ranged from voice commands to braille displays. And now, thanks to BrainGate, even paralyzed users who can’t pick up a phone have the opportunity to use one.
The IBCI unleashed:
Researchers have developed a new brain-computer interface that lets people with paralysis control a tablet fresh out of the box. In the study, three participants with tetraplegia used the IBCI (intracortical brain-computer interface). The IBCI was then connected to the tablet with a point-and-click wireless Bluetooth mouse. The end result being that user were able to move a mouse around on the tablet screen and interact without ever touching the product.
Testers were able to use common apps ranging from web browsing to texting to playing music on a piano app. Two of the users were able to use the device to “chat” with each other in real time. Let me again emphasize that all of this was able to happen with a tablet that had no altercations done to it. Users who were unable to move their arms or legs at all were able to experience the cutting-edge technologies that a lot of us take for granted.
While the research for this achievement has been done by BrainGate, Android has taken steps as well to try making smartphone technology accessible to any and all users. Android Accessibility’s feature set includes things such as the TalkBack function and Braille display. TalkBack allows users to interact with their devices using spoken feedback. The BrailleBack feature lets people connect a refreshable braille display to an android device via Bluetooth. This way users can read their phone even though they can’t see the screen.
There are other Bluetooth connections that Android thrives on such as switch, keyboard, and mouse. These help users with limited mobility, and they’re constantly undergoing innovations and improvements. Fuchsia, proclaimed as Android’s successor, is working heavily on these kinds of integrations.
Taking Tech to The Next Level:
BrainGate’s research is truly amazing, but we also shouldn’t just pigeon hole it into something that can help those with paralysis. As this technology continues to develop it will likely expand into all of our life’s until we’re eventually at the “Google Glasses” stage. By this I mean seeing an entire virtual work around us and being able to interact with just our thoughts.
I’m incredibly excited to see this helping people experience what they otherwise couldn’t. But there’s tons of opportunity for every smartphone user to utilize this tech down the road too. What are your thoughts on the IBCI? How far off do you think we are from this being a commodity that we all by at the store? Let us know in the comments below!
Overriding and Overloading: What’s the Difference?
When programming for Android (or anything) writing custom methods isn’t optional. If you don’t know what it means to write a method, then I recommend you check out Phonlab’s video tutorials. And if you do, then don’t tune out yet! Methods are like icebergs (90% of their functionality is unseen at first glimpse). And getting to know the other 90% is what can take you to the next level in your development. In this post we’re going to explore the ins and outs of overriding and overloading to make development easier.
If you’re an Android programmer, then you undoubtedly know what a method is. It’s a block of code that you give a name. This way every time you call it that block is executed. I know it’s a fundamental concept of programming, but here’s a sample that we’ll build onto over time. Let’s say that you’re building a contacts app and can add contacts given a name and phone number. Here’s the class your app uses:
Great, seems simple enough right? But any good contacts app is going to do more than just this. If a user wants, they should be allowed to include other info as well. What if they want to put one contact on speed dial? Or what if they want to add a contact to a group? How about this:
Now, there’s no problem with this code. Each of these three methods will add a contact with the extra information that they included. But these method names could start turning ugly if we kept adding parameters. How do you feel about the method name addNewContactWithSpeedDialAndGroupAndPictureAndAgeAndRingtone? First off, I’d say let’s drop every “And”, but even so that method name is getting long. This is where overloading can help.
Overloading is the practice of creating new methods with the same name. But you can’t have two identical method names, right? If they had different logic how would the computer know which one to execute? Well they actually can as long as the parameters are different. As long as your methods each differ like this:
then the compiler is able to recognize them each as individual methods. So now if a user wants to add a contact it doesn’t matter how much information they give! They can either call addNewContact(Carl, “1112223333”) or addNewContact(“Carl”, 1112223333, “Friends”) and their new contact will be added with that info.
Order counts too, you could have the methods addNewContact(String name, int phoneNumber) and addNewContact(int phoneNumber, String name) as two separate methods in the same class. This doesn’t open many doors in this specific scenario, but it’s handy to know all the same.
While it sounds almost identical, overriding a method is a somewhat different technique. This allows us to take a method that exists in a parent class and change its behavior. As a demonstration let’s say that our contacts app has a page where you can look at individual groups. When you open the group for “Family” there is a button where you can add contacts to this group.
Our new class named FamilyGroup will extend our NewContact class. By doing so it now has access to the parent class’ methods. But we don’t want our user to have to type in the group they are going to use. That’s a waste of time for them since they’re already in “Family”. To fix this we’ll override our addNewContact(int phoneNumber, String name) like so:
Now when a user puts in info for a new contact’s name and phone number this method will call NewContact’s addNewContact(int phoneNumber, String name, String group) and pass in “Family” for the group. Sure, we could have written another function in this class to add the contact, but this way no matter how complicated NewContact’s method is, we get to call it again with only one line of code!
Overriding and overloading can make your code a lot neater if used properly, and there’s a tone of cool things you can do with these techniques in the real world. This contacts app isn’t the most realistic project, but it gets the simple idea across. When you start getting into more complex inheritance overriding can save you a ton of space.
At Google I/O 2018 we saw a breathtaking performance on the center stage. The world watched as Google Assistant placed a call to a hair salon and booked an appointment. This new feature known as Duplex has been marketed as your new secretary, but unfortunately up until now it’s just been an exciting video to watch. Things are changing though, and Pixel 3’s are about to start seeing Duplex roll out onto their phones.
From a 3rd party view what was so amazing was how lifelike the conversation appeared. Though the conversation took place between a computer and a real person, it was borderline impossible to tell which was which. Google Assistant dialed the company’s phone number and then conversed with a receptionist on the other side. It even went as far as to throw in lifelike “mhmm”’s.
This was the first peek into Duplex, and since then we’ve seen the Pixel 3 elaborate on the release. The newest flagship phone users have the option to avoid calls from unknown numbers. They leave the dirty work of figuring out who is calling to Duplex which talks to callers and displays a transcript of the conversation to users. The beauty of this is that you’ll never have to talk to a telemarketer again!
The Rollout begins:
Duplex has been big talk recently but that’s been it. Now Google has announced it’s rolling out the feature to a select number of Pixel owners in select cities. If you own a pixel and live in Atlanta, New York, Phoenix, or San Francisco then you’ll get to be one of the first beta testers. As a Pixel 3 owner myself I’m waiting eagerly for the next wave, but it’s good to know progress is being made.
As expected there are initial limitations on the feature such as it only being able to make calls in English. People using Duplex will be able to use it with commands as simple as “Hey Google, make a restaurant reservation”. Yes, it would help to specify where, but the concept is that you have to do next to nothing!
Google has also said that businesses can opt out of the service by toggling an option in their Google My Business account. Or if a business answers the phone and says, “I don’t want to be recorded” (or something similar) they are opted out. It seems Google is preparing for the inevitable backlash from businesses and people who don’t want any part of the system.
What are your thoughts on Duplex rolling out to Pixel phones? Are you counting down the days until you can use it too? Let us know in the comments below.
Of all the things in this world, smartphones are one of the most used devices in the world and have seen many changes over the past few years. Only in about 5 years, smartphones went from being only 4 to 5 inches in dimensions to 6 to 7 inches. Furthermore, the OS and other features in these phones have seen drastic changes. Although not all of these changing features have been well-loved and appreciated, there are many other features that we have come to love and use every day.
The various developments and changing scenarios in the smartphone world have not only given us competent phones, but dual cameras, a huge hit with the smartphone using generation, and better batteries. However, when we talk about smartphones, it hasn’t always been merry.
With better phones and better features, we pay the price of losing certain features. Losing the headphone jack in our beloved smartphones has been one of the most recent laments of the smartphone using generation. And it is safe to say that it wasn’t the first, and surely will not be the last.
Smartphone features lost over the years that we really loved
Smartphones come with various features and immense power. However, when any company takes their smartphones to the next level, there is always something or the other that gets left behind. Every day smartphone giants chop off some feature or another that they deem useless. Here is a look at the smartphone features that we loved and the lost over the years:
No more removable batteries
Somewhere around in 2015, the trend shifted from smartphones with removable batteries to smartphones with non-removable batteries. iPhone was the first ever smartphone to be released with a non-removable battery in 2007. However, over the years, to slim down the phones and to offer a better build to the phone, many companies began to manufacture phones with a non-removable battery.
Surely we love slim phones, but we also loved the fact that we did not have to discard our phones when the batteries began to malfunction and give us a bad output. In today’s time, even if you love your phone dearly, you will have to choose another phone if your phone’s battery does not work properly.
No FM Transmitters
Yeah, the world has moved on, and we now have Google Music and Apple Music, even YouTube to help us play the music that we want. However, to all of those people who love nothing better than to listen to the music on air or enjoy a classy session of FM, sadly there is no helping them. With only our cars with FM transmitters, there is hardly any place for FM lovers to hear what they like. Gone are the days when you could plug in your earplugs and blast your favourite FM channel on your smartphone.
Physical Keyboards and Trackball
Remember the time when BlackBerry took the world over a storm and enjoyed the popularity that Apple enjoys today? Well, if you do, then you probably know that the best of BlackBerry’s days came with its amazing physical Qwerty keyboard. Although the advent of smartphones did not directly let go of the Qwerty and trackball features, the trend did die down after a while. Furthermore, smartphones like the Motorola Droid, the T-Mobile G1/G2, Sprint Epic 4G Touch tried to keep the Qwerty fever alive, but it did not work out so well.
We know that BlackBerry KEYone still exists, but honestly, the phone does not gel with the requirements of today’s time. The phone is nothing but a low-powered phone which will obviously not allow you to do anything.
Slideout designs: Best of Smartphones
Before we had iPhone to set the parameters for the best features to look for in a smartphone, Nokia used to make various kinds of strides in that department. The best feature of Nokia phones were the slideout designs. Surely, Samsung was one of the companies that offered good phones with slideout designs, but nobody did it better than Nokia. During that time, somewhere in early 2007, the companies were battling it out creating flip phones with revolving screens, slideouts in two different directions as seen in N9 or a phone that slid open to show the keyboard as seen in Nokia N900, there was no shortage of fun phones to find.
However, with everything becoming an on-screen game these days, it is hard to find a smartphone that comes with a Qwerty keyboard or with slideouts. These features were taken away from smartphones to create a slimmer and better smartphone. But not to fear, as while sliding is out, foldable smartphones may soon be a reality with innovations from Samsung.
The Issue of Losing the Headphone Jack
Yes, we know, that the headphone jack is still present on many phones, but the number is dwindling. However, when you look at it closely, there is a number of companies that have already decided to omit the jack from their system. The point is that creating space for a headphone jack takes up space that could be used for other things like beefing up the battery. Furthermore, the new trend of Type-C USB has also led to a decline in the use of headphone jacks in the phones. The Type-C USB is made for only one purpose, and that is to offer you one cable for all kinds of uses.
Although you can still find many kinds of smartphones with headphone jacks, there is a possibility that very soon we would lose the headphone jack. Apple and HTC have already taken the steps of removing the headphone jacks, and it is only a matter of time Samsung, and other companies follow suit.
Surely, we have seen many impressive phones over the past few years, but nothing can beat the features that we have lost over the years, especially the uniqueness that each phone had in the market.
If you head over into your wardrobe and dish out your old favorite smartphone or feature phone you’ll realize that while the basic premise of what makes a phone tick is same (processor, RAM, display and battery), a lot of features have seen massive upgrades. Displays on today’s smartphones are much larger and higher resolution than before, processors can now process a lot more tasks including AI! which manufactures brag about at length and camera sensors have for the first time made it possible for us to leave our bulky cameras and video cameras at home.
But despite the huge numbers of smartphones in the market, there are a lot of similarities amongst most of them. But, today we are going to look at some unique features in flagship smartphones.
It’s no secret that a lot of people hate notches on their phones, but the reason for the existence of notches was that it wasn’t possible to place camera sensors under the display along with the sensors. But over time we have managed to make ultrasonic sensors and in-display fingerprint scanners but the cameras still take up considerable space and that’s why we have notches. But Chinese smartphone makers Oppo and Vivo have come up with nearly bezel less phones with sliding/ pop-up cameras. While Vivo’s approach is more simple and thoughtful putting only the front camera on the slider, Oppo went all out, putting both the front and rear cameras on the slider. But these are not all, the upcoming Honor Magic 2 and Mi Mix 3 are rumored to have something similar with manual sliders.
For a long time smartphones were considered inferior to standalone cameras and while the current generation hasn’t surpassed DSLR’s they have certainly come very close. But with people’s obsession with shallow depth of field effects of the DSLR meant smartphones makers had to mimic the same on phones. But with the size of the camera sensor being tiny on phones you’ll need a very wide lens so a secondary sensor is used to get the depth effect. Manufacturers often go berserk when a new feature or trend is created, the same is with multiple cameras. A few of the latest phones have up to 5 cameras on their phones like what LG did with the V40 ThinQ (appalling name, we get it). The ThinQ gets a 12 MPx primary sensor at the back along with a 107 degrees wide-angle sensor and a 50mm equivalent zoom sensor. The story is similar at the front as well with an 8Mpx primary sensor and a 5 MPx wide angle shooter. There are only a handful more phones that use these many sensors like the Huawei P20 Pro which was amongst the first ones to start this trend of triple rear sensors.
But hold on if you though three rear facing camera sensors are a lot, look at the world’s first quad rear camera phone, the Samsung A9 with four rear cameras (Mian camera, Wide angle, zoom and depth)
High refresh rate display
Razer debuted its first gaming phone the Razer phone almost a year ago and while it wasn’t a standout in terms of design there was one feature that not a single phone in the market at that time (and even today) possessed- a 120Hz refresh rate display. A high refresh rate display is common in gaming monitors that go all the way to 144 Hz and more but what’s the use of it you may ask? Well, for gaming it means a far smoother game play, on your phone you can expect silky smooth animations and ultra smooth scrolling and app openings. Not just that the phone can dynamically adjust the refresh rate so as to conserve power during tasks like reading a web page where it can dial down all the way down to 20Hz.
Displays have improved over the years in terms of brightness, resolution, colors, viewing and more but there are few that have had something revolutionary. Way back in 2011 there were a couple of 3D display phones but the technology never caught on and most of them were shelved. But recently iconic camera manufacturer, Red decided to make a smartphone (The Red Hydrogen One) for movie makers that would pack a ton of kit from ergonomic design, high-end cameras, pogo pins for Moto Mods like attachments and a Holographic display. The Holographic display is what caught the fancy of many as it lets you watch 3D content without 3D glasses. From the few people who have had access to private demos of the phones describe it as something similar to R2-D2 projecting an image. While it sounds cool and almost science fiction like, how effective it is only time will tell.
Quad DAC and Headphone jack
2018 has been the year when most flagship phones ditched the age-old headphone jack for wireless and wired USB-c connectivity. Apple iPhone, the next generation OnePlus, Razer phone, Pixel 3 all lose out on the headphone jack but one manufacturer is firm about its commitment to the headphone jack and high-quality audio- LG. Long been a favorite of the audiophile community the LG flagship phones come with an excellent 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad DAC (balanced sound signature) with the Stereo Boombox Speaker with DTS:X 3D Surround Sound. Also, this time around the sound is tuned by Meridian Audio This makes it one of the few truly capable phones for great audio quality.
Super fast charging
OPPO Find X Automobile Lamborghini Edition is a limited edition version of the Oppo Find X and while it has the usual limited edition features like a high price tag, exotic materials and a lot of accessories, there is one really cool feature that is pretty unbelievable-Super VOOC Flash Charge. Building upon the VOOC charging in current Oppo phones the Super VOOC technology uses a 50W charger and two batteries to deliver an unbelievable charger rate. Taking around 35 minutes to juice up the 3400mAH from dead the Super VOOC is undoubtedly the fastest smartphone charging standard in the world.
Reversible wireless charging
While wireless charging is a common feature on most flagships, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro launched recently takes that feature a step forward with something called reversible wireless charging. With this, you can use you Mate 20 Pro to charge your mates iPhone or other devices that can be wireless charged. Despite your phone’s battery being drained, you don’t have to worry as the battery is a large 4200mAh unit which can be charged up to 70% in only 30 minutes.
These are some of the standout features, especially in today’s smartphones. There are still many phones out there with quirky features like the Note 9’s super capacitor powered stylus or the Moto Mods on the Moto Z lineup of phones and more. While phones of today are not as quirky as the phones of yester years, we do occasionally get something with unbelievable features. So, what are the unbelievable features you came across on a smartphone? Do let us know in the comments below.