The colour screen was once a unique selling point for new mobile phones – now no manufacturer would dare release a handset without one.
The mobile – like all technology – is constantly improving. As a result it is impossible to pin-point the best phone on the market at any given time but it is a lot easier to state what the minimum requirements for a good phone should be.
Here teic.ie lists the five things your next phone should have – the features that haven’t quite become standard but that we think should and soon will.
1) A 3.5mm headphone socket
It is ludicrous to think but there are still many mobiles on the market today with proprietary connections for headphones – including some that manufacturers dare sell as multimedia handsets.
The reasons for leaving the internationally-recognised headphone standard out are usually pretty weak – phone-makers often say it’s to save on the amount of space taken up by inputs – but in reality it all comes down to money. Put simply, if you have to use Company X’s adapter to listen to your music then you have to buy an accessory from them when said adapter inevitably fails.
Thankfully the proprietary headphone input is on the way out with companies like Nokia and even Samsung seeing the error of their ways. It’s not completely eradicated yet, however, so be careful when making your next purchase.
2) Hot-swappable flash memory
This is a simple feature that is easily forgotten until you want to use it.
Let’s just say you need to transfer files from your phone to your laptop but you can’t (or won’t) use Bluetooth or USB. You have a microSD in the phone, an SD slot in the laptop and an SD adaptor to make the former fit comfortably into the latter.
However when you go to remove your card from the phone you find it tucked in behind the battery – meaning you have to power the handset down before you can do anything else.
There’s no excuse for not allowing the flash memory to be hot-swappable – it’s something that phones have been able to do for a long time now. In fact there’s not even a reason why such a feature wouldn’t be possible, bar basic bad design.
3) An application store
When it comes to phone apps, Apple’s iPhone has been taking names for a year and a half now. To their credit, however, rivals like Nokia and Blackberry have been trying to compete in recent times and are gaining ground, albeit very slowly.
While we could debate which app store is best – or which has the most potential for greatness – what matters is that more and more phones have access to some kind of app store.
The reason apps are so important is because they give phones the kind of personalisation that all the wallpaper and icon changes in the world can’t match. Users can now get their hands on even the most niche of programmes that would not have come pre-loaded on the phone because they were… well… niche.
A good app store means a phone can stay useful for longer because its software is no longer limited to what the first-party developer thinks it should do – as a result it’s only the hardware that determines when a phone is fit for the bin.
4) Social contacts
The mobile is a communications device, plain and simple. Therefore it should not hinder people’s attempts to stay in touch with other people.
The internet and social networks have been a great foundation for people to communicate but they have created the frustrating by-product of scattered contacts. Many have felt the pain of trying to text someone only to realise they have their number in their Facebook phonebook but not their SIM’s, for example.
Thankfully a lot of phones are now hitting the market with the aim of overcoming that problem, pulling in your e-mail and social contacts and merging them with your phone’s. The problem now is that you may need to wade through your contacts book to clean them up but at least you’ll know they’re all in one place.
5) Location-based functionality
Having GPS on your phone has one obvious benefit – you can use it as a sat-nav assuming you have the right software. However the benefits of location-based services go way beyond having someone telling you when to turn left next.
If your phone can tell where you are it can do all sorts of things – give you accurate weather reports, tell you if something interesting is going on near you or even tell you if one of your contacts is nearby.
Then there’s the world of augmented reality, where applications layer real-time information over a real-time stream from your location and help delivery to you all sorts of information.
In short, an increasing number of phone features are based on or being improved by location awareness so if your phone doesn’t have it you’ll be left in the dark.
While it might scare some to think that their phone knows exactly where they are they really shouldn’t worry – through things like mast triangulation it already does but at least you can make it work to your advantage now.