5 features we’d love to see on Android phones in 2013

December 17, 2012
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Android smartphones have been the cutting edge of mobile tech in the last couple of years. The top manufacturers have been quick to identify new trends and see the potential in new features. Because there’s so much competition in the Android market, finding a new USP to help the latest model stand out is a popular strategy. We’ve seen some firsts, such as 4G LTE phones and 3D support, and we’ve seen interesting features with potential, such as NFC and wireless charging. So, what features would we love to see on Android phones in 2013?

Flexible displays

How do we keep increasing the screen size of our smartphones without losing portability? The larger display is an obvious trend, but many people are put off by big, unwieldy devices that don’t fit comfortably in the pocket. A number of manufacturers, including Samsung, have been working on flexible display technology. If they can produce a device that actually folds up, so you have a smartphone-sized device that can fold out to tablet size, then who wouldn’t want one?

We wish this concept video from 2011 could be realized in 2013, but the reality of early flexible devices is likely to be more modest. We’re pretty confident we’ll see some flexible displays in 2013 and they’ll be the first step towards the kind of awesomeness in this video, but there are bound to be a few teething problems.

Better batteries

It’s not an exciting new development, but seriously, the mobile industry has got to do more to solve everyone’s major pain point with smartphones – the battery life. As we clamor for bigger screens and more features, we seem to be driving up the thirst for juice faster than battery technology is improving. No one wants to be told that they can expect their super-powered smartphone to last a full day as long as they don’t play games, make sure to turn off 4G, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, don’t stream movies, don’t use the GPS, basically don’t use the features that make it a great device in the first place!

Wireless charging is a handy convenience and we can see that rolling out more in the coming months. When airports and bars and other public places have wireless charging mats as standard (if that ever happens) then it could be really useful. Having a wireless charging mat at home versus a traditional charger is not going to solve the problem for most of us.

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We are also seeing devices with bigger batteries, but they do impact on the design. Batteries are still big, relatively speaking, when you think about the innards of a smartphone. We need smaller batteries capable of holding a bigger charger, but that’s clearly easier said than done.

We’ve also seen some flexible battery technology on the horizon. That could go hand in glove with the flexible displays we discussed above. It could also lead to wearable batteries. Would you potentially plug your smartphone into your jacket if it gave you all the juice you wanted? There are obviously other issues with that, but wearable tech is another exciting development on the horizon.

More antennas

When it comes to making and receiving phone calls a lot of manufacturers seem to have forgotten that a smartphone is actually a phone first. Some smartphones seem to suffer from poor signal strength and frequent dropped calls. It’s also not uncommon to be unable to browse the web while making a call unless you have cellular and Wi-Fi.

With multiple antennas you can boost the signal strength and reduce the energy required. The device can also shift between antennas to get the best signal, which could be affected by where you are and how you are holding your phone. The downside is that they take up space and so increase the overall size of the device.

Tougher phones

When you fall in love with a smartphone design the last thing you want to do is encase it. Do you not cringe every time you see a $600 smartphone in a $3 rubber case? Manufacturers fight to get those proportions down and make our smartphones as slim as possible. If you have to put a case on it then you lose the finished look and you add unwanted bulk. Let’s have more Android smartphones that are indestructible without cases and without adding hideous ruggedized bodies. We’ve already got Gorilla Glass 2 and Kevlar making regular appearances, how about throwing waterproofing into the mix?

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We want to be able to drop our phones into puddles and down stairs without scratches or cracks. The trick is to add that extra layer of durability without adding too much bulk and cost.

Better Wi-Fi

Thanks to many carriers looking to charge for data usage in a metered system our thirst for Wi-Fi is stronger than ever. Even most carriers advertising unlimited mobile data actually have limits, they may call it a “fair usage policy”, but honestly what’s the difference? If we could use Wi-Fi more often when we are out and about and get better Wi-Fi at home then that would be great.

The 802.11ac standard will allow much greater Wi-Fi speeds for multiple devices in the home. Streaming HD video could be a reality and you won’t need to worry about having a laptop, a smart TV, a PC, and a smartphone all digging in at once. The technology is already available for smartphones.

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Taking advantage of Wi-Fi hotspots when you are out and about at the moment is just not a good user experience so we’re also excited about Passpoint taking off. The idea is that you will automatically and securely connect to mobile Wi-Fi hotspots wherever they are available without the tedious search, selection, and password entry.

What’s your pick?

There are a few other features we’d love to see on Android phones in 2013, but these are the top picks. Which features would get your vote? What are you excited about in the coming year and what would entice you to upgrade?

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