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What would make the 'perfect' smartphone?
When it comes to what makes a phone “perfect” there are just as many answers as there are opinions. While I’ve heard the title tossed around more with the Galaxy S7 Edge than I have with any other phone before it, even the Galaxy S7 Edge isn’t perfect. No phone is. But what if we were free to create the perfect smartphone, unfettered by concerns of cost, supply chains or even physics. What would it look like?
While the majority of what follows is theoretically possible at the moment (or will be by the end of they year), I couldn’t help but throw in a few slightly unrealistic demands. I’m sure you’ll spot them when you see them, but ask yourself: how long will it be before we see the kind of phone Android Authority has already dubbed the perfect smartphone?
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Our fantasy phone would have to have at least a QHD display. Probably AMOLED, with inky blacks, high contrast ratio and bright, saturated colors, but miraculously unaffected by screen burn-in or ghosting. Our fantasy display would also have crazy brightness and outdoor visibility with wide viewing angles, no reflections and no degradation of materials over time. Lets coat the display with Sapphire Glass too.
Regardless of size, we’d probably want it edge-to-edge with none of the pesky palm touches that plague current bezel-less designs. Because OLED allows for a thinner display than LCD and also offers the benefits of curves and flexibility, we’d want superior shock absorbency and scratch resistance. Tons of software tweaks to tune the display would also be nice and extraordinarily low power consumption. The option for on-screen or capacitive buttons would be nice.
For all the benefits of plastic – weight, shock absorbency, price – the contemporary emphasis on “premium” build materials and metal and glass construction cannot be overlooked. So our magical phone would feature the best of all possible worlds: a metal unibody core like the LG G5 for strength, but with interchangeable metal, glass, timber or plastic back panels.
These removable back panels would naturally provide access to a host of other fun stuff beneath the surface, but would also mean they can easily be replaced if they get scratched, damaged or cracked. All design elements of the phone will be symmetrical, because those that don’t care about symmetry don’t care, but those that do care can’t stand asymmetrical design. The inevitable fingerprint scanner will be on the back to avoid that weird mix of on-screen and physical button up front.
Our fantasy phone will, of course, have a microSD card slot and removable battery, neatly accessed via the removable back panel, but it will also be waterproof without requiring flaps or special care. It will be generally lightweight but with enough heft to make it feel as premium as it should feel.
We’ll take a LED notification light, fully customizable Always-On display, blisteringly fast and accurate Class 4 fingerprint scanner that can also be used for menu navigation, NFC, wireless charging (that magically works even with a metal back panel), fast charging, dual headphone ports (3.5mm and USB Type-C) and a front-facing LED flash for selfie fans.
Even though we all know megapixels aren’t everything, we’ll still take dual 21 MP Sony sensors with a gloriously wide f/1.0 aperture for unparalleled low light sensitivity. We’ll need optical image stabilization for both photo and video and a hybrid auto-focus system that uses phase detection, lasers and contrast to produce perfect, instant focusing under any conditions. A camera bump will not be tolerated under any circumstances.
The software side will give us everything we want too: full manual controls, tweakable auto mode, live preview, auto-HDR, 4K video (with OIS at all resolutions), no noise or visible post-processing, RAW, full-res shooting in both 4:3 and 16:9, 2K front-facing video, 1080p 240fps slow-motion, a quick launch feature and dedicated shutter button and while we’re at it, let’s add a user-customizable hardware button because that should totally still be a thing.
See also: 2016 flagship smartphone camera shootout
Dual stereo front-facing speakers, no doubt. Despite the compromises front-facing speakers require, typically a larger “chin” and “forehead” (is that a thing?) above and below the display, people tend to get over that when you realize how much better front-facing stereo speakers are on a smartphone. Take HTC’s historical legacy with BoomSound as an example.
The speakers will provide solid bass response, crisp high notes and expansive mid-range frequencies, with suitably high volume without distortion. We’ll be wanting full EQ controls with special headphones-only tweaks and because cost is no issue, let’s make it all Hi-Res Audio while we’re at it.
There is no lag in our perfect smartphone, out of the box or ever. It will mysteriously clean itself so it never gets clogged up with cached data, temporary files or unnecessary app content. Background processes will be down to a bare minimum, reboots and crashes won’t exist and the whole device will be so energy efficient it can last a week on standby.
It will have a top of the line processor that you can upgrade yourself through the removable back cover (yaassss!), and have an extra RAM slot for adding more as necessary. It will have super-fast internal flash storage capacities up to 256 GB with microSD expansion for fans of convenience. Let’s allow any app to be uninstalled and get new Android updates the day before the Nexus line too.
Our magical phone will have a 4,500 mAh battery that is removable, thin and occupies the vast majority of the bulk of our phone without making it too heavy or thick. It will support all wireless charging standards, sidestep that pesky Quick Charge 3.0/USB Type-C problem and support reverse charging as well.
Our battery will be so finely optimized that two full days of heavy usage are standard and three to four days of moderate use are common. The display will get around eight hours of screen-on time and all Android system demands will be shaved to within an inch of their life. You’ll be able to charge to 80% capacity in, let’s say, fifteen minutes and have complete control over power saving modes. That should do nicely.
This magical mystery phone is going to work globally and support all LTE bands no matter where you are. Truphone style, it will work with the same SIM no mater where you find yourself, carrier hopping like Project Fi so you never need to worry about roaming charges, SIM switching or incompatibility with local bands again. Carrier-branded phones will cease to exist.
Our perfect phone should support Bluetooth low energy, NFC for contactless payments and pain-free pairing, have an FM radio because it’s cool again and feature some high-bandwidth new wireless data standard that allows us to stream content to VR goggles like the LG 360 VR without cables and receive hi-res live streaming 360 video untethered.
So let’s hear it: where have we hit the money and where are we way off the mark? If we’ve missed any tech – real or imagined – be sure to share your demands. Let us know in the comments what would constitute the perfect phone for you, even if it’s recipe-based (like a Galaxy S7 Edge with BoomSound speakers, a HUAWEI Mate 8 battery, HTC 10 design and stock Android). We’re always on the lookout for the elusive perfect smartphone, and won’t stop until we find it. And neither should you.