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Smartphones in 2020: 20 things we want to see from phone makers
With the new year comes new opportunity, a chance to right wrongs, a chance for rebirth. Throughout 2019, phone makers introduced a wide range of ideas and devices. Some were successful and some were not.
As we move into and through 2020, we sincerely hope phone makers grab hold of the chance to put the past behind them and deliver new phones that not only solve consumer pain points, but delight and tickle the soul.
In other words, here’s our mega wishlist for phones in 2020, in no particular order (except for the number one).
1. Better battery life
Yep, that’s our #1 request. Sure, some mega flagships with 4,000mAh batteries can push through more than a day, but there are still too many phones that struggle to make it to midnight on a single charge. People depend on their phones for literally everything these days and a dead phone isn’t much help. Pro tip: consumers will put up with slightly thicker phones if the trade-off is killer battery life. Just do it.
2. Bigger camera sensors
Not more megapixels, bigger camera sensors. Sure, some people might like to brag that their smartphone has a 108MP camera, but those pixels are small and produce noisy images. We all know it’s the size of the sensor that counts. We’re not asking for an ASP-C sensor, but something in the neighborhood of 1-inch wouldn’t be so hard, would it?
Read more: What to expect from phone cameras in 2020
3. More plastic/polycarbonate
As much as we love the high-design phones that are made possible by glass panels, spending $$$$ to repair cracked glass is a serious bummer. Plastic may not be a premium material, but it’s cheaper than glass and easier to work with. It’s also less susceptible to breakage. Moreover, many people prefer the size and shape of a phone without a case. We wouldn’t mind seeing the return of metal phones, either.
4. No more notches
See also: 10 best notchless phones
5. More under-display cameras
Here’s an idea: use an under-display camera to negate the need for a notch. We understand that this is new tech, but it needs to become mainstream ASAP. Can you say cool factor, no notches, and no hole-punch cameras all at the same time? License it if you have to, your customers will thank you.
6. Less bloatware
When people buy smartphones, they don’t do it for the preinstalled third-party apps. Please stop adding junk to the app drawer. Perhaps more importantly, ensure that any third-party bloat can be deleted. Many find bloatware to be irritating, and sucking up previous on-device storage with silly games and carrier-branded junk is irksome.
7. No software side buttons
One design trend we saw begin to flourish in 2019 was the waterfall display. These screens bend way around the side edge — using up the space needed for hardware buttons. Smartphone makers compensated by giving these phones software buttons on the side for adjusting volume and such. They were a disaster. Cut that crap out and give us real buttons.
8. Drop the assistant buttons
Single-use products typically offer the focus necessary to complete one task really well. This is not the case with dedicated assistant buttons. Some people might like dedicated Google Assistant or Samsung Bixby action keys, but the buttons are just annoying for everyone else. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve launched Bixby be accidentally pressing the key. At the very least, make sure the assistant-dedicated button can be remapped to any app or task the owner wants.
9. Bring back the headphone jack
Yeah, we’re never going to let this one go. Sure, the 3.5mm jack may be a relic of the 20th century, but it persisted for a reason: it’s universal and it works. It also happens to provide better audio quality than Bluetooth. C’mon, do your customers a solid and bring back the jack.
10. Stereo speakers, please
While we’re on the subject of audio, please design more phones with balanced stereo speakers. A number of flagships have what we’d call makeshift stereo speakers they include a bottom-firing woofer and pair it with the treble-y earpiece. The result may technically be stereo, but it is often unbalanced. This setup is not as impressive as HTC’s BoomSound of old. That’s what we’re talking about, good full-range audio that sounds decent no matter how the phone is held or used. You can do it.
See also: Phones with the best stereo speakers
11. Drop the carrier exclusives
Phones that can only be purchased from a single carrier are a great way to limit your market. More to the point, many people simply can’t drop their carrier for another to buy a specific phone. Please ensure your phone is available unlocked and via multiple retailers. This is better for you, and better for the phone-buying public.
12. Silence/mute switches
Apple and OnePlus still know what’s up. Every iPhone and OnePlus phone includes a killer feature that we want to see make a return to all devices: the silence switch. These allow people to silence their phones or turn the ringer back on discreetly and quickly. OnePlus’ implementation even includes a vibrate-only option.
13. Updated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
Don’t get chintzy. Wi-Fi 6 is here, as is Bluetooth 5, and both should be a part of every phone shipped in 2020. Wi-Fi introduces significant new security features that can help protect consumers, while Bluetooth 5 is more efficient and drains less battery. Including these radios helps future proof the phone for at least a little while longer.
See also: Best Bluetooth speakers you can buy
14. Bring back regular fingerprint readers
Those in-display fingerprint readers that are all the rage right now? They’re miserable. Be a pal and bring back the dedicated fingerprint reader. Surely these cost less than the in-display type. More importantly, they are quicker and more reliable.
15. Greater variety of screen sizes
One trend we like is that of phone makers offering multiple sizes of the same phone. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S10e, S10, and S10 Plus, or the Apple iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11, and iPhone 11 Pro Max. This really helps people find the best fit when it comes to usability. We’d like to see this from more manufacturers, with an emphasis on adding more phones with smaller profiles.
16. Go easy on the gimmicks
While it may be fun to show off the latest tech wizardry in your flagship, not everyone cares about the bells and whistles. A great example is the LG G8 ThinQ, which introduced a way for the phone to see the owner’s blood for identification purposes and air motion for controlling the phone. Totally unnecessary. Skip the overwrought stuff that’s so cutting edge we’re left bleeding.
17. Ultra-wide, wide, telephoto
The majority of flagships have adopted the triple camera setup and we must say we rather like it. Offering an ultra wide-angle lens, a wide or regular lens, and a telephoto zoom lens gives people the largest possible creative canvas when snapping shots. Throw in a depth sensor for better bokeh if you must, but skip the macro cameras. If your phone skips the ultra-wide or telephoto for some other lens type, you need to ask yourself some questions.
See also: Best phones with triple cameras
18. 4K at 60fps
Not every processor supports 4K video capture at 60 frames per second, and that’s fine. While 4K at 30fps still generates decent video, it’s not nearly as smooth as 4K at 60fps, which is the setting used by many of today’s YouTubers and videographers. If you can’t go all the way to 60fps, maybe just make sure your 1080p offerings are amazing.
19. Waterproof all the things
The number of high-profile flagships that don’t have an IP67 or IP68 rating is vexing. We’re looking at you, OnePlus, Motorola, and others. If your phone costs more than $500, it had better be waterproof.
See also: Best waterproof phones you can buy
20. Affordable foldables
The HUAWEI Mate X looks amazing, and the Samsung Galaxy Fold is definitely neat. Neither are affordable. The upcoming Motorola Razr won’t be cheap either. Folding screen technology is ultra-new, which means it’s still ultra-expensive. Even so, it would be great to see the price points of folding phones drop to something less than Midas levels. Sub-$1,000 would be a good starting point.
Read next: Best upcoming Android phones of 2020
Those are our 20 wants from phones in 2020. What are yours? Let us know in the comments.