Underdog features: the unsung amazing features of modern phones

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Often, when we’re on the topic of new phones, we like to harp on the new features, the impressive (or not so impressive) specifications, and other various aspects of what makes that specific phone great … or terrible.

In truth, there are a lot of things we take for granted these days, features that we overlook or forget about. It’s those sort of features that might drive us mad if, for what ever reason, they no longer existed. And there are also newer, less prevalent features that are largely underrated. Point being, we tend to put our blinders on from time to time and forget about some of the most important and useful features of our smartphones.

So what are these so-called underdog features? Find out below!

 

Qualcomm Quick Charge

Battery life is a constant struggle with smartphone owners, especially as displays grow larger, processors run faster and warmer, and phones become thinner. Manufacturers are trying to offset the change in stamina by cramming as many milliampere-hours in an integrated cell as possible.

Nexus-4-Wireless-ChargerThat, in itself, has inadvertently created another issue: charge times. Charging a standard smartphone fully can take anywhere from as short as one hour to three hours and beyond, depending on the current supplied and capacity of the battery. There’s hardly anything mobile about a phone that spends more time tethered to a power supply for hours at a time, more than once per day.

However, Qualcomm’s latest chips come with a nifty features called Quick Charge. Quick Charge 1.0, which allows phones to charge up to 40 percent faster, was revealed to be in over 70 smartphones back in February. (For a full list, not including newer phones, see here.) Quick Charge 2.0 is accessible to devices powered by the Snapdragon 800 chipset, and it allows phones to charge up to 75 percent faster.

For example, a full charge from 0 to 100 percent might take upwards of 270 minutes using traditional methods. With Quick Charge 1.0, the same charge may only take 144 minutes, and with Quick Charge 2.0, you may only have to wait 96 minutes for your phone to be fully charged.

There is, however, some controversy over how this rapid charging could affect the life span of your battery. But trust us, the more time spent away from outlets, the better.

 

HD Video capture

DSC_7446You may be saying, “I don’t take HD video capture for granted, Taylor!” That’s fair, but I’m not not trying to insinuate that.

My point is: it’s easy to underestimate and undervalue the quality of the video produced by the smartphones that slip into our pockets. While the rumors that a few scenes of Marvel’s The Avengers were shot with an iPhone weren’t exactly true, the claim didn’t sound totally bonkers from the beginning. In fact, some Oscar-nominated documentaries and some short films that have made it to the silver screen were actually shot entirely on smartphones.

Gone are the days of needing an absurdly expensive, dedicated video camera to make awesome quality videos and short movies.

 

Touchless Control

touchless-controlThis one is hard to take for granted, as it isn’t technically available yet. But Motorola’s Touchless Control feature has been sorely undervalued since the announcement of said feature and Motorola’s latest devices, the Moto X, Droid Ultra, Droid Maxx, and Droid Mini.

The ability to talk to your phone and control it without ever having to touch it or pick it up may seem gimmicky, but it opens a gateway to an entirely different way of interfacing with our smartphones. Sure, voice control has been around for ages. But the ability to go almost entirely hands-free has not.

 

Voice input

google-voice-commandsAnd that gets us to our next point: dictation. Dictation software has been around for quite some time, as well. But it’s constantly improving, even if only behind the scenes. In Android, for example, you can do dictation while offline, which is nice for speaking a text message in a spotty data coverage area. But Android’s dictation software has a severe limitation: punctuation.

Using iOS, however, you can punctuate and capitalize without ever having to touch the phone. It isn’t perfect either, though. With iOS, you cannot see in real time what the phone is reading your dictation as, so you have to speak entire sentences and phrases at a time blindly.

Before doing a dictation challenge last year, dictation was easily at the top of the list of features I couldn’t possibly care less about. Needless to say, that has changed, and I regularly use voice input for various things.

 

Automation

Finally, we have automation. In iOS, there is very little automation whatsoever. But there are some features, such as Do Not Disturb, which can be set to a schedule.

automated-link-shortening

Applications like URLy can also be set to perform a specific set of automated tasks.

Even Android doesn’t have a ton of automation built into its core experience. The closest thing that comes to that is Google Now, Google’s digital assistant service that learns your preferences based on Google searches and your various online behavior. Search “Carolina Hurricanes” a few times, and it automatically determines that you’re a fan and provides you with game and score notifications. It automatically learns the places you frequent, stores them, and tells you how long – including traffic – it will take you to navigate there at any given time, from any given place. It will also tell you when you need to leave to make your next appointment on time.

Motorola’s DROID RAZR line also had some automation software build into the stock software, Smart Actions. You could have Smart Actions automatically set your sound profile to silent when a meeting starts, or turn off wireless data at a certain time, as well as a horde of other triggers and switches.

Taking it one step further, you can get that sort of automation on any Android smartphone using a popular third-party application called Tasker. Create a profile to automatically play music when you plug in headphones or turn off Bluetooth when you connect to a specific wireless network. The possibilities with Tasker are virtually endless, and that’s why automation is easily one of the most underrated features of modern smartphones.

As services like Google Now gain in popularity, automation will slowly become more mainstream, and we could see some of these same functionalities built into stock software on various mobile platforms.

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About The Author
Taylor Martin
Based out of Charlotte, NC, Taylor Martin started writing about technology in 2009 while working in wireless retail. He has used BlackBerry off and on for over seven years, Android for nearly four years, iOS for three years, and has experimented with both webOS and Windows Phone. Taylor has reviewed countless smartphones and tablets, and doesn't go anywhere without a couple gadgets in his pockets or "nerd bag." In his free time, Taylor enjoys playing disc golf with friends, rock climbing, and playing video games. He also enjoys the occasional hockey game, and would do unspeakable things for some salmon nigiri. For more on Taylor Martin, checkout his Pocketnow Insider edition.| Google+