By Taylor Martin | October 31, 2013 11:39 AM
Smartphones are capable of doing many things few thought possible just years ago: make payments, interface with watches or cars, provide data speeds faster than most home Internet connections, run several applications at once, and, over time, learn important things about their owners.
It’s a strange world, indeed. But Motorola made an interesting (and valid) point during its marketing push for the Moto X. While smartphones have become more capable and powerful, they haven’t actually become any smarter than before. In fact, they’re actually quite dumb. And if you think about it, there are probably several things you wish your smartphone could do but can’t.
So we here at Pocketnow wracked our brains over the one thing we each wish our smartphone could do. Below are our individual answers.
“I wish my smartphone could charge truly wirelessly.”
I want true wireless charging. That’s right, I want to walk into a room, cellphone in the pocket, and have it charge. I’ve already got the pad wireless charging on the Lumia 920, but to have it be as simple as walking into a room and not getting cancer, that would be an epic win. Once that technology is perfected, it will be integrated into cars, shops, and eventually battery life will no longer be an issue and we won’t have to write about it anymore. And that is what excites me most about the concept. Of course this is an incredibly optimistic view of the technology’s potential, but let’s not forget, I grew up on webOS.
And speaking of the Lumia, Daddy wants Google. That is the very last thing that I have to disclaimer when talking about Windows Phone to friends, loved ones, strangers, or anyone else foolish enough to bring up the topic. Unfortunately, I’ll probably be charging my phone while is sits in my pocket before Microsoft and Google bury the hatchet and get their stuff together. It is what it is.
“I wish my smartphone could understand what I want it to do.”
I’m sure I could think of dozens and dozens of things I wish my smartphone could do. Many of the things I wish it could do were things that it did do 10 years ago. Things like having a full SD slot where I could take an SD card out of my camera, pop it into my phone and edit images into real Photoshop PSD files with Pocket Artist. Or customizable hardware buttons that I could program for certain functions and since they had physical shapes I could feel for them with my fingers and activate them without having to look at a screen. Things like that just aren’t possible anymore.
If I had to choose one thing that I wish my smartphone could do in the future, it would be a more intuitive and intelligent extensible speech interface. Currently, plain language human-computer interfaces are still in their infancy. Most require the user to learn specific commands as opposed to the computer being able to process and guestimate what the user is trying to do. Ten years ago, my smartphone could process specific commands like many do today. Some are able to guestimate user intention these days, but only for certain things like web searches, and very few are extensible by third party apps. I wish all of my apps would be integrated with a centralized speech interface on my smartphone! And then I wish that same speech UI was accessible from all of my other electronic devices.
Anton D. Nagy
“I wish my smartphone could take better pictures.”
Since I am a person who loves to create, and capture, memories, camera quality is one of the most important things for me in a smartphone. We have come a long way since the days of “primitive” devices that captured crappy stills. The Lumia 1020/808 PureView have set a benchmark for imagery, and I wish all smartphone manufacturers would realize that imaging quality is/should be a main focus. It’s the only device you have with you, at all times; your memories fade, your pictures shouldn’t! This is why, for me, the most important thing in a phone is the ever improving camera quality. Bring that to people, and let them remember precious moments from the past, that only last a blink of an eye.
“I wish my smartphone could juggle wireless networks to fight dead zones.”
The one thing I wish my smartphone could do is properly manage WiFi and cellular radio as to avoid those annoying “dead zones”. It happens to me all the time: when walking to the bathroom from my office or driving away from my house, it takes my phone (whether iPhone, Android, or Windows Phone) too long to realize that WiFi is out of range and that cellular should kick on. The only remedy is to manually disable WiFi and turn it back on later when you’re back near the router. You would think that some phone out there has gotten it right by 2013, but that’s just not the case.
“I wish my smartphone was solar-powered.”
The last couple of years have been filled with each OEM going crazy over making their devices either thin and light, or big, or curved. Doesn’t it make you wonder how we all survived with bulky phones for the last decade? The industry keeps evolving in directions that completely ignore one of the basic things we care about the most, and it’s to have un-interrupted service. Some of you may not remember this, but a decade ago there were areas where you couldn’t get cellular reception in most countries, and carriers have invested heavily in fixing this. I wish I could say the same about OEMs investing their R&D dollars in battery technology, instead of chamfered edges or curved displays. I honestly wouldn’t mind putting-up with some extra bulk on my next phone if it meant that I wouldn’t have to worry about charging my phone everywhere.
Yes, I wouldn’t mind a phone that gives me two days of battery life. I also wouldn’t mind a phone that could charge in under an hour. Sadly this doesn’t solve the problem that many of us have. It’s pointless to have such amazing games on our phones if I can’t play more than a couple of minutes of each without draining half my battery. If the phone’s stamina is going to be limited by my usage, I just won’t use it the way it’s intended to. Wouldn’t it be so much better if we didn’t have to charge the damn thing at all? If it would charge itself while I didn’t use it through solar panels? We’ve had solar-powered watches and calculators for decades, and if they made my next phone a little bulky in order to fit a couple of solar panels, I wouldn’t mind.
Glass on Glass designs would be back in style if this happened, or hey, why not give those bezels on the display some extra use?
“I wish my smartphone could anticipate my needs.”
Our smartphones are technological marvels. Their multi-core processors, gigs of RAM, and high-speed connections to the web are are on-par with many of today’s best computers. They’re still fundamentally lacking in one one area: user experience – UX for short. Sure, Windows Phone has come a long way from Pocket PC, Android is making continual progress, and iOS 7 is light-years ahead of the first iteration of iOS, but they’re all missing something. Every phone on any platform is just that: a phone. It’s not a tool that anticipates your needs and has them ready for you even before you ask. For now, that’s an impossible task, successfully anticipating whatever it is you’re going to be looking for, but that’s the direction we are heading. Ambient processors will become more popular and mobile operating systems will integrate tighter with them as time progresses. For now, the “anticipatory experience” is still being conceptualized, with very few apps taking advantage of the concept, but their time will come.
“I wish my smartphone could measure the world around me.”
Today’s smartphones are incredible machines – but they’re also heavily reliant on a terrestrial infrastructure. Their wizardry requires a constant connection to a mobile data network or a WiFi hotspot, rendering them little more than paperweights when that connectivity is absent.
I want my smartphone to be smart, even when it can’t talk to the mothership. By that, I mean I want a feature set that includes more built-in sensors to measure the world around me, and a software build that takes advantage of those sensors. We’ve already seen some “contextual sensitization” in the Moto X, and I wrote about the benefits of using on-board sensors in a piece on the G’z'One Commando earlier this week, but there’s an awful lot of room for real innovation in this space. As Chancellor Gorkon said, “we have a long way to go.”
In short: my smartphone already looks like a Star Trek tricorder. Now that we officially live in the future, I want it to have the features of one.
Chief News Editor
“I wish my smartphone had full USB.”
By and large, I’m pretty happy with what smartphones today can do – or at least, what they’re capable of doing. I don’t want to name anything that could be implemented as a software feature for this wish list, since I’m more interested with things you simply can’t do with existing phones, rather than those you could do, but just no one has yet. If I’m going to focus on phone hardware like that, my biggest must-have would be a full-sized USB port.
Why? My phone’s a computer, and I like to attach accessories to computers. Bluetooth is fine when available, but not having an easy to use wired connection severely limits your options. Maybe I want to plug in a flash drive and offload some photos to free up space on my phone. Maybe I’ve got to bang-out a long email and would love to just hook up a keyboard.
USB OTG is a stopgap measure – anything that requires an adaptor just isn’t a proper solution in my book. Full-size USB type A connectors or bust!
“I wish my smartphone could last several days on a single charge.”
To be honest, this feels like a cop-out answer. There are so many things I wish the smartphones I use could do, like what Adam Doud, Michael, and Joe said. I’ve had all of those thoughts before. But I’m a firm believer in being able to handle the basics first and worrying about the advanced stuff later – walking before running.
Great things will come in time. But without sufficient battery power, what good is any of that? The Galaxy Note 3 (which I’m missing something awful since returning the review unit) was the closest device to lasting several days on a charge since my BlackBerry days. But there were several times during the review that I feel I could have killed the device in a single day, given the time and opportunity. And even if I couldn’t in normal use, I could drain the battery enough to where I would still have to charge it overnight for the next day.
What I want more than anything is a smartphone that I simply cannot kill in one day, two days, or even three days. And, no, a 10,000mAh aftermarket battery is not the solution. The thing still needs to fit in my jean pockets.
Since this isn’t very likely, I’ll be glad to settle for incredibly quick charging via graphene supercapacitors.
“I wish my smartphone could …”
Now it’s your turn, ladies and gents. There has to be at least one thing you wish your smartphone could do. Now’s your chance to rant about it in the comments section below.
Well, what are you waiting for? Get to it!