The last Windows Phone that I can really consider a flagship was the Nokia Lumia 1020. That’s been out for a while and a few other high-end Lumia Windows Phones have been released since then. There’s the Lumia 1520 which boasts a very large high-definition screen. Then there’s the Lumia Icon and Lumia 930 which also have a high resolution screen, but still both only use a 20 megapixel cameras and to add insult to injury, they don’t even support the super-awesome Glance mode. Sorry, but a flagship smartphone really needs to do it all. It needs to be the best of the best.
Nokia was pretty close with the Lumia 1020. Not only did it have an extreme 41 megapixel resolution camera, but it also had optical image stabilization and a powerful Xenon flash. The imaging quality was and is still unsurpassed on that phone. Of course, it also had great audio quality, new display technology, a hyper-sensitive touch screen that you can use with gloves on along with all of the standard fare these days; NFC, Bluetooth, LTE, etc. Unfortunately, it was missing some very important features that are indispensable to the modern power user.
Having to recharge your phone when the battery level is low has always been a huge hassle. Luckily there’s been a solution for some time that even cheap flashlights and smoke detectors have employed; replaceable batteries. For some reason, most flagship smartphones these days don’t include a removable battery option. It’s not that Nokia doesn’t know how to make phones with removable batteries. Their low end Lumia 52X line are using the same removable batteries that Nokia has been using in other phones for many years. Spares can be found for about $4. That is one awesome feature! If you’re going away for a weekend, all you need to do is keep a couple of fully charged spare batteries in your wallet (yeah, they’re that thin) and when one battery dies you pop-in another. No wires to plug in, no charger to carry around. Such a useful feature!
The Lumia 1020 didn’t come with wireless charging built into the device. Of course we know it was kind of strangely shaped and adding wireless charging would have added to the thickness, but who cares? I want it all. Also, if only it had a removable battery, it would probably also have a removable battery cover that could be replaced with a different one that supported wireless charging. That’s how Samsung does it with their flagship smartphones and it works out quite well. Heck, Nokia’s gone that route with the Lumia 820 and 810, too.
That brings us to colors. With Nokia’s lower-end devices, it is extremely easy to choose a different color for your phone. In most cases all you have to do is shell out $8 for a different battery cover. For someone like me who would want the wireless charging capability built into the battery cover, it’s a little more expensive in the $30-$40 range, but still being able to change my phone’s color whenever I feel like it is much nicer than having to be stuck with a bright yellow phone that doesn’t always go with my outfit. Smartphones are a fashion statement after all and therefore need to be highly customizable both inside and out. Furthermore, Microsoft needs to make color cover accessories that match their Surface device accessories.
Glance mode has to stay! Don’t drop it because of some screen technology like you did with the Lumia 930. A power-saving quick-glance greyscale display for relevant information is far more important and far more useful than pixel density. It would be nice if Cortana could integrate with Glance mode, too. Glance mode comes close to negating the need for any other kind of wearable computer like a smart watch.
Detachable Bluetooth earpiece
Now that we’re starting to get useful speech interfaces on smartphones (although, many are still not as good as the one Microsoft made in 2003), we need a more private method of communicating without touch or sight. Luckily wireless headsets were invented well over a decade ago. Unfortunately, they still haven’t really become mainstream. The problem is that they’re still too big, and they make you look strange. Well, not as strange as if you had a big electronic screen sitting in front of your eye at all times like the Google Glass explorers, but stillâ€¦ wearable electronics tend to be socially unacceptable. Another problem is that they still require separate chargers to carry around. I proposed a solution to this many years ago (back in this article from 2003). The Bluetooth headset should be detachable from the smartphone. When it’s attached, it gets charged from the phone’s battery or the phone’s charger. When you need a private speech interface with your smartphone or a caller, you pop the earpiece off and stick it in your ear. What could be simpler?
You probably see some issues with this since current Bluetooth headsets are awfully large. Well, things weren’t always that way. I have some very small Bluetooth headsets from the turn of the century that worked quite well. They’re barely larger than a peanut M&M. Here’s one that’s still the smallest around and it was released in 2005 almost 10 years ago; the Nextlink Bluespoon 5G. Actually, LG already implemented my idea in the LG Decoy back in 2008. Their Bluetooth headset was fairly large, and clipped to the back of the phone just like I had suggested. It was all still smaller than most of today’s smartphones too. If you’ve seen the popular movie “Her” last year, you’ll know that a discreet Bluetooth headset that you can pop into your ear and wear on the go can be very advantageous for interacting with your smartphone. Maybe people still aren’t ready for that though.
As I’ve said in the past, if Microsoft wants to be successful in the mobile smartphone business (which they practically invented at the turn of the century), they need to add something completely new that has never been done before for every “catch-up” feature they add. A real flagship smartphone should have everything and more. There shouldn’t be a compromise.
Of course it would need a 41 megapixel camera with optical image stabilization, a xenon flash, and RAW format support, too.
What else do you wish for in a real flagship Windows Phone? Waterproofing? Fingerprint scanner? 3D camera? Infrared port? Hardware keyboard?