What is the least important smartphone feature?

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One of the things we do here at Pocketnow is talk about our favorite parts about phones and tablets. I will talk about the camera, all day. Other editors have other preferences – operating system, skin, processor, etc. It almost starts to become a debate of sorts. Of course our reviews cover every facets of a mobile experience, but that’s because we have to. We have to talk about every little piece of a device, even though it frankly doesn’t excite us.

But one of the best parts is, if you really dig down and read between the lines or follow us on social media, maybe you can figure out what’s a big deal or not. But we don’t want you to have to do all that. So, we’re going to take a different track on the concept of the Weekend Debate. We’re just gonna tell ya. We asked our editors, “What is your least favorite part of a phone? What is the part that you really don’t care if it works or how it works?” So here are our thoughts. Take them in, and then we’re going to let you have it out in the comments.

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Bday-HatAdam Doud

Senior Editor

“It’s not all about that bass, [or] treble.”

Speakers have become a sort of focal point for a some phones and tablets. Going back to the Beats audio of the HP TouchPad and most recently Harmon Kardon and let’s not forget Boomsound, all of these devices have claimed to have the best audio experience – music the way the artist intended.

Well, let me tall ya’ll something- Blah. Blah. Blah. Despite these grandiose claims of high quality audio, it’s always tinny garbage. Sometimes it’s tinny garbage with a not-as-tinny thump, but it’s still garbage. Superb audio just isn’t possible within the confines for a smartphone. The tech just isn’t there yet and it won’t be for quite some time. The audio on your phone will never sound like your home stereo, or even your car.

The “best” pile of garbage, is still a pile of garbage. Stop bragging about your audio garbage.

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 Oppo FInd 7 review

adam-l

Adam Lein

Senior Editor

“The jack of all trades that isn’t. More like a jack of one trade.”

To me, the 3.5mm headset TRS jack is the most useless feature on phones these days. It’s a large archaic ancient hardware interface. Most phones and smartphones removed it a few years after the turn of the century, opting instead for the 2.5mm TRS port, plus a charging port, or a proprietary charging/data port. HTC replaced all ports with one ExtUSB port at one point. This was great since you had one port that did everything, but it was still annoying to buy an adapter that allowed 3.5mm headphones. The 3.5mm TRS headset jack is still only used for audio output and sometimes audio input! That’s all?! Why hasn’t this been replaced yet? Why did it come back as a feature in 2006?

That’s not to say that the TRS hardware interface isn’t a good idea. In fact, it’s much better than all the USB variants including USB-C simply because it’s round! The only way plugging a round peg into a round hole could be easier is if there were some magnets that did it automatically when you got the round peg close to the round hole. (USB-C isn’t remotely good enough.) If smartphone hardware designers were smart, they would have extended the 3.5mm headset jack to support data I/O, video I/O, and battery charging along with the same audio I/O ten years ago when we were all looking for a standard. But no…we still have stupidly designed rectangular, trapezoid, and flattened oval shaped USB ports that require precise attachments that are always frustrating to plug in (especially at night).

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tony-nAnton D. Nagy

Editor-In-Chief

“NFC, software add-ons, and speakers. A big ball of meh.”

While I do care about Bluetooth (for connecting to my car and other accessories in the house), I don’t really care for NFC. I do care A LOT about the dedicated camera button on smartphones, but, on smartphones with no OIS, pressing the button induces blur, so it’s safe to assume that I don’t care about that (and never use it) if the phone has no OIS.

I also don’t really care about bundled software, regardless of how useful (or on the contrary) it is. I just delete/disable everything and run with my own set of apps.
One last bit: while I do consider myself an audiophile, I don’t really care about speaker quality. I almost never listen to music via the speakers; but I do, however, want my smartphone speaker to be loud, even if it does sound dull/off.

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Dushyant ShrikhandeDushyant_profile

Contributing Editor

“Software customizations can pack up their bags and get out.”

Rather than just think about the hardware features that are redundant or useless, there are quite a few things that OEMs put into their software offerings that are totally superfluous. Including but not limited to :

  • Gimmick Camera Modes. People barely use them. If they want gimmick camera modes, filters or whatever, they access them through other apps such as Instagram or Snapchat.
  • Context based suggestions/help. Still half baked for the most part. App suggestions, things like “you should get up you’ve been sitting…” , “you need an umbrella today…” and so on.
  • My Magazine/Flipboard style apps that are extremely sluggish.
  • OEM specific app stores. The Samsung store. The Sony store, etc. My phone (Xperia Z3 Compact) tries to get me to buy their stuff (stuff that Sony published, or is related to their other IP like Playstation or Sony movies, and so on) all the time, and I’m tired of continuously swiping these notifications away.
  • Knuckle detection. Unless you have been eating butter popcorn and don’t want butter all over your phone screen or something.

On the hardware side:

  • Proprietary ports/docks that aren’t lightning or micro-USB. If it’s not one of these two, very few people will pay extra to buy an accessory that uses a proprietary connector. Unless it’s a wearable.

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jaime-rJaime Rivera

Multimedia Manager

“No Freakin’ Chance.”

For me it would be NFC. It’s one of those features that’s cool to have, but that you use so little, that it looses purpose. I know that the birth of Android Pay and Android Pay will change that, but it’s taken forever. The main reason why I find it pointless is because, aside from the initial handshake of pairing devices, it’s functionality ends there. Yes, you can get NFC tags, but after a while you just forget about them. Don’t get me wrong, I consider it a cool feature, but again, the least important one in a smartphone so far. 

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joe-lJoe Levi

Senior Editor

“I don’t really need a phone in my phone.”

It’s been quite awhile since our smartphones have been anything but anecdotally a “phone”. In any given day my “phone” is an email client, an interactive calendar, two-way pager, video-on-demand viewer, smart home remote-controller, a radio, and even a gaming console.

As ironic as it may sound, the least important feature of today’s smartphones is the “phone”.

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Juan_Bagnell_selfieJuan Carlos Bagnell

Senior Editor

“Ok, everybody. Say ‘vanity’!”

“Selfie” cameras, I loathe them. There are few things on this planet which turn me into a cranky old man faster than talking about “selfies”. The front facing cameras were added to our mobile devices to facilitate activities like video calling. It was a tool for practical purposes, and sure, in a pinch you could take an awkward photo of yourself. We knew it would be a mediocre (at best) photo, but we could do it if we needed to.

Now even though the front facing cameras on our phones have improved, they largely still struggle to compete with rear mounted phone cameras from four and five years ago. I’m honestly at a loss as to why they’ve become such important topics of conversation for so many consumers. I understand that culturally, many are reticent to ask a stranger to handle their phone or camera when they want a picture of themselves, and I get that psychologically there’s something interesting about taking a photo of yourself from arm’s length. We’ve been doing that since the 1830’s. I’ve just never looked at the output from a front facing camera and thought “nice shot”. I’ve never checked out a selfie without wishing I had just taken the time to blindly shoot from my rear camera instead, the way you might see the occasional person vlogging from a GoPro. Maybe some day a selfie camera will actually impress me, but honestly, if I never had to talk about another front facing shooter I doubt I’d miss them.

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Michael Fishermichael-f

Editorial Director

“Baby got back.”

Thinness.

You might say that’s more aesthetic attribute than “feature” but that’s not how manufacturers treat it. Almost every OEM makes a lot of noise about how much thinner its current phone is than last generation’s … usually at the expense of battery life (and less often, durability). Having just re-reviewed the Moto X Pure Edition for After The Buzz, I was pleased to re-discover that not all companies slavishly adhere to this senseless obsession with slimness. A thicker phone can offer a bigger battery while conforming more naturally to the palm, and it tends to stand out from the razor-thin pack in the process. As long as it does it with a modicum of class (see LG G4, LG G Flex 2, aforementioned Moto X 2015), I’m always happy to see a smartphone with a little meat on its bones.

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 Oppo Find 7 review

stephenStephen Schenck

Chief News Editor

“I will not lock my phone. Your NFC is dead to me!”

I hate to admit it, but NFC is utterly useless to me, and I blame Google and Google alone. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, but the lock screen requirement for Android Pay is a deal-breaker. Make me enter a PIN every time I want to pull up the app? Cool, sounds like a smart idea. But I draw the line at telling me how I should access my device in general. Hell, my banking app doesn’t require such nonsense, and I’ve got a lot more riding on its security.

Without mobile payments, NFC just isn’t much use. I’ve never found Android Beam to be very handy, and I don’t use NFC to set up new devices.

I’ve been using the OnePlus X for the past few months now, and I can’t say that I miss its lack of NFC at all.

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“Where is Windows Holographic headed?”

It’s an interesting question, don’t you think? So often we don’t even think about the parts of the phone that simply don’t matter to us. But let’s change that. Let’s look at those parts of the phone and let’s talk about them.

What parts of a phone simply don’t matter to you? Maybe you fail to find the value in something that someone else is passionate about. Three of my co-workers don’t care about NFC, but for me it’s a total deal breaker. I changed my bank over Android Pay. So sound off below, and let’s talk about what you want out of a phone, and more importantly what you care least about and let’s see if we can figure this out.

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About The Author
Adam Doud
Adam joined the tech world after watching Jon Rubenstein demo the most epic phone ever at CES 2009. He is webOS enthusiast, Windows Phone fan, and Android skeptic. He loves the outdoors, is an avid Geocacher, Cubs/Blackhawks fan, and family man living in Sweet Home Chicago, where he STILL hosts monthly webOS meetups (Don’t call it a comeback!). He can be found tweeting all things tech as @DeadTechnology, or chi-town sports at @oneminutecubs.Read more about Adam Doud!