Year after year, mobile phone OEMs try to outdo one another by impressing customers with unique updates. In the more recent years, the “wow” factor has centered on the allure of a foldable display, bezel-free appearance and facial scanners/fingerprint sensors. But many mobile phone owners are beginning to notice a trend among these new mobile features: when OEMs add cool new features to mobile phones, they often let go of some of the practical features as a way to enhance positive user experience. But when your phone isn’t able to do the basics, are you really upgrading?
There’s a difference between something being cool for the sake of cool and something being genuinely useful and beneficial in the real world, from a human-person perspective — and almost every smartphone hardware trend we’ve seen lately has fallen onto the former side of that incredibly significant split. If you take a look at the current crop of folding-screen phones, you’ll see that while “cool,” these devices require the use of thick and inconvenient shapes with displays that OEMs have yet to address when it comes to repair efforts and costs.
This is an issue is in almost every smartphone hardware advancement of the past few years. For instance, instead of the effective and ergonomic front or back-of-the phone fingerprint sensors are now being removed for things like facial recognition. And while this type of biometric is pretty neat, it is not as convenient or effective as fingerprint sensors. In fact, now mobile phone users are required to take extra steps (removing sunglasses or accessories, etc.) in order to unlock their device and no matter how spiffy they may seem, they’re inherently slow, inconsistent, and awkward to use.
Additionally, let’s not forget about the slow but steady removal of the 3.5mm headphone jacks on most modern flagships. This one is less about selling phones, directly, and more about cutting costs and simplifying the manufacturing process. While it’s certainly not the end of the world, it’s yet another downward-step-requiring compromise — one most of us eventually accept, but admittedly one few if any people would actively embrace as a good thing.
These are benefits for the companies that sell devices at the expense of those of us who use them. If you were to sum up the advances in mobile tech hardware over the past few years, those are the main points of progress that’d probably come up, right? And yet, when you really stop and think about ’em, every single one is ultimately a benefit for the coffers of the companies that make and sell the devices — at the expense of an optimal user experience for those of us actually use the things on a day-to-day basis.
After years of stagnation, it’s encouraging to see experimentation in the realm of smartphone hardware — but it’d sure be nice for that process to start happening on a level that provides true practical benefits for us, the users who own the devices, instead of working counterproductively and making our lives a little less optimal with every eye-catching “upgrade” that crawls along.