Dec 17 AT 10:45 AM Nick Sarafolean 21 Comments

Phone manufacturers need to focus on basics, then add bells and whistles

Galaxy Nexus Battery

Every now and then single day, the rumor mill comes out with some crazy new report claiming that the next big device will pack some sort of crazy feature like a laser keyboard or a design that allows you to wrap it around your wrist and turn it into a giant smartwatch. Do any of these actually come to life? On occasion, yes, some of them do make it into the final product. But do we really need them?

Think of the eternal complaints people have about devices. With nearly every device, people wish that the battery would last longer than just a few hours. But on the bright side, you have a huge host of gimmicky features that you’ll never really use. That makes up for it, right?

Or maybe you’re finding that it’s a real hassle to navigate the software of your phone. But hey, you can muddle through that ridiculous software on a big, beautiful display with so many pixels that your eyes couldn’t ever hope to discern them from one another. That feature offsets any negativity, yes?

Wrong. Gimmicky features aren’t going to distract from the glaring oversights of key aspects on the phone. Let’s be blunt here, the vast majority of consumers would rather have a couple days of battery life than some ridiculous gestures or software tricks. Those things aren’t necessary to how we use the phone. In fact, the battery is the most important part of the phone. Without it, none of the other features on the phone are going to work.

The same goes for poor software. What good is a gorgeous screen if the software is too complex or just plain ugly? The manufacturer should have spent more time honing the software to perfection and gone down to a more reasonable screen resolution, such as 720p, that still looks excellent. In reality, the differences between 720p, 1080p and even 1440p resolutions are minimal and a person can easily adapt to any of them.

Manufacturers really need to focus on the basics and core features of a phone before adding bells and whistles. Ultimately, that’s going to sell more devices. While some of the gimmicks sound really interesting and fun, they’re generally not too practical. Rather than focusing on them, manufacturers should do things like add bigger batteries or create software that’s fluid and natural to use. Those are things that add practicality and will draw consumers in.

You guys are all consumers. Do you agree that manufacturers should focus more on the basics rather than the bells and whistles?

A nerd at heart, Nick is an average person who has a passion for all things electronic. When not spending his time writing about the latest gadgets, Nick enjoys reading, dabbling in photography, and experimenting with anything and everything coffee. Should you wish to know more about him, you can follow him on Twitter @nsarafolean.

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  • Russ

    I couldn’t agree more, battery life and durability are so much more important to me than being able to have a video pause if I look away. If I could get a phone that ran stock and got 3-4 days on battery and could take a spill/fall and run like a champ, I don’t think I could be any happier. I have the G2 and it is amazing what going from 8 hours (Galaxy Nexus) to around 2 days on the G2 does to remind you, you bought this $200 – $600 to make your life easier not worry about if you can find an outlet or a safe place to stash it if you are near water.

    I appreciate you taking the time to step back and look at what really matters, hopefully the industry will listen.

  • JVP

    Couldnt agree more. Who the hell needs a finger scanner in reality and so forth. Come on. And now the next “leap” is a 2k screen resolution, its ridiculous to add 2k resolution on such a small screen, 720p is perfect for such a small device. Its even good enough for a 25″ LED TV. The one thing i want more than ANYTHING is for my phone to last two days. Instead of constantly hearing the beeping warning of “battery low”.

  • jerrbomb

    Yes. Although I haven’t really had an issue with battery in my S4. I do wish they focused more on durability than anything else. Phone manufacturers should learn from each other instead of trying to play dick measuring with each other when it comes to features and displays.. Focus on basics like durability and battery life.. People invest all of the money and phone manufacturers give us fragile phones that can be crushed in an instant and batteries that are piss poor. So yes I do agree..

  • Nigel

    The market forces determine what is done more than designers. Technology produces options at least a year ahead of it being in domestic products, prototypes are produced and field tested and if they get a positive view, and it can be manufactured at a cost point the market also will tolerate, then it is made.

    So really, we’re getting what we want, the features at the price that technology can make, at the collective level, mass effect.

    As to what you can do personally, well obviously you can you separate out the features you want. You can carry a phone which you use as a really basic phone, to extend its battery life, and you can you can carry a tablet with its own battery for the non-essential apps and when it is drained, you still got the phone.

    You can also carry a $20-$30 slim USB battery which often will double or triple your off-mains battery life.

    You can’t personally, individually, make different phones happen, but you can personally individually use your phone in the manner which meets your personal priorities.

  • elbobo

    Couldn’t agree more. It cant understand how there isn’t a single device that has all I want in a phone. I don’t know it I just want too much or if the cost would be so high but every single device that seems promising is lacking in one or two key features.
    The HTC One is great but with crappy camera and battery. The same goes with the Moto X and the Nexus 5. LG G2 has great battery, nice camera, but samsung-esque crappy glossy body.. and weird button placement. I don’t want to even start talking about the S4..
    I know lots of people love these phones but they could be better. I mean, I would definetely pay more to have a complete premium phone. There is no phone that fits that category for me. At least until now. Hope this changes in the near future.

    • Javier E. Avila

      You might think the g2′s button placement but if you actually had it you wouldnt say that. You get used to it so quickly.i love it and dobt want to go back to regular buttons. As for the build i do hate the glossy back. If it was aluminum id be the perfect phone IMO

    • masterpfa

      That phone doesn’t and never will exist. Yo may get a device that has ‘MOST’ of the things you want but that ideal balance is just not available to satisfy us all.

      You may want long battery, extremely good camera, slim form factor
      I may want long battery large screen and robustness.
      John Doe may want a totally different combination.

      I personally think all OEM’s should give us a choice on the UI at least. Have Sense, TW etc as launchers with the option of just switching them off. For me that would be a start.

  • ksat

    While I completely agree, one must realize that it is not the ‘basics’ that sell phones! The bells and whistles are the life-blood of manufacturers, always attempting to out-do the competition… This is true in everything we purchase – be it an electronic device such as a phone, tablet, computer to tools-of-the-trade type of products.

    Basics have all been assumed and bells and whistles make money…plain and simple.

  • Nathan D.

    Couldn’t agree more

    • landale

      I totally agree here and was a key reason I switched from an S4 to a Moto X. Sure, the Moto X isn’t perfect (the camera is a disaster) but Motorola’s vision is so much more logical then the rest of the manufacturers out there. I really thought moving down from 1080p to a 720p display would be an issue but honestly I prefer the screen on the Moto X. I only hope that for the next gen Moto X they keep the size and resolution the same in order to focus on smaller elements like perhaps color controls for those who prefer more natural colors versus saturated, basically fine-tuning something that isn’t broken. Samsung seems content to fix things that aren’t broken and in the process make the device more cumbersome to use. At the end of the days we need the basics to work perfectly and then give us useful extras but keep them out of the way when not needed.

  • Royce Ashberry

    I agree with every word in this article. The three most important aspects of a good phone for me are: I can make and receive calls. The battery is not in constant need of charging. I can HEAR the phone. A sufficient battery and good speaker(s) are most important to me.

  • Noire

    Exactly, let’s not forget that all of these features eat the battery up even more. U take one step forward and two steps back when u add high power gimmicks and only enhance the battery a tad bit

  • rashad360

    The Moto X is a great example of following this philosophy, Great software allowed for an always-listening Google Now while at the same time affording superb battery life. The 720p display was a sensible choice because it is much easier for hardware to push 720p instead of 1080p, this decision also increased battery while at the same time it didn’t overdo it with pixels we can’t even see.

    The Moto X is an extremely sensible phone, pretty much the only reason I didn’t choose to buy one is because of the crappy camera…

    • CTown

      Like you, I feel that Nick is just summarizing the formula used to make the Moto X with its useful features such as the Active Display. Which is kind of funny since Samsung is the one who invented these AMOLED displays that can be partially turned off; yet, with all the features their devices contain they could not think of the feature that their technology is best suited at. It shows Samsung’s lack of cleverness when it comes to software and features.

  • hp420

    I’ve been saying this for a few years now. I know a few people who seem to always go for all the gimmick phones, then they want their phone to run CM, and they wonder why their stupid gimmicky feature stopped working! Kyocera Eho, HTC Evo 3D, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 1, 2 & 3 are all perfect examples of this sort of thing. Now we’ve got rumors coming in about the Galaxy S 5 having a 2kHD display??? C’mon, Samsung!!! Don’t you read any blogs or development forum discussions??? We already know your eyes can’t even tell the difference between 720/1080 at the tiny size our screens are. How do you expect us to believe there’s an actual visible difference between 1080/2k? This is just another cause of battery drain, which will lead to more complaints from consumers. I don’t know about you, but a battery with abysmal lifespan is far more noticeable to me than a display with 500ppi

    • Richard Yarrell

      Clueless joe’s Samsung is the leader of android at 63%market share of the entire android platform today as we speak on December 17th 2013.

      Samsung entered 2013 at 42.8% market share and YES that overall market share has grown for one reason and one reason only because they offer far more of the things people need and want.

      Like it or not it’s Plain and Samsung is android and nothing else will ever matter on the android platform because it’s closest competitor is Lg at 7.5%.

      Time for people to fall back and give respect to the leader of android they have lead this platform since May 2011 and the Galaxy S2.

      Instead of crying manufacturers need to step their game up for a change. Stop the madness of MOTOROLA with it’s pitiful offering of the Motorola X and Motorola G devices the optical illusion devices filled with 2012 specs and cheap prices going backwards.

      Htc like aluminum or metal devices are the best clearly nobody cares or buys Htc devices their market share is a putrid .

      We won’t even talk about the extremely overrated stock android famed Google Nexus line products. They are definitely a industry joke with PISS POOR BATTERY LIFE, crappy camera, and the WORST boring day to day smartphone experience ever with no true multitasking abilities or productivity abilities NEXUS MEANS boring dull battery draining handsets oh great bargain.

      At the end of the day nothing beats Samsung that’s Plain and simple.

      • ihatefanboys

        Completely agree on the Motorolla offerings. But i disagree that “nobody cares or buys HTC devices” Its still #1 on PhoneDog in the People Choice rankings.

      • squiddy20

        1. That 63% market share crap you’re talking about is not accurate. You’ve been throwing that exact number around for the better part of the last 2 months, so no, it’s not “as we speak on December 17th 2013″.
        2. “overall market share has grown for one reason and one reason only because they offer far more of the things people need and want” …Or because everyone and their mother recommends the “Galaxy phone”, as I’ve heard it called countless times, because they’ve heard it’s a good phone. The vast majority of the smartphone buying population don’t care about how many CPU/GPU cores it has, what version of Android a given phone is running, SD cards, or removable batteries and the myriad of other things us “techies” talk about and emphasize.
        3. “Like it or not it’s Plain and Samsung” I think you might be missing a “simple” somewhere in there. Jeez, you somehow managed to screw up your own catchphrase. How embarrassing.
        4. The thing that’s great about market share, which you obviously don’t understand (or maybe don’t want to see), is that it changes. 4 years ago, Apple’s iPhone was at the top, and everyone “knew” it would remain that way for years to come. 3 years ago, I’m pretty sure HTC was at the top of the Android market share. So Samsung has roughly 63% of the market right now. So what? In as little as a year, that could change.
        5. “Htc like aluminum or metal devices are the best clearly nobody cares or buys Htc devices their market share is a putrid” You’re a moron. Even 6% of 500 million is nothing to sneeze at. That’s 30 million devices right there. And that’s just assuming there’s *only* 500 million Android handsets being reported. I’m sure there’s a ton more than that. Just these randomly guessed numbers on my part prove your above statement totally and completely wrong. Get a life.

        • jerrbomb

          Nice… Richard has being talking massive amounts of shit since I’ve been coming here… And thats been a long while… Talking years.. I think he needs to be band even though it’s nice to see an idiot make himself known the way he does.. I wonder when he is gonna get blown off of Android and Me’s map. He he always switching sides.. Agreeing then disagreeing.. Coming up with bullshit numbers. Christ Richard.. Just shut your pie hole for once.

        • Josh Hirner

          man i’ve been curbing this dog on g+ for some months now …. he just repeats the same “catchphrases” bullshit everywhere he goes .. i originally thought they were just word of the day scenarios but afters a few weeks realized he has a very limited vocabulary … he even has his own g+ hashtag …. #DontBeADickYarrell

  • Joshua Reach

    Totally agree, especially on the battery life of a phone. This is 2013. We shouldn’t still be married to an outlet with our mobile phones. It seems like the first thing I do when buying a new phone is jump on Ebay or Amazon and buy extra or extended-life batteries…

    I’d gladly give up the gimmicky features on my Galaxy phone in order to have it last longer on a single charge.