Of course, as smartphone makers are restlessly trying to innovate (in order to keep their customers, or win new ones), we're not surprised to see that new, important features are being developed year after year, and we're expecting 2016 to come with plenty of great stuff in this regard. For now, though, let's see what 2015 had to offer.
4 new smartphone features that debuted in 2015
1. Iris scanner
Like fingerprints, the irises of our eyes have unique patterns, that's why an iris scanner can be just as successful and as safe (if not safer than) a fingerprint scanner when it comes to smartphone authentication. Fujitsu's iris canner - dubbed Iris Passport - relies on an infrared sensor and the Arrows NX F-04G's front-facing camera, being able to unlock the screen in 0.6 seconds - all you have to do is stare at the phone. Iris recognition can also be used to log in to websites, and authorize mobile payments.
Unfortunately, the Fujitsu Arrows NX F-04G (pictured on the left) is a Japan-only device, so we must give credit to Microsoft and its new Lumias for making iris scanners available to a larger smartphone user base.
2. USB Type-C
USB Type-C cables (pictured here) are reversible, which means you'll never have troubles inserting a Type-C plug into a Type-C port: it always fits. While it undoubtedly brings convenience compared to older ports and cables, USB Type-C doesn't necessarily bring faster charging and faster data transfer speeds, because these things depend on the USB technology (the latest being USB 3.1), rather than on the type of cables and ports. Of course, USB Type-C does support USB 3.1, but some devices, including the OnePlus 2 and the newest Nexus handsets, still rely on USB 2.0, despite having USB Type-C ports. Nevertheless, Type-C is the future of USB connectors, and we're glad that we already have smartphones using it. You can find out more about USB Type-C here and here.
3. Pressure sensitive displays
Evolved from Force Touch (a feature that Apple previously used on the Apple Watch and its latest MacBook Pro, and which almost certainly also inspired Huawei), 3D Touch allows users to interact differently with the screens of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. The technology senses how much pressure is applied on the display, differentiating light touches from hard touches. It can, for example, let you preview an email with a light touch, or fully open it if you're pressing harder (as seen on the left).
It looks like pressure sensitive screens will become more popular starting this year, and even Samsung's Galaxy S7 family might feature some sort of 3D Touch-like technology.
P.S.: We must note that only the 128 GB version of the Huawei Mate S comes with a pressure sensitive screen. The 32 GB and 64 GB variants have normal displays.
4. Shatterproof display
The Droid Turbo 2 comes with what Motorola is calling a ShatterShield screen. This is made out of 5 layers: an exterior protective lens with "a proprietary hardcoat designed to guard against dents and abrasion", an interior transparent lens that doesn't crack, a dual touch layer, the AMOLED display itself (which is flexible), and an aluminum chassis for "structural integrity and durability." Motorola's ShatterShield display is guaranteed not to crack or shatter for 4 years, and, until now, tests are confirming its durability.
It would be pretty cool if all smartphones had shatterproof screens, right? Well, we hope that, sometime in the near future, this will actually become reality.