H1 2014 in review: 5 innovative technologies that made their way into smartphones
Mobile technology has reached a state where coming up with a truly unique and innovative solution takes tremendous amounts of thought and resources. At the same time, consumers and critics alike are expecting significant, tangible improvements with each new round of smartphones that comes along. You know, something to convince them that a new smartphone is better, that it can do more, that it is worth upgrading to. But the fact of the matter is that smartphone innovation has slowed down its pace. Just think about it: virtually all smartphones fall into the same form factor; there's very little that flagship smartphone "A" can do and flagship smartphone "B" can't.
Long story short, it is not easy being a smartphone maker when buyer expectations are at their current levels and competition is more fierce than ever. This, however, is not stopping the world's greatest minds from coming up with fresh ideas. In fact, over the past six months we have seen a great deal of innovation across many fields of the smartphone industry – innovations implemented into great smartphones in order to give them an edge of differentiation over their competitors. Here are 5 examples of that.
With digital cameras, megapixel count is not all that matters. Speed is also of importance, and Samsung knows that well. Its current flagship, the Galaxy S5, is the first smartphone to take advantage of phase detection autofocus, enabled by its Samsung-developed ISOCELL image sensor. Note that this is a focusing technology typically found on professional cameras, not on smartphones or point-and-shoots. It is used in conjunction with the standard, contrast-based autofocus to allow the S5's camera to focus on an object quickly and accurately under a wide range of scenarios. And it does its job well. The Samsung Galaxy S5 can focus on an object in as short as 0.3 of a second, its maker brags.
Not to be outdone by its competitors, LG has equipped its flagship smartphone, the LG G3, with a unique laser-assisted focusing system. Infrared laser beams (which are invisible to the naked eye, by the way) constantly monitor the exact distance between the phone and the subject being photographed, enabling the camera to focus in as little as 0.276 of a second. Given ideal conditions, of course. What's also worth noting is that the LG G3 is very precise with its focusing, which minimizes the risk of ending up with a blurry photo of a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
Wouldn't it be cool if you could charge a dead smartphone completely in the time it takes you to get ready for work? Well, that's totally possible if you own an Oppo Find 7a... and if your morning routine takes about an hour and a half. But in all seriousness, the phone's charging time is impressive – a 30-minute charge gets its 2800 mAh cell to 75% full, and to reach the 100% charge you need to wait for just 82 minutes. In comparison, flagships like the LG G3 and the Galaxy S5 need over 2 hours to charge completely. Oppo's clever VOOC charging tech relies on a very powerful, 4.5-amp wall charger, which provides more than two times the power than a standard smartphone charger does. What's more, the battery is protected from overheating or damage by intelligent circuitry built into the charger and the phone.
Phones with built-in power saving modes have been around for a while, but it was Samsung that took the matter to extremes with its Galaxy S5 flagship. The phone boasts the so-called Ultra Power Saving Mode, which extends battery life dramatically when enabled. Similarly, the HTC One M8 has its Extreme Power Saving Mode. Both work in a similar fashion – by turning off all non-essential features, thus bringing power consumption down to a bare minimum. With these modes enabled, both phones can last an extra day even if they're down to just 10% of battery charge.
The great majority of headphones offering active noise cancellation come in the form of a pair of cans. They're relatively large and not always easy to carry around. Sony, however, has the MDR-NC31EM in-ear headphones, which provide effective noise cancellation in a very small, compact package. This has been achieved by letting the smartphone handle the active noise cancelling part, which eliminates the need for a battery and a DSP to be fitted inside the earphones. Compatible devices include the Sony Xperia Z2 smartphone and the Xperia Z2 Tablet.
This story is part of: H1 2014 in review(7 updates)