5 cool innovations that arrived to smartphones in the past 5 years

Innovation is the favorite word of phone makers: each and every one of them will try to convince you that their phone is packed with unique innovation.

Looking at the larger scheme of things, though, it's obvious that innovation is contagious and some features that have meaningful value have quickly been adopted by all phone makers.

We were curious to take this look 5 years back in time and try to single out the 5 cool innovative features that have arrived to not just one, but many smartphones over the course of this time. With no further ado, take a look at these important innovations that were hard or impossible to find just 5 years ago, and seem very important today.

Fingerprint scanners and improved security with system-wide encryption

Fingerprint scanners are about the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about meaningful innovation and new features on phones. First with the iPhone 5s, but then soon after on top-end Android phones and these days practically on all phones out there, fingerprint readers have become not only commonplace as a feature, but part of a larger ecosystem that paved the way to easy mobile payments. Systems like Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay all rely on a phone's fingerprint scanners to make payments easily and quickly.

Of course, the most obvious benefit of a fingerprint scanner is to protect your phone and make it much more secure. With system encryption on iPhones ever since the iPhone 5s, and with recent Android phones also shipping with an encrypted system, you can rest assured that if evil-doers steal your phone or if you forget it somewhere, you won't have voluntarily given thieves access to your banking accounts (that one would often have saved on their phone). Moreover, your personal files and photographs will not be available for everyone to see.

Fast and wireless charging technology

Rapid charging technology has been available in various forms and on many phones, but here Android leads the way. Qualcomm's QuickCharge tech has allowed the larger and larger batteries in today's phones to be charged up at faster speeds. These days, flagship phones like the Samsung Galaxy S7 would juice up in less than two hours, and even a half an hour charge would give the phone a significant battery boost.

Then, there is wireless charging. Samsung is the most notable name here, as its Galaxy series have been one of the fore-runners of wireless chargers, and it's just so convenient and effortless to just place your phone on a wireless charging mat and forget about dealing with cables. Keep in mind that wireless charging is less efficient and slower when compared to traditional charging via cables.

Super high resolutions

These days the only top-end phones that don't have the extremely high Quad HD resolution are iPhones. But even the 4.7" iPhone 6s display with its 750 x 1334-pixel resolution will appear pretty sharp to most people. If you use look closer, though, you will see pixelization on the iPhone, while the current crop of Android phones including the Galaxy S7, LG G5 and HTC 10 all come with a 1440 x 2560-pixel (Quad HD) display, and it's really hard to notice any pixelization on those screens.

Those higher-resolution screens are more demanding when it comes to power usage and CPU/GPU performance, but chip makers have neatly caught up with those needs these days. At the end of the day, we're happy that we no longer need to discuss the sharpness of a phone and look for flaws there. This way, we can concentrate on the color balance of the display.

Phone Cameras: Optical image stabilization, 4K video, Fast focusing cameras

Phone cameras have evolved a great deal in the past five years, and while their evolution is a complex process that revolves around better sensor technology and more refined lenses, there are three key features that have become a standard on all of the better modern-day phones. These features are optical image stabilization (OIS), 4K video and some form of fast-focusing tech.

Optical stabilization is self-explanatory - a technology that was first introduced on popular phones with Nokia phones, it has quickly found its place on modern Android phones and most high-end Androids have it. The effect OIS has on images is to stabilize them and allow for better, sharper images, especially in low-light conditions. Then, there is 4K video, the new video standard that results in super large files, but also brings a noticeable improvements in sharpness and allows for much more flexible use of digital zooming. Finally, fast-focusing tech comes either as the new Dual Pixel feature on the S7, phase-detection pixels on the sensor as in many phones these days, and/or laser auto-focusing.

Curved displays

Curved displays have slowly, but steadily arrived on phones and seem to be here to stay. After a few experimental, low-volume phones, Samsung released the Galaxy S6 Edge last year and was susprised by the high demand for it. This year, with the Galaxy S7 Edge, it has not only improved the technology, but also added new interface options to use with it.

While we're still some time away from truly curved phones that you could just wrap around your wrist and carry as a bracelet, we are hearing that some crazy prototypes are being developed that will certainly result in some shape-shifting phones coming in the not so distant future.



1. ph00ny

Posts: 2066; Member since: May 26, 2011

let's take a step back. iPhone 5S was the first phone with fingerprint scanner? What happened to Motorola Atrix?

4. TerryTerius unregistered

It definitely wasn't the first, but Apple did popularize it. Though you are completely right it's annoying those two things are often confused.

8. NoToFanboys

Posts: 3231; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

Apple is pretty darn good in making things popular right? Nowadays I think other OEMs intentionally let Apple do things first so that they can make it popular, then introduce their own after that.

14. sgodsell

Posts: 7514; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

If Apple only went with a QHD display, then VR would be more popular in Apples camp. However the low resolution displays that Apple insist on using, then VR continues to suck on iPhones. This is where Android is leading the way with VR, and why higher resolution displays are needed.

24. 47AlphaTango

Posts: 738; Member since: Sep 27, 2015

They will. But as of now. QHD displays aren't perfect. And majority of all developers out there are capable of doing from HD to FHD apps. From which most of them would release on iOS first.

34. tedkord

Posts: 17452; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

The best mobile phone displays the past two years have been QHD. Nothing is perfect, but some things are better than others.

47. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Only Samsung's though. LG's displays are terrible. I remember their first phone to sport their own QHD, sucked a huge amount of power. I believe it was a QHD LCD in the G3 and it was terrible. Washout colors, huge battery consumption and that was the phone from LG I wanted. So glad I didn't get it.

46. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

VR? Nah. Higher resolutions give many other benefits, especially AMOLED. You get higher resolutions with minimal to no increases in power consumption, sharper text, punchier colors and more. VR is like a bonus benefit :-)

28. QuasarExod

Posts: 102; Member since: Mar 29, 2016

Still, popularizing does not mean it is first.

45. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Umm just no! Apple rushes to be first, so peple liek you can claim everyone else copied. Need example? Fact - Other OEM's were already bring fingerprint readers rto their phones. Apple bought the only company that had them at the time which prevent other OEM from using them as a source and they had to work out their own. Thai is why the S5 and Note 4 ended up with the swipe one because Apple bought the company and those OEM had to source someone else. Force Touch was already being worked on by Synaptic who has a history of making pressure-sensitive hardware for years. OEM's were bringing this, but the product was still in early stages. Apple rushed and made their own which was a complete flop and now even Apple is planning to source from Synaptic s, as PA has already sourced th article. Faster charging? Apple patented a Fast Charging method back in 10/2013. This was AFTER Qualcomm purchased a company call WiPower. WiPower developed a faster and wireless charging method where you could wireless charge a phone without siitting it on a pad. Qualcomm bought them. WiPower patented this concept way before Apple decided too patent their own. Tesla is the ma who pioneered this tech. But it seems Apple couldn't get this out the door fast enough. In fact all phone sporting Qualcomm 8xx process all support this charging method. You simply needed to buy a different back cover. The Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy S5 were the first Samsung products to support the WiPower Wireless Charging method. You simply had to buy the supporting back cover. PA failed to mention this because, well it isn't Apple. So no OEM's don't intentionally let Apple do anything. They get stone walled by Apple. Example. Several OEM's back in 2010 had a hard time gettign displays, because Apple tied up the two biggest display producers in Sharp and LG. This was big news bag in 2010/2011. Many OEM ran into production issues waiting for their display orders to be filled because they promised Apple who paid more money they would get first supplies. So no, you are wrong brush. But nice attempt at some BS.

43. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

But we aren't talking popular. We are talking first on a smartphone. Motorola wasn't first. But I would say, they were the first to actually popularize it. Because they were the first to mass produce the feature on a phone. Just because it didn't sell well, didn't mean the feature was any less popularized. Assuming that because Apple sells a lot of iPhone automatically makes every feature it has equally as popular is bullcrap. Coca Cola's top selling product is Coke. All the other pops they sell are nto automatically popular because they are made by them.

6. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

Motorola Atrix been erased from history.. cause apple is the inventor of everything

27. QuasarExod

Posts: 102; Member since: Mar 29, 2016

To some "particular" people, Apple is the almighty Creator.

10. kiko007

Posts: 7520; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

There is a reason they credit it to the 5s, because Motorola's implementation of the fingerprint scanner was terrible. It is that simple.

21. siddharthayadav202

Posts: 286; Member since: Apr 23, 2016

But they mentioned it wrong way. Then should have said that motorola came with a fingerprint scanner which was made actually usable by apple on its iPhone 5s.

33. tedkord

Posts: 17452; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

There is a reason they credit the 5s, but it's not the one you gave.

49. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

No matter how bad it was, it still wasn't first. Please understand you can't change the definition of the word "first". Moto was the "first" phone to have a fingerprint reader. It was the first phone available that was mass produced with one. Also it only required swiping. I remember trying it out because I liked the laptop-dock feature. Every time I swiped it was just as accurate as the one on my ThinkPad. What Apple bought was a company who made a sensor large enough to get a print without a swipe and this made it faster and lass clunky. It was better because of speed. The tech behind it is 100% identical.

15. krystian

Posts: 423; Member since: Mar 16, 2016

Fingerprint is just not secure. Consider feds have fingerprints for most users, easy for them to open phones. Iris scanners are where it's at. The 950xl and latest Software has made it pretty damn fast too. Even iphone 8 may feature an iris scanner. You know airports have them,many research studies have shown it's impossible to crack. At least for the time being.

65. KONICHIWA-ANNYONG unregistered

What the hell's a Motorola Atrix? Exactly. No one knows about it; it's forgotten, no one cares.

67. Sealblaighter

Posts: 430; Member since: Jan 26, 2014

Actually, if we are talking about the first phone ever to use a fingerprint sensor, we should talk about Fujitsu. They had phones with this feature back in 2003!!! But sadly, people do not know that much about some Japanese companies.

5. sissy246

Posts: 7129; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

SHHHHH they don't want people to know that. It was the apple that invented that.

7. sissy246

Posts: 7129; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Oh and come on PA tell the truth, the iphone was not the first to have finger print scanner.

9. tywinlannister

Posts: 27; Member since: Aug 24, 2015

I think force touvh should also join this list

11. siddharthayadav202

Posts: 286; Member since: Apr 23, 2016

and they will say apple invented it..

12. Djz89

Posts: 447; Member since: Aug 25, 2014

Funny that 4k screen of Xperia premium is not even mentioned in the high-res part.

16. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

even more funnier that iPhone6s is mentioned.. and stated as "appear pretty sharp to most people" lol

61. QuasarExod

Posts: 102; Member since: Mar 29, 2016

It actually means "appear pretty sharp to some 'very particular' people".

17. xfire99

Posts: 1207; Member since: Mar 14, 2012

19. Lauticol

Posts: 404; Member since: Jun 25, 2011

But the hardware is still 4K

20. siddharthayadav202

Posts: 286; Member since: Apr 23, 2016

I have compared running 4k videp on Z5, Z5 premium and S6 at same time. S6 looked far better and even my hardcore sony fan friend agreed.

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