PhoneArena Awards 2013: Best Innovations

PhoneArena Awards 2013: Best Innovations
The smartphone arena is more than just a playground. It is kind of like a battlefield, if we had to compare it to anything – a battlefield where both minor and major smartphone manufacturers are competing fiercely for the attention of all those increasingly-harder-to-satisfy consumers. Some try to achieve that goal by offering smartphones at an affordable price point. Others go for the top hardware, offering the best processors, displays, or cameras to ever grace a smartphone. Then there are the companies, for which design and build materials are top priority. And more often than not, all of these tactics work to some extent. Sometimes, however, the price, design, and specs of a smartphone aren't enough to genuinely impress a smartphone geek. Sometimes it takes another crucial element each smartphone maker should always take into account – innovation. Innovation is when someone dares to do something differently and in a better way instead of sticking to the status quo. It is when a fresh new idea improves the overall user experience. It is when someone brings forth an alternative concept and proves that it works. And when it comes to smartphones, we witnessed the introduction of more than a few innovative ideas over the past year. Only some of them, however, truly impressed us. 

Coprocessors and the unique features they enable

Every contemporary smartphone comes with a system-on-chip of some kind under the hood – a pretty sophisticated single chip that hosts the main application processor along with a graphics processor, a sound processor, a multimedia processor, and a processor that handles image data from the camera, among other modules. This is called integration and it is a good thing – combining all these components on a single piece of silicon saves power and increases performance. However, Motorola and Apple dared to take things to the next level by outfitting their own SoC designs with coprocessors dedicated to tasks that aren't yet integrated into most common SoCs. To be more specific, the X8 Mobile Computing System inside the Motorola Moto X comes with a couple of coprocessors, one of which is responsible for natural language processing while the other handles what Motorola refers to as contextual computing. Apple has its M7 coprocessor ticking alongside the A7 inside the iPhone 5s. Its function is to monitor data from the phone's sensors and to offload the processing of that data from the main CPU. The benefits? Well, you get a number of unique features made possible by the extra modules. The Moto X, for example, listens to voice commands constantly, while the M7 turns the iPhone into a device capable of precisely monitoring the user's physical activity and will even allow applications to recognize when the user is driving, walking, running, or sleeping. Best of all, these features can be on at all times without that having a detrimental effect on battery life. Long story short, a well-implemented coprocessor can teach a smartphone some new, unique, and pretty neat tricks. 

Touch ID

Yes, we know that the iPhone 5s isn't the first smartphone to come with a built-in fingerprint scanner. However, it is the first smartphone to have the feature built in and integrated in a way that makes it not frustrating to use. The scanner is accurate, it does not require the user to swipe their finger, it works even when the user's finger is placed at an angle, and it is easy to operate being built into the home button. And if that's not enough, it can be used not only for unlocking the iPhone 5s, but also for authorizing App Store purchases with a fingerprint instead of using a password. Simply put, Apple showed us how a smartphone fingerprint scanner should be executed. 

The "self-healing" LG G Flex

It may sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but it is actually true and it works. The LG G Flex smartphone has a back plate that can recover from light scratches, which are "healed" as if by magic in a matter of minutes. Think placing the phone and your keys in the same pocket – this kind of damage the G Flex should easily recover from. Sure, this kind of tech isn't new, but the G Flex happens to be the first smartphone to take advantage of it. Hopefully, it won't be the last, and maybe one day this "self-healing" technology will be able to make even more serious dents disappear. Check out this video demonstration of the LG G Flex's self-healing abilities in action.

And these, guys, are the innovations that impressed us the most this year. Is there a technology or a product that we should have included in the list? Do not hesitate to let us know down in the comments!

Story timeline



1. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Nothing mentioned about the Note 3. :(

2. aayupanday

Posts: 582; Member since: Jun 28, 2012

Nothing mentioned about BoomSound...

3. rawbow

Posts: 428; Member since: Mar 30, 2012

Yes, the new S Pen features and BoomSound def deserves a mention here

4. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

What about the Note 3 would you have mentioned? Or BoomSound? More features are just... more features, and stereo-speakers are just stereo-speakers. I'm not saying I necessarily agree with the choices PA made, but I wouldn't include either the Note 3 or BoomSound. They're very nice, but not exactly the most innovative.

12. rawbow

Posts: 428; Member since: Mar 30, 2012

Well for one, BoomSound maybe a stereo speaker just like Touch ID is a finger print scanner but is implemented better than most phones. S Pen coz it dives into more characters of using an input other than your finger(i know this sounds wrong lol) and explored an already proven territory(this too damn!! lol)

16. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

See, it explored a proven territory, more or less like Touch ID did. I don't think either should really be on there, but then again this hasn't really been the most mind-blowing year, tech-wise. Next year should be interesting though, assuming 64-bit processing takes off.

49. rawbow

Posts: 428; Member since: Mar 30, 2012

+1, I'd go with not much interesting year too. All the phones were minor upgrades on the phones that wowed us last year..

56. rodneyej1

Posts: 3576; Member since: Jul 06, 2013

You have no idea what innovation is.. Hint. Lumia 920, 925, 928, 1020, 1520.

62. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

It's pretty obvious you're a WP fanboy.

74. rodneyej1

Posts: 3576; Member since: Jul 06, 2013

What's wrong with liking WP, and believing it's the better choice over other devices❔ Why do you think that's a bad thing.. I give Android, and iOS credit where credit is due, so I think I have the right to say that I prefer WP, and I think it's the best.. Fanboi❔ That's a lame term that someone who can no longer support their argument uses..

80. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Nothing is wrong with it, but claiming every model Nokia dished out is innovative makes your post invalid.

10. JakeLee

Posts: 1021; Member since: Nov 02, 2013

For what? Seriously, for what?

17. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Let's see - S-Pen? HTC One - BoomSound Be a hater all you want, but if you don't consider this anything, I don't know what to tell you.

22. jellmoo

Posts: 2658; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Are either of them really innovations of 2013 though? Both are more along the lines of improvements to existing innovations. Both are great, don't get me wrong, but they weren't really unique to 2013. Granted, I would say the same thing about the fingerprint scanner... I think an honourable mention should go to having core apps being updated via the Play Store rather than solely through OS updates. Getting those goodies in the hands of users quickly is a great step.

37. marbovo

Posts: 658; Member since: May 16, 2013

I don´t think that "core apps" being in play store is good at all, because, once an app is on playstore, google google stop suporting it on AOSP so the future updates of those apps goes closed source and developers can´t get their hands on the app source code to improve it and make new implementations. As this google policy goes on, will be harder for independent developers to create new apps based on the google ones and Android goes more and more into the close source era, which is completely diferent from the first goals of Android(an open mobile system)

41. jellmoo

Posts: 2658; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

It shouldn't affect developers at all, as they will still have the same access to the APIs that they always did. It does impact availability through AOSP, but the end result is more of a positive for the casual customer, who likely has no knowledge or care of AOSP anyway. Users get updates a lot quicker, without having to worry about manufacturers and carriers getting involved, which should increase overall satisfaction.

42. marbovo

Posts: 658; Member since: May 16, 2013

I´m not talking about APIs, I´m talking about the hole app source code, which get discontinuated after the app goes to play store. For the end user maybe is better, but not to the entire android comunity that has been created through this years


Posts: 2315; Member since: Jul 30, 2011

Dude, I don't know why you're still here, it's quite obvious that this is an Apple-devoted site; Apple could find a way to recycle horse manure into new casing for the iPhone 5SS and PA would say it's "innovation". Anyway, let the bus driver and other iFanatics live in their fantasy; there are a host of other sites devoted to real Android news and some to Android and iOSame. You forgot the Fingerprint Sensor on the back of the HTC One Max. In the end, Apple shares are waaay down and their devoted fan base is dwindling; I actually sold my Xoom to a nice young man who said that he was "tired of what he could NOT do on his iPad." True Story. The only ones sticking to iDevices are older people who are technically challenged!!

29. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

But the s-pen on the note 3 was also something offered in the note 2. Not really innovative 2013 stuff when it was done in 2012...

20. saurik

Posts: 86; Member since: May 13, 2013

Because smurf owns one..

21. JakeLee

Posts: 1021; Member since: Nov 02, 2013

Your point is fully valid!

43. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Proud Note 3 owner using my S-Pen every single day. Got a problem?

65. JakeLee

Posts: 1021; Member since: Nov 02, 2013

The word "proud" is a problem. A big one.

68. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

You mad I'm enjoying my phone?

69. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

71. JakeLee

Posts: 1021; Member since: Nov 02, 2013


75. saurik

Posts: 86; Member since: May 13, 2013

Some people have way too much time in their hands..

78. Pancholo

Posts: 380; Member since: Feb 27, 2012

"Way too much time in their hands..." Like that can't be done flawlessly in a few, easy taps (probably like 10 seconds, uploaded and all)... Some people clearly spend too much time hating.

77. andynaija

Posts: 1264; Member since: Sep 08, 2012

Lol S-Pen really is a cool feature though.

81. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

It really is. Love using it. :')

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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