Standing out: five smartphones with differentiating hardware features

Standing out: five smartphones with differentiating hardware features
Want that killer feature? Check out these five current-generation smartphones with differentiating hardware components!

Due to its jack-of-all-trades nature, the smartphone was able to successfully replace a bag full of different 1990-era devices, and it doesn't take a statistical genius to note that the smartphone's meteoric rise to popularity has translated in the metaphorical death of devices such as the PDA, the pocket camera, or the compact media player. As such, it's not surprising to see that most current-gen smartphones aim for the complete experience, a balanced mix of hardware that should serve well for a variety of purposes, and to some extent, this versatility is very important.

On the other hand, it doesn't take a subtle observer to notice that only very few smartphones currently come with a differentiating hardware feature, that killer secret weapon that no other phone has. 

With this in mind, we've taken the time to explore the smartphone market and identify those that come with unique hardware features.

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium

The 4K revolution

The eternal race for display sharpness on our smartphones was brought into its next stage by Sony in early September when the manufacturer announced the world's first smartphone with a 4K display, the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium. The 5.5-inch IPS display runs a resolution of 2160 x 3840 pixels at a PPI of 808. Compared to the Samsung Galaxy S6, the handset that currently the holds the second position in the PPI density charts, the Xperia Z5 Premium crams in 40% more pixels per square inch.

It should be noted that the Xperia Z5 Premium only runs at the 4K resolution while rendering media (pics and movies). In other places, such as other apps, or the Android menus, the display will run at 1080p, a resolution that's much gentler on the battery.



Apple iPhone 6S / iPhone 6S Plus

3D Touch

Although iPhones are the very embodiment of the term "generic smartphone", the all new iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus come with a unique hardware feature in the form of their pressure-sensitive displays. By being able to recognize between a tap, a press, and a hard press, the 3D Touch display technology on the new iPhone generation opens the door for a more complex - but still very intuitive - way of interacting with smartphones.

Note that although Huawei's recently-unveiled Mate S also comes with a pressure-sensing display, this feature isn't expected to be more than a parlor trick on the Huawei handset. While Apple's fanatic developer community will certainly be very quick to adopt this new input technology, and some the big-name apps are already starting to offer support for the 3D Touch system, we don't expect to see special versions of the Facebook, Instagram, or Dropbox Android apps that make use of the pressure-sensing display on the Huawei Mate S.



BLU Studio Energy

Marathon runner

Out of all the smartphones that we've tested at the PhoneArena labs, the Blu Studio Energy is the one that currently tops our battery life benchmarks, a feat that the manufacturer accomplished by pairing up a 5000mAh battery with power-efficient hardware components. In our battery benchmarks, the Blu Studio Energy lasted for 14 hours and 53 minutes. For comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S6 lasted for 7h 14 min.

Unfortunately, however, the impressive battery life of the Blu Studio Energy is probably the only reason to recommend the handset. The rest of the hardware is a run-of-the-mill experience: a 5-inch display with a resolution of 720 by 1280 pixels, a 1.3GHz quad-core Cortex-A7 CPU, a Mali 400 GPU, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of expandable internal storage, an 8MP primary camera, and a 2MP secondary shooter on the front.



Samsung Galaxy S6 Active

Rugged powerhouse

If you're looking for a very powerful smartphone that can take a beating and offers all-day battery life, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Active is your top choice. Essentially a ruggedized version of the standard Galaxy S6, the AT&T-exclusive Active version retains most of the hardware components but adds a larger battery inside a water, dust, and shock-proof body.

Powered by a 3500mAh battery, the Galaxy S6 Active lasted for 12 hours and 9 minutes in our grueling battery life test. That's quite the performance from a smartphone that comes with a 5.2-inch QHD display and is based on the Exynos 7420 chipset with 3GB of RAM, which is a blazing-fast combination.

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Marshall London

Rock on!

For those about to rock, the Marshall London is definitely the phone to consider. While most other smartphones are focused on blazing-fast internal specs, ultra-sharp displays, and long-lasting batteries, the Marshall London is the best music-centred smartphone currently available.

Right off the bat, it should be mentioned that the Marshall London comes with mediocre specs that include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 chipset, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of expandable internal storage, an 8MP primary camera, and a 2MP selfie shooter on the front. Despite this, however, audiophiles will surely appreciate that hard work that has gone in the audio department.

On the hardware side, the Marshall London comes with a Wolfson WM8281 Audio Hub, two large ACC stereo speakers, a volume wheel, a dedicated mute button, as well as a pair off MEMS microphones with active noise cancellation. Also, the London also comes with two headphone jacks, which can be used to output two different tracks at the same time. Furthermore, the Marshall London comes bundled with London's highly-rated Mode in-ear headphones. On the software side, the London comes with a range of custom music apps, as well as a global EQ.

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42 Comments

1. carlemillward unregistered

What about Fujitsu's Iris Scanning and ZTE's Retina Scanning?

36. Android_Lollipop

Posts: 155; Member since: May 05, 2015

Not standing out until Apple brings it :P

2. hung2900

Posts: 966; Member since: Mar 02, 2012

Note Edge, S6 Edge (Plus)? SPen? HTC dual camera?

13. TyrionLannister unregistered

HTC dual camera is worst differentiating feature ever. I think PA is referring to good differentiating features, not bad ones. The other ones will be: 1. S6: first phone with full duplex UFS storage. 2. G flex 2: First phone with LPDDR4 memory. 3. Mi note pro: First phone with 4 GB memory. 4. iPhone 6S: monstrous GPU that can cross 40 fps on GFXbench manhattan offscreen. There are so many others if I go to 2014 phones or so,

19. deanylev

Posts: 234; Member since: Mar 11, 2014

Actually the Zenfone 2 was the first phone with 4GB

21. TyrionLannister unregistered

The Mi note pro was released in January, Zenfone 2 in february or later if I'm correct. I may be wrong but I doubt that.

29. kanagadeepan

Posts: 1247; Member since: Jan 24, 2012

Wrong.. The phone released in Jan is MI Note (with 3GB RAM + FHD) and not the Pro version (4GB RAM + QHD)...

31. TyrionLannister unregistered

Both were announced simultaneously but the pro was released later. Sorry for writing released in my comment above.

22. 99nights

Posts: 1152; Member since: Mar 10, 2015

Yeah man was gonna say where's the SPen?

3. Kruze

Posts: 1285; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

Huawei Mate S is the world's first smartphone with a force touch display, and yet they gave all the credits and hoohahs to the fruit company. They showed their true colors to the next level.

6. arch_angel

Posts: 1651; Member since: Feb 20, 2015

I Have To Agree With You Bruh.

9. legiloca

Posts: 1676; Member since: Nov 11, 2014

that'd be iPhoneArena to you.. lel

18. Johnnokia

Posts: 1158; Member since: May 27, 2012

Every body knows that Huawei just took this feature idea from Apple watch and rushed the announcing of this phone just to say "look we made it before Apple". Would it be functional like the one in iPhone 6s? Absolutely NOT. Come on man, Mate S is not even released yet!

32. AlikMalix unregistered

Somehow before tapping on this article, I knew that if they mentioned anything Apple, there will be bitching and whining no matter what it was. Sometimes I hate to be right.

14. TyrionLannister unregistered

Huawei mate S just added force touch for the sake of it. Apple is the OEM which used it properly with proper functionality. Samsung has been using wacom digitizer for years and it can detect 2048 levels of sensitivity compared to very very few on these phones, but it doesn't matter. The technology existed for years, it was the matter of who used it properly. It's not who did it first that matters, it's who did it properly that does. As a consumer, I want a well functioning product rather than a half-baked gimmick with "We are the first" written over it. And if you're talking about who did it first, apple watch has force touch for over a year now.

23. Kruze

Posts: 1285; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

First of all, the title stated "Standing out five smartphones with differentiating hardware features", which obviously is to state out the five smartphones with differentiating hardware features, not stating whom did it better. You should give credit to the one that used the technology first, the one that did it better is a different story. This is the cruel side of the tech world. Secondly, Samsung is known for bringing many innovations to the table and they do use it properly, but that's a different story. Third, it is who did it first that matters, first come first serve, that's why there are "World Records". Fourth, we're talking about smartphones here, not smartwatches. So, the Apple Watch don't mean anything to this topic. Lastly, I know, the Mate S is a kinda rushed product, the features aren't well-baked enough, but you can't change the fact that it is the world's first smartphone with a force touch display, it's where it differentiates itself from other flagships. If you were to make an article, showing us the "Standing out five smartphones with differentiating hardware features", you should stick to that topic, not suddenly add some bulls**t saying like

27. TyrionLannister unregistered

even if you factor first, mate S isn't released yet and iPhone 6s is. I can announce a product 3 months prior and not release it. Apple waits till they have the inventory and only then they announce it. '' As I said, the tech has been around, so huawei mate S did nothing new. Apple watch had it before.

30. Kruze

Posts: 1285; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

The Mate S is already released in China, and it will be releasing in my country sometime in October. I know, it's a rushed product. But for an OEM like Huawei that doesn't get that much attention as Apple, of course they'll have to do something like this to grab some attention. Sony did the similar thing. If that's so, nothing's new then. Oppo released the world's first quick charging technology, and then Samsung followed but many people went crazy over Samsung. Oh, and Nokia released the world's first smartphone with wireless charging, Samsung followed and many people went crazy over it. I wonder why no one said something similar as you did.

35. MSi_GS70 unregistered

Man think huawei has NO walk in shop it is your fault or your on purpose complain bcos u obviously won't do search for mate s purchase ...You just splash it is not on sale.. But immediately after presentation people who wisited ifa got it and then after few days decided to sell it and they put it on ebay, aliexpres, and other third party online shops

20. MSi_GS70 unregistered

Yeah but sites like parena they will brush it under carpet and they rather put here iphone ..

4. pwnarena

Posts: 1129; Member since: Feb 15, 2013

to add: panasonic lumix cm1\s unparalleled largest camera sensor on a smartphone samsung galaxy k zoom's highest optical zoom on a smartphone oppo's rotating camera galaxy s6 edge's edge-covering screen lg flex's correctly curved screen sharp aquos' unrivalled screen to body ratio

5. Kruze

Posts: 1285; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

PA is not gonna add these that's for sure.

8. tech2

Posts: 3487; Member since: Oct 26, 2012

+1 A very poorly researched article on PA's part.

7. SnakeBoyVincentLiu

Posts: 59; Member since: Aug 17, 2015

Reading this article on my iPhone 6s, so proud of it :)

15. TyrionLannister unregistered

I have utmost respect for you taking the courage to read this site on a smartphone. For me, before I start reading an article, I'm redirected to an ad instantly. Commenting is basically impossible.

17. AlikMalix unregistered

It's ok on ios8. I used Adblock browser exclusively for this and couple other sites. Now with iOS 9 I got purify and it was the best couple of bucks I ever spent. Now I like PA, and feel guilty, so since the week that I started using Adblock browser, I visit the site once a week without add blocking and tap on every Ad I see, just let it all go nuts a few rounds - PA needs to get paid. Suggestion, the best time to do this is on weekend when the news articles are seldom. Hey PA, hope that works out for you (let me know).

16. Phantom1031

Posts: 263; Member since: Aug 02, 2014

Are you a transgender? When I saw your profile pic, I had a boner ;) :D :p

25. danielxxi

Posts: 183; Member since: Feb 13, 2013

Nope, she is caitlyn

10. Manyci

Posts: 116; Member since: Aug 03, 2015

Congrats PA with that first ForceTouch=iPhone BS... You even wrote articles about the Mate S, so please don't manipulate the truth.

24. AlikMalix unregistered

Because first ForceTouch was introduced on Apple Watch, then hiway introduced it (most likely due to iPhone rumors) a week before Apple announcement of iPhones 3D Touch, but hiway's version is half baked and limited to a few functions on native hiway apps and do not extend to google services or third party apps - just an item on a checklist. The way it works on iOS seems that Apple has been working on this for years - the supporting hardware is top-notch, the implementation throughout the UI is absolute, and it is supported by entire ecosystem where third party apps is already taken off with one of my favorite games already using it. The usefulness of peek and pop makes this a feature and not a gimmick. But if you think hiway deserves credit - up to you, I'll notch it up to Apple Watch and finally refined on 6s. Hiway, is just another "me too".

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