Technology is infiltrating every aspect of our lives. The majority of us would agree that it’s a great thing. Advances in technology and automation have made tasks easier and more cost effective. Technology brings us together by making it easier and cheaper to communicate across short and vast distances. A short time ago it was incredibly costly to talk to a family member in another country on the phone, and just a little before that, it wasn’t all too uncommon to write letters by hand. Heck, I bet some of you remember paying extra money just to talk to relatives in another state – on a landline.
We’ve moved into a time of where you don’t need to keep as much information in your head. Memorization becomes less of a necessity when you can pull a computer out of your pocket, ask it a question, and it returns the answer you’re looking for in seconds. Only a few years ago we were relying on dictionaries, maps and encyclopedias for guidance or answers to important questions.
Today, our central hub is the mobile phone. It’s always with us. It contains the information we need, and it connects us to those we care about. But, it seems that no matter how good a particular model is, we tend to find a flaw, two or worse more. It’s too big, it’s not big enough. The speakers are too tinny or it can’t hold enough of our pictures and videos. There’s too much bloat. The screen quality isn’t good enough or the brightness isn’t bright enough.
We’re here to tell OEMs that we want a phone with no compromises. We want a phone on our terms.
We put together a poll asking our readers and followers to help understand what it is that might constitute a perfect smartphone. Thanks to you, we received a lot of feedback and some great data. Below are the results of what our community feels are the most important aspects of a phone. We’ll try to match up your answers to current market phones and come up with our perfect phone at the end.
From the data we’ve collected, we’re going to figure out what the perfect phone is. Maybe our friends at Samsung, HTC, LG, and Sony (among many others) will listen. And, just maybe, we will get the perfect smartphone.
The first pillar in our perfect phone is going to be the screen. It’s our main source of interaction with the device. Not only does it show information and entertainment, but it’s also the main input now that physical keyboards have gone out of style (Help us Blackberry Priv! You’re our only hope!).
In the graph below, we see that 44.6% of respondents prefer the modern day “phablet”. For the purposes of this discussion we’re going to define a phablet as anything 5.5″ or larger.
The Samsung Galaxy Note line has pioneered this space since the original Note came out in 2011. The rest of the market has finally caught up, and pretty much every manufacturer offers a phablet device now. Even Apple who famously demanded that their phones be small so you could easily touch the top of the screen now with one hand has one of the largest phones on the market. Samsung has definitely pushed the market in not only display size but also quality. Their displays are renowned for their deep blacks, saturated colors, and high brightness.
What’s clear from the results is that Samsung phones are hitting the sweet spot with their flagships.The 5.2″ display has tied the 5.7″ display in our results. So users prefer either a phablet or a device that is easier to manage in one hand with a 5.2″ display. The Samsung Galaxy S6 (5.2″) and Samsung Galaxy Note 5 just so happened to be those sizes and are widely considered the best displays on the market. Samsung probably helped define these categories as they were the pioneers in larger screen sizes. What’s interesting is that our respondents prefer a 1080p display on the 5.2″ screens instead of 1440p like on the S6.
We’re going to pick the 5.7″ 1440p display for our perfect phone screen. The highest number of people responded that they’re comfortable with phablets, and that is where the industry appears headed. We tend to agree with the data and think the Super AMOLED 5.7″ AMOLED display is absolutely fantastic and would want nothing less
Storage is a tricky one. It’s a balance of on-board and expandable avenues that give and take. If your on-board storage is lacking, it’s nice to be able to throw a microSD card into your phone and expand it to suit your needs. There are few examples when expandable storage won’t play nice with the Android Operating System, but with Marshmallow being released, you will now be able to treat your microSD card as internal storage.
Study after study have told us that 16GB of on-board storage should no longer be the standard for base models. Phones now shoot video in 4K, have burst mode photography, and tend to be our main media players. Apps are becoming much more useful but that means they require more space than in years past.
With the ability to download videos from YouTube for offline consumption, space is becoming ever more valuable. The real question here is how much do you really want expandable storage? Not only does your microSD card give you more space to store your pictures and video, but it also makes it incredibly easy to move them back and forth between devices. In the age of data caps and throttled data, the cloud isn’t always an option.
For our perfect phone, we’re going to pick a minimum of 32GB of storage with a microSD card slot. The potential price and design compromises are worth it in our eyes.
Battery and Charging
It’s no secret that we’re moving more toward embedded batteries. There are still champions of removable batteries like LG but major OEMs like Sony, Motorola, and even Samsung – champion of the removable battery – are sealing their batteries inside. Like everything else, there are tradeoffs to be made. Sealing your battery inside the phone normally means better build quality, and in some cases, bigger batteries.
A removable battery means that you can swap out batteries when yours goes dead or if it becomes faulty. True power users generally prefer this feature due to using their phone so much. But, with the rise in quick charging, bigger batteries, more power efficient screens and processors and smaller portable battery packs, are removable batteries still needed? The answer may surprise you.
To be honest, I’m a little surprised it’s this one-sided. There was a LOT of chatter around the time of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5’s release about the lack of removable battery. The Note has always been the power user’s phone. Expandable storage and removable batteries were supposedly the biggest selling points for the Note series. But maybe Samsung was right to eschew those features for a more sturdy design.
In these two graphs, we’re seeing a shift in how people view charging technology. Quick charging only hit the scene in the past few years, but it is becoming mandatory to almost half of the respondents. Even those that said they didn’t need it in a phone did express some interest in it. Only about 6% of those who responded don’t care about rapid charging at all.
On the other hand, Qi wireless charging is a bit of a different story. While a lot of people either had to have it in their phone or were interested in it, almost a third of those who responded didn’t care at all about the wireless charging technology. That’s a much bigger percentage than I thought we’d see.
In our perfect device, we’re going to employ both quick charging and wireless charging. Quick charging is a must, and while wireless charging might not be to most, it could be a feature that puts a phone over the top for some. So we can get the best build quality possible, we’re also going to go with an embedded battery. Since we have both Quick and Wireless charging, staying charged up should be relatively easy.
Buttons and Fingerprint Scanner
One of the biggest advances in smartphones today are fingerprint scanners. I truly feel like I’m using a futuristic device when I place my finger on a sensor and it immediately unlocks the phone. We really do live in the future. But how important is that really? Are fingerprint scanners a passing fad or here to stay?
I tend to stick in the “here to stay” camp. Android Pay is a huge advancement mobile payments since it can be used on almost any Android phone. But you need home screen security for that. Google is going to push the market forward again. Nexus imprint is a brilliant technology that all future OEMs are going to have to integrate into their phones. It’s better than every other fingerprint scanner on the market, even TouchID on Apple’s devices.
The on screen vs. physical button debate has been going on for a long time. I’m personally one of the 27% who don’t care which I have. I adapt to either based on the device I use. I do prefer the physical home button of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 but it’s very easy to knock yourself out of whatever media you’re watching by accidentally pressing a button.
Generally when you have physical buttons, they take up the space where you could have front facing speakers. While many of you said you didn’t really care about the placement of your speakers, if you can fit in front facing speakers, you probably should.
Since this is our perfect phone we’re going to go with on screen buttons, Nexus imprint on the back and front facing speakers. Almost seems like the new Nexus line nailed it.
Speakers and NFC
This is another question I was genuinely shocked to see the results. I assumed that most people would fall into the “Yes, but I don’t have to have front facing speakers” category. A larger number of people who HAD to have front facing speakers showed up, and with as much as we consume media on our devices, it shocks me that almost 21% of you don’t care about speaker placement at all.
One of the biggest debates around the OnePlus 2 was the lack of NFC. OnePlus claimed they listened to their customers and left the radio out of their device.
Many people didn’t appreciate that decision. NFC is vital to wireless payments. The popularity of the new payment method is exploding with the introduction of Android Pay and Samsung Pay. But, was OnePlus right? Do people care if they have NFC?
An astounding 88% of respondents want NFC. For over half, they don’t HAVE to have NFC on their phone to make the purchase, but the interest is there. According to those who answered our survey, OnePlus got it wrong. We’re definitely going to include NFC in our perfect phone.
Build Quality and Price
Build quality and price are another category where trade-offs are seen much of the time. There’s a reason that the LG G4 dropped in price so rapidly while the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 has stayed so expensive. Samsung has been famous in the past for making phones with cheap plastic bodies. This is a double edged sword because they could stand up to falls a little better than most, but they didn’t feel premium. There’s a large segment of the population that wants a premium device when they spend $600+ on a device or sign a 2-year contract.
I think our graph bares out what we’re seeing in the market today. The iPhone is a huge seller. The Galaxy line has switched over to more premium materials. How your phone feels in your hand and how it looks matters. We’ve gotten to the point where every phone can perform, now most people want one that looks good while doing it.
And people are willing to pay for it. In the graph we definitely see a segment of the population that is going to stick to cheaper phones. That makes sense. With phones like the Motorola Moto G, Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3, Asus ZenFone 2, and others, the mid-range market is exploding.
But, this is about a perfect phone, not the best value. We all have our limits, but we’re going to get the best build and materials that we can for the standard flagship price of about $650. Metal frame? Glass front and back? Or maybe you prefer an aluminum body like the Nexus 6P or HTC One? Our perfect phone is built like a tank but feels perfect in the hand.
The Perfect Phone
So, what does our perfect phone look like? To begin, we’re going to take the 5.7″ 1440p screen from the Galaxy Note 5. It has fantastic color saturation, beautiful blacks due to it’s AMOLED technology and gets very bright. It’s a fantastic size, and even though for some it may not be a one handed device, this size is the new normal for most. Our desires for beautifully displayed media trumps most one handed use desires.
Continuing down the media thought process, we’re going to put Boomsound speakers on the front of our perfect phone. You were split, almost evenly about placement and importance of speakers. On screen buttons and front facing speakers that can shake a few windows make for an immersive media experience that won’t be rivaled.
Some power users may tell have responded that 64GB of storage should be the minimum but to keep our costs low, we’re going to go with 32GB of storage and 4GB of RAM to push anything we can throw at it. Fear not, because we’re adding a microSD card slot so you can add as much storage as you see fit. If you’re anything like me, I use my phone to watch movies all the time so I want plenty of space to hold them and continue on with my daily activities without the phone yelling at me that it’s full.
To satisfy our power users, we are going to beef the phone up a little bit. We’re going to trade the slim and sexy bodies of say a Samsung Galaxy Note 5 or Huawei Nexus 6P for a few extra millimeters to pack in more battery. Our embedded battery must clock in at at least 3,500mAh. Not only do we need a big battery, but we are going to build in support for quick charging and wireless charging.
Samsung has proved that you can have wireless charging and premium materials and we’re going to continue that trend.
To shake it up a little bit, our perfect phone is going to employ a Moto Maker type system so you can customize your colors. Do you want a red metal band and a white front with a black glass back? You get it. Do you want leather instead of glass on the back? Yep! Order it up. Our perfect phone isn’t just one phone for everyone. It’s a perfect phone for each person. The fingerprint scanner will take the place of the dimple on the back of most Motorola phones, much like the Nexus line does now.
We’re going to need to see USB Type-C so we’re future proofed, water resistance, Bluetooth 4.1, the latest Wifi standards and a Sony IMX240 sensor on the back of our phone for the best possible pictures. To top it off, it’s going to cost $650. Companies have proven before that they can make phones with very few compromises, but will any of them step up to make our perfect phone?
What are the real world examples of phones that come close? After carefully pouring over your responses and the choices we’ve made thereafter, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, HTC One M9, and Huawei Nexus 6P most closely resemble our perfect phone. We’ve also taken elements of the Motorola Moto X Pure and Sony Xperia Z5 to round out this perfect device.
If you’d like to see our raw data, feel free to click here to check out the answers. There are a few more question and answers that we didn’t address in this article so definitely check that out if you’re interested. Did we miss anything? Have any qualms about our choices? Make your case down in the comments.
And all of this, of course, is just the hardware side of things. Software is an entirely different subject… for another day.
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