Every year smartphone manufacturers try to come out with the ‘next big thing’, with expectations to stand out from the rest. While some companies managed to get it right (Motorola), some also terribly failed (we’re looking at you Amazon Fire Phone). A few just follow in the footsteps of what the successful ones are doing in terms of product design and features. Ultimately, they give in to consumer demands and market trends. And just like every other industry, trends also have become a part of the smartphone industry. Big, slim, selfies, affordability, we witnessed it all in 2014. Here’s looking at what trends came out large this year!
Big Screen Phones
This year majority of flagship phones have a screen larger than 5 inch. Apple was the only company that persisted with the 4 inch screen for a long time but this year they finally gave in to consumer demands and launched two new iPhones — iPhone 6 (4.7 inch) and the larger one, iPhone 6 Plus sporting a big 5.5 inch screen. It is surprising that Apple didn’t refresh the 4” version at all! Even Google’s new Nexus 6 got a huge screen bump to 5.9 inch.
We can only wonder what will happen if this trend continues. These big phones have more and more become alternatives to tablets. A lot of people saw the iPhone 6 Plus as a device that could do both the job of a phone and a tablet. The only hitch of this continuing big screen phone trend is that screens larger than 6-inch would then not be ergonomical to use.
‘Selfie’ was the word of the year 2013 and that trend got transferred to smartphones this year. Just 3 years ago, front cameras on phones were just VGA, 1.3MP or maximum 2MP. But with the rise of self-portraits craze, front cameras on smartphones got the required bump this year. Most companies launched phones with a front facing 5 Megapixel camera and advertised it as their selfie phone. HTC went one step ahead and launched a phone with a 13 megapixel front camera called HTC Desire Eye. Oppo took it to the next level with the ‘N3’ model that comes with a 16-megapixel rear camera which is motorised and can actually be used a front camera with a flick gesture on the screen or on the fingerprint sensor on the back. It is only Apple that stuck with a 1.2 Megapixel camera on both the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. But then Apple never really believes in giving their cameras a megapixel bump.
Motorola started the trend last year with the Moto G 1st Gen and many companies followed in line by offering phones with good specs at a reasonable price. This year we got more value for money phones than ever. Companies like Motorola, Asus, Xiaomi, Micromax offered phones with high end specs at a reasonable price and also leveraged the online-sale only model. Due to rising competition, big companies like Samsung, HTC and Sony had to bring down the prices of their phones. Even Google stepped in to the trend with Android One series of phones that promise to offer decent performing stock Android devices at an affordable price.
Almost every smartphone manufacturer gave into this trend and right now its become a battlefield where all companies are trying to bring out a phone that was slimmer than the other. Gionee launched the S5.5 — 5.71 mm thin and then later brought S5.1 making it even more slimmer at 5.15 mm. Oppo then came out with the R5, which was only 4.9 mm thin. This thinness came at the cost of not being able to fit in a 3.5mm earphone jack. Now, towards the end of the year, Vivo launched the X5 Max which is currently the world’s slimmest phone at just 4.75mm thin. The slim ones come with their own challenges too. They are more susceptible to damage because of their light weight, some feel slippery in hand and people have to spend more to put a case on it. The biggest problem though is that slim phones mostly have a smaller battery which is again a downer. But then, what sells, sells!
Quad HD Displays
The mobile phone industry is somewhat getting a bit saturated with phones getting regular spec bumps. Another such spec bump along with bigger phones is higher resolution displays. This year we saw a slew of Quad HD displays (2560×1440). From the LG G3 to the Oppo Find 7 to the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 / Note Edge to the Nexus 6, they all sport a Quad HD display. Like slim phones, Quad HD displays are a hype, something that the consumer practically don’t require. For a human eye, it’s practically not possible to distinguish between a Full HD or Quad HD display. The downside of high-res displays is more battery consumption and also made the phone costlier.
The year of 2014 for smartphones can be summed up in five words – Big, Slim, Affordable, Selfie and Quad HD. They say trends come and go, but we believe it’s too late for these trends to go. These five trends have now become a benchmark sorts for a flagship phone. The year of 2015 might be filled with phones which tick-off these requirements, and hopefully they’ll offer a lot more.
This was a guest post by Criselle Lobo. Criselle is a writer based out of Mumbai. She should have been writing code after her graduation, but destiny had other plans. She has an opinion on almost everything, but is open to other POVs too. You can connect with her on Twitter @criselle4.