Eight “Superphone” Features that I Suspect are Overrated
Cool? Oh yes. Necessary? Um. Essential? Errr…
Brands scream about their importance. Critics carp about their presence or absence. But cut through the hype and I think that far too much fuss is made over some features that many insist are must-haves for high-end phones or “superphones” as some term them.
Well, for the spec sheet and press release joy maybe, but the more time I have spent with high-end devices, the more I have realized that a lot of the features that are trumpeted about are not the most-used. In fact, they seem to exist for the sole purpose of satiating some invisible inner urge of the critic rather than the consumer. No, I am not saying that these are totally useless. They are just not very important for everyone. And these eight, in particular, are lucky to be getting the sort of importance they are right now:
Can I get bloody brutal about it? Yes, dual cameras make a difference, but they are not the sole determinants of whether a phone’s camera is any good or not. We have seen phones with single cameras do a very good job too – the Pixel, Galaxy S7 and the iPhone 7 are prime examples. Yes, clever use of the dual camera allied with software tweaks can give you better images, but to think that a phone is doomed in the camera department just because it has a single camera at the back is kind of naive.
Notwithstanding the best efforts of Apple, Google, Microsoft and God Knows Who Else, we still end up spending more time talking ON our phones rather than talking TO them. Yes, having your phone tell you a joke or sing you a song is a nice party trick, but at the end of the day, most of us still end up typing out queries more often rather than shouting them out at our phones and hoping they get us right. Yes, we know the acolytes of algorithms and AI will be annoyed at my temerity to say this, but in all my years of using smartphones, the number of people I have seen using a smartphone assistant can be counted on one hand!
Oh, come on, who does not want their phones to survive a dunking in the water? True enough. No one wants their phones to end up in the drink at any stage. That said, I am also reasonably confident that most people take so much care to ensure that that particular event does NOT happen that the presence of water resistance is more a relief than a deal maker. We have had water resistant phones and tough phones for a while now and yes, they are handy, but we don’t think water resistance is the killer proposition that many make it out to be.
I can see people scream “sacrilege” at this point, but honestly, am not at all sure whether having zero bezels makes a massive difference to the viewing experience on a phone. Yes, it does make the phone look slightly more impressive in product snaps but in real life when you stare at a picture, you stare at it, not at the frame surrounding it. That’s why you have outlines around text and images even in print. Yes, there is something to be said in aesthetic terms for having phones with minimal bezels but honestly, having looked at the Mi Mix, am not sure it delivers the sort of visual splendor that many pundits would have me believe it does. Some say that zero bezels simply mean more real screen area that can be scratched – that’s a tad harsh, methinks.
A split screen on a smartphone. So cool, right? You can open two apps side by side. And multitask. Right, so basically splitting a 5.5-inch display into two displays of 2.75 inches apiece and totally murdering readability in the process is cool? Ahem, I still think that most prefer to simply hit the multi-tasking button and switch between apps. No, I am not saying split screens do not have their benefits, but they just are of very limited utility unless you are using a massive display. Heavens, most people do not even use them on PCs!
They have been around for years now (the Moto ROKR and the Nokia N85 had them) and their supporters insist that they are the best displays around. Speaking for myself, I love AMOLED displays for the way in which they make colors pop right out, but when push comes to shove, I am not sure they are deal makers or breakers, for make no display, good old LED displays are very good too and if calibrated properly can deliver a very good reading experience. Yes, watching “rich blacks” is great but you can see much more in other colors.
I have been seeing them for a while and honestly, I really do not know what the fuss is about dual displays, especially when all the second display does is show what you often see on a single display. The whole “this display only shows you notifications, while the second (main) display remains switched off” as a battery saver has never really convinced me. For having two displays, one being the main one and the other on the side or above it simply means having two displays to track, which does not really make life easier. Simpler to have a single big one that works well, eh?
Speed of charging
Quick charge, Turbo charge, Dash charge… we in the punditry love talking about just how fast a phone’s battery charges. But know something? At the end of the day, a massive number of people simply leave their phones to charge overnight or are so busy using the darned phone even while it is being charged that the speed of charging often does not come into the equation. We simply tend to charge phones only when we do not use them and if we are not using them, the speed of charging does not really matter that much – it is a classic case of attach it to a power source and forget it.