All things modern.
Smartphones have come a long way in recent years however I still feel that manufacturers are missing some key concepts and features which are entirely feasible to incorporate but for some reason have not been. These features are in my view entirely basic and there is no reason why every phone should not come with all of the features below…in no particular order:
1. Front stereo speakers.
When phones were just phones and ringtones were just a series of beeps and even later on when mp3s were used as ringtones only a single poor speaker was acceptable. Now however phones are media consumption devices and a lot of effort is put into using high quality high resolution screens. It is strange therefore that almost every phone for sale at the moment still has only a single tiny speaker placed at the back of the phone. It seems ridiculous. Why would you want the speaker facing away from you! The HTC One has dual front facing stereo speakers showing that it can be done.
2. Ports on one side of the phone.
Have you ever wanted to connect your phone to a pair of amplified speakers? Did you need to keep the phone charged while listening to some music on said speakers? Then you would have needed at least two wires connected to your phone. If you then found that the phone looked like Frankenstein on life support and it was now extremely difficult to handle, you will agree that all of the ports should be on one side of the phone. Again this is not technically difficult to achieve and would make it much more user friendly. The iPhone 5 for example has its two ports along the bottom so that not only are the wires easier to handle, but it can also be slotted into docks easily.
3. Wide angle front camera.
Wide angle lenses on cameras are extremely useful in many situations and indeed camera shoppers look for cameras with wide angle lenses to help with landscape shots, indoor shots and the increasingly popular ‘selfie’. So why not demand this on a phone as well? It is especially important to have a wide angle camera when video chatting so that the person on the other end does not have to stare up your nose. The camera on the front of the HTC One is a wide angle camera. The photos below compare the front camera angles of a Lumia 920 and an HTC One. Which one would you prefer the person you are chatting with see? The wide one of course, it’s more natural feeling.
4. Corner mounted rear camera.
Understandably, rear camera position may be dictated more by design requirements than usability simply because the camera module is frequently the thickest component in a smart phone. As a consequence it needs to be placed in the thickest part of the phone. Why do was want a camera lens in the corner of the phone instead of somewhere in the middle? Simply because a lens in a corner is far less likely to be inadvertently covered up by a finger while taking a photograph. Phones with flat designs such as the IPhone 5 and the Sony Xperia Z have no problems placing the lens in a corner.
5. Dedicated camera button.
With camera phones becoming increasingly more and more capable, there has been much debate over whether they will eventually replace the typical point-and-shoot. Well not without a dedicated camera button. Most OSs now have some means of quickly accessing the camera from the home screen without needing to unlock the device. This is a step in the right direction but still does not come close to the effectiveness of the dedicated camera button to be found on any windows phone. This button can be held down to activate the camera even without waking the device and having activated the camera with the index finger, the phone is already in a perfect orientation to take a photograph. All windows phones have this even the budget Lumia 520.
These are 5 simple usability features which can be implemented by any phone manufacturer to vastly improve the day to day experience of using their handset.