Some technologies are designed to make our lives easier, others help us sell more devices through smart marketing. Lifehacker figured out what innovations do not make the user experience better so that you do not overpay for them when choosing a smartphone.
1. Record performance of synthetic tests
When announcing new smartphones, manufacturers brag about outstanding performance and record-breaking results in synthetic tests like An Tutu, GeekBench and 3DMark. These programs evaluate the potential of iron by loading it with complex calculations. In theory, the better the results of such tests, the more powerful and faster the smartphone.
To achieve impressive performance, manufacturers often go to tricks. For example, smartphones OnePlusDo NOT Trust OnePlus 5 Benchmarks in Reviews – How our Review Unit is Grossly Cheating at Benchmarks, Xiaomi, OPPO and Huawei Phones we caught cheating benchmarks in 2018 removed the limitation of processor and graphics core frequencies in synthetic tests. And although Antitau developers have closed the loophole since March 2019, the usefulness of such benchmarks remains in question.
These programs test hardware under extreme scenarios that are rarely seen in daily use. Even the latest mobile games do not load the smartphone to the extent that benchmarks do. It turns out that the potential of the new device can be assessed only after a few years, when more resource-intensive games appear. In addition, dead weight power consumes more electricity than the optimal solution for everyday tasks.
2. Wireless charging
Wireless charging has become one of the trending technologies in smartphones in recent years. The essence of its work is as follows: an induction coil is built into the back of the device, capable of conducting current when placed in a magnetic field. You put your smartphone on a special platform, and it charges.
In the future, the technology will allow you to abandon the connectors and wires, but now it makes little sense.
Paradoxically, the wireless charging station still needs a cable to connect it to the network.
The lack of infrastructure in public places is also frustrating: in a café, you are unlikely to find a table with built-in wireless charging.
The induction coil takes up precious space inside the smartphone, which could be used to increase the battery. Moreover, by passing current, it increases heating, which in theory can reduce battery life.
3. Curved display
The screen has become the main element in the design of modern smartphones, so manufacturers are trying to draw maximum attention to it. Samsung was the first to try such a solution, presenting the Galaxy S6 Edge in 2015. Now a similar screen is found in smartphones of almost every brand.
Although the curved display looks spectacular, it has significant drawbacks: it is much easier to break and harder to replace. More curved edges of the screen worsen ergonomics: sharper edges rest against the palm, and false alarms along the edges interfere with using a smartphone.
The image also suffers from this. All flexible matrices are made using OLED technology, that is, they are based on organic diodes. These screens have a tendency to distort colors at angles, so don’t be surprised by weird tints on the curved edges.
4. In-screen fingerprint scanner
The biometric login feature became popular after the announcement of the iPhone 5s in 2013. Manufacturers have been experimenting with the location of the fingerprint scanner for a long time: some placed it on the bottom indent from the screen, someone carried it to the back, others built it into the side face. Now, most people embed the sensor under the surface of the screen – this solution saves space, but has its drawbacks.
To embed a fingerprint sensor on the screen, companies had to abandon the fast and accurate technology of capacitive scanning (measuring the voltage between different areas of the surface of the finger and the sensor). Optical and ultrasonic recognition methods have come to replace them, each of which is less perfect.
The optical sensor is like a miniature camera that works through an invisible hole in the screen. To recognize the fingerprint, it needs a backlight, which is why the part of the display above it emits a bright light, which can be annoying in the dark. Optical technology works with a two-dimensional image of the skin pattern, which is why it is the least reliable.
An ultrasound scanner sends sound waves through a screen and registers reflections. This method makes a three-dimensional scan of the print, which puts it on a par with capacitive scanning. In addition, until now, manufacturers have not achieved its trouble-free implementation in smartphones – forum discussions of models such as Xiaomi Mi 5S, Honor 10, Samsung Galaxy S10 and Note 10 are full of user complaints about the scanner.
The final argument against in-screen fingerprint sensors is the lack of tactile connectivity. In the past, the scanner area was easy to blindly grope for, now you have to peer into the screen surface to get into the tiny scanning area. Of course, this is a matter of habit, but still, the fingerprint sensors in the display lose in terms of convenience to traditional solutions.
5. Foldable design
Clamshells are back in fashion. A long-forgotten form factor has become the next evolution of smartphones, and the design of the new Motorola RAZR and Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is a real delight.
So, the release of the Samsung Galaxy Fold was postponed for six months due to a dying flexible screen. Motorola RAZR and Galaxy Z Flip users also experienced display failures in the first days of operation. The situation is complicated by low maintainability and high cost of spare parts.
The devices themselves are also not cheap and cost from $1,500. At the same time, their characteristics are noticeably worse than those of less expensive models with a classic form factor. Finally, foldable smartphones offer nothing new other than design. Whether the latter is worth a double overpayment is up to the buyers to decide.