Since 1992, when the first smartphone – the IBM Simon Personal Communicator – was unveiled, until today, new and innovative phone features have been every smartphone maker’s go-to selling points.
Some smartphone manufacturers failed and others succeeded, depending on how useful each new feature was. In this article, we’ll talk about useless smartphone features and why they failed, plus a wish list of sorts for some nice-to-have features.
Unforgettable but useless smartphone features
A lot of new smartphone features introduced through the years came with a lot of hype and were usually featured as the centerpiece during the launch of every new smartphone model.
Here are some of these features that should not have passed quality assurance as they turned out to be quite useless:
The 3D feature came about when the race for the first dual camera mobile phone was ongoing. The LG Optimus 3D and HTC EVO 3D were among the early contenders. During that time, 3D sounded so sci-fi-like and futuristic that it worked as a nice gimmick – but only at the beginning.
Although 3D fascinated a couple of users and may have helped sell some new handset models, people quickly realized that without any available apps or films supporting the feature, 3D on smartphones was virtually useless.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 comes to mind when it comes to gesture controls. It seemed like a good idea to not have to touch your smartphone’s screen and just use the Air Gestures feature.
This technology required users to wave their hand either vertically or horizontally to perform certain functions, like scrolling up and down or left to right. However, the feature turned out to be unnecessary and pointless as the device wasn’t so responsive, leading to its omission in future Samsung releases.
Even LG attempted its own version with the LG G8 Air Motion. However, for the feature to work, the user had to be at an optimum distance which, again, rendered the feature useless.
The curved screen or curve-edged smartphone is a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge innovation. The curved screen design certainly made for a sleek and attractive-looking handset. This is probably why other companies followed suit by releasing their own versions, including the OnePlus 7Pro and Huawei Mate.
However, beyond the surface improvement, this product innovation turned out to be pointless for the following
• It made the phone more fragile without the usual protective frame or edge.
• There were no completely compatible or specialized cases or temper guards available.
• Phones with curved screens are prone to ghost touches and are costly to repair.
Smart Scroll, Smart Pause, etc.
Another Samsung innovation was the eye detection feature which enabled Smart Scroll and Smart Pause. The Galaxy S4 had a feature that tracked the user’s eye motions via the phone’s front-facing camera. The Smart Scroll function could, in theory, enable the user to keep the page scrolling down automatically once their eyes reach the bottom of a web page. However, sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.
With the Smart Pause feature, videos you watch would automatically pause once the phone can no longer track your eyes. The problem with this feature was that it made for a disorienting experience whenever the eye detection feature failed, or if you glance away briefly or have your eyes at a less-than-optimal angle relative to the screen.
Nice-to-have smartphone features
Smartphone technology is developing at breakneck speed but we’re more concerned about useful features which hopefully, will become part of upcoming smartphone models.
Wi-Fi/air battery charging
Wireless smartphone charging is available – but the problem is that it isn’t really wireless. So-called wireless charging phones require the use of a special pad, which is the one that’s plugged into a socket, technically eliminating the cable connection between the phone and power source.
What we’d like to see is future wireless power technology that works a lot like radio or Wi-Fi – almost as if the
smartphone were being powered by air.
Under-screen front camera
An under-screen camera might interest users who find the front-facing camera placement a tad disruptive or
unattractive. And the future seems bright as there is already an existing smartphone with this feature: ZTE’s Axon 20 5G unveiled during the 2020 Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA) held in Berlin, Germany last September 2020.
Other companies like Xiaomi and OPPO have already begun developing phones with this feature.
Upgradable modular parts
The dream of upgradable smartphones had been seriously discussed as far back as 2013 (perhaps even earlier), partly to save consumers money and also to reduce hard-to-dispose e-waste. However, with profit being the primary goal of every conventional enterprise, not a lot of smartphone-makers have invested in the possibility of developing smartphones with upgradable modular parts.
However, the environmental impacts of smartphone e-waste can no longer be ignored and we’re hopeful all the brands will commit to this alternative.
Holograms and projections
Make no mistake, there have been and there still are smartphones that work with certain projectors . However, what we’re talking about here is Star Wars-level projections or holograms that are basically in 3D.
With this kind of feature, the smartphone video experience would reach an extraordinary level.
Although studies are underway, we’re still not sure how soon this technology can be achieved and become mainstream in the smartphone market.
Smartphone hits and misses
For sure, the smartphone industry would continue to hit and miss at times. However, it’s up to us to discern what deserves our investment and what doesn’t.
Oli Kang is a working mum who has a passion for teaching and all things educational. With a background in marketing, Oli manages the digital channels and content at Courses AU.