2016 has been an exciting year for smartphone enthusiasts. In both hardware and software departments, many new features pioneered on a smartphone in 2016.
After an extensive research and comparisons, we have compiled a list of such features in this article. Here are our top ten features on a smartphone that impressed us in 2016:
Mi MIX Bezel Less Display
Mi MIX with nearly bezel-less display has taken the smartphone world by storm. Concept phones like it are usually scrapped in company labs, but Xiaomi did a great job in bringing this phone into the market. It sports a massive 6.4-inch display with an incredible 91.3% screen-to-body ratio. The edges on the top and the sides are pint-sized that forced engineers to re-imagine the placement of the front camera and to find alternatives for traditional earpiece and proximity sensor. As a result, the front camera is moved to the bottom part of the phone, Ultrasonic distance sensor is used instead of the traditional proximity sensor, and cantilever piezoelectric ceramic acoustic technology is used to transmit sound without the need for a receiver. Overall, it is a beautifully designed phone that redefines design on a smartphone.
OnePlus Dash Charge
The smartphone has become an integral part of our lives. With the ever growing usage of the smartphone, the battery capacity and recharge speeds have come to limelight. Thankfully, various quick charging technologies like Quick Charge 3.0 by Qualcomm, Pumpexpress by MediaTek, VOOC by OPPO, Dash Charge by Oneplus, etc., have come to our rescue by refueling the battery at rapid speeds. However, Dash Charge by OnePlus is superior to all these technologies. It can charge OnePlus 3 from 0 to 60 percent in just 30 minutes while maintaining temperatures under control. It can fully charge the phone in just 70 odd minutes, which is an outstanding achievement.
Moto Z Module Implementation
Motorola successful flagship X series phones are famous for providing flagship hardware at an affordable price tag. It was quite surprising when Moto decided to ditch X series and replace the flagship line with a new naming convention, Z series. This bold step can be attributed to its motive to enter into a new era of Modular phones.
Before the launch of Moto Z, LG faced failure with abysmal modular implementation on its flagship LG G5. However, it didn’t stop Motorola to launch its 2016 flagship Z series with modular concept. Moto Mods are the accessories that can be connected to the phone with the help of magnets present on the back of the phone.The way modules connect to the phones without disturbing the functionality of the phone is praiseworthy. Many mods like JBL SoundBoost speaker, Moto Insta-Share Projector, Hasselblad True Zoom Camera, the Incipio offGRIDtm Power Pack are commercially available for purchase. It is indeed a bold step in the right direction.
32-bit Hi-Fi Quad DAC on LG V20
2016 is an easily forgettable year for LG. Failure of LG G5, mediocre reception of LG V10 have urged LG to contrive a phone that can raise eyebrows of users. So it has come up with a phone named LG V20 that has all the flagship features under its sleeves. However, the standalone feature on this phone is use of 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad Dac to enhance audio quality. It is the first time for a smartphone to pack “Quad” DAC.
The DAC takes digital data from audio file as an input and converts into analogue waveform that is fed to earphone or speakers. The quality of output depends on how efficiently DAC reproduces analogue signal without minimal distortions. The Quad DAC has four such DACs that work simultaneously to produce output signal with greater signal strength and low noise. Also, LG is generous in including high quality B&O earphones with the phone to make most of the Quad DAC.
Ultrasonic Finger print sensor
Lately, finger print sensor has become a norm on a smartphone and even budget phones feature it. However, the traditional finger print sensor has a limitation in the form of inability to use it when any liquid substance like oil, water, etc., comes in between the finger and the sensor. To eliminate this caveat, Qualcomm launched Qualcomm Sense ID ultrasonic fingerprint sensor. It uses ultrasonic sound to match the details of the user’s fingerprint. It is also worth noting that, it can operate through thin materials like tampered glass, plastic cases, etc. This year, Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor featured on Mi5S, but it still occupies space on the phone like capacitive sensors. We may see the sensor hiding beneath the display panel in 2017. It also leaves some free space for OEMs to install new hardware.
Google Personal Assistant on Pixel phones
These days every flagship comes with more or less same hardware specifications. So what differentiates a phone from the rest is its OS. Google released Pixel phone by betting on its software capabilities, especially on new Google Assistant that replaced Google Now. It is more intelligent, more interactive and more accurate. It integrates whole ecosystem of devices like Google Home, Google Wifi, etc.
Here’s how Google explains its new assistant:
“The assistant is conversational – an ongoing two-way dialogue between you and Google that understands your world and helps you get things done. It makes it easy to buy movie tickets while on the go, to find that perfect restaurant for your family to grab a quick bite before the movie starts, and then help you navigate to the theater.”
In a nutshell, it enriches user experience and eases performing tasks on a smartphone.
Huawei’s Honor Magic Phone
While the hardware specifications are mainstream, the phone enthralled everyone with its AI-driven features. There is a lot of research being carried out in the field of Artificial Intelligence by different companies to ease the complex processes, but using it on a smartphone is altogether new experience. Though we have already seen Google Assistant on Pixel, it is limited to software front, but Honor Magic phone uses hardware components to enhance AI capabilities.
Dual Pixel Autofocus on Galaxy S7 Edge Camera
Camera on Galaxy S7 Edge is one of the best cameras you can find on a smartphone. Though many flagships were launched after S7 Edge, it still retains the top position due to its incredible focus speeds, credit to dual pixel autofocus mechanism. While shooting a video, in many occasions, our focus subject keeps moving or changing that makes it difficult for camera sensor to focus on it, however, camera sensor on S7 edge handles it with finesse. To know more about this concept, please head over to our in-depth article.
LG wide-angle camera on G5
In 2016, LG tried implementing numerous new technologies on its flagships. Wide-angle camera on LG G5 and V20 is one of them. Although, it is not a groundbreaking feature, but it addressed a long lasting problem of not able to fit entire scene in the photo frame. The 135-degree wide-angle rear camera sports a 8MP shooter with f/2.4 aperture. It eliminates the need of carrying adapters and separate lenses. This camera comes really handy when one tries to capture landscapes.
Sony’s Predictive Hybrid Autofocus Mechanism
This mechanism will help to automatically track a subject and predict its next move and, in turn, keep it in focus the entire time.
In a statement, Sony said, “Xperia X’s Smart Capture technology helps you banish blur. Enabled by Sony’s new Predictive Hybrid Autofocus, Smart Capture lets you choose a person or object and automatically track it. Now your subject stays in focus, even when moving, and the most unpredictable scenes come out in the sharpest detail“.
The real usage of this mechanism will come into the picture when you are shooting a video with subject incessantly changing its position. It eliminates the blur or noise by instantly focusing on the object.
Honorable Mentions: Dual camera on Huawei P9, 5-axis video stabilization on Xperia XZ, iPhone 7 Plus optical zoom, Augmented reality on Lenovo Phab 2.
By observing all these new technologies, at times I feel there is no dearth of innovation in this field. At the same time, I would love to see many groundbreaking features on smartphones next year. Also, Please let us know your top 10 picks in the comments section.