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12/31/2014
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5 Smartphone Wishes For 2015

Smartphones must do better in five key areas -- starting with battery life.

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The smartphones of 2014 were an impressive lot. Phone makers introduced new technology at a rapid pace and added useful features throughout the year. But it's almost 2015 and time to ask for more in the coming year. Smartphones have never been more powerful, but they can always be better. Here are five key improvements we'd like to see.

1. Better battery life
Given how much we rely on smartphones to run our daily lives, every little bit of battery life helps. Unfortunately, improvements in battery life trail badly the overall technological leaps made by phone makers. While energy researchers toil away, it would behoove chip and screen makers to push power efficiency in their products over raw performance. (By the way, tablet makers, why don't we raise the bar here, too? I say 10-inch tablets need to deliver 12 -- not 10 -- hours of battery life.)

2. Paying for stuff
Apple Pay appears to have invigorated mobile payments since its October debut. iPhone users have adopted the technology quickly and raised the visibility of mobile payments for other consumers. Competing products Google Wallet and Softcard both reported surges in use after Apple Pay's debut. This is great news, but the industry needs to do better.

[What's in the cards for tablets? Read Apple's iPads: 4 Things To Watch In 2015.]

All three of these mobile payment services need to expand far beyond their current reach. Apple Pay, for example, is available at just 220,000 US retail locations, leaving millions unable to process mobile payments. Retailers and banks need to step up. It wouldn't hurt to make sure this feature is available to all (or at least most) postpaid smartphone accounts.

3. More resilience
Most phones break when dropped. Typically, the screen shatters on impact, resulting in a costly repair or replacement. Companies such as Corning are working on this. In fact, Corning recently showed off a new version of its Gorilla Glass product that is much less prone to breakage when dropped on concrete from waist height. I can't wait to see this technology reach phones.

It would be nice if more phones were waterproof, too. Sony (Xperia Z3) and Samsung (Galaxy S5) figured out how to make their phones waterproof without adding bulk and without compromising the design. Apple, LG, HTC, and others need to add this feature pronto. Imagine a world in which your phone could survive a drop into a puddle on the street. That's the future, folks.

4. Better security
The latest versions of Google Android and Apple iOS offer built-in encryption. They also offer PINs, passwords, face locks, fingerprint locks, and remote lock and wipe tools. These are all great, but phone makers and operating system providers need to go further, especially for business users. More need to follow in the footsteps of Blackphone, which offers end-to-end security for core communications apps, such as email and messaging. 

5. Affordability
Smartphones are too expensive. The full retail price of many smartphones is $650 or more. A maxed out iPhone 6 Plus goes for nearly $1,000. Some smartphone vendors have figured out how to make quality products at somewhat lower price points (see Motorola). Although phone makers need to pay attention to their margins, surely they can conjure up high-end phones that don't break the bank for consumers and businesses alike. With any luck, 2015 will see 2014's best features trickle down from costly flagships to more affordable phones.

What would you like to see in 2015 smartphones? Weigh in with a comment.

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Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio

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Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
1/6/2015 | 1:26:58 AM
Re: What about being less careless?
Laurianne, 

"This is why a Lifeproof (or similar) case is worth every penny extra."

Yes. :) When kids are careless and brake their toys parents most likely will not buy them too expensive toys that can break if they kids repeatedly let them drop. Some parents will teach their kids to be careful with their possessions. People don't blame the toys' manufacturers because kids brake their toys, don't they? 

I agree with asking for product improvement; any betterment is always a step forward. I just don't agree with the reason for asking for product improment in this case.  

-Susan  
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
1/5/2015 | 10:13:29 PM
Re: Smartphone battery struggling to keep up with smartphone features
In the past 10 years IT technology has experienced dramastic change, especially in mobile and Internet area. But there is no fundamental change to battery technoloy - Lion-ion is still dominating. Of course there is steady improvement but it's far from catching up the booming trend in mobile area.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
1/5/2015 | 5:09:54 PM
Smartphone battery struggling to keep up with smartphone features
Nobody's thrilled about smartphone prices, but given all the apps/features available, I can't really complain. I have those moments when I'm accomplishing 15 different useful tasks with my Galaxy S5 and I stop and say Wow. i will complain about battery life though because it just isn't keeping up with what we now demand from a smartphone day in day out. But I have heard from friends that iPhone 6 battery life is much improved over iPhone 5.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
1/5/2015 | 12:25:53 PM
Re: What about being less careless?
This is why a Lifeproof (or similar) case is worth every penny extra.
Ellis Booker
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Ellis Booker,
User Rank: Moderator
1/5/2015 | 12:09:08 PM
Smarter software is the thing
My Samsung Note 3 (already superceded by the Note 4) is by far the best smartphone I've owned, primarily for the size of its display--why get a tablet when you have a "phablet"?--and monster battery. 

In fact, my wishlist for 2015 has more to do with smart software, not hardware. For instance, wouldn't it be cool if the phone came to notice that you always launch the browser and go to CNN when you enter the Starbucks? It should start making this app choice/URL choice for you. Likewise, the phone should automatically cast your current radio station to your Wifi-connected speakers when you enter the house. Seamless automation like that will make smartphones--already the most intimate of our consumer electronics devices--even more magical and essential.

 

 

 

 
Denis.Giri
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Denis.Giri,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/5/2015 | 4:18:01 AM
project Ara
battery life:why hasn't any phone maker made a 300g smartphone with a 10000mAh battery instead of the measly 2500mAh batteries we're used to? Are they that afraid of making a great product that weighs more than a pack of kleenex? Are that that afraid that the consumers are complete idiots and will not understand that the extended battery life cannot come "for free" (more weight)?

 

Right now, I'm only waiting for project Ara to be comlpeted so that I can make myself a phone (with multiple battery modules) that doesn't die on me in the middle of the day.
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
1/3/2015 | 10:37:04 AM
Affordability
I think the issue is not the price of the phones, but the excessive charges for data service. How come that in the US cell phone plans are way more expensive than in Europe while delivering dismal service?
fmotta
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fmotta,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/2/2015 | 11:38:16 AM
I agree on all but the paying for things
Separating payment methods from always-on internet is a Must for security.  Hack one bit of code and people can pay for stuff using your phone.  Also, with the ease of hacking NFC this is not all that improbable.  Don't use your phone as a wallet.  Use your wallet for that and keep the data separate unless you want someone like me (with fewer scruples) to enjoy your bank accounts.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
1/1/2015 | 11:54:58 PM
What about being less careless?
Eric,

To your point about more resilience ... I believe it's great that Corning is working on a new version of its Gorilla Glass and this could add improvement to the screen's smartphones. However, I think it's childish to demand unbreakable screens with the excuse that they break when people are careless and drop their phones. 

-Susan
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
12/31/2014 | 7:13:49 PM
Re: Smartphone Wishes
@mejiac – Prices of component prices going down is one main reason to see many Chinese smartphones in the market at a much lower price. However durability is one of the main problems with these devices. 
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