The best smart-phone of Mid 2010 – a feature wish-list

There has been much talk about smartphones and their ever-growing capabilities. While Nokia has for many years now, dominated the smartphone arena, other manufacturers are quickly getting on board, and how. In the past year and a bit we have seen, apart from the usual suspects (Nokia, RIM-blackberry, HTC etc) we now have quite a few more smartphone heavyweights – Samsung, Sony Ericsson, LG, Google and Apple. Even almost forgotten manufacturers Palm and Motorola have come out with some very high spec devices to possibly turn their fortunes. 

The number of smartphone operating systems have also mushroomed with the birth of Android, WebOS, OS X, Maemo, to join the ranks of Symbian, Blackberry OS and Windows Mobile. Now I will not get into which operating system is the best as quite frankly that is a topic of much debate. Here’s my two cents worth – don’t judge as operating system by its out-of-the box functionality alone. A good operating system should obviously come with tones of functionality and features but it should also have a well stocked collection of constantly updated 3rd party applications (a good number free). It should also have a large developer community to bring in fresh ideas, applications and games to the device. They say all operating systems are equal. I’d say some are more equal than others. 

Finally after rambling on for two paragraphs I am all set to dive into my topic of choice i.e. what would be the features I would look out for a phone in the middle of this year. For those of you still living in a hole that would be June 2010. I am choosing mid 2010 because most of the features I am about to talk about are currently available, just not on the same device :( My guess is that hopefully one of the manufacturers will pick up on this post and act upon it. These features mentioned below are not arranged in any particular order. The design I have in mind is a keypad-less full touchscreen phone like the iphone, Google Nexus One, HTC Desire, SE Xperia X10 etc. Though I like the tactile feedback of hardware keys, improvements in capacitive multi-touch and haptic feedback one can do without hardware keys (for the most part). 

1. Operating System:
  • Android –I’d prefer the phone run Android for three simple reasons (i) Growing 3rd party apps (most of them free); (ii) Large and constantly growing developer community (iii) likelihood of many new updates coming soon; Ok all three are kinda related but you get the idea.

2. Display:
  • Super AMOLED display (Samsung Beam) – AMOLED displays give a better contrast (deeper blacks and rich colors). Samsung has recently come out with a few phones (Wave, Beam) with these displays and from what I’ve seen they seem stunning.
  • Oleo-phobic coating on display (Iphone 3GS) – this fancy name simply means coating the screen with a chemical that repels oils. So say good bye to ugly fingerprints and messy oil marks on the screen. (very important if you have oily skin on your face (you know who you are) as you hold the phone pressed to your cheek while talking.
  • 3.7 to 4 inch screen (SE X10) – as there would be no hardware keys the screen can and should dominate the entire face of the phone. I find that a display upto 4inchs would be ideal, anything larger and it may become a bit too wide to use – especially when placed against your ear.
  • Resolution – 800X480 sounds about right (the Xperia X10 is a bit higher). At this resolution browsing web pages natively will be a breeze (note-you may have to squint a bit).
  • Pixel Qi functionality – low power E reader display with backlight off for extended battery life.

3. Input method:
  • Capacitive multi-touch – I know it’s almost commonplace now but I still feel it should be mentioned.
  • Trackball (Nexus One) – I know many feel this would be redundant on a full touchscreen but there are times where you don’t want to touch the screen; its easier to move the curser while typing in a text box; its small, hardly takes up much space, provides brilliant tactile feedback, can double as a status indicator. A negative to note it that it does pick up dirt and may need a bit of care.

4. CPU/RAM/Memory:
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8250 1 GHz processor
  • Atleast 512 MB RAM & ROM (Nexus One) - future proof; future android apps and games are going to be more resource hungry than current apps.
  • In-built memory – alteast 2GB (more emphasis on hot swappable high capacity SD cards – 32GB)

5. Camera/Video/Audio:
  • 5MP to 8MP with dual LED and possibly a Xenon thrown in - for all possible shooting conditions. Yes yes I know. There are 12 MP camera phones in the market but honestly I’d prefer better optics on a 5MP camera then a mediocre quality 12MP camera sensor. Those familiar with photography will tell you that “It’s not the size of the resolution that matters but how the optics use it”. Seriously a 12MP sensor is about the same size as a 5MP sensor but crams more pixels causing reduced image quality in certain shooting environments. Ditch pushing for more pixels but rather add-in functionality like face/smile detection, fast burst mode, more filters, quick auto-focus response etc.
  • Internal zoom lens – this is such a simple concept I don’t know why no manufacturer had built one in yet. There are quite a few point-and-shoot cameras that have an internal zoom lens. Simple put the components move within the camera housing eliminating the need for a telescopic lens array. Yes the zoom may be limited to 3x or 5x but its still optical 3x which is 3 times better that any phone lens out there.
  • D1 or WVGA video resolution with atleast 24 fps. Video light. continuous focus. Also add the ability to zoom (using the above mentioned internal zoom lens) while recording video.
  • DivX support - either out of the box of through free 3rd party app.
  • Stereo FM radio with RDS - never know when you need it.
  • FM transmitter (N900) - good to have and lets you play your music on a normal boom box - wirelessly.
  • Loud and clear stereo speakers with Good quality audio playback with equalizer and bass boost functions.
  • 3.5mm audio jack (all phones) – Let’s face it most headphones provided in the box are below par. Also most of us have our favorite headphones.
  • TV out through standard 3.5mm port.
  • Possibly DVB T/H - though at present there are hardly any places where DVB transmissions work but you never know what the future holds.
6. Connectivity/Browser/Misc. features:

  • All manner of connectivity – GSM (all bands), UMTS, WiFi (all bands), GPS, A-GPS, SatNav software, IR Port (again never know what magic developers can do with it), Mini USB (mico USB is just too fiddly)
  • Full flash/ajax support on browse, with tabbed browsing and add-ons (essentially firefox)
  • 3D hardware accelerator chip (Nokia n95) – for games and flash heavy sites.
  • Li-Po 1500 or more mAh would be about nice. (Removable battery necessary).
  • Pico Projector – if it’s not too bulky or power hungry. Perhaps the microvision’s model which does not require focusing optics.
  • Digital compass, Image editor, social networking clients, office editors, good email and IM clients, actually there are way too many to list but I am sure that all of them would be available so no need to go into specifics.
Issues to be concerned about – Heat build-up due to compact size and powerful (from a mobile perspective) electronics. Battery life for the previously mentioned reasons.
This is still a working wish-list and may/will be modified occasionally. Readers are welcome to comment of any feature I have mentioned or any feature I have left out.For more updates - watch this space !!

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