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HindustanTimes Thu,02 Oct 2014
An open letter to smartphone manufacturers
Rajiv Makhni, Hindustan Times
May 03, 2013
First Published: 12:43 IST(3/5/2013)
Last Updated: 18:18 IST(4/5/2013)
Techilicious columnist Rajiv Makhni

Why your smartphone is not as ‘smart’ as it claims to be Dear ‘smart’phone manufacturers, I’m not in a bad mood and I’m not angry. I’m just massively frustrated. You took a device called a cellular phone, tweaked it a wee bit, changed a few things around and started selling it as a smartphone. Smart? Really? Indulge me for a moment and let me just point out some of the not-so-smart things in a smartphone!

Silly Slots: So let me get this right. Every time I want to add a movie or songs to my storage card, I’ve got to pry open the back cover, use my nails to pull the battery out and then get to the slot? And I have to do this every time I have to transfer some picture from my phone to the computer too? And when I’m abroad and have to switch my SIM card, I have to do the exact same thing? How about a slot right outside on the side or the top or the bottom where I can get to it 20 times a day if I want without rebooting my phone! Pick your favourite spot outside and put the damn slots right there.

Senseless Storage: Have you guys noticed that you’re making phones with full HD screens, more megapixels, excellent e-book reading capabilities and fantastic music playing ability? If you have noticed, then you obviously do expect me to fill up my phone with movies, pictures, songs and books. Right? Wrong! You’re giving me a measly 16GB storage on the phone (and the OS takes a chunk of that away, anyway) and then don’t give me the option of adding more storage on my own by taking away the slot itself. Are you nuts?

No wires, for good: Why should I buy a wireless charger separately?

Puerile Proofing: Let me understand this one. You’ve made a device that you want me to carry with me all the time, fish it out of my pocket 100 times, use it 16 hours a day and also made it the world’s most delicate piece of equipment? Have you heard of the term ‘oxymoron’? I drop it, I get water on it, I get dust on it, I use grimy hands on it all day – and the warranty doesn’t cover any of that? You’ve been selling phones for years now. Can you standardise it so that EACH phone is waterproof, dust-proof and shockproof as a bare minimum standard of toughness. If the mobile phone industry was like the car industry – then they would be selling cars without seatbelts or airbags or even brakes and steering.

Mangled Materials: I just bought your phone. I saved for six months and paid a king’s ransom for it. And one month later, as I take it out to show it off to my friends, I notice that the screen is badly scratched and the outer casing and back looks like a pack of dogs had a great time last night playing ‘chew’ with it. I paid you good clean money for my phone – the minimum I expect is for it not to turn into a grimy, ugly, scratched, dented piece of crap in 30 days. Use gorilla or orangutan or baboon or whatever-you-want-to- call-it glass, but just make sure it doesn’t scratch and make sure that the outer material isn’t sleek and shiny just for the first five days.

Optically Muddled: You want me to stop thinking of buying a standalone camera as your cameraphone has it all? Well, let’s take a look and see if that’s true, shall we? First of all, where is the damn button to take that picture? You actually think touching the screen to take a photo makes a lot of sense? It’s a clunky and a very poorly thought out ‘feature’ as it shakes the camera every single time, plus is just awkward to use. Put a dedicated camera shutter button on the phone and stop having brain-dead arguments about it. And while you’re at it, how about a larger sensor (so that pictures look real rather than giving me a jaundiced look most of the time), a real camera-level flash (instead of the cheap LED that makes everyone look like white ghosts posing for a picture); and finally a real optical zoom (instead of the crap digital zoom that gives horrible pixelation). An optical zoom today is not a luxury but a necessity, and technology exists today that won’t add any bulk to the phone.

Make it tough: Each phone should be waterproof, dust-proof and shockproof as a bare minimum standard of toughness

Battered Battery: Stop adding cores to your processors, megapixels to your camera and pixels to your screen if you can’t add power to your battery. Get with the programme; you’ve been given enough time! The bare minimum one needs is 48 hours of battery life IRRESPECTIVE of how I use my phone and whether I use 3G or not! Would you take a 16-hour flight if you were sure that the airplane only had fuel for eight hours? You wouldn’t, right? So stop selling us phones that crash in the middle of the day!

Asinine Security: You want me to shell out Rs. 45,000 for a phone? Then take good care of me and my device! I want anti-theft features that really work, I want tracking that actually gets my phone back, I want you to insure my phone when I buy it and I want you to work out a programme with the police that doesn’t have the local cops laughing at me when I go to report a stolen phone!

Wireless Brainless: So you finally got wireless charging built into the phone. Great! But you still expect me to buy a wireless charger separately as you want a little more money over the R45,000 I already paid. Have you heard of the word ‘greedy’?

Look it up, it’s there in bold letters in every online dictionary. And by the way, I’m very happy that most of my syncing between my phone and my computer is now wireless. Could you just make the whole experience suck a little less and make it work every time I want it to? There’s a lot more that I want. Voice control that doesn’t make me tear my hair out, real multitasking with windowing options for ALL apps, sensors that make my phone really smart (air quality would be a good start) – there’s a huge list that I’ve left out. But for a start, let’s just go with these. Turn your StupidPhone into a real SmartPhone. After all, it’s got your name on it.

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

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