Smartphones are becoming boring. Every company seems to be only incrementally adding small features or upping the hardware specs fractionally. Most companies play it safe and go with the philosophy of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. When is the last time a feature or a new add-on in a phone made you go wow!?
I hear statements like this all the time. While I sometimes attribute it to people getting jaded with technology and numb to new features, the last two years have given me pause for thought. Could it be that smartphones have lost the innovation edge? Almost all cutting-edge technology has first appeared on smartphones and then percolated down to other categories like tablets, cameras and notebooks.
But things seem to have slowed down to a crawl now. With ever-increasing demand and a market on fire for the last few years, companies have taken the easy road to success and played a simple ‘add one or two small things and call it a new phone’ game. Could the recent slump in smartphones sales worldwide be a result of that? I’m glad to announce that innovations in phones are back with a bang and here are three prime examples:
The Smartron tphone
Let’s make this simple. If you’re a new company trying to break into the Indian phone market, your chances of success are as much as Johnny Depp getting a hit movie. Especially if you don’t want to go down the road of coming up with a billion-dollar campaign of 50 front-page advertisements in newspapers and a TV blitz. Your only other choice is to have really outstanding products. Thankfully Smartron has that. After the stunning success of the tBook, the tphone is the real test. And they have totally aced it.
It’s all designed and made in India and surpasses almost anything worldwide. Truly stunning design, four colours, 4GB RAM, incredible camera, powerful hardware and all of it for about 20K. But the real innovation comes from the TronX built-in. This is the platform where you get instant access to your profile, data, content, services, cloud, care, community, and can control multiple IoT devices from anywhere in the world. The fact that it’s completely idiot-proof and can be used by a five-year-old makes it beyond unique. Smartron could be the giant killer from India that could dominate the world. The tPhone starts that journey.
The LG G5
LG’s smartphone history is pretty unique. They started off well, lost the plot, tried to rise from the ashes many a time, finally made a huge come back with Nexus phones but never really dominated the market.
This despite the fact that they actually make great phones. The G5 could be the comeback phone of the year as it is jam-packed with innovation and has a radically different approach. It’s modular, so the bottom part comes off and you can add the LG CAM Plus module (camera-style hand grip with physical button camera controls and its own larger battery) or the LG Hi-Fi Plus (made by B&O with speakers and a Hi-Fi DAC for audio playback), plus more modules are about to be released.
Then there are dual cameras at the back and one of them has fish-eye capabilities. It also has a dual display system in which all the information you need is showcased even when your phone’s main screen is off. And, it may well be the only phone with a metal unibody and a replaceable battery system. Great innovations all crammed into a single phone. If LG markets this right and gets a few more modular add-ons out fast, this could be a killer phone in the G series.
The Coolpad Max
What do you get if you’re a Chinese giant, enter India, get great success but only in the under-10K market and aspire to move up the price chain? You get a ‘Mission Impossible’ label! India is a ruthless market where low-priced brands find it impossible to sell mid and high-end phones. Coolpad decided to challenge that rule and took the innovation approach.
A top-end phone with great looks and everything that a flagship phone would have, and then added a dramatic twist. They made it into a dual OS phone. Well, at least that’s how it operates. You press a button (it can be a private button too) and the phone switches from one setup to a completely private OS. In here, you can operate the phone just like a second phone. A second WhatsApp, picture folder, documents, contacts, messages, everything and anything. And it all lives right here and doesn’t leak into the first area at all. The possibilities and usage of a system like this are endless. Home and work content completely separate, using the phone in India or abroad, people who live dual lives (you know who you are) and people with lots of secrets (ditto). The mind boggles to think how much this was needed and how no one has executed something like this before.
There it is! Phones that make innovation their main platform and refuse to play it safe. The success of these phones will make sure that other companies awaken from their self-induced slumber. It’s time to put the wow back in smartphones and these three make a fine start!
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3
From HT Brunch, June 5,2016
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