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Smartphone disruptors

brunch Updated: Mar 02, 2013 19:52 IST
Rajiv Makhni
Rajiv Makhni
Hindustan Times
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They say that using quotes and phrases when you’re giving a speech makes you sound witty, articulate and even intelligent. Thus, I use them very liberally right in my opening on the rare occasion when somebody makes a major mistake and invites me to give a talk. I have some favourite tech quotes that I throw around, and the one I use the most is when I open with a very grim expression on my face, do a fake deep voice and proclaim very gravely, ‘Technology has the shelf life of a banana’.

Breath of fresh air? HTC’s Blinkfeed interface is like the best of Flipboard and Windows Live tiles all mashed into one

Nothing has proven me more right than the world of mobile phones. Things here move at the speed of light; new innovations and features are announced at the drop of a hat and a new phone is practically redundant by the time you walk out of the shop. And yet, here I was in the middle of an exclusive preview of the all-new HTC One phone and being told that nothing new had been done with smartphones for years and that finally with this new HTC device, they were bringing in four brand new disruptors that would shake up the smartphone business. Could that be true? Four new features that would have the power to disrupt what was already the most innovative category in the world?

Disruptor 1: How 4-Megapixel can beat 14-Megapixel
Megapixels have always been the ‘big fat lie’ of cameras and mobile phones. Companies have found it easy to keep upping the number of megapixels – but that’s not giving us a better picture, just a bigger file size every time the megapixels are upped. The thing that sucks the most on camera phones is low-light photography, which is what we end up taking in more than 50 per cent of situations. Thus HTC One’s disruption number one is that it has a 4-megapixel camera (read that again, 4-megapixel) that will beat any other camera phone out there. Just how does it do that? Ultrapixels! The HTC One has a sensor that ensures that each pixel can gather 300 per cent more light than other sensors. It has 2.0-micron-sized pixels – significantly larger than the 1.4-micron pixels you see in almost all other camera phones. Thus low-light photography is better and daylight photography more vibrant.
Verdict: In optics, HTC One pulls off a disruptor for sure as the imaging results are obvious.

Disruptor 2: Blink and you won’t miss it
Smartphones are super smart but the user interface is actually quite dumb. The ‘jab your finger and press an icon to launch an app’ system is super antiquated as computers have had icon-based interfaces for the last 20 years. As HTC promised that disruptor number two would be a breath of fresh air, my hopes were high. Blinkfeed is what they call it and it basically throws out the row of icons for a visual treat of feeds based on your custom preferences. News, hobbies, interests, calendar appointments, contacts, social media feeds are all presented in a stunning home screen that mashes it all together like a magazine. 1,400 custom feeds are already there and they are adding in more by the minute.
Verdict: It’s great, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a disruptor. This is like the best of Flipboard and Windows Live tiles all mashed into one. Still, hopefully, it’ll encourage others to break the monotony of the static icons.

Disruptor 3: Here comes the Boom Sound. The greatest frontier. And the greatest
failure on mobile phones. In a world where we still use our phones for making voice calls, the sound on these ultra-thin devices oscillates between bad to super horrendous. On the HTC One, they’ve tackled the sound problems head on and created an audio powerhouse. Dual-ported stereo speakers, each featuring a dedicated amp, actually belt out music at high volumes with no distortion and the microphone works with noise cancellation technology.
Verdict: Anything that can get you better sound for voice calls and make a phone a party music player is a disruptor for sure.
I found the sound from the HTC One to be as good as a small audio dock and that’s no small feat.

A world’s first HTC One has the world’s first all-metal machined unibody premium shell

Disruptor 4: World Firsts

While HTC seems to think that it’s Sense TV (your phone controls all your TV watching including an IR blaster built into the power button), I’m going to go with disruptor number 4 as all other world firsts that HTC crammed into the One. It’s moved away from its obsession with polycarbonate to make the world’s first all-metal machined unibody premium shell, which houses its Gorilla Glass 2, full HD 1080p, 4.7-inch 1080p screen with a stunning 468 pixels per inch and is the first smartphone to feature Qualcomm’s quad-core Snapdragon 600 at 1.7GHz.


World first specs are always good disruptors as it gets other companies super edgy.

So, what’s the final verdict?
The HTC One is a brave and very gutsy effort from a company that was known for fantastic devices but had lost its edge. Its disruptors are real, its innovation is obvious and the HTC One sets the bar very high for others. But HTC needs to make sure that it gets its pricing right, releases quickly and needs to get the word out. If it delays it too much or prices it wrong, then it only needs to remember another phrase I usually throw around to anyone who is willing to listen to me: ‘Technology is like fish, the longer it stays on the shelf, the less desirable it becomes’.

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

From HT Brunch, March 3

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