Dear smartphone makers, when will your phones be truly smart?

Hindustan Times | ByRajiv Makhni
Jul 26, 2015 02:58 PM IST

Sales of the smartphones are at an all-time high, but so are the levels of customer frustration

Dear Smartphone Manufacturers,

Congratulations! Most of you have been having a really good time. Smartphone sales are off the charts, future sales are looking even better, many of you have cracked the online selling model so well that you don’t need a single retail store in the country to start selling your phones here.

The ‘flash sale’ model, while dishonest and unfair to loyal customers, has been a great way of fuelling more demand. Signing on ‘brand ambassadors’ (who know nothing about your product specifically or technology in general) has become a modern-day lesson in selling snake oil. Most of you are laughing all the way to the bank.

The thing is, I’m not happy. More accurately, I’m really pissed off! I wrote an open letter to all of you right here in this column, more than two years ago (in April 2013). I was frustrated with the state of the smartphone business then, harsh in both my words and thoughts, and did expect a backlash.
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What I got was the exact opposite. Every time I met the bigwigs of the industry, I was assured that my letter made sense, that you’d taken it seriously and that real work would be done to make a smartphone truly smart! Things would change, I was told. The frustrations of the customer would be addressed. What I wasn’t told was that two years would pass and not much would really improve. Let’s do a quick analysis of what I ranted about then and how things are now, shall we? Silly slots

I wrote then...

So let me get this right. Every time I want to add a movie, pictures or songs directly to my storage card or switch SIM cards when I’m abroad, I’ve got to pry open the back cover, use my nails to pull the battery out (thus rebooting my phone in the process) and then get to the slot? How about a slot right outside?

Pick your favorite spot outside and put the damn slots right there.

What you did...

Most of you did listen, but not in the way I was hoping. You sealed the phone to make it slimmer and cheaper to manufacture, plus locked the battery permanently inside (biggest pain point on new smartphones) thus forcing you to put the slots out. Some of you went even further and took away the microSD card slot itself. Now I have to live with whatever measly internal storage your benevolent self doles out to me? One step forward but nine steps back.

Puerile proofing

I wrote then....

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’? Can you standardise it so that

EACH phone is water proof, dust proof and shock proof as a bare minimum standard of toughness.

What you did...

Nothing! You’ve made it worse.

I know lots of people who carry on using phones with broken screens because they can’t afford to keep getting them replaced. More people have gone to a service centre with a ‘water damaged’ phone (sweat can do it now) and been told that it’s not covered under warranty than ever before.

Sony is the only one taking it seriously, but only for their top range. Samsung did get into the game with the S5 but its current S6 is terrified of water. Other phones aren’t any better. Tough phones are super expensive and look super ugly as a special add-on feature. You guys really dropped the ball on this one (maybe I shouldn’t even use the word drop as none of your products can withstand one). Battered battery

What I wrote then....

Stop adding cores to your processors, megapixels to your camera and pixels to your screen till you can’t add power to your battery.

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!

What you did....

Okay, let me admit. Some of you got this one right. You saw an opportunity and made it into a money spinner. A new category called long long battery life. But have you seen what these look like? Big, chunky and very ugly. I didn’t ask for a new category, I asked for normal,

nice-looking phones to have better battery life. Some of you put in a new ‘ultra long battery life’ feature.

Awesome, except have you used it yourself? Do you know what it does to your phone? Dim black-and-white screen, no data connection, stops most apps that I really

need to use and basically takes my super expensive smartphone and turns it into a Rs700 feature phone. Oh wait, even those have colour screens and data connections and apps that work!

I’m not done! We still have to discuss why my brand new phone looks chewed up in less than three months, why the highly touted cameraphone features are still a total gimmick, why wireless charging has become an even bigger joke, plus all the new awesome things you’ve added in the last two years. This open letter is just getting started.

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

From HT Brunch, July 26
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