Robert Triggs / Android Authority
Ten years in the past, the 2013 Samsung Galaxy S4 was a technological marvel. Android telephones had solely been round for a couple of years at that time, and the Galaxy S4 appeared prefer it might achieve this a lot regardless of its small measurement. As customers, we have been enraptured. A lot in order that the Galaxy S4 stays to this present day the best-selling Android telephone of all time, with greater than 80 million items offered.
Nevertheless, that was ten years in the past — an eternity within the tech world. Issues have modified considerably since then. The smartphone gimmicks we noticed within the Galaxy S4 — corresponding to Good Scroll, which allowed you to scroll the contents of your display by shifting your head up or down — could be downright ludicrous to see in a 2023 telephone.
In the present day, smartphones are ubiquitous instruments, not tech marvels. Customers use their telephones greater than ever, sure, however this has resulted within the shine carrying off. The trendy smartphone purchaser doesn’t need gimmicks; they need a telephone that nails the fundamentals and disappears into the background.
In 2023, if a smartphone producer thinks that some cool new trick would be the lynchpin that sells its telephones, it’s in for a world of disappointment. Not solely will customers not care, however investing within the R&D for that gimmick may do extra hurt than good.
What are smartphone gimmicks?
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority
The time period “gimmick” can be utilized fairly broadly. Usually, relating to smartphones, we consider gimmicks as options that solely apply to very particular conditions, enchantment to a restricted subset of customers, or supply no true worth (or a mix thereof).
One of the crucial egregious historic examples of smartphone gimmicks was the Soli radar system within the Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. Soli was a set of front-facing radar sensors that might monitor your hand actions. They allowed you to do issues like pause music just by waving your hand close to the show. Whereas Soli carried out as marketed, customers merely didn’t care, and the Pixel 4 collection was the largest flop within the historical past of Pixels.
In case your telephone’s star function solely appeals to a handful of individuals, it is in all probability a gimmick.
A newer instance got here with final 12 months’s OnePlus 10 Professional. That telephone had an ultrawide digicam with a area of view of 150 levels. This was basically a fisheye lens, creating very warped pictures that seemed unreal. Though software program trickery helped repair pictures in post-processing, critics and customers alike noticed no want for such a weird lens. OnePlus scrapped the lens within the OnePlus 10T and this 12 months’s OnePlus 11.
Listed here are another smartphone gimmicks we’ve seen:
- Bizarre supplies: OnePlus just lately introduced a Jupiter Rock version of the OnePlus 11. It has a again made out of what’s basically rock. Who requested for this?
- Macro lenses: Whereas a terrific macro lens might be an attention-grabbing addition to an in any other case rock-solid lens array, this isn’t the case more often than not. Typically, OEMs will throw in low cost 2MP macro lenses to make it appear a telephone is extra premium than it’s. In different phrases, the thought course of is that extra lenses = higher cameras, which customers aren’t fooled by anymore.
- Extremely-fast charging: Whereas it’s fairly loopy to see 240W charging speeds on a smartphone (that’s quick sufficient to cost from empty to full in about ten minutes), who actually wants that? These speeds are additionally reportedly detrimental to battery well being, decreasing the longevity of your telephone.
- Cooling methods: The Lenovo Legion Duel 2 — a gaming telephone — had a cooling fan constructed into it. Whereas that is sensible for a telephone designed for avid gamers, it made the telephone unwieldy, prevented an IP ranking, and made wi-fi charging not possible. It solved one downside on the expense of core smartphone options. Equally, OnePlus’ most up-to-date idea telephone has a liquid cooling system that didn’t even work.
These gimmicks don’t assist promote telephones as a result of they don’t give us what we actually need: an important all-around expertise.
However what about telephones in particular niches, like rugged telephones? Is a rugged telephone a gimmick? I’d argue it’s not, however in addition they usually are not promoting within the numbers we see with one thing just like the Galaxy S collection. These telephones exist for particular functions for a specific client, in order that they get a particular cross.
Present smartphone successes are all of the proof you want
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
We all know why smartphone producers spend money on a lot of these gimmicks. Clearly, they suppose they’ll assist promote telephones or, on the very least, assist their merchandise stand out from the group. This can be a unusual technique as a result of essentially the most profitable telephones are usually comparatively gimmick-free.
Right here in america, the iPhone is the most well-liked smartphone by far. For the primary time ever, Apple owns over 50% of the market within the US, leaving the opposite half to Android OEMs (largely Samsung). The iPhone doesn’t have many gimmicks to it. One might argue that Dynamic Island is a gimmick, however it’s one that customers appear to get pleasure from, so it doesn’t actually matter.
Probably the most profitable telephones are, unsurprisingly, additionally among the most gimmick-free.
In second place, Samsung’s Galaxy S collection additionally stands out as being devoid of gimmicks. The Galaxy S23 Extremely’s S Pen could be a bit gimmicky to some. Nonetheless, it’s additionally extremely standard and a calling card of the premium Galaxy expertise, so we’ll fortunately let that slide. The Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23 Plus, although, are borderline boring with how sensible and no-nonsense they’re. And guess what? The Galaxy S23 line is promoting higher than the Galaxy S22 line.
After all, we are able to’t neglect Google’s line of Pixels. The Google Pixel 7 Professional doesn’t have any outlandish gimmicks, and it was voted the most effective Android telephone of 2022 by each Android Authority and our readers. It’s fairly attention-grabbing that when Google deserted gimmicks, it ended up promoting extra telephones than ever.
Clearly, telephones will be hits with customers with out gimmicks. Nevertheless, Dynamic Island and the S Pen present that there’s nonetheless room for enjoyable and doing issues in another way.
Telephones can nonetheless be enjoyable, although
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority
We’ve already mentioned loads of examples of silly smartphone gimmicks getting in the best way of a superb expertise. Nevertheless, some gimmicks work.
Take the Nothing Telephone 1, for instance. The lights on the again of the gadget — formally generally known as The Glyph — would appear to be a foolish gimmick. As soon as you utilize the telephone, although, you notice that it’s truly a rock-solid Android smartphone with the addition of a bizarre gentle present. In different phrases, The Glyph will be ignored, and also you’ll nonetheless have an important Android expertise with a very reasonable cost-to-value ratio.
I’m not anti-gimmick. There’s loads of room for enjoyable options.
This can be a excellent instance of how doing gimmicks proper will be advantageous. Nothing didn’t cram in The Glyph on the expense of wi-fi charging, a premium really feel, or an honest digicam system. It used the sunshine gimmick like a garnish on high of a satisfying meal. It’s a pleasant element that accentuates an already good dish.
Google’s Magic Eraser is one other instance of a gimmick that works. Because the Pixel digicam expertise is already the most effective (if not the most effective) telephone digicam experiences obtainable, the Magic Eraser function exists as a great tool for folks trying to repair up in any other case nice pictures. You don’t want Magic Eraser, however it’s sensible and enjoyable while you need it.
That is all to say that smartphones don’t have to be boring. There’s loads of room for enjoyable gimmicks, cool aesthetics, and thought-provoking twists. However gimmicks can’t be the promoting level of the telephone. They have to be aspect gamers.
OEMs might want to shift focus — or drown
Luke Pollack / Android Authority
Bear in mind the Lenovo Legion Duel 2, the telephone with a built-in cooling system? Sadly, that gimmick didn’t work out too properly for Lenovo. Only recently, the corporate confirmed to Android Authority that it had shut down the smartphone arm of Legion.
We’ve additionally talked about OnePlus a couple of occasions on this article. That firm isn’t doing too properly, both. There’s a rumor that it and its sister model OPPO might pull out of the European market both this 12 months or in 2024. OnePlus has misplaced all its provider partnerships in america, and its newest flagship — the OnePlus 11 — isn’t getting sturdy opinions. As soon as once more, the gimmicks don’t appear to have helped right here.
What’s your opinion on smartphone gimmicks?
This all helps my central argument: gimmicks don’t promote telephones. Now we have settled on wanting telephones that excel on the fundamentals: battery life, digicam, show, ease of use, efficiency, and so forth. I might additionally argue that design is equally essential right here, though that’s extra subjective than one thing like battery life. What doesn’t matter are superfluous lenses, radar methods, cooling followers, again panels product of rock, and all the opposite gimmicks we’ve seen.
Firms which might be nonetheless caught in 2013 pondering that cool gimmicks will promote a lot of telephones are going to want to get up from that dream sooner quite than later. Apple and Samsung are consuming your lunch and are doing it with none reliance on gimmicks. Make your telephones nice at a aggressive worth, and we’ll purchase them. It’s that easy.