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Smartphone innovation is there, you just can't see it

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Are you also one of those who have been complaining about stagnation in the smartphone market? You're right. Obvious innovations no longer exist. Half-baked attempts to hide the innovation slowdown with the largest possible numbers are easy to expose. However, progress was made in the past year. Only no one saw it. It is also more difficult to communicate.

The innovations of 2018, 2019 and probably also 2020 are either clearly visible, such as foldable phones, or almost completely invisible. So let's take a look at the hidden heroes which separate the wheat from the chaff on smartphones, and which cause differentiation in both performance and price.

AndroidPIT Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Camera Module
108 megapixels: the Xiaomi MI Note 10 is on a record hunt - but not for the best camera / © NextPit

But first of all to what the manufacturers promise. According to advertising, every new mobile phone offers the best camera. In the photo studio of every smartphone, there is fine technology that can undoubtedly be made responsible for differences. In 2019, it was the almost unbelievable 108 megapixels in just one camera that were to leave us stunned. Cheap trick - not with the technology - but with the camera, as we have long known that megapixels are not everything. Short digression: even the best camera sensor is nothing without aperture, lens, sensor size, and software. So let's forget about the rest of the camera. This is good for flagship smartphones anyway and rarely really bad for cheaper mobile phones.

The hidden innovations of our time, for example, take place in two areas: memory and battery.

Memory innovation: no, it's not just about terabytes

Memory makes a smartphone expensive. Apple, in particular, has been following this principle for years. No expandable storage, but a considerable surcharge if you want more than 32, and then later 64GB. In 2019, Samsung for the first time installed 1TB of storage in a smartphone. Now we are back to the big numbers. But they are only part of the truth.

The memory in a smartphone stands and falls with the reading and writing speed of the chip. And that makes for big differences. The storage is standardized according to UFS (Universal Flash Storage).

samsung 512 gbyte speicherchip
Memory chips not only have ever greater capacity, but they are also becoming faster / © Samsung

The new UFS 3.0 standard has been available since 2018: data is sent back and forth at up to 1,450 MB/s in two lanes. In the predecessor standard 2.1 it was only 600 MB/s per lane - a total of 2,900 vs. 1,200 MB/s. That's a big difference. And only very few smartphone buyers look for this value. Accordingly, manufacturers are not forced to install the new, expensive standard directly. Explicit demand is missing.

Meanwhile there are hardly any flagships without UFS 3.0 standard today. However, the evolution of the storage system in its current stage of development is similar to what is classed as innovation elsewhere. So, when buying a smartphone, always take a look behind the (memory) curtain. This also applies to memory cards.

Battery: a completely new status quo

The Achilles' heel of the smartphone. Nobody wants a cell phone that runs out of juice too quickly. The unit for the capacity of a battery is measured in milliampere-hours (mAh). The more of them, the better? Partly.

Samsung's Note-7 disaster was also due to the (probably) too large battery of 4,000 mAh in a too-small case. But in the past two years, manufacturers have discovered new ways to make the battery better. It's no longer about internal battery performance, but about what's added from the outside. TubroCharge, QuickCharge, DashCharge, WarpCharge. Fast charging techniques have many names. Meanwhile, however, the technology behind it is also revealed, the charging speed is indicated in watts. Meanwhile, not only capacity and efficiency, but also charging techniques contribute to the perfect battery.

AndroidPIT samsung galaxy s8 fast charge 1557
New charging technologies are a springboard / © NextPit

The comparison: Samsung charges its S10(Plus) with up to 14W, maybe caution still reigns here, as other flagship manufacturers are already much faster: OnePlus achieves a charging capacity of 6 amps at 5 volts with 30 watts in its 7T Pro with "WarpCharge 30T". So double what Samsung is offering. Xiaomi is similarly powerful with 27 watts in the Mi 9T. Oppo wants to charge with up to 65 watts in the future and Xiaomi has teased a charging technology with 100 watts already. Transferred to everyday life: laboratory tests show that a mobile phone battery (4,000 mAh) can be fully charged in around 17 minutes.

The next innovation in battery technology is therefore not primarily to be found in the size of the battery, but in the secondary disciplines. A flagship in 2020, therefore, has a standard battery size of around 4,000 mAh, as well as the possibility of charging wirelessly and charging particularly quickly with more than 50W.

Innovation if there, if you look hard enough

Admittedly, the two "innovations" described can also be dismissed as the logical consequence of an evolution of the components. Nevertheless, I think that the small steps are the ones that we don't notice at first glance, but which we notice all the more clearly in everyday life.

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  • marco sarli 39
    marco sarli
    • Admin
    Jan 6, 2020 Link to comment

    Interesting try but not convincing

    Dean L.Deactivated Account

  • Dean L. 34
    Dean L. Jan 4, 2020 Link to comment

    It would be great if they could get the battery life to be better and the battery to not degrade after about two years where you either have to replace the battery or consider getting a new phone. My two pfennig....... That would be innovation. Or better yet, make it a user replaceable battery. Hmmm, we used to be able to do that.

    marco sarliDeactivated Account

  • Mark G. 28
    Mark G. Jan 4, 2020 Link to comment

    I know that you get paid to hype and back up these huge companies but this article is pushing it.

    Phone manufacturers have employed a system designed to squeeze as much money as possible for as little outlay as possible..

    The Galaxy or IPhone range are 'upgraded' every year and presented as the best, along with the above inflation price increase.
    In reality very little has changed, a couple of millimetres extra screen here a little change to the UI. Yes the S10 is a much better device than the S3, but the design for the S10 was already done, but rather than introducing a proper device they bring out incremental devices that they know to be inferior to the actual proper device.
    Why sell one version of a product when you can divide it up into 10,20, 30 versions each getting more expensive, creating a market which dictates a 2 year limit to the usefulness, desirability of the device.
    This article just proves the point, trying to say that innovation is there whilst writing about zero actual innovation!
    We are given arbitrary limits on processors, memory, battery when the knowledge and ability to use that knowledge has been commonplace for decades.

    Live the (capitalist) dream....

    Peace 🖖

    marco sarliDeactivated AccountDean L.

  • 46
    Deactivated Account Jan 4, 2020 Link to comment

    There is very little innovation or much improvement in smart phones just lots of hype and gimmicks. 103 MP camera with a 1/4 inch aperture, what a joke. All it can do for you is create a massive file to store.

    marco sarliDean L.Mark G.

  • Rusty H. 33
    Rusty H. Jan 4, 2020 Link to comment

    All quick charging does, is mostly overheat the battery, over time, to reduce it's ability to hold a charge & maintain it. It's nice for "whoops & need a quick charge", but if you really want your battery to last, SLOW charge is better.

    marco sarliDean L.Mark G.Deactivated Account

  • 49
    storm Jan 4, 2020 Link to comment

    This is all iteration not innovation.

    marco sarliMark G.Deactivated AccountRusty H.

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