• A Battery of Problems

    Smartphone technology has been advancing at a rapid pace since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, which set the course for what we know as smartphones today. Apple created a whole division of phone which brought in competitors from every end of the world. Samsung, Motorola, and LG have all taken to manufacturing smartphones and wearables that run on Google’s operating system. However, since the beginning of this competition, all smartphone manufacturers are still competing against the same foe, battery life.

    Battery life seems to be the common enemy of the smartphone user as well. Especially those who commute to work or school and don’t have extended access to a charger. For some users, extended use of airplane mode or disabling data usage is the only way to get through a full day on one charge.

    Some companies have started to take notice to these user habits and introduced a low power mode. In this mode, your smartphone will limit its usability and features in order to use less power. This is obviously a poor fix for a serious problem. Limiting the use of features that are supposed to separate your device from the competition seems counterintuitive to the value of having or purchasing a newer smartphone model.

    But why is it that every other component of our smartphones seem to be making huge strides forward? From quad core processors and 4K cameras to NFC and low power bluetooth, everything inside of our smartphones seems to be making big leaps except for the batteries we use. Name one component of the smartphone that has seen as little improvement as the battery!

    The lag of battery breakthroughs surely isn’t for a lack of trying. Many companies are out there trying to improve the efficiency of our batteries, but producing more energy with existing materials is a tall task. Even the founder of Tesla, a company that is essentially based off of battery power has voiced his disappointment on the issue.

    Now with smaller devices like wearables entering the market in the past two years, this battery problem is becoming more and more obvious. I for one would like to see more creative solutions than the reliance on low power mode. Maybe some alternate powering solutions like solar charging or electromagnetic induction. Really anything but a “trading a limitation of features for acceptable battery life” would be great.

  • Automate Your Life

    Teaching, it is something that we all do on a daily basis even if it is not professionally. If you have a smartphone, it is something that you are doing almost every second of the day. Our phones are always trying to learn how to improve upon the processes that can make our lives easier.

    One of the most basic things that we teach our phone is spelling. We have been teaching our phones to change ducking to…something else since the days of T9. However, our phones are a lot sharper with predictive typing nowadays. With keyboard applications like Swiftkey, your phone can begin to predict entire sentences with minimal input and can even form words when there are a plethora of keystroke errors. Drunk texts riddled with typos are a thing of the past and perfectly spelled sentences that make no sense are the future.

    Another basic task that has evolved into automation is setting our morning alarm. Originally there was just one alarm that could be either turned on or off. The alarms quickly became more advanced by allowing you to set specific times for specific days. Currently, you can easily teach your phone where you work. Doing so will allow your phone to make adjustments to your alarms. Let’s say I-94 is backed up due to another wreck, an ongoing construction or both. Well, your phone will take note that your commute time has increased and will make your alarms occur earlier so that you can still make it to work on time.

    Automation like this is simple to set up and allows your phone to present you with information at relevant times. Creating location specific notifications such as foot notes from a client meeting that will be presented to you the next time you arrive at their location. Automation like this will change the way we keep notes, focusing on location, while taking time of day into consideration, will greatly improve the efficiency of our notes and reminders.

    The little amount of work that is required to automate processes and reminders on your phone will pay major dividends every day after. So do yourself a favor and get automating!

  • Mobile Browsing

    The emergence of smartphones has created change in almost everything in the mobile world.  From GPS and shopping, to our attitudes about timeliness (everything must be instant or it is too slow). Smartphones have sculpted an interesting landscape for mobile devices, consuming anything that can’t adapt quickly enough.  

     

    The internet is one thing that has evolved to meet the needs of its user base, so as not to be overtaken by a rival smartphone service.  The reason for that is because it is the internet, nothing can rival that for the foreseeable future.  The state of internet sites as a whole have changed drastically though.  

     

    Now gone are the mazes we called sites in the past, they have been replaced by simple homepages that can take you to your destination in less than two clicks.  However, another ugly monster would soon rear its head: mobile browsers.  They provide a stripped down version of a site, which is meant to combat the bandwidth issues that mobile browsers had.

     

    However, we are entering a new era of super powerful phones and high-speed mobile networks.  This has allowed web designers to be more ambitious in the design of their sites while still allowing them to be accessed on phones responsively.  The new generation of websites are easy to navigate on the mobile browser, while still remaining comfortable to browse on the traditional computer stations.  The best of both worlds!

     

  • Smartphone Utility: Augmenting with Add-ons

    Smartphones are easily the most versatile gadget in our arsenal of tech devices. That versatility increases every day with the release of peripherals that enhance smartphones in ways that applications can not. There are peripherals available for your smartphone which can almost make them into a tricorder or a technological swiss army knife, not to mention newer styles of modular smartphones

    Historically, the most popular peripheral for smartphones has been battery extenders, due to battery life being an issue for many users. Ryan Lantz, of Elkhart, Indiana, had an interesting solution called GoStacked, but it unfortunately didn’t get enough support on Kickstarter. One of the best options currently available is Mophie. It is an external battery that is also a protective case for smartphones. Mophie is a great option for people looking to extend the life of their iPhone since there is no easy replaceable battery option.

    Another important aspect to smartphones is the camera. The most widely known (and criticized) peripheral for smartphone cameras has to be the selfie stick, but that is one I am not going to recommend. However, there are some really interesting lens options out there. From fisheye to increased zoom lenses, almost everything available to regular cameras are available for smartphones now. This is definitely something I would recommend to anyone serious about photography.

    I saved one of my favorite peripherals for last: gamepads and controllers. Phonejoy makes an interesting controller that slides open to leave room for smartphone to fit snuggly in the middle, sort of making your smartphone look like a PSP or Gameboy. This design makes it my favorite for its combination of portability and utility while on the go, which is kind of a must-have for mobile gaming.

    There are vast number of peripherals out there for smartphones, but I believe that the three above have the ability to drastically augment functionality while others will only slightly change the user experience for a very select niche audience.

    What do you think - what are your favorite smartphone add-ons?