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September 8, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 11:40am

5 features your next smartphone needs to have

Put these attributes on your hit-list.

By Vinod

Last week saw the IFA technology show in Berlin, marking the second major opportunity (following Mobile World Congress in Barcelona each February) for the world’s biggest technology firms to bring their latest products to show off on European shores. Although televisions, games consoles and home goods such as smart fridges were all on display, it was mobile phones which undoubtedly caught the attention of the watching world.

Coming the week before Apple is set to launch its highly-anticipated iPhone 6; IFA was the chance for the top phone manufacturers to take the wraps off their latest devices – but what should you be looking out for in your next smartphone? Here are five things we think your next device should definitely have…

design

Personalised design

To be frank, we’re all getting a little bored of new mobile phones being soulless, metal or plastic rectangles. It’s time to liven up the design space, to make phones more aesthetically appealing.

Motorola is going a long way towards this with its Moto Maker service, which allows users to customise their new Moto X handset with a variety of materials, including wood and leather, giving you the ultimate freedom of choice in creating a unique handset.

On a grander scale, Project Ara, Google’s modular smartphone project, promises to revolutionise the entire mobile device market. Starting with a basic case, users can pick and choose what components they’d like to include in their smartphone, such as a bigger camera instead of a larger screen. Currently in development in the company’s secretive Google X labs, Project Ara has had several tantalising leaks, and should be released sometime next year if targets are hit.

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health tracker

Health tracking

Doom-mongerers have long predicted that technology would lead to the downfall of human society, as machines and services take away our free will and automate much of our lives. However fortunately this has so far not proved to be the case, with many companies actually using technological advances to develop and release devices and programs which should make us healthier.

Alongside typical fitness trackers from the likes of Pebble and Fitbit, many new smartphones now come with an in-built health tracking service, providing users statistics on the distance walked and calories burnt throughout their day. Expect to see these services evolve and develop over the next few years as more and more manufacturers see the benefits, especially if it means pairing your smartphone with a wearable device.

This could also include biometric identification; already present in the iPhone 5S, where a fingerprint scanner is used to unlock the device, and could expand to facial recognition or retinal scanning, both well in development and coming to a smartphone near you soon.

mobile payment

Mobile payment technology

20 years ago, your collection of personal electronics would have included at least five or six devices now found inside a modern smartphone (radio, watch, music player, camera, and actual telephone to name a few…) But having conquered that field, the mobile industry is now looking at over ways to expand its reach. Payment systems look set to be the next big confluence, as an increasingly cashless society looks to alternative payments that mean they no longer have to lug physical money around.

Already popularised by the likes of PayPal and Square, mobile payments could be set for the big time if found in Apple’s next iPhone, which could prove the catalyst for a payments revolution.

Expect your next smartphone to be easily linked to your personal bank account, allowing quick and easy contactless payments using your device instead of a debit or credit card, and lessening the load in your pocket even more. And if you choose to jump ship and join the ‘unbanked’, there will be no shortage of payments providers able to provide you with services to ensure your transactions go through in a flash.

 

camera

A HD camera

As mentioned above, smartphones have increasingly taken over from traditional cameras, with consumers now eager to get their snaps on the go. The phone industry has responded to this demand by integrating better and more advanced cameras throughout the years, today reaching the stage where many devices easily outperform even mid-level digital cameras.

Having seen the amount of research and development that has been carried out by the likes of LG and HTC over the past year or so, it’s fair to say that this trend is set to continue. HTC’s One M8 smartphone was the first to contain two separate cameras capable of creating incredibly detailed "ultrapixel" images, and the camera in LG’s recent G3 device is notable for the seven lasers that help focus and detail photos.

As well as more megapixels, expect further integration of HDR or DLR features, especially as more devices become capable of capturing Ultra HD/4K quality video, which will in turn facilitate even more detailed images.

mobile gaming

The all-round entertainment experience

From the days of Snake and Bantumi on the Nokia 3310, smartphones have developed immensely to become one of the key gaming markets, as consumers around the world seek their next Candy Crush or Angry Birds fix.

The development of larger screen and faster processors means that your phone can now run bigger and better games than ever before, with developers queuing up to publish their offerings and gain part of a lucrative market.

The next generation of smartphones will continue this growth, offering capabilities akin to the handheld games consoles currently available, only with HD displays and constant online connectivity to challenge fellow gamers around the world. And they may well take on all your senses as well – Samsung demonstrated an in-depth virtual reality experience at IFA that shows how gaming as a whole could change dramatically over the next few years.

Team this up with HDMI connectivity to connect to any wide-screen device (Sony revealed at IFA that its Xperia Z3 would allow you to play PlayStation games remotely), incredibly detailed screens and powerful speakers, and you have everything you need to keep you entertained on a device that fits right in your pocket.

 

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