Smartphone Makers Have Stopped Innovating, Save for Camera Tech

Chaitanya Tapase

When was the last time you picked up a smartphone and thought to yourself, “wow that’s a really innovative feature”? Perhaps not in a long time. That’s because smartphone makers have really stopped innovating with build, design and other areas, except for camera tech.

Who owns a digital camera these days, anyway? Shutterstock
Who owns a digital camera these days, anyway? | Shutterstock

Why is that, you ask? Let’s dig deeper.

People Prefer Practicality

This might just be the biggest reason why new innovative features in smartphones aren’t coming in by the dozens. We’ve seen Sharp release a phone without bezels, but how many people do you know own that device? Heck, it didn’t even launch in most countries outside Korea. And the biggest reason for that was the practicality of using Android OS on such a device.

You don’t even need to jog your memory a lot if display innovation is what we’re talking about. The recently launched Mi Mix was the talk of the tech town because of its bezel-less body. But recently, we’ve heard news about it crumpling. What good is innovation if the phone is that fragile?

Image: Xiaomi
Image: Xiaomi

I still hear people reminisce about the good ol’ Nokia phones of yore. The ones which could survive falls from a 4-storey building and had a battery life of a week. Such practicality always seems to outweigh innovation without much thought. As it should be.

Less Innovation is Good?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for innovating to make full use of technology. And sure, we’ve seen some cool innovations over the years. Things like fingerprint scanners that instantly unlock your device are taken for granted. But this is a complex piece of tech that needs an entire piece of hardware and software of its own.

Secure All Droids | Shutterstock
Secure All Droids | Shutterstock

But again, we were quite happy with just using PINs to lock our phones. They might be more inconvenient than a fingerprint scanner, but are just as secure. Would you term that as innovative, though? Not really. A curved display, then? Well, how many owners of the LG G Flex or G Flex 2 do you personally know? That same phone also came equipped with materials that made it easier to tackle the occasional scratching. Still not a success.

In terms of sheer profit and numbers, the iPhone has been the most successful phone in our generation. And the evolution from the original iPhone to the current gen iPhone has been pretty incremental. Apple didn’t try anything outlandish, tested every new innovation and only when they were confident of their product, did they release it.

Phones Evolve, Camera Tech Leaps

While Apple has shown little interest in even bumping up the resolution of the display on their phones, they certainly have taken a keen interest in improving almost every aspect of the cameras on their iPhones. Each iPhone has seen a good improvement over its predecessor, even though other factors might not have.

Photo: Apple
Photo: Apple

Android OEMs have tried selling consumers a variety of features as innovations, but rarely have any been really successful. Save the Galaxy Note line-up with its S-Pen functionality, there really is no other (true) innovation worth even talking about. Because for one reason or another, these innovations don’t really add up to an amazing product. Thus forcing OEMs to concentrate mostly on camera tech.

So we have had cameras with dual-lenses. HTC tried it earlier and now Huawei has got its own take on the same idea. We’ve also seen laser auto-focus, multiple lens elements, really creative slow-mo features and a whole lot more going on with smartphone cameras. And this is only in the past 2 years. The iPhone 7 Plus also has a great feature to enhance the blur of the background, adding a nice touch to a portrait image.

The dual camera system allows the iPhone 7 Plus to produce amazing depth-of-field shots. | Photo: Shutterstock
The dual camera system allows the iPhone 7 Plus to produce amazing depth-of-field shots. | Photo: Shutterstock

Most of this, is naturally possible because the processors (or the hardware) used can support added functionality. 4K video? Needs a higher-end SoC. Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF)? Can’t do it on budget phones running lower-end processors. And that’s what really distinguishes a great Android phone from an average phone today. The camera.

You can get two phones with similar specs for vastly different prices. And the only major difference between the two (besides the build) will be the cameras. Time and again, we’ve tested phones that cost $350 and ones that cost $649 in the US. They might both be running the best Snapdragon SoC at the time, but the biggest factor separating the two? You guessed it – camera.

How’s Your Camera?

It’s hard to judge which camera is better in a short span while you might be out shopping. Which is why, it’s best to check out our videos on the subject to get a deeper understanding. And while you’re at it, let us know how your smartphone camera performs in our comments section.

ALSO READ: Why Apple Should Be Thankful for Google Pixel

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#camera #iphone 7 plus

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Chaitanya Tapase has varied interests in Technology from Android to Windows to DSLR Photography. On weekends, you'd find him catching up on TV Shows like Game of Thrones and enjoying House Music.