There were more than 1.4 billion units of smartphones and phone tablets sold in 2015. For 2016, expectations are high that the volume of smartphones sold will be close to 1.6 billion units, or an increase of slightly less than 10 percent. As 2016 draws to a close, there is the advantage of hindsight in showing the year’s trends.
It has not been all about advances in technology, the bigger trends were in using the phone’s features to better benefit the users. The following were the top 5 trends in 2016 and how consumers benefitted from these features.
- Octacore and Decacore Processors.
More and more smartphones run on octacore processors. There are even a few which have decacore processors, including a Kodak smartphone. That is not to say that the top of the line smartphones are all running quadcores, The Apple iPhone uses a smart quadcore, which is able to save energy by using different modes depending on the computing load.
The advantage of having more cores is that the phone is able to multitask with better efficiency. For the user, this means that there are a lot more bells and whistles for the user interface, and graphical uses are also faster. Better and faster processors are also required for the large resolution interfaces. Although Apple was the first to tout their retina devices, nowadays there are better resolution smartphones with almost double the pixel density of the iPhone.
Processing power is also required for graphics and games. If you experience lags in your video or games, blame the processor. It is not fast enough to deliver the 3D rendering required by your latest game.
- 4GB RAM.
When using the desktop, if you want better performance from your PC, add more RAM. This is true up to a certain point. However, with Android, the upper limit of usable RAM is still a long ways from what the smartphones already have. The 64-bit processors in today’s phones can make good use the 3GB or 4GB RAM, if you have it. Users don’t usually understand that they should shut down some processes in order to make their apps run faster. For people who keep their apps running in the background, the extra RAM can help to decongest the work device.
If you are wondering why the Apple iPhone uses only 2GB RAM, the answer is that iOS has a smaller operating footprint than Android. Android has a lot more running in the background besides the app that you want running. For another, Android is a totally different OS when it comes to how it uses RAM.
- 256GB Secondary Storage
The use of 256GB microSD card is a separate technological advance from smartphones. However, most users have the tendency to buy the largest available or affordable secondary storage that they can have their hands on. 256GB secondary storage goes a longer way compared to a builtin memory of 16GB or 32 GB.
Of course, there are some smartphones which do not have microSD expansion slots. Their users are left with a smaller storage for their pictures, music, videos and other files.
With a 256GB micreoSD card installed, the smartphone can store more than 80,000 MP3 songs, more than 12 hours of 4K quality movies, 33 hours of full HD movies, and about 33,000 high quality JPEG images. These estimates depend on the resolution and quality of the file fomats used. Smaller images mean smaller file sizes, allowing for more images to be stored in the card.
The use of a large secondary storage device has become a necessity when you consider that users like taking candid snapshots and selfies. They have more time to take pictures and to share them on social media, but no time to delete the files. You end up with a large storage full of pictures, and no curating, no sorting, and almost no deletion. Users love the large capacity microSD cards.
- Better cameras, better images
One of the main attraction of the smartphone is the camera. Considering the large number of images uploaded on the web, you would imagine that the most popular camera in the world is the iPhone. You would most probably be right in that assumption. An average of 60 million pictures are uploaded daily on Instagram, and the number is not slowing down. The number of pictures being separately uploaded on Facebook is growing as fast as their membership figures.
The main problem with smartphone cameras is that they have small sensors. Typically, a smartphone has a 1/2.3 inch sensor. A small sensor and a small lens leads to big quality issues. However, there have been attempts at improving this. Dual lens arrangements, optical image stabilization (OIS), dual flash, laser detection autofocus, phase detection autofocus, as well as optical zoom are some features which have become standard for serious camera phones. There is no longer a drive to have more pixels, instead camera manufacturers are working on making the best picture with the existing 12MP to 18MP sensors.
- Integration with other devices. It was not yet the year of the smartwatch. However, it was close enough. In fact, besides smartwatches there were a lot more wearables with integrated apps. Even drones showed more dependency on smartphone apps, than ever before. Nowadays, you cannot market a smart device without it being connected in one way or another to your smartphone.
This includes the advent of the smart home. The internet of things (IoT) is big on being connected to the web, and in this instance, apps are being developed to make smart devices accessible from anywhere there is WiFi. Integrating the smart device or smart home app, via third-party apps to apps already on the smartphone extends the features of these devices.
There have been big jumps in technology, and some of these have been included in the state-of-the-art phones. These include augmented reality games like Pokemon Go, as well as virtual reality devices. However, it would take another cycle for these innovations to become mainstream. In the meantime, the above trends speak of a technology which is user driven, and were rapidly adopted.