This last week Qualcomm announced their next generation system-on-a-chip (SoC), the Snapdragon 835 and oh there are features that make the list of things that are lust-worthy. The top of the list is a combination of 27 percent higher performance combined with a 40 percent reduction in power consumption. In other words, this is like adding 120 HP to your 500 HP car which gets 16 miles to the gallon and have that gas mileage jump to almost 27 miles per gallon. Oh, and you get QuickCharge 4.0 which gives you 5 hours of battery life in 5 minutes. So, all told, the same size phone that didn’t make it through the day now will be able to—and if you forget to charge it all you need is 5 minutes on the right charger and you are good to go for another 5 hours.
We are due for the next generation of phones—the unveiling of them anyway—at Mobile World Congress in February of next year. Let’s talk about what is coming.
Phones Won’t Get Much Thinner and May Get Thicker
Like with people, there is such a thing as “too thin” and Samsung discovered that with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7—where the current theory is that insufficient space for the battery resulted in catastrophic cell failure and every airline basically denouncing Samsung phones on every flight. I always thought the thin thing was stupid. I’d much rather have a battery like the old BlackBerry devices had that lasted for a week than a phone so thin it would break if I put it in my back pocket and sat on it. I have the LeEco LePro 3 phone in for testing and it uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chipset and it has a good-sized battery giving it up to 3 days of battery life. This same phone with the 835 would jump to almost 5 days and 5 days of battery life would almost the same as a killer app all by itself.
Improvements in Sound And Camera
The phone and parts makers have realized that a lot of us use our phones for entertainment and are chasing each other to provide better speakers, technologies like Dolby Atmos, and improved 4K HDR cameras and far more powerful flash systems. While I doubt we’ll ever see anything like the old Nokia 1020 which was basically a great 41 Megapixel camera grafted onto a phone with a Xenon Flash we should get close and get better image stabilization and low light performance as well. So, at the high end in particular, expect big jumps in sound and image quality.
USB-C and No Headphone Jack
I’m not entirely sure this is a good thing but it looks like the trend is to USB-C and no headphone jack. USB-C, if you haven’t used it is great in that the plug works in either direction which is particularly handy in the dark or if your eyesight isn’t that good, and it’ll transfer a ton more power making fast charging possible. However, my issue is losing the headphone jack because, on planes, you have to put your phone into airplane mode and that cuts off Bluetooth making a wired headphone critical. In addition, if your wireless headphone batteries go dead you can generally use the included headphone cord and still use them. But these phones without a headphone jack use a USB-C or Apple dongle and not only are they annoying they seem to think they are prisoners of war in that they constantly seem to be escaping. The cable has a tendency to fall out.
Apparently, this is now a thing and one of the areas for competition is water resistance which is why the iPhone lost its headphone jack, but there are other phone firms that figured out how to keep the jack and still have the phone resist failing in the water. I’ve seen folks swim with the Google Pixel phone for instance, so I’m still thinking you can have water resistance and a headphone jack. We’ll see.
Accessories—Lots Of Accessories
Lenovo’s Motorola division really broke the mold this year delivering a modular phone called the Moto Z that has an impressive number of accessories. These included a Hasselblad camera back, an image projector, a huge booster battery, and a vastly more powerful speaker. Shame they wouldn’t layer because having he speaker, projector, and huge battery would have made for a killer solution that probably would have weighed more than a small laptop. This really gave the phone nice utility and I expect them to carry it forward with more and better options and for others to follow their lead.
The smartphone market is softening which means the folks building phones are kicking it up a notch because to grow revenue they now must steal share. The end result will be a massive number of changes next year starting with the amazing Snapdragon 835 SoC and ending with a far more modular approach to phones likely leading to an eventual major shift in how they are designed and focused. Think of next year as not only a huge change but just a taste of things to come.