Gadgeteer team thoughts – What’s my dream phone?

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dreamphone
Do you ever dream about the perfect smartphone? Of course you do, you are visiting The Gadgeteer after all. Well that’s the question I posed to my team of cracker jack gadget writers this week and here are their answers, including my own thoughts on the features that would make my dream phone.

Here we go in no particular order…

janet-cloningerJanet Cloninger
I’ve said it before, but my dream smartphone would be the iPad mini with Retina display with an actual cellular phone inside.  I’ve tried the iPhone 6 Plus as a tablet replacement, but it’s just not a tablet – Apple won’t let it be a tablet.  The iPad mini is the perfect size to go in most of my bags without requiring me to add a second bag for just the tablet.  It’s big enough to surf, read, and play games, and the beautiful Retina screen is very easy on the eyes.  With the addition of a cellular phone, I could have a single device that could serve as my tablet, serve as a GPS unit with a screen big enough to easily see in my car, and still let me make calls.  Of course, I’d have to use it with a Bluetooth headset or some earphones for telephone calls, because it’s just too big to hold comfortably.  (And because holding it up to your ear would make you look like a doofus.)  Alas, it appears Apple is abandoning the iPad mini, so I doubt my dream device will ever exist.

dave-reesDave Rees
My dream device would be an Android device with the form factor/build quality of the iPhone 6 (aka thin and metal). Running native Android (Lollipop). Minimal bezels, similar to the LG G3. 2K screen quality and size (up to 6″) of the Nexus 6. Wireless charging and SD card slot. Virtual home/back buttons. Power and volume buttons on the side.

andy-chenAndy Chen
I’m MOSTLY happy with the iPhone 6 Plus (2014) but as usual, I’ve had a difficult time finding a protective case I can live with. My Dream Smartphone would have a textured matte finish on the back and sides to resist/minimize the appearances of scuffs and dents. I don’t mean that “rubberized plastic” paint we’ve seen on phones for the past decade. I mean something baked on, like a crinkly powdercoat finish.

bill-kuchBill Kuch
One of the reasons I’ve been a late adopter of a smartphone is the way they have been attached to onerous contracts with puny data limits. My dream smartphone is a device that can make and receive telephone calls and texts. It will run the latest version of Android and will allow running of the apps while speaking. The screen size will be at least 4.5 in and can be held comfortably in one hand. Most importantly, there will be no contract required and I could get unlimited everything for about $10 per month. I would expect the cost of the phone to be less than $200. Oh wait….I already have this with the Moto G on Republic Wireless. I’m good 🙂

mark-rosengartenMark Rosengarten
I loved my Samsung Galaxy S4 and I adore my iPhone 6 Plus. My ideal phone would combine features from both phones.

1) The iPhone’s Lightning port can not be plugged in backwards. I have tried to plug my S4 in backwards accidentally and over time this could lead to damage to the USB port. I really like the Lightning connector for that.

2) A display of at least 1080p and a screen size of at least 5″ is vital to me as I use my phone to browse the web constantly. Past 1080p it doesn’t matter to me much.

3) An option for a clean phone without installed bloatware would be nice. I know the Nexus series does this. The iPhone didn’t have nearly as much uninstallable bloatware on it as the S4 did. The S4 gets 16 GB and half of that was eaten up with bloatware and the OS. Sure, you can install a microSD card but higher internal memory options should have been available. 32GB on the Android phone would be minimum for me. I have a 128 GB iPhone 6 Plus and that’s going to be perfect.

4) Excellent battery life. The iPhone 6 Plus gets insane battery life where the S4’s battery didn’t last through the day with the same use pattern. The battery life of the S4 got terrible, even with a new replacement battery.

5) A good selfie cam!!!! Neither the S4 nor iPhone pack anything special for that. More phones are coming out with good front cams, I’d like a camera with at least the resolution as the rear cam.

I have a lot of nerve to complain, I know. Ten years ago, today’s smartphones would have been considered the product of witchcraft. State of the art was the Palm Treo 600 in 2004. Can you imagine going back to that? 🙂

steve-holtSteve Holt
My dream phone does a couple of things that current phones can do, and several things that no existing phone can do… My dream phone can go a week on one charge, and get recharged in less than 15 min. It has a terabyte of storage, so I never have to choose what to store on the phone. My phone monitors my calendar, my search history, my emails, my text messages, and listens to my phone calls to make sure that I am notified of places I need to be, when I need to leave to arrive on time, things I need to get before going home, who I need to returns calls to, etc. My dream phone remembers things when I forget. My dream phone keeps an exact copy of the entire phone in the cloud… system files, apps, pictures, texts, videos, contacts… everything is backed up automatically. That way, when I have to replace my phone because I lost it or it died, I can simply restore my cloud backup and get everything back like it was. Finally, my dream phone is aware of where it is and when it needs to vibrate or ring, for example, if it’s in my pocket it vibrates, and when it is sitting on the table, it rings.

greg-carterGreg Carter
I’m still pretty happy with my phone, even though it’s a long-in-the-tooth Samsung Galaxy S4. I do have a wish list of enhancements that I’ll look for on my next phone, many of which I’ve seen introduced on other phones:

  • A simpler on/wake process that includes security so that I’ll actually use it. Apple’s TouchID seems like the best implementation so far, and its extensions such as Apple Pay are appealing as well.
  • Newer phones with slightly larger screens than my 5” screen and smaller bezels appeal to my aging eyes. My phone now fits just fine in my pockets, but I wouldn’t want it much bigger.
  • I’m enjoying going caseless for the first time with this phone. I don’t even have screen protectors, which might have been a mistake as I have some minor scratching. A tougher screen, maybe sapphire, would be appreciated.
  • I love my handy carpenter-level app, but my current phone has slightly curved sides and a bumpy back. I’ll be looking for a straight edge on my next phone.
  • Water resistance would be nice in eliminating a worry factor, but only if the phone supports wireless charging. I wouldn’t want to mess with a port cover every time I charged the phone. (And, of course, wireless charging is great on its own.)
  • I want customizable auto-brightness, although I know that there are apps for this. My phone is never bright enough in daylight, so I have it at max brightness, but that can blow your eyes out in the dark!
  • One thing that would be great for me, but maybe not too many others, would be the ability to override the selected cell connection in favor of another, as you can do with wifi networks. This is especially important in our house, which has a microcell that sometimes doesn’t get used by the phone. The weak external AT&T signal will drop calls, which is annoying when I know a stronger signal is available from the microcell.
  • With the proliferation of external battery packs, a replaceable battery is less of a must-have for me than it once was, but I still want upgradeable storage.

That’s not a very ambitious or imaginative wish list for a “dream phone,” is it? As I said, I like what I have, and it appears to be a problem for the phone manufacturers because they’re having a tougher time attracting satisfied customers to their latest product upgrades.

elizabeth-rodriguezElizabeth Rodriquez
My dream device would combine the hardware of Apple (such as iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, with the amazing camera, but run Android. This is what is my first world problem is; do I switch back to iPhone for the great camera capabilities and nice feel of the phone, or do I keep Android because I simply love the operating system better? (So far I’ll stick to Android and keep my point and shoot handy!)

about-andy-jacobsAndy Jacobs
Truth be told, my dream device would probably be a chip that gives me super mental and physical powers, if you wanted to take it that far, but let’s stay a little more grounded. I think my dream device would probably already exist if many of the features of current smartphones were combined together. For starters, I would want it to have impeccable industrial design–the combination of beautiful aesthetics and a simple, sleek interface. For me, Apple has this all but wrapped up with their latest iPhone 6 and 6 Plus’s curved edges, thin cross-section and satin-finish metallic case, as well as their minimalist button scheme. (The one exception would be that protruding rear camera bezel. Really, Apple?) It would be built around a large, sharp, colorful high-resolution display. Again, the latest iPhone nearly hits all of these. For me, a size somewhere between the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus would probably be ideal, and the 6 Plus’s Retina HD display looks fantastic, though I understand the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has a great display also. To round out the exterior, a fingerprint sensor. I currently still have a work-issued iPhone 4S and am forced to enter an 8-character password every time I unlock it, which is a total drag. Apple’s Touch ID unlock feature is a must. Camera-wise, I take a lot of photos with my iPhone and I would want an ultra high-res HD rear camera. And why don’t we just put the nail in coffin of the point-and-shoot market by adding an actual usable zoom while we’re at it? Additionally, I’d want an equally high-quality front camera, because who wants grainy selfies? I’d also like to have some real waterproof capability, which I understand many Android phones now include, like the Sony Xperia Z2, but I’d like it to be fully submersible to a reasonable depth, say 10 feet, and while we’re at it, some degree of shock-proofing. Think of combining the capabilities of a Lifeproof case but for your phone itself. Next up, wireless charging: this should be standard on every smartphone without requiring a 3rd-party accessory. I like the new NFC-based payments and if adoption of this takes off with retailers, every phone likely will included it soon anyway. And while we’re on the topic of interacting with the environment, augmented reality seems poised to be Next Big Thing, giving us the ability to download information about a place or an object just by pointing our phone’s camera at it. And finally, a voice-control feature that really works and is fully integrated with the phone’s OS and apps. I’ll be honest, as much as I want to like Siri, it doesn’t really work that well and Apple has limited its functionality. However, I understand that Android’s voice-control is much better, but still probably not as good as I’d like it. As someone who is health-conscious, I’d like my phone to give me heart rate and other biometric information without even having to touch it. Flexible displays might be fun too, perhaps for the prevention of display breakage. My grand poobah feature would be 3D holographic interaction displays (think Tony Stark designing his Iron Man armor in mid-air with gesture commands) would be awesome as well, but how much more would we disturb people around us with them! I won’t discuss apps, because when apps are combined with new hardware, phone functionality becomes nearly limitless. That about wraps it up for me. That is, until I discover the next feature to add to my perfect device. 😉

kathleen-chapmanKathleen Chapman
I really want my phone to be able to dust my house, clean my bathrooms, mute complaining kids, and teleport me anywhere! Oh what a dream come true!! Okay, on a more serious note, I would love to have it be able to completely automate our cars as well as our house. This would include reminding me when my car needs gas (I forget sometimes) and automatically giving me the lowest price gasoline nearby as well as alerting me about when my tire tread is getting low and where to get the best price on new tires. It would also be nice to be able to see what staple grocery products that I have that are running low and automatically placing those on a grocery list. Total automation is attractive but also a security concern so even if these things were available I would investigate the security issues involved before buying.

larry-geisz072913Larry Geisz
I guess for me I am still waiting on a holographic type projection device that is wearable on the wrist. This device would project the image and then be able to recognize your hand gestures so you could air type or scroll through pages. This device would also be a phone and PDA. Think of it as the Dick Tracy watch on steroids.

raul-sanchezRaul Sanchez
Here’s my quick two cents on a dream device:
My dream smartphone device would be a combination of past and future features. Obviously, I like touchscreen phones but still like the feel of a dedicated keyboard. Back in the day I use to have the Sprint PPC6700 and I really enjoyed typing on that keyboard. So, I think having a super slim phablet that has some kind of dedicated keyboard that slides out from the back of the phone would be kind of interesting. I even entertained the thought of a phone that was the size of a Samsung Note 4 that had a clam shell design. Kind of line two of the Notes face to face. It would be just a little bit thicker than the Note 4, (trying to be a little bit realistic), and it would open up to reveal on one side is a QWERTY keyboard and on the other side is the touchscreen. This way, you could still have the typical touchscreen phone with the added screen protection of a clamshell design. As far as software, since I edit videos I would like to have better video editing program than just the typical cut and fade features that the PlayStore has. I want a device that I can do some editing in the field if I have to.
Basically, my dream device would be sort of like a super slim mini laptop. I carry a Samsung Note 2 so it’s not too far off until size, minus the clamshell design, of course.

ryanchapmanRyan Chapman
While I never purchased one, the Playstation Vita, and now the Nintendo Wii U has an excellent example of what I would like in a dream smartphone. Since our screens are getting bigger (and I love it!) it would be a dream of mine to port games from my console directly to my phone. Of course, the game companies would never sign into this, since they could simply make their own devices, but it would be nifty. Imagine having a simple Bluetooth controller, sold already on the market today, attached to your phone as you take it around the house, playing Call of Duty, Borderlands, or any one of the great console games, regardless of what console it may be on! Well, at least with the Wii U, I have a start of my dream, except I don’t want to worry about a separate device when my smartphone is right here!

bill-hendersonBill Henderson
As much as I like the Apple iPhone (especially the larger 6 and 6 Plus), it’s not perfect. My dream smartphone would allow me to customize how I want it to look and act. Currently, the iPhone is pretty locked down, but that’s always been Apple’s way. My main desire would for me to be able to drag anything on and off the phone—music, files, apps, anything. iTunes is basically a one-way street and Apple has shown no sign of making it easier. If anything, it’s only gotten more convoluted with each iTunes update. I realize that many of my complaints are probably addressed in the Android system, but I have been an exclusive Apple user since 1987 and can’t (won’t?) change now. My wishes are small but it’s the small things that can make using a smartphone fun and productive or a nightmare.

smythe-richbourgSmythe Richbourg
Late during the last century, a friend sent around one of those chain emails that we all thought were so great before Facebook co-opted them. One of the questions was “What would be your favorite kind of car?” I said “a chauffeured limo with internet access.” Little did I know that within two decades, I would have the internet in my pocket everywhere, not just in my car. (Still waiting on that limo, though!)

 So, my dream phone would have a universal connector to any car, and I could connect it and say “take me to the nearest Apple Store” or “Take me to my daughter’s house” and the phone would read the contact info (or look it up on the web), and then start the car and take my usual route to that destination. If, during the trip, I decided I wanted to stop by and, say, grab a cup of coffee at a new place we were passing, I could interrupt the program just by saying “Stop here at Joe van Gogh’s Coffee!” and the phone would command the car to do the appropriate thing: pull over and let other cars go by, exit off the interstate, make a U-turn, whatever.

Notice the “we were passing” in the previous paragraph. That’s me and my phone and my car. The reality of the “personal digital assistant” is becoming our web of interconnected things that we are building around ourselves. And they are becoming truly personal because we name them and think of them as beings.

julie-112014Julie
My feature wish list for the perfect smartphone has morphed over the years to the point where now most of the main features that I want are actually available in devices that are currently on the market. Of course the problem is that all these features are not available in one device. So here’s my list:

Let’s start with an LG G3 because I like the size, screen, microSD card slot, replaceable battery, Qi wireless charging capability (with the optional charging back cover), and the volume buttons on the back which are very convenient for turning pages while reading an eBook.

Now give this phone the battery life and active display clock / notification features of the Motorola DROID TURBO, the dedicated camera shutter button and waterproofness of the Sony Xperia Z3v, the S Pen, heart rate sensor and blood oxygen sensor of the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, the physical mute switch of the iPhone 6 and the custom colors / back covers of the Motorola Moto X.

Honestly, I’d be completely happy with a phone that just has all those features. But if we want to kick it up a notch, we can add a few extra dream features like:

  • The ability to install any OS I want on it, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, or any future OS.
  • A screen that I can read in direct sunlight just as well as I can indoors.
  • Physical call answer and hangup buttons.
  • Front camera with the same resolution as the back camera.
  • Blood glucose sensor that reads your blood sugar level by placing your finger over the sensor without drawing blood.
  • Ambient light solar charger built into the display that keeps the battery topped off.

Ok, now it’s your turn. Tell us what features your dream phone would have?

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Alester Lazar November 23, 2014, 1:10 am

    Excellent topic. My favorite in fact.

    My ideal phone nearly exists. While an optic/cochlear implanted interface would be amazing, with “today’s” technology I’d build something similar in size to a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 or perhaps an HTC One Max.

    System specs would have to include:
    A 64 bit, Octa-core Snapdragon derivative SoC
    4GB of RAM
    >64 GB of internal storage
    Expandable Storage via Microsdxc
    Wireless Charging (Qi)
    A 4K SAMOLED screen (To my eyes, a S-LCD does not generate the warm color tones nor the visual pop of a SAMOLED)

    Necessary features:
    Gorilla Glass 4+ Screen
    Internally Stored Stylus (a la S-Pen)
    Reversible USB 3.0 connectors (Really….I want the entire worlds supply of legacy USB and 2.0 connectors to miraculously vanish. Lets end this silly Lightning vs. USB debate)
    Front Facing Speakers – Use an HTC phone for music and profit from the experience
    21mp Rear Facing Camera with Laser Focus (a la G3) and Optical Image Stabilization
    8mp Front Facing “Selfie” Camera…..for Skype….I swear.

    Build quality must be top flight. HTC One phones over the last few iterations have been by far my favorites. While the iPhone is held as the high standard by many, the blatant similarities that the 6/6+ have to the One M8, with the One seeming sturdier (in my opinion) give HTC the upper hand. Needless to say…an aluminum body is my desire.

    …and yes, Qi Charging and NFC do work through such chassis.

    The Operating System must be Android with and unlocked bootloader, preferably. While I have nothing against Windows Mobile or iOS functionally, my recent experiences with Apple software updates have pulverized my faith in Apples QA process and via my intermittent paranoia I wonder about their internal policies on Planned Obsolescence. Four separate iPhones (a 4S, two 5’s and one 5S) that I have owned have all died after iOS updates (the infamous Grayed-out-Wifi). I also know 3 other people with iPhones that had the same issue. My wife now has an iPhone 6 that has had a couple of instances of wifi wonkiness, but needles to say…confidence has not been bred. Don’t even get me started about iTunes!

  • Paul Spraglin June 26, 2015, 9:57 am

    I like what most have said on this topic. There were some great ideas expressed here. Ok, my dream phone? Here goes:
    I like the “horsepower” of current phones, such as quad and octa core cpus’, 2-4 mb ram, at least 128 gb storage, but more would be better. I owned the Palm Pre, in various versions, over the years and loved the operating system. Sorry, but it’s just plain hard to beat WebOS. When HP killed that, I had to move on to something else. I have absolutely nothing against Android or Apple, but I settled on a Windows Phone. It’s the Samsung ATIV SE. Works just fine for me. But give me a Sony Z3v or HTC One M9, with a physical (slide out) qwerty keyboard running any OS I want, I’m good for rest of this decade!

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