Smartphones have evolved tremendously over the past 10 years, and along the way new features which were once considered revolutionary have now become commonplace. In 2020 you can get a mid-range smartphone with features that were once considered "flagship" features just a few years ago. Having said that, let's take a look at some of my favourite smartphone innovations.
Stereo speakers are quite common nowadays, but there was a time when people had to rely on lifehacks to get better audio quality from their phones. HTC was probably the first to introduce not only stereo speakers, but front-facing stereo speakers on smartphones and it was amazing. Eventually the rest of the industry caught on and started doing the same. HTC may be struggling to survive in 2020, but the next time you're enjoying stereo sound on your smartphone, just remember that you probably have HTC to thank for that.
Another example of a smartphone maker struggling today is LG. Though the company seems to be making some very interesting and well-reviewed phones as of late, a combination of poor global availability and lacklustre marketing seem to be hurting sales. LG has been known as one of the more innovative smartphone manufacturers over the years, even though sometimes these innovations don't always work out. One that has though is ultra-wide cameras. What was once considered a gimmick is now an indispensable part of every modern smartphone, so much so that it's omission leads to some intense criticism. I myself have enjoyed having an ultra-wide lens on my smartphone, and I thank LG for bringing this feature to the market.
High refresh rate displays
What was once considered a "gaming feature" has now been brought to the mainstream by companies like Samsung and OnePlus. High refresh rate displays make sense considering how much scrolling we do on our smartphones, browsing through social media or reading an article for example. The fluidity of a high refresh rate display is really pleasing on the eyes, and though it's not that widespread yet, I think this will be more common over the next year or so. We've already peaked when it comes to display resolution, so it makes sense that higher refresh rates is the next step in the evolution of smartphone displays.
There's been a long on-going discussion surrounding the methods of charging your smartphone. Is wired or wireless charging preferable? Wired charging nowadays is extremely fast while wireless charging still offers that convenient freedom of not needing to fiddle with wires, and though many phones offer both I'm much more thankful for fast charging. Time is precious and you can save a lot of time with a fast charging smartphone. Plugging in my phone isn't a hassle, and I'd gladly "put up with it" once a day if it means I can fully charge my phone in about 30-40 mins.
Remember the old days when you needed to key in a pin code or swipe a specific pattern to unlock your phone? I'm glad those days are behind us. Now you can unlock your phone with either your face or your fingerprint which is much easier. Biometric security can even be used to authenticate payments on your smartphone, which is an added bonus too. Considering how many times we unlock our smartphones a day, having such seamless and convenient methods to unlock them really is one of the most important innovations we've seen. Some people argue over which is better, facial recognition or fingerprint sensors, but I enjoy having both.
Lastly, possibly the biggest innovation yet to come to our smartphones, folding displays. This innovation is so new that only a few manufacturers have attempted it and it is still considered a niche feature. This feature is so new that many people are still debating if it'll actually become the future of smartphones or yet another experiment that will fail to gain traction. If you ask me, folding displays will be our future. Just think how much more useful smartphones will be if they could open up into a tablet-sized device? Or how much more convenient it'll be to store smartphones if they could be folded in half? Both of these options are possible now in 2020, and despite the expected teething issues, the future of the technology does look promising. Samsung took a gamble with the original Galaxy Note when everyone said it was "too big". Now all our phones are "big" and we can't imagine going back to 3.5" displays. I think folding phones could be the next "Galaxy Note", and I for one am excited for this next step in smartphone innovation.
Those are my favourite smartphone innovations. There are many others that I didn't mention, like water resistance, the shift to USB-C ports, wireless charging, digital assistants, modular phones, and unique input methods like Apple's 3D Touch or Google's (and HTC's) Active Edge, but maybe those would make your list?