The mobile industry is continually evolving to adapt to customer demands and preferences, but sometimes a company’s decisions can be baffling. Not everything is sunshine and roses when it comes to getting a new smartphone, either. These days designs are diverging enough that you need to keep a list of features you hold dear to determine if the newest flagship is right for you.
Here’s a peek at some of the mobile practices that we’re not ashamed to call out in 2017. But hey, we’re not all negative here either. There’s a handful of trends that we hope will continue. We’ll see if you agree with us at the end.
10. Unlimited doesn’t really mean unlimited.
T-Mobile kicked off the whole Unlimited craze yet again and while Verizon held out as long as they could, they decided to jump on the unlimited bandwagon, too. Now all four major US carriers offer some sort of unlimited plan if you’re willing to pay for it, but the problem is that unlimited doesn’t really mean unlimited.
If you read the fine print of your contract, there’s always an upper limit of data usage applied to these “unlimited” plans, no matter if you’re on a contract or you’re getting your service through an MVNO. Let’s take a look at some of the hard caps you’ll encounter on US carriers.
- T-Mobile – 30GB per month before limited speeds
- AT&T – 22GB per month before limited speeds
- Verizon – 22GB per month before limited speeds
- Sprint – 23GB per month unless on Unlimited Freedom plan
So even these so-called unlimited plans do come with some limits. It’s not hard to reach those limits either, especially if you watch a few movies via Netflix or stream music while you workout at the gym. That’s unfortunate and we hope to see carriers move toward offering higher limits or stop calling their plans unlimited when they’re restricted in other ways.
9. Devices shipping with micro USB ports in 2017.
We’ve been hearing about USB-C as the new standard in smartphones and laptops since 2015, it’s time to stop shipping devices with a micro USB port in 2017. This is especially bothersome if you’re looking at buying a companion device to your smartphone or laptop as so many Android tablet manufacturers are still including micro USB ports to charge their devices.
USB-C guys. It’s been a thing for a while now. Let’s give up on micro USB so we can all move foward. Then maybe we can tackle a replacement for the 3.5mm headphone jack that doesn’t suck.
8. Stop trying to make gold phones happen.
While Apple certainly wasn’t the first phone maker to opt for a gold finish with the iPhone 5S in 2013, they kicked off a craze that has lasted more than four years as we see smartphone after smartphone roll out with a gold color option.
I don’t want to begrudge anyone their favorite colors, but most of these smartphones look tacky. I use a OnePlus 5 as my daily driver and I readily enjoy the phone, but I couldn’t help but groan when OnePlus teased a new color was on the way. Instead of opting for something traditional like white to offset their black and more black, they went for the garish and tacky gold option. They’re not the only manufacturer with a tacky gold phone and I can’t wait for this trend to die.
7. The Snapchat Android app sucks.
It’s become almost a meme at this point when using Snapchat on Android. Snapchat’s CEO promised improvements to the Android app back in February, but also admitted that his company prioritized iOS development over Android since most of Snapchat’s users are on iOS. The app hasn’t gotten better and with Instagram Stories, it’s becoming irrelevant for most Android users.
6. Bezel-less phones are a gimmick.
Hear me out with this one. I think the Galaxy S8 is Samsung’s best phone in a long time. But I also think this trend of moving toward bezel-less phones is leaving less room to hold phones comfortably. Samsung’s Edge display looks great when you’re looking at the device, but it makes the phone more fragile for aesthetic reasons with no real benefit to the user.
I’d rather have a flat screen than an edge-to-edge screen. That’s especially true after browsing Swappa and seeing so many Galaxy S7 Edge devices listed with a green or pink line running through the display. It seems these bezel-less displays just don’t hold up as well as a flat screen would.
5. Removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack.
I feel like it’s inevitable that phones will eventually ship without a 3.5mm headphone jack. That’s progression and technology marches ever forward. However, I don’t think there’s a good solution for these in-between years where manufacturers want to cut the 3.5mm jack to save space.
USB-C hasn’t become the standard enough for USB-C earbuds to be readily available and Bluetooth audio isn’t ready for primetime. I don’t know about you, but I can always hear a crackling hiss when listening to spoken words like podcasts and audio books, so it can be extremely distracting to use Bluetooth headphones.
I don’t know what the best solution is for this problem, but I do know the 3.5mm headphone jack died too soon.
4. Not issuing timely security updates.
Every single carrier and manufacturer aside from Google’s Nexus and Pixel devices suffer from this. Some are worse than others, but so far it seems like Nokia is the only manufacturer that’s serious about supplying the monthly Android security updates on time. In fact, they even beat Google in the month of July.
For the rest, it’s a varying degree of how quickly you receive these updates. In my opinion, security updates should be rolled out monthly to your device no matter who made it or what carrier you have, but I recognize that’s a pipe dream with how fragmented Android can be at times. It’s disappointing, but a trend I hope soon falls out of favor.
Of course, not all new trends in the mobile space are negative. There are plenty that we’re happy to see moving the industry forward. Here’s three of our favorite trends we hope to see continue as technology marches on.
3. Default storage space should be 64GB.
Remember when the base storage option for most budget and midrange Android phones was 8GB? That was only a handful of years ago and it feels like the paltry 32GB that comes standard for some phones is stingy. 64GB is a comfortable medium of giving people enough space for all of their apps, music, pictures and other media.
I’m sure in a few years when 128GB is the new standard I’ll look back on this post and chuckle to myself, but the bare minimum for me to consider a handset as a daily driver is at least 64GB of onboard storage in 2017.
2. USB-C is the new standard.
As I mentioned in my beef with manufacturers launching phones with micro USB in 2015, we’ve been talking about USB-C as the new standard since 2015. It’s about time most Android manufacturers embraced that. So far most have, as all the flagships released this year feature a USB-C port for charging.
It’s not until you get to the mid-range and budget phones where you start finding the microUSB port thrown in. For manufacturers who want to get rid of the 3.5mm headphone jack without causing a huge uproar, the first step is moving toward USB-C ports.
1. Including Bluetooth battery level in Android.
This is the number one trend that has finally led to AOSP adopting the feature to become a part of Android O. Certain manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Huawei, OnePlus, and Xiaomi already includes this feature on their custom ROMs. It’s a feature you can add to any Android phone that doesn’t have it with an app called BatON.
However, the fact that it’s going to be included in AOSP builds brings us one step closer to finally being okay without the 3.5mm headphone jack.
What do you think? Are there some annoying trends in mobile that you think deserve a spot on our list? Let us know in the comments.