Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Trends I wish will stop in 2014

Nexus 5 coming on October 28th! Not.
Image: Pocket-Lint
If 2013 taught us anything about the mobile industry, it's that when someone has a good idea an idea which people perceive as good, competitors will follow. Some of these ideas really are good, like HTC's front-facing BoomSound speakers, or Motorola's near-stock skin which allows for quick updates, but for some reason, nobody else seems to be following these ideas. But other ideas, which turned into trends within the industry didn't really make much sense to me. Which is why I wish they would stop as we enter 2014, or at least be changed in a way so that they do make sense. Most of these trends are "me too" trends, where OEMs do what others are doing just so they can say "we have that too!", without actually putting much thought into their products. I hope OEMs actually think for themselves in 2014 instead of carrying on with these trends.

The "Mini" trend
As smartphones grew larger and larger (and more expensive), there was a sub-population of users who were feeling neglected - those with small hands, who just can't comfortably use larger phones (no, this isn't exclusive to iPhone users), as well as those who just couldn't afford a high-end flagship. For these users, they were largely left with only two options, either buy a small, cheap Android phone that's just not good, or buy an outdated flagship. Sure OEMs like HTC and Samsung offered "mini" versions of their flagships aimed at this demographic, which were watered down and not really mini flagships any more, but just small mid-range phones. What's worse is that they were often priced nearly as high as the flagships anyway, despite being watered down. OEMs should follow Motorola and what they did with the Moto G. A respectable, smaller than average mid-range device, that is also priced accordingly. No more "mini" flagships. Give the mid-range consumers a proper device that they can enjoy using.
The Moto G upstages every other "mid-range" device.
The "Maxx/Ultra" trend
Ever since the original Galaxy Note, larger than usual phones have become more and more commonplace in the market. Flagships are now approaching the size of the original Note (5.3"), and some devices have even gone beyond that already. The G2 is a 5.2" flagship, the Oppo N1 is a monstrous 6" device, as is the HTC One Maxx, and lets not get started on the 6.4" Xperia Z Ultra. Some devices for 2014 have already been leaked or teased, which include a 5.25" Galaxy S5, a 5.5" Find 7, and possibly a 5.5" G3 as well. I can't stress enough how much I hope someone will stick to a 5" display in 2014. I dread a future where all flagships will be two-handed devices.

The "phablet" trend
Most people think of phablets as devices that are larger than average smartphones, but smaller than tablets. But as we've seen in my previous point, the line between phone, phablet and tablet is slowly fading away. Luckily though (or not so much) in 2013 we also got a new "breed" of phablets - tablets with voice calling capabilities. I don't like em.
Looks ridiculous. Image: CNET
The "lets report every rumour!" trend
Now I'm not saying I hate rumours, some of the ones from reliable sources are actually pretty fun to follow. But that's the caveat - they need to be from reliable sources, otherwise it's just a load of rubbish that some people think amounts to "journalism". Remember how prior to the Nexus 5 launch, everyone was getting all Da Vinci code and were trying to decipher the "clues" left behind by +KIT KAT about the launch date of the Nexus 5 (refer to the image in my introduction)? That is the perfect example of how ridiculous some "journalists" can get when it comes to rumours. It needs to stop in 2014. No journalism is better than crap journalism.

The "let's make our skin do this, just to be different!" trend
OEMs skin their Android devices to stand out. That's understandable. But there's standing out by being different, and standing out by being useful. Unfortunately, most OEMs do things differently just to be different, rather than useful. HTC Sense 5 is a perfect example of this. It's a fluid skin, looks OK, but the changes HTC made from stock Android just to be different are not very useful. In fact, they might even be seen as damaging to the user experience. The same can be said of the G2's notification shade. It's such a big no. OEMs, your skins can be different, but make sure they are useful at the same time. Or, learn from Motorola and don't be different, but just useful.


I'm pretty sure none of these will stop in 2014. We will continue to get larger flagships, with crappier mid-range alternatives, the rumour mill will be as it always has been and OEMs will obstinately stick to their skins as they are. But hey, one can dream.

What trends do you wish will stop in 2014?