The same two flaws that every ‘premium’ or not premium smartphone has

Remember when Samsung wouldn’t quit making Polycarbonate toys in the name of smartphones? And how everyone was crying about how cheap and ugly the Samsungs looked? “Oh Samsung is just a cheap toy manufacturer. People expect a premium smartphone when they pay so much for it” I heard people complain.

Well Samsung made the switch finally with the Galaxy S6 and the flagship lineup of Samsung is today one of the most beautiful smartphones to look at. Premium quality glass on both sides, but most of the times covered by a plastic case. The irony.

The fact is today’s high-end smartphones are incredibly well-designed, sleek electronic devices — except for the fact that they require a companion accessory to safely survive day-to-day living with their human owners. It’s a weird conceit, and one that we’ve all grown to accept.

I think the whole existence of the case industry highlights the fact that modern smartphones have two basic problems. And as phones get larger and more sophisticated, those flaws seem to be getting worse, not better.

Flaw 1: Smartphones just aren’t durable enough

Look around next time you’re in an airport, on a train, or at a McDonald’s. I bet almost everyone in your field of vision has a case on his or her phone.

Of course, there’s a class of confident souls who carry their phones naked, sans case. I happen to be one of them. I hate cases. I don’t like hiding the beautiful phone I paid so much for behin plastic. Many never have a problem, I also happen to be among this lucky group. Not that I don’t drop my devices, Oh I sure have made a habit out of it. Others aren’t so lucky, as evidenced by the number of people I see riding the Mumbai local using case-less phones with cracked screens.

Imagine a small 5 foot man is talking on the phone and he happens to by his own mistake, drop his iPhone or his Galaxy S7. It falls flat on its screen, also by chance. It is very unlikely any of the smartphones today will remain unharmed by the fall. Most likely there will be multiple cracks on the screen. Thankfully, Corning’s new Gorilla Glass 5 is meant to survive epic smartphone drops but it wouldn’t be making its way to the market anytime soon. Sure it was the man’s fault that he dropped it, but why shouldn’t it survive a 5-foot fall onto concrete, let alone a 4-foot fall onto a gymnasium floor that a butterfingered friend of mine experienced recently (the screen shattered).

Cars have bumpers on them. Smartphones don’t. Which is why we put our own bumpers on them. And screen covers. Both cottage industries are flourishing.

Compare that to 10 or 15 years ago — I bet your old flip phone or old-school BlackBerry could take a beating and come back for more..

Insurance is an option. But who wants to pay even more money for a phone that already costs too much to begin with. Unless Apple has you convinced. So a case seems like the most cost-effective protection solution, and if it helps keep your device in pristine condition, you might get more money for it on eBay or a trade-in down the road when you buy your next $750 phone.

Speaking of pristine, the other problem with today’s smartphones is that the sleeker they are, the worse they look with any sort of blemish. Drop your iPhone 6s or 6s Plus the right way and you may just end up with a dented corner because metal dents, it doesn’t break. But there’s no body shop to take your iPhone to. The dent stays. Some can live with it. Others decide to hide it with a case.

A handful of more rugged phones exist, including those in Samsung’s Galaxy Active line . And Samsung’s standard Galaxy S7 could withstand a full dunk underwater, a feature the company decided to leave off the S6 and S6 Edge. However, a lot of these “tough” models are only marginally more rugged than their non-rugged siblings (and to be clear, Samsung doesn’t describe its Active line as “rugged”).

Who knows what we can expect from the future? Apple’s rumored Sapphire-screen iPhone didn’t materialize (yet), but Corning is launching its new Gorilla Glass. Whether it will be truly unbreakable or not under normal wear and tear is anybody’s guess untill it comes out in the market.

Flaw 2: Lackluster battery life

The typical high-end smartphone is supposed to have enough battery life to get you through a full day — at least with moderate use. But over time a lot of people find their phones want to take a siesta by mid afternoon. I have written about the current state of the smartphone battery before.

Perhaps the biggest frustration is that battery life actually seems to be getting worse, not better, with successive generations. As smartphones get superfast processors, ultra-high-res screens and app multitasking, manufacturers are struggling to maintain power efficiency.

The Geniuses at your local Apple Bar sometimes chalk that up to human error. Battery life can be reduced by the way ‘you’ operate your phone. Some people are able to run it more efficiently than others. There are apps you can turn off, settings to tweak, tricks you can learn.

And that’s not the only battery suck. Introduce streaming video, gaming or excessive camera use, and you might not even last a few hours. Which leaves you with a few choices: charge your phone the old-fashioned way (use a wall charger); charge it with an external battery option; or keep your phone in a battery case that gives you extra juice on demand, in many cases doubling the battery life you’d normally get.

iphone-6-fre-power-case-WG1.jpg

For those who use a Mophie or any number of other battery cases, I don’t have to tell you that these accessories start at around $80 and go up from there. But at least you’re killing two flaws with one case.

And if you really want to take it to the next level, you can buy a waterproof case with a built-in battery. Both Mophie and Lifeproof have such cases arriving this month for the iPhone 6; the ultimate premium cases for the ultimate premium phones.

Where “premium phone” means a device that can’t survive a sidewalk fall, and can’t last more than a day on a charge.

I am sure many of you have the same concerns regarding the battery life or the durability, and also many will disagree. I would like to know your opinions. Sharing knowledge is never a bad thing is it?

 

2 thoughts on “The same two flaws that every ‘premium’ or not premium smartphone has

  1. Sadly true, wireless charging you can’t use with case. Nfc I’ve never used. Payment systems without places to use them. I could go on and on. Still you’ll have to pry it from my cold dead hand.

    Like

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