Exploring Innovation in Smartphones

 Case Study: LG G2

phone-LG-G2.jpg

As an avid Android user from the early days, I’ve watched and experienced it grow from an immature OS to an innovative eco-system that delivers on everything it promised and more. On the hardware front, users and industry experts have always cribbed about the issue of ‘fragmentation’. On the software side, manufacturers loaded Android with bloated apps and ugly skins. They did little or no innovation on the hardware front except chasing processor speeds and pixel density. I’m happy to see that this trend is changing. Let’s consider the LG G2 for instance. LG has successfully churned out two Nexus flagship phones for Google consecutively. The G2 is an interesting case study to prove my point of innovation.

 KnockON

Something that many would assume existed on every phone once they get used to the convenience of waking your phone up by tapping on the screen instead of toggling the power switch everytime. I know how much I love this function. On my Nexus 4, I had to unlock, root and install a custom ROM and flash a custom kernel that would allow me to use a similar function. An average or rather less adventurous user would never have experienced the sheer simplicity and convenience of this formless function if LG hadn’t dropped it in their latest flagship for all to experience. Knock on…

 Guest Mode

No, it’s not ghost mode, though that would be really trippy! Imagine being Mr. India - one click of the button and you’re invisible like a ghost! Well, sorry to disappoint but then again the ‘Guest Mode’ might just be more functional. Everytime I hand my phone over to someone to make a call or write down a number, I hate the fact that everything from my contacts to my private messages is out there. The Guest Mode makes it easy to use and panders to the security conscious side of me. Separate lock gestures allows a regular guest like a member of the family to use my phone without accessing my more private material. This form of selective accounts and access has always been possible on personal computers. Why did it take so long to reach smartphones? Sometimes innovation is not on the horizon, but is right at our fingertips.

 Rear Key

Sounds kinky? Huahaha.. no really. This is truly innovative engineering at it’s best to counter a problem that invited as much ire as debate. The growing screen sizes of phones have led to usability issues for single handed use. Instead of running back to tiny screen sizes, LG made it more ergonomic to use by adding a rear key that can be used to bolster the functionality with one hand while still retaining that lovely large screen space. Once you get used to it, it will leave you wondering how you ever managed without it. For me, it’s a game changer since I often wondered what a waste the rear of the phone was in terms of user experience. Now, my use of a smartphone seems multi-dimensional by just the addition of a simple key. If opposable thumbs spearheaded the touchscreen smartphone revolution, I’m curious to see how the index finger takes it to the next step.

 Camera

Dual Recording, Dual Cameras lets me activate both the front and rear cameras simultaneously. This feature works with both the camera and video camera, using PiP (picture-in-picture) technology to put your face in any photo or video you’re shooting. This reminds me of the early Television sets in my childhood that flaunted this feature (PiP not dual camera recording).
The Tracking Zoom allows me to focus in on my favorite subject, without losing track of the big picture. It also lets me create unique videos with a picture-in-picture frame that highlights my selected subject’s movements, while keeping the rest of the scene in view. This feature zooms in on the selected moving subject and tracks their actions in a separate pane overlapping the background video.
Zoom to Track lets me selectively zoom in on a subject during playback. Simply select a moving object on your screen while watching a video, and Zoom to Track zooms in and tracks it throughout the clip - even after the video has been recorded!

All of these are not ground breaking in a major way, but add so much value to the experience of shooting and viewing images on a smartphone that it leaves me spoilt for choice.

 Knicks & Knacks

Capture Plus lets me take a screen shot of a full scrollable web page, with precise border controls. The Clip Tray stores pictures, text, and links to reference later. This has been like a boon when I think of the many times when I scribble notes to and fro, copy numbers from multiple sources to a single outlet, jot directions or dump freshly baked images. It lets me copy and store multiple items in a slide-up clipboard at the bottom of the display, creating a visual collection of information. I can add items, and selectively choose which ones to include in an email, post, document, or text message.

I’m very happy that manufacturers are taking innovation seriously and exploring options that might sound quirky at first glance, but before you know it, you’ll be left wondering how you ever lived without them. Here’s to inspiring innovation.

 
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