When the biggest problem with new smartphones is they’re so good they’re boring, it might seem petty to complain about any of their minor shortcomings. But we need to remember complaining is how you encourage companies to make better products and services. When you look at it from that angle, it’s clear complaining is one of the best ways to keep the tech world churning out better products year after year. To that end, why don’t we take a look at some of the terrible trends in smartphones to see how phone companies could improve them with a little effort.
1. Eliminating headphone jacks
We can all probably agree wireless is better than wired for most — or possibly even all — tech products. So I can see why Apple (and probably Samsung) are driving us toward that future by removing headphone jacks from their phones. But right now, wireless headphones means using Bluetooth technology, which isn’t exactly great.
There are other downsides to ditching headphone jacks as well, like making it less convenient for customers to use their existing headphones, some of which are quite expensive. Also, with the iPhone 7, you can’t use the phone while using wired headphones (without buying a special dongle, anyway), which is certainly inconvenient.
Tech companies will eliminate all wires they can eventually, but perhaps they should keep wired headphones around for a little while longer.
2. Prizing thinness over battery life
For many smartphone owners, the biggest pain point is battery life. Maybe it started out fine when you first bought it, but lately you can’t seem to get through half a day without plugging it in. Or maybe it’s been draining to zero by dinnertime ever since you bought it.
You know why phone batteries drain so quickly? Because they’re not big enough. We all love having thin phones we can slip into our pockets or toss into bags, but that thinness comes at a price. Perhaps more phone makers should suck it up and design phones thick enough to contain batteries that let us get through a whole day on a single charge.
3. Predatory game design
There are loads of excellent mobile games you can play for next to nothing. Then again, app stores are also filled with mobile games you can play for free — and that’s often a problem. Because nothing’s really free, is it? All too often, free-to-play games are designed to string players endlessly along, squeezing money out of them the entire time.
Take Candy Crush Saga, an enormously successful game that starts out easy enough to get players hooked. Soon, levels become so hard that it’s almost impossible to complete them without using power-ups. You get a handful of powers for free, but soon you’ll run out. If you want to keep playing, you basically have to keep buying power-ups. Unless you have the willpower to quit before that point, you could run up quite a bill.
Not all free-to-play games are built on predatory practices like that, but far too many are.
4. App subscriptions
I realize app makers need to eat, but when apps like Microsoft Office ditch the “pay once and it’s yours” model and start charging users by the month, it starts to feel somewhat exploitive. The idea, from Microsoft’s perspective, is the company will continually add new features, making Office a platform that’s constantly being improved.
That’s all well and good, but most users just need to type up a few documents once in a while. Why do we have to keep funneling money into Microsoft for new features we’ll probably never even use?
5. Too many apps
Mobile app stores are crammed with millions of apps, the vast majority of which are complete garbage. With an endless landfill to wade through when you’re searching for an app, it can be tough to find the few good ones you’d actually want to use.
Complaining about having too many options might seem whiny and entitled, but it is a real problem. App stores have been struggling with curation ever since they opened up shop, but they still have a long way to go if they want to solve the problem. I don’t know what the solution is, but it’s not my problem to figure out.