Sunday, 15 November 2009

Redundant Features in Mobile Phones

Have you ever come across a feature in your mobile phone and wondered why its creator thought of something so useless that most people would hardly care about? We sure have felt like that about certain features and today we bring you a list of such features that we think nobody would ever want/need and would care less if it was removed from their phones.

Massive User Manuals/Software CDs
What do you see when you open the box of your brand new phone? Well, the phone of course, but other than the phone and its accessories lies a huge bundle of user manuals, some of them so thick that the user may not give it a second look.

Some of us do read them, but just once or perhaps twice and after that they are made to serve a life sentence inside the phone's box, never to see the light of day again. So what is the point of chopping all those trees and making these manuals if they are hardly going to be used?

Manufacturers should realized this by now and provide only a small quick start guide and provide the rest in the form of a PDF, either on the company website or on the phone's memory itself. Apple, for example, does this. However, the rest of them provide enough manuals in one box to make you wonder how many forests were cleared to make them!  The same goes for software CDs that you get with the phones. They would hardly ever get used more than once, after which they just contribute to the e-waste of our planet. Can't the software just be provided on the memory of the phone itself, so that when you connect the phone to the PC, the software will be installed automatically?

Proprietary ports
Standards such as miniUSB or microUSB have been available for quite sometime. For audio there is the 3.5mm jack. Yet manufacturers think it is a brilliant idea to provide proprietary ports, which restricts a user to cables and accessories that are exclusive to the device instead of just plugging in any old USB cable or headphones and getting the job done with minimum fuss. Nokia had been pushing its Pop-Port for quite sometime, until they eventually saw the light and adopted microUSB and 3.5mm audio jack a while back. Samsung is following suit. Sony Ericsson, LG and others are still in the dark in this respect.

Mini QWERTY keypads
 QWERTY keypads on mobile phones are miniaturized versions of the full QWERTY keyboards that we use with our computers. They are smaller and hence take a while to get used to. The keys are smaller than standard phone keypads but since you have to press one key for one character, it is preferred over the standard T9 keypads. But then somebody goes ahead and creates this: 

I fail to see the logic here. Why take something that is already so small that if made any smaller would become unusable, and then reduce it in half? If you cannot design a phone wide enough to fit a full QWERTY keypad in, why not just accept defeat and fit a standard T9 keypad, which works pretty well and is definitely better than the mini QWERTY thing? Makes no sense.

Self Portrait Mirrors 

Unless you live on a deserted island with no one around to click your pictures or just too proud to ask someone else to do it for you, you would never need this. Trust me.


Digital Zoom
I think we have said time and again that digital zoom is the poor, retarded and handicapped sibling of optical zoom and if you want to zoom, optical is the way to go. Yet mobile phone manufacturers think it is necessary to provide this useless, good-for-nothing image degrading feature in their phones. And if it wasn't crazy enough, they go ahead and boast of its presence, even bragging about the insane number of time you can ruin your picture (2X, 4X, 10 BillionX, etc).

Excessive Number of Features in Cameras 
Mobile phone photography is about point and shoot ability. It is for those times when you wouldn't be carrying your camera but wished you did. It is not supposed to have any settings beyond taking a picture and perhaps turn off when you are done. But these days mobile phone cameras have so many features that had the inventor of cameras still been alive today, he'd have a heart attack just counting them!

Apart from the standard features, there are more complex features along with the fancy stuff like face detection, smile detection, blink detection, what-the-person-had-for-breakfast detection and what not! The thing is most people hardly use these features, even if they might brag about it when they buy the phone. Remove them from their phones and they probably won't even notice it. So what is the point of adding unnecessary features and making it more complicated when there are dedicated cameras available to do that?   

100000000000000000 Megapixels camera

3 Megapixels is more than enough for anyone in a mobile phone camera. We don't need more megapixels than we know what to do with. Try improving the image quality instead for a change.

Handwriting Recognition 
A quick quiz: count the number of people you know including yourself who own a touchscreen phone and use handwriting recognition for inputting text. Chances are you haven't gone beyond the fingers of one of your hands. Except for the East Asian countries, where characters are easier drawn than typed, the rest of the world prefers to type in the words instead of writing them on the screen.

Although the idea seems very good on paper, there is a world of difference between writing with a pen or pencil on a rough surface of paper and writing with a stylus on the slippery surface of a touchscreen. The lack of friction makes even a person with the neatest handwriting write illegibly. Add to it that most handwriting software require you to draw the characters with the utmost precision, and you end up with something that you use just once after buying the phone and then stick to the on-screen keypad for future text input.

Front Video Call Cameras
Few people in the world are known to have made a video call using this feature. Fewer still in India, considering the appalling 3G coverage in our country. It is just another useless thing that manufacturers make us pay for.

Holes for Lanyard
This one isn't a big deal since even if we don't use the lanyard on our phones the holes just hide somewhere in the corner and barely bother anyone. But what I find amusing is holes for lanyard on phones that weigh as much as a small dog. Do manufacturers really think we'll carry those things around our necks?

We all cried foul when we came to know that the iPhone did not have MMS support at the time of its launch. But did anyone stop and think how many of us actually use that feature? Think about this. One MMS costs me five rupees on an Airtel connection. I can add only limited amount of content to an MMS and there is a size restriction. Why wouldn't I just send an email that does not cost anything and allows me to add any amount of data to it? Most phones these days support email and if you have a data connection on your phone to send an MMS, then you can send an email as well. I suppose phone manufacturers understand this as well, so why do they still peddle this outdated technology? 

Low Quality Headphones 
This one falls in the shameful category. It is really sad to see manufacturers who tout the music playback capabilities of their phones provide such low cost, low quality headsets with their phones. It is only Sony Ericsson that has consistently given good quality headsets with their music phones.

Of late even Nokia has started including some good quality stuff with some of their phones. Rest all supply those nasty Made in China crap that you wouldn't even give your kids to listen to, leave alone use yourself. What this means is that if you care about audio quality, you most certainly would need to spend on an additional pair of earphones/headphones.