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Five technologies to look for in your next smartphone

Date

Jenneth Orantia

Which features do you really need in a smartphone and which ones can you do without?

Beefy ... the 1.5GHz Tegra 3 quad-core chip, as found in the HTC One X.

Beefy ... the 1.5GHz Tegra 3 quad-core chip, as found in the HTC One X.

Thinking of upgrading your phone this year? A lot has changed since you last went looking. Besides the obvious of having a new set of handsets to choose from, many of the technologies in the smartphones themselves have undergone radical transformations.

These aren't just your run-of-the-mill, incremental updates that you can count on with every device refresh (although there's plenty of that there too) - these are next-gen technologies that can potentially change the way you use your smartphone.

The question is, which features do you really need and which ones can you do without? Here's a primer on the top five technologies that you can expect in the latest high-end handsets.

1. Quad-core processors

This just in from the "blow your mind" file: your next smartphone could have more processor cores than your existing desktop PC or notebook. Quad-core processors have finally landed on smartphones, and the recently-released HTC One X is leading the charge with its muscly 1.5GHz Tegra 3 quad-core chip.

Can you do without the four cores on your next mobile? Almost definitely. While the move from single- to dual-core translated to significantly faster performance all-round, the benefits of quad-core can only be seen on a handful of games that have been specifically designed for it, and while you're playing Full HD videos.

2. 720p resolution

Performance isn't the only area where smartphones are leap-frogging ahead. The display on your next smartphone could also pack more pixels than the screen on your desktop or notebook LCD monitor, resulting in print-like text and photos that are dripping in detail.

The Apple iPhone 4 got the ball rolling with its Retina Display two years ago, and the rest of the smartphone manufacturers have finally caught up, with Samsung, Sony and HTC all offering smartphones with 1280 x 720-pixel or higher displays.

Screens with 720p resolution aren't a must-have, but given you're staring at the smartphone display for nearly the entire time you're using it, it's one of the few upgrades that you'll really notice on a day-to-day basis.

3. 4.5" and larger displays

There's only so much you can cram onto a smartphone screen before you go cross-eyed trying to process it all. So why not bump it up to something larger? A bigger screen size makes typing, web browsing, reading, and almost everything else easier, although you'll also have to deal with a bigger form factor as a result.

Samsung broke the mold earlier this year with the 5.3" Galaxy Note, and there'll be a lot more smartphones coming out this year with 4.3", 4.5" and 4.7" displays, typically with qHD or 720p resolutions to fill out all the extra screen space.

4. 4G

Want faster-than-broadband speeds on your next smartphone? 4G can give it to you. While you can expect speeds of anywhere between 50kbps to 3Mbps with 3G, depending on your carrier and other network variables, 4G can go as fast as 40Mbps in real-world conditions.

But there's a catch. If you want 4G right now, you can pick from any carrier you want, as long as it's Telstra, and you'll only get the benefit of 4G speeds if you happen to live near capital city CBD or in certain regional areas. Optus is expected to launch its 4G network in Newcastle sometime in April, with rollouts in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth mid-year, while Vodafone has yet to commit to a timeline.

5. NFC

NFC, short for near field communication, is finding its way into more smartphones this year. While you can't make payments from NFC-equipped smartphones in Australia just yet (the relevant players are still getting their ducks in a row), there are other fun things you can do with NFC that involves wirelessly exchanging information between two devices.

The Nokia N9 lets you divert music playback to compatible speakers simply by touching the two together, while the Sony Xperia S lets you change a bunch of settings and perform tasks (like send a text message or load a particular music playlist) when you tap it on a bundled 'SmartTag'. Google has also built an 'Android Beam' feature into the latest version of its operating system that lets NFC-equipped Android smartphones share web pages, contacts and other information when you hold them close to each other.

85 comments

  • This has missed the most important feature that I would like to see - long battery life. I would love to leave my Wifi/GPS etc on and have my smartphone last 3-4 days rather than 18 hours.

    Commenter
    Interesting but
    Date and time
    April 18, 2012, 10:14AM
    • No phones offer long battery life... that's probably why it's not mentioned here!! :)

      Commenter
      HighlyDubious - Android Fanboy.
      Location
      http://bassfreqs.com
      Date and time
      April 18, 2012, 11:07AM
    • I won't go near a phone if I can't swap the battery or, for that matter, upgrade the memory

      Commenter
      Nicolas
      Date and time
      April 18, 2012, 11:50AM
    • Why do you wanna have wifi & gps turned on all the time? I only turn it on when I need it. And my phone can last 4 days.

      Commenter
      Snake
      Location
      syd
      Date and time
      April 18, 2012, 12:04PM
    • Get a Nokia 6510

      Commenter
      Kel
      Date and time
      April 18, 2012, 12:29PM
    • That's easy. Buy a dumb "feature" phone -- great battery life. If you can still find one.

      Commenter
      T.
      Date and time
      April 18, 2012, 12:58PM
    • You will not find a smartphone with long life battery. The high resolution screens these days chew too much battery. If you want long battery life get a crappy LCD screen mobile.

      Commenter
      Peter
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      April 18, 2012, 1:15PM
    • I agree with your comments - technological advancement of batteries has not kept up with those of smart phones to the point where the smart phone is becoming a nuisance because you cant keep the damns things powered without a constant power supply.

      Commenter
      Axeman
      Date and time
      April 18, 2012, 1:22PM
    • Agree,

      It amazes me that the marketting boffins haven't figured out that the next killer app would be decent (2 days?) battery life.

      Instead all the players keep doing three things: Make the unit slimmer (saw a serious review recently that called a 11mm phone thickness "uninspiring" compared to a 9mm one). Make the phone faster. Make the screen denser and brighter.

      All seem to swallow up any battery improvements and more often than not go backwards.

      Here's an idea for the Galaxy S3 - leave it all the same except put in a better bigger battery!

      Commenter
      Peter
      Location
      Oz
      Date and time
      April 18, 2012, 1:41PM
    • That's not really possible right now

      Commenter
      NK
      Date and time
      April 18, 2012, 1:47PM

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