To many, smartphones may seem like they haven’t changed much in recent years. But the endless innovation made by tech’s biggest players, and the upstart companies they regularly snap up, means that this year is set to see a raft of exciting new tweaks to the devices we can’t get enough of.
Whether it’s improvements to security, how we take pictures or the way we listen to music, these are the innovations to look out for when you’re weighing up your next smartphone.
1) Improved facial recognition
Facial recognition isn’t new. But it’s only recently become part of the smartphone conversation, thanks to its inclusion in Samsung’s recently released Galaxy S8 and S8+. Both phones utilise 2D scanning, which works well enough, but has been found to be easy to trick by simply using a photo of someone rather than their face.
Apple’s forthcoming iPhone 8 is said to take things further, offering 3D facial mapping that is much harder to hack. LG is said to have built a special plant to make the tech on Apple’s behalf.
2) In–screen fingerprint scanning
Fingerprint scanners are now a core offer in pretty much every smartphone, from budget devices to wallet–busting phablets. And while LG and Samsung have moved the button which maps fingerprints from the bottom of their device to the back, the next big move is focused on building the fingerprint scanner into the smartphone’s screen. This means were buttons and more display.
Samsung is said to be leading the charge with its Galaxy Note 8, due out in September. Apple is also thought to be mulling the same tech for the iPhone 8, although some say it’s had trouble making it work.
3) Vertical dual lens cameras
Dual lens cameras are now the ultimate in smartphone imaging, thanks in no small part to the iPhone 7 Plus. While this tech is sticking around, most obviously in the aforementioned Galaxy Note 8 and iPhone 8, mobile makers are looking to install the lenses vertically. Why? Virtual Reality.
VR requires dual lenses to be horizontal when fitted into a headset. Samsung already has its Gear VR headset, which a vertical dual lens camera would work perfectly with. Now it seems Apple might also offer its own VR gadget to work with the iPhone 8.
4) All screen design
Much has been made of the Galaxy S8’s bezel-free design. And clearly this is just the start of a wider trend. With fingerprint scanners being shifted, there’s scope to make screens cover the entire front of the phone.
Expect to see it in the iPhone 8, Google’s Pixel 2 and other devices released towards the end of the year.
5) Wireless audio
It seems that Apple’s decision to ditch the 3.5mm headphone slot with the iPhone 7 is catching on. HTC has already done the same with its U11 and the Google Pixel 2 is likely to follow suit.
In fact, Google is working with Sony to offer improved wireless audio through its next Android update, meaning smartphone makers are likely to start offering Bluetooth earbuds rather than standard wired ones.
Many will baulk, but fewer holes on a smartphone means less chance for damage. Plus, wireless audio is improving greatly, meaning the switch shouldn’t be too painful.