3D screens? That's not what we want from our smartphones

3D screens? That's not what we want from our smartphones

Summary: New research explores what consumers actually want in a new gadget, and the results might surprise you.

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In a congested smartphone market full of tech giants trying to beat rivals and entice consumers with biometric scanners, flexible and curving screens, advanced camera technology and security bolt-ons, you'd think users are a demanding lot. However, new research suggests otherwise -- and handset makers would be wise to go back to the basics.

A new survey conducted by uSwitch suggests that while smartphone services and features are evolving at a rapid pace, British consumers, at least, miss the basic forms and functions which make a handset simple to use, fun and most importantly, connect well.

Through research conducted online among pay-monthly consumers, uSwitch found that most subscribers are concerned about the basics when making purchase decisions. When asked what smartphone owners care most about in a handset, 29 percent were interested in a smartphone's ease of use, 19 percent wanted batteries to last well, and 19 percent were focused on call reception. Only three percent decided quirky or unique features mattered the most.

According to smartphone users surveyed, long battery life would make 89 percent of them more likely to buy a smartphone, while a waterproof body would sway two-thirds -- 67 percent in total -- and a zoom camera lens would make 66 percent of subscribers consider a new phone.

However, when it comes to quirky and unusual features, uSwitch says that the British are a "sceptical crowd, not easily swayed by gimmicks," and to back up this statement, 75 percent of respondents said features such as eye-tracking technology -- seen on the Samsung Galaxy S5 -- would not change their purchasing decisions. In addition, 69 percent said they wouldn't be lured by voice-activated assistants, such as Apple's Siri, and 62 percent aren't interested in 3D graphics, showcased at the launch of Amazon's Fire Phone.

After being asked the question, "If you were choosing a new smartphone, which of the following features would make you more likely to buy it?," the responses from users are below:

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 11.45.12

Of those that do have interesting and new features on their devices, 66 percent said they never use eye-tracking technology, and 55 percent never use voice-activated features. In addition, almost a third of those with a fingerprint scanner never use it, and instead stick to PIN codes, swipes or nothing at all.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 11.47.39

According to the research, almost one in eight -- 13 percent -- of Brits do not own a smartphone, and instead cling to feature phones. When asked why, almost half -- 47 percent -- said they simply didn't feel that they needed a smartphone, while almost one in three were put off by the cost of switching. The over 65s are most likely to stick to feature phones, with almost a third -- 32 percent -- not owning a smartphone. In total, 60 percent stated they have no need for a Web-connected device.

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch.com commented:

"It's becoming increasingly hard for smartphone makers to differentiate their handsets from those of their rivals. They hope that flash features like Fingerprint ID on the iPhone 5S, or Amazon’s Fire Phone and its ‘Dynamic Perspective’ display, will give their phones the edge. However, our research shows that many Brits can spot a gimmick from a mile away. It’s actually the basics that affect the everyday user experience -- like long battery life and a robust design -- that people really care about."

Topics: Mobility, Smartphones, Tablets

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15 comments
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  • its not just those in the UK that

    miss the basic forms and functions which make a handset simple to use, fun and most importantly, connect well.

    Damn, I shoulda known better... I thought I was the only one :-)
    greywolf7
  • From the tables shown...

    ... it appears that the top three things people want to see in their next phone are longer battery life, a waterproof body, and a zoom camera lens. Looking at the usage table, it appears that nearly everyone (99%) uses the camera. It seems to me that some phone manufacturers are focused on all of the wrong things (Apple, in particular.) I have to say, I agree completely with these survey results. I don't want to see thinner, lighter, and faster in the next iPhone. I would much prefer to see a better camera, longer battery life, and a waterproof body. In fact, my only other request would be more internal storage, but I realize I'm in the minority on that one.
    BillDem
    • Both

      I would like to see all of those, and expect to. The zoom lens on the camera being the least likely to show up. Waterproof body is of no value to me, as I avoid getting wet, but I can see how younger users might really find that a valuable feature. All of us could probably use a longer battery life at least on some days. I do expect some improvements to both the hardware and software for the camera in the next iPhone.
      rphunter1242
  • Ease of Use

    Splendid conclusion and, yes, I am inclined to agree with greywolf7 that this is true in other regions as well.

    Enter Nokia Lumia Windows Phone 8...

    But the sales people do not seem to give it equal prominence (and before we get the flak let us remember that WP8 has an 8 - 11% market share in a major European countries).

    A US-based contributor to these forums recounted his experience thereof a few months ago. I witnessed it a fortnight ago in a large electronics store (part of the large Media Markt Saturn chain) in a western German town.

    A man in his fifties or maybe early sixties had come in, stating he was looking for a new phone. He was a satisfied user of Nokia (feature) phones for many years and needed something simple to make calls and send messages. He had Microsoft on his computer and wanted a bit of integration.
    He clearly stated he did not need fancy apps and seemed very sceptical about moving to a smartphone anyway.

    The salesman (after correctly asking the customer about his needs) gave him the spiel about smartphones and market shares. Early he pointed to a Lumia 510, with the out-of-date WP 7.8. As this was right by where I was standing I intervened (after getting over my surprise at seeing this old handset being on sale) and mentioned it was out of date and that WP8 was current.

    The salesman agreed but did not make a point of showing the customer WP8. Indeed, he said it was a platform without a future because 18 000 Nokia employees had just been fired. Aside from the inaccuracy of the number it was also not very relevant for a device being bought now by someone who clearly was not a geek.

    As far as I could make out the salesman persuaded the customer to buy a not very expensive Android phone.

    I don't suppose it was a bad decision (though who knows whether the Android version was the current one) but under the circumstances I think that the salesman should have done a fair comparison of WP8 and Android.

    I though about having a quiet word with the customer but in the end I decided against it. I don't work for MS and he was a stranger... (though be giving him better advice I might have made a new friend...).
    DAS01
    • A 30+ MegaPixel camera

      WITHOUT extra storage = less pictures you can take and hold on the phone. IOW MORE STORAGE must come with a higher-res camera.
      Roger Ramjet
  • What I would like.

    I have a Windows Phone and I enjoy it but if I could design my own phone it would be like this. The classic brick style feature phone (best mobile phone I ever owned was a Nokia 3310) with the addition of a wireless hotspot so that I can tether a tablet to it when I desire. If somebody were to market this I imagine it would sell like hotcakes. Most of us today have a mobile panoply of a phone, laptop and/or tablet. I carry a Microsoft Surface Pro. I much prefer to use the larger screen for email and even apps to those on the phone. The phone duplicates pretty much everything but offers that continuous temptation that, even when driving, tries to suck you into checking that most recent email. I would rather dump the fragile glass screen of the phone and be forced to use the tablet when I want things that should be displayed using some type of video display. A truly good design would allow light-weight push that advises of new emails and such without burning through a bunch of data. This could easily be accomplished by permanent tethering of the tablet/laptop to the phone using BLE or similar technology.
    The Heretic
    • WiFi hotspot

      Herectic, am a bit unclear why you need a WiFi hotspot the way you have described/

      Just get a tablet with a SIM card drawer or slot.
      DAS01
  • Readable screen in sunlight

    I want a smartphone and a laptop with a readble screen in sunlight, a kind of e-ink display with fast refresh rate.
    Rub2014
    • Great point. Does anyone else remember e-ink?

      Back when Kindle's were new, there was talk of color e-ink being the killer hardware, but phone evolution went a different way. The main culprit for battery-draining in a smartphone is the screen. E-ink uses infinitesimal amounts of power, and a battery charge would probably last for a week in one of today's smart phones with their current apps and processors.

      As an added bonus, bright light makes e-ink more, not less, legible.

      I wonder if anyone is working on developing a fast-refresh and high resolution color e-ink?
      YepThatsMe
  • How about

    removable/upgradable batteries and storage?
    Roger Ramjet
  • My Number 1 request?

    the ability to disable, or even just flat out remove the junk that they pile on the new phones. I have disabled a ton of stuff on my phone, and would love to remove even more.. some you can disable, some you can even remove, but a lot you cannot do anything with unless you root the thing.. and risk bricking it. I should not have to do that to shut off a feature I do not want, and probably never will want.
    Putertechn
    • Junk on phone

      Putertechn, go for Windows Phone 8... no junk and the stuff you don't want is easily deleted...

      :-)
      DAS01
  • Smart phones are not much use as you get older!

    Clearly phone designers have never watched an older person try to use a touch screen phone!

    First they often lack simplicity, then the user cannot read the small text and with less dextrous fingers keep hitting wrong keys...

    Huge market for the one who abandons the youth market and goes for us oldies, we love out ancient Phones with buttons but would like something a bit less 20th century...
    dumb blonde
  • communication or entertainment?

    I have good battery life, great reception while others in my office take their droid or fruit outside to make and receive calls, i happily keep chatting. I can multitask and check my email and other task at the same time. Battery is removable and can swap for larger capacity, i have 86GB of storage and the phone is not loaded with junk apps. It has the highest security rating and due to NSA snoops is the preferred phone for most German and Indonesian Government officials, and even the USA President. It is stable, fast, and on a number of tests is the phone that gets tasks done the quickest and most efficiently. My team have trialed all the major OS types, IOS, Android, W7 and W8, and the top 2 operating systems for a business phone (helps you earn MORE money) and still useful as a games system. were the Palm (killed by HP's incompetence) and RIM, yes the BlackBerry. the Z10 and Z30 are the phones that just work and the users we issue them to end up getting one for their partner. But understand our tests were comprehensive in task management, reliability, with good RF over 4 weeks for each platform in real work situations by a number of users, we were not testing fashion statements. The most telling comment came from one of our younger testers, "can I have a Z30 with an Apple sticker on the back?"
    pandrew3
    • Communication!

      pandrew3, I can believe your comments about the various OSs and agree with your priorities so when I acquired my first smartphone last summer I went for WP8, having first looked at my son's HTC Android.

      With WP8 I reckon I get most if not all the benefits of BlackBerry with excellent computer integration and the system is now a clear number 3 in the UK (10.1% market share v 3.4% for BlackBerry as of Feb 2014).
      Since my ISP, Telefonica O2, has a good signal in almost all places I reckon I am well-served that way, too.
      DAS01