5 features I'd love to see come to every smartphone in 2019

While smartphone manufacturers try to differentiate their products, there are some features they need to be on the same page about.
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer

Over the course of any given year, I have the benefit of using a lot of smartphones. Most of the time, my memories of using a particular phone blurs into one black, rectangular blob of glass and metal.

Also: Phones and more: The best of everything mobile in 2018

But sometimes there are features that stand out. As I reflect back on the year and look forward to 2019, it's clear to me there are five features I would love to see come to every smartphone in the near future.

In-display fingerprint reader

(Image: CNET)

After using the OnePlus 6T's fingerprint reader, it's evident having a physical location, commonly on the back of a phone, is no longer the best option for smartphone makers.

Also: In-screen fingerprint sensors coming to 100 million phones CNET

Using a series of sensors and lights, the OnePlus 6T's fingerprint sensor is located just below the display and is capable of reading a fingerprint through the display.

The benefit I appreciate the most about a fingerprint sensor under the display is that I'm already touching and interacting with the screen when I need to unlock the phone, so it eliminates the extra step of finding the sensor on the back of the phone -- as routine as that has become.

With the OnePlus 6T, I pick up the phone, wake the screen, leaving my finger on the display, and continue using the phone.

I think I like this unlock method as much as I like Face ID, if not a little bit more.

With Qualcomm's newly announced Snapdragon 855 SoC, which includes the components for OEMs to implement in-display fingerprint sensors in next year's crop of smartphones, we will presumably see an uptick in phones with this technology.

Call Screen

(Screenshot: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

The sheer number of scam and spam calls we receive on our phones is staggering. Even with the help of third-party apps or carrier services, I answer a robocall telling me there's an issue with my non-existent credit card at least once a week.

Also: Pixel 3 Call Screen and Now Playing are my favorite features CNET

Google's Pixel Call Screen feature -- and its subsequent update that added transcripts -- means you don't have to actually talk to someone who is trying to upsell you on internet service or ask you to take a political survey.

Google's Call Screen feature, at a minimum, should be released to more Android phones through the Google Phone app.

Google’s Night Sight mode for Pixel phones in pictures

Night Sight

Google's Night Sight feature isn't a gimmick, but a truly useful feature. There's nothing more frustrating than having a photo of a special moment ruined by a dark environment.

Low light photography is a task that nearly all smartphones struggle with, and the fact that Google has figured out the magic blend of AI and machine learning to make low light photos something you look forward to taking isn't a small feat.

Also: Google's Night Sight camera mode is pretty darn impressive

Every smartphone manufacturer should have teams dedicated to figuring out how Google pulled off Night Sight and implementing it in their respective products.


A physical mute switch

Apple uses one, as does OnePlus, and it's seriously underrated. A physical mute switch provides the benefit of being able to quickly feel if a phone is on silent, or sounds are active, without the need to wake the phone. It's easy enough to move while your phone is in your pocket as you walk into the movies or a meeting, and move back as you walk out.

Also: OnePlus 6T review: Outstanding reception, solid battery life

Most Android phones require the phone to be awake, unlocked, and press the volume buttons multiple times -- or using a tile in the quick settings dropdown -- both methods, however, take longer are more interaction than simply moving a switch on the side of a phone.

Shortcuts-like app


Siri gets better in iOS 12 by allowing you to create and run shortcuts for tasks that you might want to do at certain times of the day, as a result of an event, or when at a certain location.

Apple's Shortcuts app is one iOS feature I simply can't live without on a daily basis. Sure, iMessage is fantastic. FaceTime, often times, magical when I'm traveling.

Also: Best iOS 12 features: What's new and what's still missing

But Shortcuts and the workflows that it holds within ensures I keep an iOS device of some sort on me at all times. On Tuesday, I shared a handful of shortcuts I use on a regular basis with CNET's Scott Stein, and afterward, I realized just how much I rely on Shortcuts to efficiently handle repetitive work tasks.

For example, the Combine Screenshots shortcut is something I use nearly every single day and saves me countless minutes by combining several screenshots into one image with a few taps on my iPhone or iPad's screen. Without it, I would have to import the screenshots to my Mac, open a program like Pixelmator or Photoshop, create a canvas, and then space out the images and export the end result.

I have searched for and tried many similar Android apps, only to find poorly designed apps lacking the same overall capabilities.

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