Published on February 27th, 2021 | by Mahbub Hasan0
Unsolved problems of smartphones nobody cares about – yet they are important
Ah smartphone. A tool we use every day for communication, productivity and unproductivity. You are maybe currently reading this on your phone. Everything nowadays seems getting more and more centered toward mobile. Application development, accessory market, products, marketing and advertising are all targeting mobile users more and more. This is because we use mobile devices in almost every situation. Now, we came a long way and smartphones are getting smarter and more useful. Now, we fixed lots of problems we had in the past. Potability, carrier, performance, battery all these aspects are getting improved every year. Smartphone manufacturers pour mountain sums to combat issues, improve devices, innovate new stuff for the user base. But there is a sketchy business thing going on, and it seems like smartphone industries are just a big scam. Let me discuss that. I want to discuss a few problems that nobody has yet fixed and manufacturers do not even want to fix.
Do I own my smartphone?
Imagine buying a smartphone with full payment, and you see there are rules that prevent you from calling the owner of that smartphone. You can use it, of course, but you cannot do whatever you want. The software, of-course is not yours, you cannot change and make it behave as you desire. But very few people want to access and change core system software. What about repair? Manufacturers try hard and hard to stop people from repairing stuff on their own. But why is this important?
Every device has a warranty period and passing that, no manufacturer would want to fix your phone. Manufacturers can stop repair and force users to upgrade, even when the phone can be fully functional with a battery replacement. It is a verifiable fact that manufacturers got sued over not providing replacement parts for still running common phone models. They want you to upgrade and buy new phones instead of repairing. What is stopping from repairing yourself, anyway? It seems manufacturers do it too. They use special firmwares for screens and batteries and other replacement parts, so if you manage to get one fixed yourself, you cannot even turn it on.
So, if you have a phone that is not so old, but the manufacturer has declared it unsupported by them, you cannot continue using it if it gets defected accidentally. You cannot take help from independent repairing services because companies like Apple are always behind them trying to sue. Limiting parts supplies, locking software and making devices unusable with updates, using obscure screws and building mechanisms and throwing anyone who tries to stand up against this villainous practice to jails are some things manufacturers do to stop you from being the owner of a thing you bought with your money.
Introducing features that nobody wants
Manufacturers have figured out a technique where they basically launch anything they desire and then force people to get used to it. Removing ports, pushing weird policy changes, software changes and design changes that people never want, yet they release them and wait until people have no choice but get used to it. Many manufacturers prioritize providing unnecessary features for the sake of “adding more this year”. Nobody wants wireless charging, they suck because how inefficient, wasteful, slow it is at its current iterations. The amount of precision it needs to get your device charged via a wireless station isn’t less than inserting a Type C, which also takes no effort for a healthy human being. A wireless charger consumes about as much as a CFL mini bulb, even when you don’t use it.
Not only wireless charging, but other stuff you may have tried once or twice in your lifetime is “ground-breaking” innovation for them. Sometimes stuff is very famous in the target market. In China, many features are very famous so they release it for Chinese people. But some stupid things they push never make sense at all for any target market. Manufacturers are great at making things feel like important for you when in reality it is not.
Like removing ports, certain hardware features or software features, then forcing people to use alternatives sometime for profits. Remove port > sell wireless devices because they are more expensive than wired accessories > sell more wireless devices because they last so little or get lost > profit. It seems like Apple is not the only one doing this, but many other smartphone makers too.
Not focusing on reachability on the hardware side
No matter what, every design change is mostly on the back side of the phone. Android or iPhone, each year we see slight design changes on the back side. While the iPhone has smaller models that are great for reachability, the Android market is full of full sized phones and a rare amount of smaller models. To counter this, Android has better one handed mode features. In Xiaomi and many other devices, you can use a navigation shortcut to enable one handed mode that scales your UI smaller and on to a side.
But I do not why no one ever thinks of hardware reachability? All it takes is bringing the power and volume button lower and closer to the bottom where we can reach the buttons without bringing fingers upward. This way, people with small hands can use big phones. No need of another model that just sacrifices performance and battery for size difference.
Horrible privacy practices and lies
Some people think iPhones are more privacy friendly, and they are updating policies to make privacy real. While it is true to some extent, Apple is not a company you can trust. At least not yet. It is funny that Apple talks so loud about Privacy when they collect even the tiniest data about your device. It sends data wherever you open an app on your Mac. I do not want to bash Apple, but whatever they advertise that sparks joy to their religiously loyal fan base is fishy and full of lies. Everything they have done so far is because they want more profit.
Google promises privacy and controls when they clearly record your every activity if you are on Android. They collect vast amounts of sensitive data even if you use an iPhone (through Google apps, AdMob, Adsense ad trackers, YouTube and Gmail). The most irritating thing about these companies is that they prevent others from taking your data, but collect data by themselves. It is like guards looting your house while preventing thieves from entering. And smartphone manufacturers like Xiaomi, Huawei, Samsung, Oppo and other major manufacturers are on the same line.
Locking in people
Many smartphone manufacturers lock in people by features or certain stuff that prevents people from transferring data and moving to different vendors. This is problematic because if a company has the power to force people to stick with one thing, and then immediately take away those features. IMessage, proprietary media formats used by Apple and more can be an example. People should have the choice to move any and every data that belongs to them to any vendors they wish.
Carrier lock-in is the worst for vendor lock-in. When you cannot use your device with another carrier or when you are out of the country, even if the agreement has expired. Many countries are suggesting to pass laws to prevent it, but till now we are witnessing this sort of thing in current times.
It is funny when people take shelter of lies to make more profits. To save companies from being damned by the environmentalists. Every day, more unrepairable phones pile up on earth and become E-Waste. iFixit has good infographics that show how critical of an issue it is. According to iFixit, only 20% wastes get recycled when the rest gets wasted. More and more cell phones are getting thrown away. And instead of making phones last longer, providing updates, making devices reparable and providing repair guides; manufacturers remove chargers. Like that’s going to change anything.
Green energy is another bull-crab stuff happening within the market. Manufacturers claim they use green energy, when most of their energy comes from non-renewable power sources. They buy green energy certificates that mean nothing, to advertise that they are being environmentally friendly. It sets Apple to make more profits from selling necessary components that should be on the box, and slowly others are joining. If you want to read more, follow this link.
This mostly happens with budget phones from recently grown manufacturers. Smartphone price has plummeted a lot when you compared to early days of smartphones. Now there are brands who offer phones with many features with affordable prices. And this category of phones introduced an irritating trend. System-wide ads are ads that are shown in your system apps. Some budget phones from Xiaomi, a Chinese smartphone manufacturer, show ads even when you install an app.
This makes them some extra bucks while making your phone a live ad banner. Other manufacturers have joined in and this became a serious issue. I hope this gets solved soon. Not everyone can pay more, but that doesn’t mean they should sit through a TikTok ad when they open a file manager. Another similar issue is pre-installed apps. Many manufacturers do this and you cannot uninstall crabby apps they install regardless of user’s choice. This also needs a solution.
Removing earphone ports
Okay, wireless products are cool, they do not require wires; they are cool and nice by design, etc. But what do they require? Oh yes, a battery that dies within hours, an extra case for extra batteries, bigger price tag and force from the manufacturers. While there are Type-C earphones, they are quite rare, and the choices are very limited. I have an excellent collection of great wired earphones that sounds better with significantly cheap prices.
If I buy a good wireless earphone, I have to spend more than $200 dollars, when I can buy the same quality wired earphones, that does not require battery, charging, special care and more for $20. I can buy ten of those for the same price as one wireless one. So I don’t care if it gets lost. For the people who love to flex, you already have bluetooth, and for others, an earphone hole is better than any hole (terrible joke, sorry).
I would like to discuss more on this topic, but the article would get longer if I add more. These are the problems probably no one wants to fix, because the manufacturers may lose more, if not the entire business. Smaller problems, big profits, and therefore nobody within the market wants to address these, despite legal battles and local laws and consumer demands. There is a loyal fanbase who defend big boys, and there are big boys who have the strength to continue with these. Thank you for reading, have a nice day.