We all know someone, probably multiple people, who have suffered a smartphone disaster of some sort. Whether it’s a handset dropped in the loo, a $1000 phone bill or being uncontactable after the battery in their phone runs out. These are now common everyday problems for many of us.
Thankfully the clever people who make these phones are thinking about how to solve these problems. Here are 5 of these tech tragedies solved by the latest smartphone features.
1. Dropped in the drink
The problem: Smartphone use is a private activity, so it makes sense that we might make use of them in our most private moments. Whether its one-handed use in the loo, or YouTube streaming in the bath, there are a number of times we take a risk with our phones near water, and plenty of times when we gamble and lose.
The solution: If you’ve lost a phone after submerging it in water you’ll be happy to know that a number of the latest phones come with water resistance built in. Samsung’s new Galaxy S5 can survive quote a substantial dunking, with protection up to 1-metre of water for up to 30-minutes.
Sony Xperia Z2 has slightly better resistance to water ingress and is able to survive in up to 1.5-metres of fresh water for the same 30-minutes.
2. Battery dramas
The problem: Of all of the everyday issues people with smartphones struggle with, running out of battery would have to be on the top of the list. While many new phones last a day or longer between charges, we’ve all been caught short after running out of battery and not being able to do simple things, like making and receiving calls and messages.
The solution: In the past, some smartphones have included power-saving modes, but this concept is going to the next level in 2014.
Samsung’s Galaxy S5 includes a new ‘Ultra power saving mode’ which shuts off all features of the phone except the basics and changes the screen to black and white only. In this mode you can make calls and messages primarily, plus you can browse the web if you want, but other tools like Bluetooth and GPS are disabled. Samsung estimates the phone can last about 10-days in this mode (or 24-hours per 10% of battery life).
HTC includes a every similar feature in the new
One (M8) handset. Here it is called ‘Extreme Power Saving mode’, but the basic idea is the same. The screen changes to display only black and white and it can lasts for several days with very little battery remaining.
3. Data bill shock
The problem: Do you open every new phone bill with trepidation? It only takes one huge phone bill to colour your future phone use with anxiety.
The solution: If this describes you, and you own an Android smartphone, you need to become familiar with the built-in data usage monitor in all new Android phones.
You’ll find it in your settings, under the
[Wireless & Networks] section at the top. Just look for the option called [Data usage].
In this nifty tool you can see how much data you have used in total, plus it breaks down how much data is being used by individual apps.
It also has alert and limit settings built-in, allowing you to set a data usage level where the phone sends you a warning, and a second level where the phone will cut off the data altogether. You can still turn it back on if you need it, but it will stop all automatically data use until the end of your billing cycle.
4. Phones ruined by scuffs and scratches
The problem: we take a lot of pride in our phones, but try as we may, most phones end their lives covered in scratches and bumps. It doesn’t take too much rough treatment to look like your phone as been dragged behind a fast-moving car.
The solution: the boffins at LG have wrapped the company’s latest phone, the LG G Flex, in self-healing plastic. You read that right: it is plastic that heals itself, making scratches in the plastic very-nearly invisible.
The phone is also remarkable for having a curved screen, which protects the screen when laying face-down on a hard surface. LG don’t promise that the phone’s design will survive a drop onto cement better than other models, but it should withstand most of life’s bumps and bruises better than your average phone.
5. Dirty, dusty phone
The problem: A problem not as common as water damage, but just as insidious, is dust and dirt ingress in your phone. It makes sense too, we take our phones everywhere; to the beach, to the bush, to the sandpit at our kid’s favourite park.
In fact, we recently heard the story about a stonemason who took his broken phone in the phone shop for repair, and when he returned the next week, the staff at the store handed him his phone and a small bag of dust they had collected from inside the handset. Like water, electronics hate dirt.
The solution: Happily, the same protection that provides water-resistance, like we mentioned above, also does a pretty good job of keeping dust out of phones too. In fact, both the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2 are entirely dust-proof. If you’re planning a camping trip at Uluru, then these are the phones you’ll want to have in your pocket.