Top Ten Smartphone Features of 2012

This year’s smartphone headlines have been shared out across a variety of subjects, from Samsung’s rise to power, to the revamp of Windows Phone and Android’s inexorable march.

In between the big stories there were plenty of minor developments along the way with processors getting faster, screens getting bigger and new apps coming along that do things we never even imagined possible. Here we take a look at ten of the best smartphone features that were introduced during 2012.

10. Instagram for Android

Instagram created a huge storm with its initial iOS iteration, drawing millions of users and achieving that headline-grabbing buyout by Facebook.

The photo-sharing app’s developers were never going to wait too long before introducing their creation to the world’s most popular smartphone platform and so Instagram came to Android this year.

While the app’s performance and interface is pretty much identical across the two platforms, the launch brought Instagram to a whole new audience, massively increasing its reach and influence.

We’ve also seen Instagram’s first foray away from smartphones with users now each having a web-based profile which could lead to interesting developments in the future.

9. PureView

Nokia’s leading camera technology made its debut on the 41 megapixel 808 PureView cameraphone this summer, grabbing headlines along the way.

While that particular smartphone may have been little more than a concept device, the PureView technology has been brought to the Finnish firm’s Windows Phone 8 range with the Lumia 920.

With outstanding low light performance, the PureView camera seen on Nokia’s WP8 flagship is one of the best available and bodes well for further photographic innovations in the future.

8. Samsung Galaxy Note II’s 5.5-inch Display

Measuring only half an inch smaller than a Kindle, Samsung’s latest Galaxy Note device is an incredibly powerful phone that pushes the limits of smartphone design in more ways than just its size.

However, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the device is the effect it has had on the smartphone world – what was once termed a ‘phablet’ is now thought of by many as just a regular smartphone. Whereas devices with displays larger than 5-inches were once freakish and unusual they are now accepted as the norm.

7. Intel Processors

Whereas the Asian market had seen a couple of low-key releases of handsets featuring Intel processors, the first major device to use the technology was the Motorola RAZR i.

The Google-owned manufacturer’s handset is lightning-fast, something that is particularly impressive since it runs on a single-core CPU and yet achieves 2GHz of speed.

Intel has been a huge name in computer processors for years and the firm’s foray into the smartphone world could signal an interesting move away from the ARM-based architecture that has been the norm for some time.

6. Google Now

Google’s mobile services have taken a huge leap forward with Google Now, introduced alongside the latest version its mobile platform, Android Jelly Bean.

The search engine can now learn about you, your habits and tastes and direct information to you automatically. With a level of accuracy that can even be a little unsettling, Google Now will tell you what the traffic is like on your route to work, what the weather is doing in your area, and whether or not your team is losing as a match takes place.

It’s a brilliant innovation which is indicative of the tech giant’s move away from its traditional web-based search services. No doubt Google Now will only expand upon this, bringing even more personalisation and information in the future.

5. 4G

One of the biggest and most confusing innovations to launch in 2012 is the 4G LTE networks that are now in place in parts of the UK.

While full coverage is still a long way off (and full compatibility with a majority of devices even further away) the increase in data transfer speeds 4G brings is alarming.

More developments will be seen when Ofcom auctions off more of the 4G spectrum to other network operators in 2013, but for now the promise of 100Mbps download speeds for mobile devices is certainly enticing.

4. 3000mAh+ Batteries

Motorola’s revamp of its RAZR handset, the RAZR Maxx, saw an excellent upgrade which fattened out the previously slim device and filled the resulting space with a 3000mAh battery.

The manufacturer claims that the power source provides up to 17 hours of talk time and while this is hard to test we have no reason to doubt it, judging by the way the handset performed in our tests.

Samsung hasn’t stood idly by while this went on, moving to include a even bigger 3100mAh battery in the Galaxy Note II.

While the Korean manufacturer claims a slightly less impressive 16 hours of talk time for its handset, the fact that such powerful batteries are becoming more common can only be a good thing for mobile users frustrated with smartphones that won’t last a day on one charge.

3. Windows Phone 8 Live Tiles Interface

There are lots of interesting features in Windows Phone 8, other than those introduced by the handsets which run the platform, but the most striking is the reworking of the Live Tiles interface.

Live Tiles looked great on Windows Phone 7 but Microsoft’s design team has pulled out all the stops for its new platform, allowing users to resize the tiles and fit even more of them on the homescreen.

With the UI now also expanding to fit the entire width of the display, Windows Phone 8 has possibly the best looking user interface in the mobile world, with an incredible amount of information accomodated without any of it looking squeezed or squashed.

2. Chrome

Chrome has taken the desktop world by storm, with figures from web-based research firm StatCounter showing it to be the world’s most popular web browser.

While its mobile counterpart hasn’t had quite the same impact yet, the smartphone browser’s performance cannot be beaten. Forming a link between your computer and mobile, tabs can be synced between devices along with a whole host of other features only looks set grow over time.

1. Galaxy Camera

While Samsung new device is impressive in itself, what really stands out and elevates it to top spot is the fact that it effectively utilises a mobile platform on something other than a smartphone.

Using the Galaxy Camera highlights just how inefficient and idiosyncratic the bespoke user interfaces of many gadgets can be. The simplicity and fluidity of Android is incredible in comparison.

With a 4.8-inch touchscreen and the many and varied apps that Android can bring, Samsung’s compact camera expands upon what can normally be done with such a device.

Hopefully this is the beginning of this trend and well-designed major smartphone platforms will move out of the mobile world and become commonplace across the consumer technology as a whole.

It’s obvious from the above that 2012 was a very good year, with some brilliant innovations that would have been hard to predict just twelve months ago. What will happen in 2013? We’ll be keeping you up-to-date on the Dialaphone blog with news and reviews about all the latest smartphone technology. We wonder what sort of exciting things will be making their way on to this list at the end of next year? Come back in a year’s time to find out.

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