With CES now well and truly behind us and MWC fast approaching, it is without reason that mobile phone enthusiasts are looking forward to getting a glimpse of new releases from the biggest manufacturers.
Whether it’s the Samsung Galaxy S 4 that you can’t wait to get your hands on, or news of the latest iPhone updates, the first quarter of 2013 is set to be an exciting start to the year.
However, many observers too often forget about the smaller companies which offer some of the best innovative ideas and creations. After all, CES is where inventions such as the Camcorder, VCR, CD, and even the E-book reader were unveiled.
Although it might seem crazy that the smartphone only actually entered our vocabulary in the early 2000s, it's easy to see how much smartphone designs and builds have progressed over the past ten years.
So why should we assume that smartphones of today have reached their peak in terms of innovation?
Who knew that there would be a device that would allow us to read any book, anywhere, electronically? And who supposed that manufacturers would design a handset which can charge its battery entirely without wires [see the Nokia Lumia 920]?
Here are just a few of the latest innovations to enter the mobile phone arena in recent months. And hopefully this won’t be the last you see of them!
We featured the YotaPhone as one to watch for in December last year, and since then, the model appears to have grabbed everyone’s attention, especially those eagerly awaiting its release at MWC next month.
The phone, manufactured by a Russian broadband company, will feature not one, but two 4.3 inch screens. The dual-screen technology is a relatively novel idea within the smartphone industry, which is one of the various features that makes the YotaPhone stand out as brilliantly innovative.
One of the two screens is a full colour LCD display, which is great for watching films, flicking through pictures or playing your favourite games, whilst the other screen consists of an Electronic Paper Display (EPD), rather like a Kindle. The EPD screen is designed for activities which require a slightly longer reading time, such as online newspapers, documents, or even social media posts. Another great feature of the EPD is that important files, say, a boarding pass or business document, will remain on the screen even if the YotaPhone runs out of battery.
The CEO of the company behind the YotaPhone has stated that the dual-screen technology is aimed at making it easier and faster for users to access every function that they require on a daily basis; something, he claims, which isn’t offered by the current smartphone market.
What’s more, the YotaPhone isn’t just another innovative creation which places style over substance: the phone will be run with the Jelly Bean version of Android’s OS, and will be powered by a 1.5 GHz Snapdragon Dual Core processor (which, let’s face it, is probably needed to power two screens!). The device will also sport a massive 64 GB memory, which is enough to rival many current smartphones, as well as a 12 MP rear-facing camera.
The YotaPhone is one model which has created a certain buzz around it, and I for one can’t wait to get my hands on the device when we travel to MWC in Barcelona next month.
SpareOne, at first glance, might not look like anything special. In fact, it might even look like you’ve stepped back into the 1990s in terms of mobile phone design. But what’s innovative about this model isn’t the fact that it has more than one screen, or a super-human ability to read your mind. What’s innovative about the SpareOne is its simplicity and function, which essentially fulfil its purpose as an emergency phone.
The first thing that's worth mentioning is that the SpareOne is run entirely on an AA battery. No need to rely on plug sockets or electricity supplies, the device totally eliminates that panicked feeling when you only have one bar of battery left. The battery life of the phone is also impressive; up to 10 hours of talk time on one single AA battery, or a massive 15 years if the phone is unused!
Because the phone is designed to cope well in an emergency, it has a one-button speed dial which is directly associated with the emergency services, which even works without a SIM card. You can also pre-programme 9 of your most important phone numbers into the device to make it even easier to access contacts if you come into trouble.
Looking at the treacherous snow outside today, the SpareOne might also come in handy due to it being able to withstand temperatures of -22F to 140F, making it perfect for people who like to climb up mountains or trek through canyons. The phone also features an LED torch which can last for 24 hours of continuous use, and comes with a waterproof bag which will float if submerged into water.
The SpareOne is a creation that’s great for one main reason: instead of conjuring up a weird and wonderful technological advancement aimed at revolutionising our lives, the manufacturers of this device have simply incorporated all of the features and functions necessary for a spare, emergency mobile phone. It is basic, yes, and it does looks simple, but if you were stranded at the top of a mountain, or lost in a crowd at a gig, it wouldn’t be the fancy features on your smartphone that would save your bacon.
Not only is the SpareOne targeted at travellers and outdoor enthusiasts, but it is also suitable for children whose parents want to keep an eye on their safety, or the older generation who require a simple device which can raise an alarm for assistance with as simple a process as possible.
If you take a close look at phones that are currently being sold commercially, you will find one that is targeted at essentially every generation in society. From phones for teenagers and children, to phones for builders, it would seem that there really is a phone out there for everyone.
Qualcomm and Project RAY have teamed together to create the first fully-functioning smartphone for the blind. The handset, which uses the Android OS, has consolidated phone calls and text messages, amongst other functions, with voice read-out technology. The handset works with voice prompts and vibrations which provide a feedback to its users.
People with visual impairments tend to rely on a series of different devices, such as large buttoned MP3 players, audio-book readers and basic 2G phones with large keypads, though the Project RAY device aims to integrate all of these functions into one, affordable device.
The Project RAY phone is not only a great piece of innovative design, but is also a life-changing device which can enhance visually-impaired people’s independence and autonomy. The only downside for now, though, is that the phone is currently being trialled by 100 sight-impaired people in Israel. If the trial is successful, however, it is only a matter of time until we can get our hands on this eyes-free smartphone.
Written by Charlotte Kertrestel