What we want from smartphones in 2018
For smartphone fans there's every reason to get excited about the next 12 months: Apple, Google, Samsung and the rest will all be back with flagships for 2018, and we're looking forward to seeing what's in store. Here are our wishes for what we want to see, and we hope some of them come true.
Of course, there are restrictions on what smartphone makers can do with their handsets. Despite these pressures on cost, design and the rest, we're hopeful of another bumper crop of phones in 2018. Still, as impressed as we were with the flagship phones of 2017, there's definitely some room for improvement.
1. Better value
Prices for the iPhone X start at $999 and go up from there, and the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Google Pixel 2 XL aren't all that far behind – buying a flagship phone in the first year of its life has become a very expensive business.
Does it have to be this way? We're not sure exactly how much it costs Apple, Samsung, Google or anyone else to design and build their handsets, but we're guessing there's quite a hefty margin when it comes to the difference between how much these phones cost to make and how much they sell for.
Oh for the days of the Nexus 5, the flagship phone Google unveiled in 2013 and put on sale for just $349. Even adjusting for market prices four years ago, that was an awful lot of phone for not much money.
Unfortunately, phones that are both high-end and affordable are hard to find these days, though congratulations to OnePlus for finding a way to do flagships on a budget – the OnePlus 5T starts at just $499 and is one of the best value phones of the moment. Let's hope other manufacturers start to follow its lead next year.
2. More battery life
Ever since Apple put the smart into smartphone with the original iPhone in 2007, it feels like handset makers have been in a constant battle to find the right compromise between power and power draw. Phones have come a long way since then, but having just about a day's worth of battery life between charges remains the norm.
Can we expect anything better in 2018? The phones that are going to appear over the next 12 months will be faster and more powerful than what has gone before, putting more demands on the battery packs inside them, especially as displays continue to get bigger and more vibrant. Keeping all those pixels illuminated is no easy task for a battery.
Smartphone makers continue to get better and better at optimizing for battery life, and every year processors become more adept at squeezing extra performance out of their silicon without demanding too much extra power, but even so we can't imagine that the bar is going to be raised much higher as far as battery life goes.
Still, we can hope – perhaps in the not too distant future smartphone users won't be habitually plugging their handsets in to charge every single night. What we really need is a breakthrough step forward in battery technology, but despite some promising experiments, next-gen technology that works well and works safely inside consumer devices still seems to be a few years away.
3. Smarter smartphones
We heard a lot about artificial intelligence from smartphone makers during 2017, and we're expecting that to continue in 2018. AI – a term which covers a vast range of types of smart computing and machine learning – has the potential to make a huge difference in the way we interact with and use our phones.
Think about phones that really are smart: Not just able to run your favorite apps but knowing which apps you need and when, and exactly how you want to use them. Camera apps that can work out the best settings for a particular shot, and tell what you're taking a picture of, in an instant (something we're already starting to see with phones like the Google Pixel 2).
Then there are digital assistants that are really useful, able to book your flights, and arrange your calendar, and find web posts you're going to be interested in reading with less and less input from you. It's been some time since we saw something truly new from the likes of Siri, the Google Assistant, or Cortana, but 2018 could be the year.
With phone hardware designs continuing to follow very similar templates, the real innovation is likely to come on the software side, whether it's something smart Android can do with your installed apps, or a way your phone's camera can overlay augmented reality figures on top of the real world. We're looking forward to seeing what's next.