Over the years, smartphones have seen a number of advancements in design and function. The industry’s effort has been to produce devices with a good balance of form and function.

In terms of design, some of the popular trends in the past have been flip phones and sliders. Now, with these devices increasingly being used to make a style statement, there is a constant effort to align them with current fashion trends. The most significant design changes have taken place in the past two years. The launch of touchscreen smartphones represented a giant leap in phone hardware and has come to define the modern-day smartphone.

Over the years, with the growing dependence on mobile phones for daily tasks, these devices have also become more utilitarian and smarter. tele.net explores recent trends in smartphone designs and features…

New designs

The most visible trend in smartphone de­sign in the recent past has been a larger screen-to-body ratio. While screen displays have become larger, the overall dimension of the devices has not increased, thus keeping them compact and ergonomic. The industry has achieved this through the creation of the much-debated notch on phones, a space that has traditionally hous­ed the camera, the microphone, the speaker, etc. Chinese smartphone manufacturers Vivo and Oppo have pushed the envelope and launched smartphones with motorised camera modules that slide out when needed, hence allowing them to offer a near-bezel-less experience. The Oppo Find X boasts of an incredible 93.8 per cent screen-to-body ratio and the Vivo Nex, an impressive 91.24 per cent.

The effort to free up space to accommodate larger displays has led companies to eliminate the 3.5 mm headphone jack. Other compromises include dispensing with the front-facing speaker and the fingerprint sensor. Many companies resorted to moving the fingerprint sensor to the back, but some have now begun to do without it altogether and are instead incorporating alternative ways, such as face recognition, to unlock the device.

In another design change, the industry has shifted from metal bodies to glass-back bodies, which is arguably a compromise on durability.

Better charging technologies

Lithium-ion batteries have been the key energy storage technology so far. How­ever, the industry is now embracing fastcharging and wireless charging technologies to reduce the charging time and obviate the need for plugging in the device. Fast­charging technologies are extremely efficient and handy, and are increasingly being adopted across the board. Compa­nies such as OnePlus boast of a charging capacity of up to 60 per cent within 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, efforts are also on to make charging wireless and cable-free. Although wireless charging has been on the block for a fairly long time, it has not advanced rapidly enough to replace conventional plug-to-charge technologies. The customer is still restricted to placing the pho­ne on a charging dock, which doesn’t make the experience truly wireless. Com­panies have also been unable to make wireless charging as fast as conventional charging, and the problem of overheating of the device still persists.

Another area where companies are seen going wireless is audio consumption. Most firms have removed the headphone jack from their flagship phones owing to two factors – to free up space to accommodate larger displays and to embrace a wireless ecosystem in the future.


Cameras have always been a key component to differentiate smartphone models. From a single rear camera, companies initially moved to a front-facing camera. Wi­th the trend of selfies gaining promi­nen­ce, companies have experimented with providing dual front cameras and are now even offering a front flash and an image processing feature to improve pictures. Compa­nies have begun supplementing the single rear shooter with a secondary camera – a telephoto lens capable of optical zoom in most cases. Some companies have dabbled with different combinations of secondary lenses such as monochrome, telephoto and wide angle. Huawei has even installed three rear cameras in its latest flagship smartphone, the Mate 20 Pro. The camera module hou­ses a 40 megapixel wide-angle lens, a 20 megapixel ultra wide-angle lens and an 8 megapixel telephoto lens with a 5x optical zoom.

Artificial intelligence

While traditionally the use of artificial intelligence (AI) has been limited to virtual assistants in smartphones, the past year has seen significant advancements in this area, as companies explore AI to improve their smartphone software. Smartphone manufacturers are increasingly leveraging AI to improve the efficiency and performance of their devices. Several firms are using AI-integrated cameras to provide a better experience by ensuring faster detection of subjects, automatic tweaking of settings, and software processing of images. In addition, images are captured with sh­ar­per detail using AI and the quality of portraits is also enhanced.

Apart from cameras, AI is being leveraged for optimising the performance of processors. Apple is leveraging AI in its latest chipset, the A12 Bionic, to take care of AI computations and improve the overall performance of its smartphones. Simi­larly, Huawei is using AI in its Kirin 980 chipset, to take on competitors such as Qualcomm and Apple and have more control over its final product. Recently, Goo­gle unveiled its Google Duplex technology. Using this, Google Assistant can carry out specific tasks such as making reservations and scheduling appointments. in a human-like voice.

Security systems

Security is paramount in this hyperconnected digital world. Ha­ving done away with fingerprint scanners on the front, companies have introduced a face unlock feature for users. While companies such as Apple, Samsung and Huawei have installed more secure systems that project numerous infrared dots on to the user’s face to recognise the unique facial contours, others are using their front-facing cameras to provide the feature. The former, more secure, method can also be configured to enable payments and other essential features such as blocking access to specific applications on the phone. These systems are secure and work in dark lighting conditions as well.

The way forward

The pace at which smartphone technology is advancing is unprecedented. The technological advancements made in the past two years surpass those of the last decade. In order to continue growing at this pace, ensuring the security of data and information will be a major point of focus for companies. Smartphones will need to be equipped with more intuitive and resilient security measures to prevent theft of sensitive and private data. Further, embracing the wireless ecosystem will be an important goal for the industry. We can expect to see various iterations and improvements in wireless charging. The industry has barely scratched the surface in terms of AI applications. Going forward, the industry will increasingly experiment with its diverse uses and adopt AI for better functionality.

Aditya Kumar