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Storage, Battery, Software, Other Features
Storage: 64 GB of NVMe NAND with microSD card slot
How do you get the best of both storage worlds? By including both ultra-fast storage and a microSD card slot. I'd use an Apple-style custom NVMe controller for extremely fast transfer speeds, which I'd then pair with 64 GB of NAND as standard. This would give you plenty of fast on-board storage for apps and games right out of the box.
For those that want to add in more storage to their smartphone without paying a premium for larger capacity smartphones, I would offer a microSD card slot. It's really not that hard to include an extra tray in the body of the smartphone that would support microSD storage, and it gives users extra flexibility to buy cheap 64 or 128 GB cards if they want to store a ton of movies or music on their handset.
Battery: Non-removable 4,300 or 3,000 mAh lithium-ion.
Unfortunately, most next-generation battery technologies won't even be close to public availability in 2016, so we're stuck with lithium-ion for now. The problem with most smartphones is that they don't include batteries that are large enough for a typical day's use, which is why my ideal smartphone would pack a massive 4,300 mAh battery.
The battery in this smartphone would be nearly a full 800 mAh larger than what is found in the Samsung Galaxy S6 Active and Motorola Moto X Play, both of which deliver excellent battery life. Considering the S6 Active is 8.6mm thin, and this ideal smartphone would feature a battery 23% larger, we'd be looking at a body thickness somewhere in the 10.5mm range.
At 10.5mm thick, this ideal smartphone would be thicker than most flagship handsets on the market today. However, the battery life would be insane, and it would be worth the few extra grams and millimetres that would go to accommodating the larger battery. Considering not every inch of the phone would be taken up by battery, there's a chance that the device could be slimmer than 10.5mm as well, which would be an ergonomic win.
For people who a bit more concerned about slimness and form factor, the ideal smartphone would also come in a variant with a 3,000 mAh battery at 7.5mm thick. Every other specification would be identical, including the fact the battery would be non-removable, and this slimmer smartphone would cost slightly less as well.
The only possibly contentious aspect of this battery design would be the fact that it's non-removable. I chose to forgo a removable battery to save space on the inside of the handset, which would allow it to be slimmer overall. Plus, the battery life would be good enough to not need the ability to hot-swap batteries on the go, and external battery packs are so cheap these days that if you really needed more battery life, a cheap battery pack is the way to go.
Other Features: Dual-SIM, 4 GB of RAM, USB 3.1 Type-C, Fingerprint Scanner...
There's more to the ideal smartphone than basic specifications: I also want the best set of features of any smartphone on the market. How would I achieve this? Through including all of these features, arranged from most to least important:
- A fingerprint sensor on the rear of the device. I've used smartphone with sensors on the front, back and side of the body, and found the rear to the most comfortable and natural position to use. This sensor would be extremely fast and just as accurate as Touch ID or Nexus Imprint.
- Fast Qi wireless charging, and ultra-fast wired charging. By harnessing next-generation technology for both types of charging, the 4,300 mAh battery would be able to charge in a very short period of time, ideally under an hour. The S6 Active's 3,500 mAh battery takes 105 minutes to charge, so with advances we'll see in smartphones this year, less than 60 minutes for a larger battery via wired charging should be possible.
- USB 3.1 Type-C, which is a feature I haven't come across on a smartphone yet. I've seen plenty of handsets that support the extremely useful reversible Type-C connector, but I'd like to see this ideal smartphone pair the connector with fast USB 3.1 transfer speeds, something that should be possible
- Dual front facing speakers, providing stereo audio while watching videos and playing games. This isn't anything special, as we've seen companies like HTC, Sony and Huawei integrate these speakers before, but we're not at the stage where it's a feature found in every device.
- IP68 water resistance, with no flaps over any ports. With a camera so awesome, you'd want the phone to be capable of underwater photography (in fresh water), and splash resistance is also pretty useful.
- 4 GB of RAM is more than enough for today's smartphone tasks. You can't go wrong having more RAM in your smartphone.
- A 3.5mm audio jack. Rumor has it that Apple will ditch this feature on the upcoming iPhone 7, which would be a huge mistake considering the vast majority of headphones produced over the past 30 years use this very jack. Adapters are annoying, so the ideal smartphone would include support for basically all headphones on the market.
- NFC. It goes without saying that a flagship phone should have NFC support for contactless payments. The ideal smartphone doesn't feature compromises like the OnePlus 2.
- An RGB notification LED for the easy ability to view whether you have a notification or not.
- And finally... dual SIM support, not just for emerging markets, but for everyone. This would easily allow you to use the phone for both work and personal life, or to optimize your plan spending by leveraging multiple carriers.
Software: Latest version of stock Android with Nexus updates
I like iOS, but I prefer to use Android, which is why the ideal smartphone for me would run the latest version of Android without any OEM skins. I've been using a Nexus 6P for a few months now, and there's no doubt that stock Android is the best way to experience and use the operating system on a daily basis. There are a few changes I'd make to Android, which I listed in my Android 6.0 review, but it's a fine OS to use on a smartphone.
I'd also ensure that this idea smartphone signed up to receive updates extremely quickly, similar to a Nexus device. This would keep the smartphone on cutting edge software, and would help keep the device secure as bugs and flaws are discovered.
If I was to add a new feature to Android, it would be always-on voice commands, similar to the Moto X Style or the iPhone 6s. Whether the screen was off or displaying an app, the ability to quickly Google things via Google Now would be useful, assuming the battery life hit isn't hugely significant.
Why wasn't Windows 10 Mobile or any other smartphone OS considered? For the simple fact that no other OS aside from iOS and Android has a mature platform with a quality selection of third-party apps. I love the Windows 10 Mobile homescreen setup and some of the OS' other features, but it's simply not as versatile or suitable as Android for my daily usage patterns.
Now that I've gone through every aspect of this smartphone's hardware, let's take a look at the final spec sheet:
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 820: 2x Kryo CPUs at 2.2 GHz, 2x Kryo CPUs at 1.6 GHz, Adreno 530, Wi-Fi ac, MU-MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2, A-GPS
- 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM
- 5.3-inch AMOLED at 2560 x 1440 (554 ppi)
- 23-megapixel 1/2.3" Sony Exmor IMX300 rear sensor with 1.1μm pixels, f/1.9 24mm lens, OIS, dual-tone LED flash, laser-assisted autofocus, 4K recording, 240fps slow motion
- 12-megapixel 1/2.3" Sony Exmor IMX377 front sensor with 1.55μm pixels, f/2.0 lens, 4K recording
- 64 GB of NAND with microSD expansion
- 16.55 Wh (4,300 mAh) or 11.55 Wh (3,000 mAh) non-removable lithium-ion battery
- Dual-SIM LTE Category 12
- USB 3.1 Type-C with ultra-fast charging
- Fast Qi wireless charging
- IP68 water resistance
- Fingerprint sensor, NFC, 3.5mm audio jack, stereo front speakers, notification LED
- Aluminium and Gorilla Glass 4 body, approximately 10.5mm thin
- Android 6.0 or later with fast updates
How much would this phone cost? Considering the current prices of smartphones like the Nexus 6P ($549 for 64 GB at launch), a phone with this collection of hardware would probably be $100-150 more expensive. This would place the handset's price at around $650-700, which is the same price as the base model Apple iPhone 6s.
Would it be worth it? Absolutely.