If you're wondering just where the smartphone genre is headed in these dog days of same-old-same-old looks and hardware, a phone company executive has been spilling the beens quite candidly.
Waiman Lam, ZTE's Senior Director of Mobile Devices, said in a recent blog post that his company is focusing on two key areas: voice and gesture control.
Intuitive control of devices is important, he thinks. ZTE is a China-based telco equipment supplier that also builds phones.
Consumer expectations are "spiraling," Lam says of the issues his designers are facing.
"We cannot succeed by competing with hardware alone, which is why technologies that enhance the experience are of such value," Lam says, kind of acknowledging that (industry-wide) the hardware is a bit dull.
Lam was writing in a recent opinion piece that was captured and published by Roland Banks of Mobile Industry Review. I've quoted Asia-based, phone-head Banks before in the post "Supermobility is recasting the workplace."
"We'll increasingly see technologies that enable more natural and intuitive communication move to the forefront of mobile innovation," Lam says.
Removal of the "long sequence of steps" that consumers need to take to achieve anything on their phones is one area Lam says ZTE is focusing on.
And they're onto something. I have three buttons-press steps to take after I've pressed the green call button on my latest device.
In my case, I'm required to choose whether to send a text or place a voice call. I'm then prompted to choose whether to use Google Voice or not. Successfully answering that question results in a prompt as to which of the dual-SIM cards I want to use.
Then the device makes the call. It could use some work.
Hands-free voice control is another area Lam says ZTE is working on.
And we know that there's plenty of room for improvement in that area. I've switched my Android voice control off.
"The Apple Watch, which offers a raft of intuitive features but needs its battery charged frequently, has yet to find the right balance," Lam says of competitor Apple's wearable. ZTE itself is developing wearable tech.
Lam thinks that wearables need to function in the same way that smartphones do. "They expect the same from their wearable devices from the offset," he says of consumer expectations.
ZTE is also experimenting with other device categories as a way to differentiate itself from other smartphone makers. ZTE announced a portable Android projector in January 2015 that Lam mentioned in his piece. The device, called the Spro 2, includes a mobile hotspot and a media streaming device.
ZTE is already a major vendor of hotspot devices. So this adds the differentiating projector function to an existing product line.
"Gaming wherever and whenever, impromptu outdoor movie nights, or a bedroom ceiling that becomes a second screen," are perceived uses for this internet-connected mobile device, the company says on its website.
And one thing that it doesn't have in it is a smartphone.
This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?