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Technology roundup: upgrade your smartphone, or wait another year?

02/26/2014

Smartphones have become an integral component of day-to-day life in modern society. Every user has different expectations for his or her smartphone. Some people use them strictly for business communication, while others use them for entertainment, books, games, and movies.

Every year, manufacturers such as Apple, Google, HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung, and Sony release an updated version of their current flagships. A flagship smartphone is considered to be the latest and greatest that a manufacturer has to offer.

It is early in the year 2014, and a couple of this year’s flagships have already been announced.

At this point, many are wondering, “What should I upgrade to?” or “Should I even upgrade”? To best answer these questions, we should look at the next generation of smartphones in comparison to what is available now.

Current flagships include the iPhone 5S, Nexus 5, HTC One, LG G2, Motorola X, Samsung Galaxy S4, and Xperia Z1. Each of these phones attempted to bring something new to the table.

Apple introduced a fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5S in addition to 64-bit processing.

Google’s Nexus 5 introduced the latest version of Android, Kit Kat. HTC’s One introduced “Boomsound” with its dual front-facing speakers.

The LG G2 introduced “Knock Knock”, a feature that lets you turn your screen on and off by double-tapping, and its unique button placement.

Motorola decided to focus on touchless interaction with the Motorola X.

Samsung added a plethora of features to its camera features, and a full HD screen to the Galaxy S4. Sony decided to make the Xperia Z1 extra durable with its water and dust resistance.

With the exception of Apple’s iPhone 5, all of these devices used quad-core processors, a sizable upgrade to the dual-core processors
used in 2012 flagship smartphones.

As you can tell, there was a lot going on in terms of innovation with the flagships of 2013. Phone manufacturers were extremely busy in making their names known and developing a strong preference. Unfortunately, this year we are getting less innovation, and instead, more of the same.

Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and Sony’s Xperia Z2 were both announced Monday as 2014’s first flagship smartphones. Neither of these phones has much to offer over their predecessors. The upgrades to these devices are incrementally faster processors and slightly larger batteries, and not much else. Current Galaxy S4 owners who think the phone is not fast enough or does not have long enough battery life will most likely not see significant improvement by moving to the Galaxy S5. The Samsung Galaxy S5 does at least add a fingerprint scanner for more security, and Samsung is finally including water and dust resistance. Other than that, there is very little to get excited over if you are a current Galaxy S4 owner.

Although only Samsung and Sony have showed their 2014 offerings so far, it is expected that other manufacturers will have very similar minor upgrades.

To answer the question of “Should I upgrade this year?” I would give a definite yes if you are coming from a midrange phone or a flagship from 2012 or prior. However, if you are in either of these positions, I believe a 2013 flagship would be just as beneficial as the 2014 models, and would save you some money in the process.

Unless there is a technological breakthrough between now and fall, 2014 will not be an exciting or revolutionary year for smartphones. If you need a new device right now, the 2013 flagships should satisfy your needs; otherwise, it may be wise to try waiting until early 2015 when devices should hopefully see a large boost to battery life, efficiency, and usability.

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