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5 most useless smart phone features

My phone is big enough, fast enough, and smart enough. Leave it alone!

Published: August 05, 2014 04:30 PM

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I pour a lot of myself into the smart phones reviews for Consumer Reports—literally. I log into my e-mail and social network sites, stream video, and use cloud services to see how the phone handles them. The phone attributes that most enhance these aspects of my digital life are:

  • A large, brilliant, and responsive display.
  • A battery that won’t quit until I do.
  • Fast, uninterrupted data connections.
  • A design that’s comfortable to hold with easy access to critical controls.
  • A simple interface with logically placed menus offering sensible options and adjustments.
  • A decent-performing camera with a solid set of controls and editing tools for making sure my photos and videos will look their best.

Share your opinion on useless smart phone features by taking the quick poll at the upper right of this page or at this link.

With every generation, phones are getting better at these tasks as well as their search, navigation, and entertainment options. But they’re also doing things I don’t need, or even want. Some capabilities I wouldn’t miss include:

Wireless printing. Sure, there may be that one time you’ll want to print that one picture when you happen to be standing near that one Bluetooth printer. But I thought the main reason for a phone camera was to bombard your Facebook and Twitter followers with moments from your unremarkable life.

Siri and other voice-activated assistants. I’m impressed with how well today’s voice-activated assistants can correctly interpret my garbled speech to launch an app, bring me relevant search results, or let me dictate e-mails and text messages. But with backtalk so rampant today, I don’t need my phone to sass me—or let you hear it sass me.

Video conferencing. A promise since the science fiction films of the early 20th Century. But tell me. If your friends could see you now, would they want to? Would you want them to?

Gesture controls. What’s the point of having a touch screen you don’t touch? I mean, the phone is already in my hand. And no amount of tilting, waving, or staring will ever allow me to handle a touch screen with the same precision and ease as my thumb. To those of you who use the excuse of dirty hands or driving as a justification for gesture controls, I say, pull the car over or finish your meal and wash your hands before using your phone. It’s a whole lot safer and much less messy.

 Voice calls. Alexander Graham Bell would be proud to see how far his invention has evolved. Or maybe not. My kids never answer my calls, though they do respond to text messages. And most of the voice calls I get on my smart phone are to relay bad news. It seems voice calls have become the new telegram.

I recently posted such a question on Consumer Reports' Facebook page. Some of the Facebook comments were interesting. Which smart-phone features could you live without? Take our quick poll at the upper right of this page or at this link.

Mike Gikas

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