Smartphones in 2016: the features we demand to see on next year's handsets

The features and functions we'd love on 2016 phones

Smartphone technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent years - just think about the phone you were rocking five or ten years ago - but we're not going to let the mobile manufacturers take a breather. Here are some of the new features and added extras we'd like to see appearing in phones by this time next year. What's on your wishlist?

Flexible screens

This isn't complete sci-fi fantasy: we know that flexible screen technology is in the pipeline and hopefully it's going to reach consumers sooner rather than later. Could 2016 be the year that flexible finally becomes feasible? Next year you could be folding up your smartphone to put it in your pocket, and reading the news from a semi-transparent screen that won't smash when you drop it from a great height.

Modular components

Project Ara

Again this is a technology that we've started to see the first sign of with phones like Project Ara and the Fairphone 2. Modular components mean you can upgrade the camera, battery or screen without ditching the entire handset, so it's kinder on your wallet and on the environment. It also means you're going to be able to put together a smartphone built especially to your specifications and with your favourite features (e.g. audio) given priority.

Better batteries

Manufacturers: please, please, please do something to improve battery life beyond the standard morning-to-evening timespan (and that's if you're not doing anything particularly demanding). It would be nice to work through a Netflix series or spend half a day getting driving directions and still have plenty of juice left when it came to the evening. To be fair, scientists are hard at work on the problem.

Holograms and projectors

Samsung Galaxy Beam

The flat, plain touchscreen look has become a little old hat now, so what's next for smartphone displays? We've already seen several phones that double up as projectors, but the quality of the finished picture has a long way to go before people are going to buy them en masse. Projected 3D holograms would be an interesting step forward (think movies or gaming) and virtual reality capabilities should appear across the board too.

Advanced voice control

As impressive as today's voice-controlled apps are, we think there's still a way to go before you can truly ditch the tapping and swiping. The old ways of using a phone won't disappear completely (saying "zoom in" and "zoom out" wouldn't make much sense) but truly intelligent voice control would make life much easier in the car, the office and various other places. Today's software doesn't need much refining so we're hopeful for bigger and better features by 2016.

Added biometrics

Fujitsu iris scanner

Many of today's high-end flagship phones already have fingerprint scanners built into them (and Android M is going to support the same technology too), but we'd like to see the manufacturers go further with biometric security - iris scanning for example. The sooner the old PIN and pattern combinations get ditched the better, because an eyeball or a heart beat is a lot harder to fake.

Staying online anywhere

There's not much you can do on a phone without an internet connection - use the calculator? - and there are still plenty of dead spots around most neighbourhoods. Changing this will require infrastructure upgrades of course, but more smartphones with Project Fi-like capabilities would help too - in other words, phones that are able to switch between data networks and open Wi-Fi hotspots seamlessly, no matter what you're doing.

Truly useful digital assistants

Microsoft Cortana

Google Now, Siri and Cortana all have their moments, but they don't truly know who we are - at least not yet. Imagine a phone that can not only tell you how long it's going to take to drive home but also order your usual Thursday night takeaway for you at the right time. Next year these integrated apps are going to be more important than ever in distinguishing one smartphone platform from another.

Mood sensing

Manufacturers have been promising gadgets that can sense our mood for a long time now - will 2016 be the year when the technology finally arrives in smartphones? Using a combination of factors (heart rate, expression, skin temperature), your smartphone could tell whether you were feeling happy or sad and take the appropriate action - playing a suitable solemn or upbeat playlist, perhaps.

Camera improvements

iPhone 6 camera

Better cameras are a no-brainer when it comes to a smartphone wishlist for 2016. As good as the snappers are on devices like the iPhone 6, there's always room for improvement as manufacturers look to build even better cameras in an even smaller space. Optical zoom (getting closer to the action with no loss of quality) is something we'd like to see, although the thinness of today's handsets makes that very difficult to do in practice.

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