What we want to see in the smartphones of 2017

Here's our wish list for this year's flagships

What does your perfect smartphone look like? Here at T3 we've been thinking about the sort of features and improvements we're hoping to see through the course of 2017, coming up with a master list of New Year wishes - if you're reading, Apple, Google, Samsung et al.

Of course we're not restricted by all the real world considerations of pricing, component availability, hardware technology upgrades and market forces, so we can put down goals that are perhaps impossible to reach right now... still, it's always important to aim high.

More design innovation

It's getting more and more difficult to tell one flagship phone from another, which is fine if you're a fan of the minimalist, iPhone-esque aesthetic but frustrating for those of us who'd like a bit more variety to pick from.

While we understand there might be manufacturing and financial reasons why every phone looks alike these days, it doesn't mean we have to like it - and we're crossing our fingers that some of the big players push the boat out in terms of phone design this year.

Top marks to LG and the LG G5 in 2016 for trying something a little bit different - which didn't really work, unfortunately - and there is room for smart innovation, as the growing popularity of Samsung's Edge design shows.

There's plenty of talk that the likes of Apple and Samsung will go for full glass, button-free displays this year, and that's the kind of improvement we'd be fully behind. Phones are already thin and light enough, and it's time to get creative again.

It's probably still to early in the technology roadmap for phones that bend or curve to any great degree yet - we might have to wait until 2018 for that.

Longer-lasting phones

It's a sad state of affairs when a phone that costs several hundreds of pounds (or dollars) can be almost unusable after two years or so (your mileage may vary) - the problem is more noticeable on Android handsets but it happens to iPhones too.

Despite being marvels of modern technology, it seems smartphones are still susceptible to that gradual slowdown that always use to plague computers: the gradual accumulation of more demanding software and unnecessary files that would inevitably bring your laptop or desktop crashing to a halt after four or five years.

It doesn't have to be this way, does it? Smartphones are now powerful enough, and software code is well enough optimised, for phones to last much longer without requiring an upgrade every 2-3 years.

While we don't have the technical expertise to be able to solve this specific problem, we're hoping mobile phone engineers do, and they might take Chrome OS as their inspiration - a lightweight laptop operating system that updates itself automatically, keeps demands on the hardware as low as possible, and doesn't slow down over time.

Better battery life

Everyone wants more battery life - it's what binds us together across Android, iOS and multiple manufacturers.

Obviously if the solution was simple then the phone makers would've implemented it by now, but we're hoping the major players invest some serious research and development into extending smartphone battery life in 2017.

It's not just about being able to spend more time browsing Facebook between charges - it can also mean the difference between life and death in an emergency situation.

In fact we'd be happy for phones to get a little bit bigger and carry a bit more weight on them if it meant a couple more hours before a complete shutdown. We've seen plenty of innovation in terms of quick charging, which is all well and good, but what we're really after is a phone that goes the distance for days rather than hours.

The problem's particularly acute on older handsets (see the point above) and can render a handset almost unusable after a few years. Fortunately, thanks to science, it seems like better batteries could really be on the way over the next 12 months.

Smarter, more open software

You might have already made your pick between iOS and Android but both of the major OSes could use some improvements - and with little happening in terms of hardware innovation it could be the software where we see the biggest changes during 2017.

While the likes of Google Assistant and Siri can already do a job, we think there's a lot more to come, and let's hope next year is when we see it: smartphone OSes that are truly intelligent, moving away from the old traditional rows of icons to something a bit more natural (like Scarlett Johansson in Her, say).

We're also keen to see Apple and Google put some effort into making it easier to switch away from their platforms - although we won't be holding our breath, for obvious reasons. Getting locked into iOS or Android is fine until you want to switch, and how do we know what devices we'll want to use ten or twenty years from now?

By all means it easy for users to use your own products together (iPhone and Mac or Gmail and Android) but please give us more options to up sticks and move somewhere else, even if it doesn't make a lot of business sense.

And finally...

There are plenty of other features that would be required on our dream phone of 2017: waterproofing and wireless charging, for example, which already feature on some but not all of the flagship phones out there.

Better support for virtual reality and augmented reality would be nice as the internal hardware becomes more powerful, while faster data connections are always welcome for those times when there's no Wi-Fi (though that's partly down to government and network infrastructure as well as phone manufacturers).

And this is a smaller point, but we've love to see smartphone makers invest more in official accessories. It can be unnecessarily difficult to get a case, or a car dock, or a portable charger for some makes of phone, especially if you want to stick with official products rather than third-party add-ons.

Lastly, we're big fans of customisation, and we're hoping for more colours, more finishes and more configurations than ever before in 2017. Motorola has been leading the way in this regard for a few years now, but it would be great to see others taking up the baton too.