Friday, July 19, 2024

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Tech: 6 smartphone features that would be great on laptops

Smartphones are getting all the good stuff.
Laptops should be more like smartphones, at least when it comes to certain features.
It seems that smartphones are getting all the innovations and goodies while laptop design and features have remained fairly stagnant over the last few years. It’s understandable, as mobile devices are incredibly important, but surely laptops aren’t less important, are they?
Check out the five smartphone features I’d love to see in laptops:
The OLED displays of top smartphones.
With richer colors and supreme contrast, OLED displays on smartphones not only make operating systems, apps, and content look better than traditional LCD displays, they’re also more power efficient, too. One of the ways OLED displays are more efficient is that pixels can essentially turn themselves off when displaying the color black, and they don’t shine as much as LCD displays when displaying certain colors and certain brightnesses. That power efficiency can often lead to better battery life. With that in mind, OLED displays seem like a no-brainer for laptops, but most laptop makers still use LCD displays. There are some laptops that come with OLED displays, but not many. One reason why more laptops don’t come with OLED displays is cost, as devices with OLED displays tend to be more expensive. Still, cost can be mitigated by manufacturing advances and production volume, and it doesn’t look like much has been done to mitigate the cost of OLED for laptops — yet.
Facial recognition to unlock Mac laptops.
Owners of some Windows 10 laptops can use the Windows Hello facial-recognition feature to unlock their devices by simply sitting in front of their laptops. Despite Apple’s advanced Face ID facial recognition on its latest iPhones, facial recognition hasn’t made its way to Apple’s laptops yet. Some laptops, like the new MacBook Air, come with fingerprint scanners, which is a decent alternative. But nothing beats just existing in front of your laptop to unlock it.
Wireless charging.
I’m not the biggest advocate of wireless charging for mobile devices, but wireless charging for laptops could make more sense seeing as laptops are less “mobile” than mobile devices. Indeed, if your laptop usually rests on a desk all day, you could constantly keep it topped up. And it can keep charging while you’re using it, unlike smartphones that you need to pick up from wireless charging pads to use. Wireless charging is basically the same thing as plugging in a charger into a laptop, just without the whole plugging in part. You could just set down your laptop on a desk with a wireless charging pad and it’ll charge and power itself without any further interaction. At this stage, it looks like the technology for laptop wireless charging is still in its nascence. Dell announced a laptop in 2017 that came with wireless charging, but the feature hasn’t really taken off so far, nor is it widely available.
A switch like the iPhone’s silent-switch, but for a laptop’s camera and microphone.
Judging by how many stickers and cheap plastic accessories I see on laptop cameras, the paranoia that a hacker can access your camera without you knowing is real. Stickers are fine, and some laptops even have sliding covers to blur out the camera, but these are inelegant and primitive solutions. As for eavesdroppers activating your microphones without your knowledge, few laptop makers have done anything about it. Apple’s solution in its latest MacBook Pros and MacBook Air physically disconnects the microphone when you close your laptop’s lid. It’s a step forward, but not a complete solution, as eavesdroppers can still activate compromised microphones when the lid is open. It’s a wonder why laptop designers haven’t adopted a small physical switch that lets you physically disconnect the camera and microphone. I’m not asking for anything crazy, but perhaps something small, tasteful, and unobtrusive like the notification-silent switch on the iPhone. That way, you’ll know that you camera and microphone are totally disabled and can’t be accessed. And when you need your camera or microphone, just flick the switch again to re-enable them.
Liquid resistance.
Laptops succumb to liquid damage far too often. If it’s not a problem for smartphones anymore, it shouldn’t be a problem for laptops, where cups of coffee and other drinks are often in close proximity. There’s certainly a challenge for laptop makers to add water resistance. Laptops need relatively large open ports, usually on the bottom or lower edges, to allow fresh air into the enclosure to cool down the components inside. It just so happens those air ports are exactly where liquid is likely to end up after a spill. And then, of course, there’s the physical keyboard — something most modern smartphones don’t have — with the spaces around each key a liability when liquid is poured on the surface.
Ultra-thin bezels.
Dell’s XPS laptops and Huawei’s MateBook X Pro have the thinnest bezels on laptops, but thin bezels still aren’t the standard yet like they are on high-end smartphones. With thinner bezels, laptops could get the same benefits as smartphones, like bigger screens in smaller sizes, and a premium modern look that makes bezels look dated. Are there other smartphone features — or any other features, for that matter — you’d like to see on a laptop? Get in touch at

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