Skip to main content

Speed isn’t everything: Convenient new features coming to your next smartphone

Image used with permission by copyright holder

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week, we witnessed a ton of new mobile technologies that aren’t in phones yet, but that will the phone you currently have look and feel a decade old when they arrive later this year.

To me, some of the most impressive innovations came from Qualcomm. Though it may not be a household name outside tech enthusiasts, Qualcomm is the dominant technology player in the cell phone space. It got there not by having the fastest processor or best graphics (the battleground for PCs), but by having the best radios – performance on a phone really doesn’t matter if you can’t connect.

But at Mobile World Congress, Qualcomm announced a number of technologies that had nothing to do with connectivity or speed that I think help it stand apart from the pack.

Snapdragon Voice Activation

In many US states, you’re required to use hands-free technology to make calls behind the wheel in order to comply with local laws. But to do that, you need good voice-command functionality. If your phone has gone into low-power mode, or your phone, headset, or car sucks at voice commands, it doesn’t work that well.

In the end though, because I value safety behind the wheel… it was the voice activation and charging announcements that caught my interest.

At MWC 2013, Qualcomm announced a standardized voice-command component called Snapdragon Voice Activation. It can wake up the phone, connect it to the manufacturer’s voice natural user interface, and keep you from having to pull the phone out while driving to figure out how to get the voice prompts to work properly. Unlike some competing systems, you don’t have to press a button to prepare the phone for voice commands, just saying “Hey Snapdragon” will work.

Having at least some standards should allow the next generation of phones to work more reliably without having to use your hands, and more effectively keep you from ending up in the trunk of the car in front of you.

Snapdragon Quick Charge

This was perhaps my favorite feature of the show, because I often forget to charge my phone and end up driving to a meeting with an ominous “your phone power is critically low” warning on my screen. I can charge my phone in the car, but 30 minutes to an hour on a charger just delays the inevitable shut-down surprise that will come a few hours later in the day.

The first version of Quick Charge increases the charging speed by 40 percent. So if it typically takes a full four hours to charge your phone, with this new technology it will take two hours and change.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

However, the second version of this may be worth waiting for: It reduces charging time by 75 percent. This means if it currently takes four hours to charge your phone, the new phone will only take an hour. That’s exactly what I need. (I often have to drive into San Francisco, which takes a bit over an hour. I could always arrive with a full phone regardless of whether I’d charged it first.)

This second version will go into Snapdragon-based tablets and notebooks. Since some ARM notebooks and tablets typically have 10 hours of battery life to begin with, a one-hour charge time would be a godsend.

Other stuff

On top of these two announcements, Qualcomm showcased its new Snapdragon line: The entry-level 200 for value smartphones, the 400 for the mid-range, the 600 for the high end and tablets, and the 2.3GHz 800 for folks chasing performance.

In the end though, because I value safety behind the wheel and always seem to be walking around with a phone on life support, it was the voice activation and charging announcements that caught my interest. And these were just the innovations from Qualcomm. This year Mobile World Congress had a ton of other interesting things going on as well. We’ll look at some of that next week unless something even bigger happens.

Editors' Recommendations

Rob Enderle
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Rob is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. Before…
Best Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 deals: Save big on the foldable
A person holding a partially open Galaxy Z Fold 4.

With the launch of its predecessor, it's the best time to hunt for discounts on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4. It's not going away any time soon because it's still a very fun and capable mobile device, so there will be a lot of demand for savings when buying the foldable smartphone. We've gathered the top ways of getting the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 for cheaper than usual, but you'll have to hurry with your purchase because these offers may disappear at any moment.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 deals at Samsung
The obvious source for a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 is Samsung, which is offering trade-in credit of up to $725 for an unlocked 256GB model of the smartphone that normally costs $1,800. However, you can get it at $800 off, so you'll only have to pay $1,000, if you buy it with a U.S. Cellular plan.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 deals at Amazon
The unlocked 256GB Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 is on Amazon for its retail price of $1,800, but why would you get that model when the unlocked 512GB Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 is cheaper at just $1,450, following a $470 discount on its original price of $1,920? It's a no-brainer to go for the version with the larger storage capacity when it's more affordable.

Read more
Best iPhone 15 deals: How to get Apple’s latest iPhone for free
The display on a green iPhone 15.

The iPhone 15 has only just hit stores but that hasn't stopped there being some great iPhone 15 deals going on right now. If you're keen to upgrade to the shiniest of new iPhones, this is your chance to do so. We've picked out all the best iPhone 15 deals going on at the moment including how to get the phone for free. Here's what you need to know about iPhone deals on Apple's latest model.
iPhone 15 deals at Amazon

Amazon has one of the best ways to get an iPhone 15 for free. Sign up to Boost Infinite and you get the Apple iPhone 15 for free. That saves you the $830 you'd normally pay, while Boost Infinite costs $60 per month and gives you unlimited talk, text, and data every month. It's a near-unbeatable deal for many people.

Read more
The Fitbit Charge 6 is a fitness tracker and smartwatch hybrid
A Charge 6 being used on a wrist.

Fitbit has finally embraced what it means to be owned by Google with the Fitbit Charge 6. Not only is the Charge 6 an impressive-looking fitness tracker with a more accurate heart rate tracker, but it's also the first Fitbit device to really lean on the vast data resources offered by its parent company, Google. These additions have moved the Charge 6 toward becoming more of a smartwatch, thinning the barriers between the two device types.

Fitbit was purchased by Google in January 2021, but outside of Fitbit's tech being front and center in the fitness section of the Google Pixel Watch, it hasn't meant too much change for the fitness tracker brand. That ends with today.

Read more