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Lost in the mania around enhanced features such as touch screens, open OS, and Internet access, consumers are asking cellular handset vendors to make a better phone, according to a survey by market research firm In-Stat. 

“In many cases vendors have been so focused on making complex camera phones, music phones or mobile Internet devices, they have lost sight of the fact that phone functionality is mediocre at best,” says Frank Dickson, an In-Stat analyst.

Over 1300 survey respondents were asked the open ended question, “What features are desired on your next phone?” The top three responses were better connectivity, better audio and simplicity, In-Stat claims. For example, video conferencing on cellular handsets is a feature that has yet to find significant adoption but early adopters are 30–39 year olds with high income.

“How often have we seen someone with a finger in one ear and a cell phone pressed to the other ear, desperately trying to hear a conversation?  Our survey responses suggest that there is an opportunity for vendors to develop phones with great audio quality, robust connectivity and antenna features that are simply easy to use,” said Mr. Dickson.

In-Stat believes that, in the short term, a limited competitive advantage can be created by bringing to market new hardware features and form factors.

Larger screens with touch sensitivity are already gaining momentum and will continue to gain popularity. Customization of home screens will improve usability with personalization quickly becoming a must have. Survey respondents expressed more interest in form factors that are more mainstream than the new “exotic” futuristic form factors such as wearable. Of the futuristic form factors, dual-screen received the most interest followed by e-paper and roll out displays. Despite of the fact that people claim that they want better phones, digital cameras, speaker phones and GPS were the top features on the “Ideal Phone”.

Real advantages, however, will be created through the integration and improved performance of existing features. Better displays, audio, HD video, and connectivity will command premiums in the market. Rugged phones will also become more popular. The proliferation of increasingly powerful features and multiple connectivity options is also increasing demand on batteries. Phones that are well architected and intelligently designed will be winners in the marketplace.

Perhaps, the most compelling advancement in user interfaces will be the integration of pico-projectors into phones. Pico-projectors overcome one of the most significant constraints inherent in mobile devices, small screens.  The strongest interest was shown in the 25-34 year age segment.

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