There was a time when phones were simple. They are anything but simple now. Even the cheapest of phones come packed with a plethora of features, even if only a handful of people know what these features are for or care to use them. We take a look at terms and jargon phone buyers might not have heard before so that they can make an informed decision the next time they pick up a device.
OLED and AMOLED
You may have heard these terms multiple times, but do you know the difference between OLED and AMOLED displays? OLED stands for organic light-emitting diode. In an OLED screen, the pixels emit their own light, which basically means there’s no need for an LCD screen to display the image. Compared to LCD displays, OLED screens have better picture quality, viewing angles and offer brilliant colours. Smartphones like the iPhone XS, Huawei P30 Pro, and LG V40 ThinQ use OLED displays.
AMOLED (Active Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode) is essentially a specific variant of the OLED technology. With Active Matrix technology, individual pixels can be controlled and that results in stunning picture quality with bright colours. Samsung has been using AMOLED displays (it likes to call as ‘Super AMOLED’) in its premium flagships for years and recently launched a number of mid-range phones with AMOLED displays. The Galaxy S10+, OnePlus 7 and Vivo V15 Pro are some of the devices that come with AMOLED display technology.
The OnePlus 7 ships with a USB Type-C connector and so does the Redmi Note 7 Pro. If you ever visit Amazon or Flipkart and search for a new smartphone, you will realise that major OEMs are ditching a Micro-USB port for USB Type-C. Even Apple is rumoured to embrace USB-C for the 2019 iPhone models. In fact, Apple’s MacBook Pro and iPad Pro both use USB-C ports for charging and transferring data. Clearly, the industry is fast adopting USB Type-C.
Well, USB Type-C is a new connector for the Universal Serial Bus (USB) standard. USB Type-C is reversible, meaning it can be inserted either way and it will still work perfectly fine. The advantages of USB Type-C include faster data transfers and charge times than predecessors. Not to forget the USB Type-C is universal and can be used with smartphones, tablets, laptops, and digital cameras, among other devices.
Apple’s iPhone XS uses Face ID, a new way to unlock the device. Face ID uses a “TrueDepth camera system”, which consists of sensors, cameras, and a dot projector, to create a detailed 3D map of your face. It is extremely secure and works in a variety of conditions, including at night.
It works with Apple Pay, too. However, Face ID is currently limited to be a select few Apple iPhones and iPad Pros. Several Android handset makers have tried offering a FaceID-like feature on their phones in the past, but they failed to come up with an alternative that was as secure and reliable as Face ID.
Qi wireless charging
What is the common thing between the iPhone XS, Galaxy S10 and P30 Pro? All of these phones support Qi wireless charging. In case you are not aware, Qi is a wireless charging standard (pronounced “chee”) developed by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC). Major smartphone manufacturers, including Samsung and Apple, are its members. The advantage of wireless charging is that you just need to place the phone on a special charging mat and your device can be charged wirelessly without plugging in a power cable.
The feature, which is based on inductive charging technology, transfers power from the charger to a receiver in the back of the phone through an electromagnetic field. The charger uses an induction coil to create an electromagnetic field, which the receiver coil on the phone converts into power to charge the battery. However, wireless charging isn’t perfect. Wireless charging is usually slower than wired charging, plus only a select few phones offer this feature.
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and it is a photography technique (basically an algorithm in the age of mobile photography) that adds unusual effects to photos in real time. HDR takes multiple photos with different exposures, then combine them into a single shot. Simply put, the HDR photos have more details than a regular image. HDR can finetune the details in the sky and clouds. You get the extra in landscape shots; the colours are natural, the details in shadows and highlights and the contrast is perfect.
With the advent of smartphones, it’s easy to take photos in HDR. All major smartphones, across price brackets, have built-in HDR capabilities. There is a mixed opinion about HDR photography, though. Some people like it, some don’t like it.
If you couldn’t watch the latest season of Netflix’s Stranger Things in 720p on your smartphone it could be because the device only does not support Widevine L1 license. All major video streaming sites like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and others are protected by digital rights management (DRM) to prevent the content from being copied and distributed illegally. If your phone lacks support for Widevine L1 license, then you will not be able to stream a Netflix show in HD or HDR. So the next time you purchase a smartphone make sure it supports Google’s Widevine L1 certification in order to stream HD content from services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
If you are keen on to check whether your existing Android phone has the Widevine L1 license, you can simply download the free DRM Info App from Play Store. Alternatively, Netflix has certified a list of smartphones and tablets for HD playback. The list also includes chipsets from Qualcomm and Huawei that are capable of playing HD movies and TV shows Netflix shows.
Samsung values the Time-of-flight (ToF) camera on the Galaxy S10 5G so much that has a dedicated page explaining the use case of 3D depth camera on the phone. Huawei, Vivo and others have already launched phones with a ToF camera. Apple is rumored to be looking into the technology. But why? Well, the answer seems simple: AR. Augmented reality is yet to take off, but a time-of-flight sensor could make AR apps and games on a phone more compelling.
Right now, though, a time-of-flight sensor on phones is being used to create better blur photos in portrait mode. The phone with a ToF sensor projects infrared light and this light bounces off the surfaces in a scene and travels back to the sensor. Using the speed of light, the distance information is calculated and that can be used to create a depth map.
Ambient light sensor
Every smartphone uses an ambient light sensor to adjust the brightness level according to its environment and to offer better viewing experience as well as save battery life. Simply put, the Ambient light sensor measures the light around the device. When your phone detects it’s in a bright environment, the ambient light sensor automatically turns up your screen’s brightness. When you are checking notifications in dark, the phone’s display turns that brightness way down.
FaceTime is among the popular video calling apps because it is built into all iPhones, iPads, Macs and even the iPod Touch. You can make FaceTime video or audio call to anyone as long as you’re on Wi-Fi or 4G. The app also supports Group FaceTime that allows you to chat with up to 32 people at one time.
One of the disadvantages of FaceTime is that it’s limited to Apple devices, so you’ll need to have an iPad, iPhone, iPod touch or Mac to use it. So you can’t really FaceTime your friend who uses an Android smartphone.
NFC stands for Near Field Communication. It’s a set of wireless communication standards that allows NFC-enabled smartphones and other devices exchange information with each other with a simple tap. A lot of smartphones these days come with built-in Near Field Communication (NFC) antenna.
Perhaps the most common use case of NFC is to initiate payments like Google Pay and Samsung Pay or to pair with an audio device. To initiate payments, all you need is to hold your phone up to an NFC-equipped credit card terminal, wait for the reader to recognise your phone and retrieve your payment.
AirDrop has been a popular feature that allows Apple users to quickly transfer images, videos, contacts, map location and files between iPhone, iPad and Mac, as long as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are both turned on and the devices are nearby. It’s super fast. Since there is no size limit, you don’t have to wait for long hours to upload the file to the cloud and then wait again to download it. It’s encrypted, too. So whatever photo or video you share with others is highly secure. Like many other Apple services and features, AirDrop works only between iOS and Mac devices, which means it’s of no use if you own a Xiaomi or OnePlus smartphone.
Let us know in the comments if there are other confusing terms you want us to explain.