7 Discontinued Android Hardware Features We Want Back

7 Discontinued Android Hardware Features We Want Back

Smartphones evolve just like any other gadget, but their evolution can sometimes bring changes that make your life more difficult instead of easier.

In this list, we look at seven hardware features that you rarely see in smartphones anymore, but are super useful and should make a comeback.

1. Fingerprint sensor on the back

fingerprint sensor on the back of the oneplus phone

Smartphones today use fingerprint sensors on the screen, either optical or ultrasonic. But a capacitive fingerprint sensor on the back makes more sense because it’s easier to capture as it’s placed where your finger would naturally rest when holding the phone.

This means you can unlock your phone while pulling it out of your pocket; when you face the device, you are on the home screen. It’s quick, simple and easy. A side-mounted capacitive fingerprint sensor like the one on the Asus Zenfone 9 can also achieve the same result.

In comparison, an on-screen fingerprint scanner requires you to pull out your phone, turn on the screen, look at the fingerprint icon on the lock screen, and press your finger on it. It’s slow and not that intuitive. And if you place your finger slightly above or below the icon, the phone may not even recognize your fingerprint at all.

2. Headphone jack

3.5 mm jack for smartphone

We’re still mad that Apple convinced the entire tech industry to kill headphone jacks. We’ve already written extensively about why wired headphones are better than wireless headphones, but the lack of a 3.5mm audio jack makes buying the former that much more difficult.

Although wired headphones are cheaper, sound better, last longer and are less harmful to the environment, the absence of a plug makes wireless earbuds a convenient option. After all, you don’t want to carry an adapter everywhere.

Fortunately, there are still some phones that come with a headphone jack such as the Asus Zenfone 9, Asus ROG Phone 6 and Sony Xperia 1 IV. You must have noticed that dedicated gaming phones never skip the headphone jack, that’s because wired headphones have no latency and never need to be charged.

3. Notification LEDs

Notification LEDs were a simple but useful feature that modern phones don’t have. On some phones, you can even customize the color of the LED; for example, you can have a blue light for SMS texts, red for missed calls, green for WhatsApp messages and so on.

Notification LEDs were one of the obstacles manufacturers faced in their quest to minimize bezels and maximize screen size, so the feature had to go. There are apps you can download that recreate the effect, but almost no manufacturers make smartphones with built-in notification LEDs anymore.

4. Expandable storage

microSD card

Just like headphone jacks, modern flagships no longer come with a dedicated microSD slot for expandable storage. Because of this, you need to figure out how much storage space you need in advance, or you risk running out of space.

With expandable storage, you can simply buy a new microSD card if you need more storage. Budget and mid-range Android phones today still come with expandable storage, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see the feature disappear in a few years.

By removing the microSD card slot, brands entice you to upgrade to a higher storage variant and thus spend more money. For context, a 128GB microSD card costs less than $20, but choosing a 256GB variant of a flagship (as opposed to the 128GB base) will add about $100 more to the total price.

5. IR Blaster

Smartphones used to come with an infrared blaster, or IR blaster, that allowed your phone to act as a TV remote control. Some budget phones still offer it, but the feature has long been discontinued on flagship phones, largely due to the rise of smart TVs that use Wi-Fi to execute commands.

In other words, having an IR blaster went from being a necessity to an optional feature as more people switched to smart TVs. But if you happen to have a regular TV at home, a built-in IR blaster is nice to have on your phone for added convenience.

6. Squeezable sides

woman holding google pixel 6 smartphone feature
Image credit: Google

The Google Pixel 2 introduced a unique feature that was discontinued with the Pixel 5: Active Edge. The feature allowed you to physically squeeze the sides of your device to perform actions. Having the ability to silently and quickly perform an action on the phone by simply squeezing it is not only new, but also very convenient.

For example, if you’re in public and want to trigger Google Assistant, you don’t have to say the command word and risk potentially embarrassing yourself—just squeeze the phone and ask your question. You can also use it to silence alarms, turn on the flashlight, turn on Do Not Disturb, or open an app of your choice.

We’re not entirely sure why Google decided to remove the Active Edge feature, but we’re guessing it has something to do with the device’s internal real estate. Mounting pressure-sensitive panels may have taken up valuable space that could otherwise be used to fit a larger battery.

7. Forward-facing speakers

Forward-facing speakers are also dying out. While they sound better and are more immersive, they take up a lot of space and therefore require huge bezels, making the phone feel dated. After all, most people would rather have a bigger screen than better speakers.

The next logical step here is to move the speakers behind the screen to further minimize bezels, and there are some phones that do this. The problem is that speakers under the screen have significantly worse sound quality than regular ones, and are therefore not yet a good option.

Not all smartphone upgrades are improvements

Sometimes smartphone features are discontinued to allow for the improvement of other features that consumers prioritize more. Other times, they are discontinued simply because doing so is somehow more profitable for the tech industry.

For example, front speakers and notification LEDs had to be removed because people would rather have a bigger screen. But headphone jacks and expandable storage were phased out so manufacturers could sell you expensive wireless earbuds and more internal storage.

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