HTC, in an effort to prove to the mobile world that it was far from being forgotten, released the HTC One earlier this year. The release of this device received a widely popular reaction, mostly due to its unique design for an Android device. The material used to design the device, aluminum, is what many considered a welcome change in a world full of Androids that primarily uses polycarbonate as housing. But aside from the change in material used to house the device, the HTC One brought another interesting change when it comes to smartphone design: front-facing speakers. Two of them.
Sound has often been an issue in small devices. Even with larger smartphones, which are still considerably small compared to larger tech like flat screen televisions and computers, it's hard to really fit in a big speaker that gives off decent sound without taking up space for something else that could be seen as being more important: battery life, better camera and a bigger screen; all of these things are features that would seem like they would take precedence over something as minor as sound quality.
But as it turns out, sound quality actually does play a very important role in the features that people want to see in a smartphone. Audio company Dolby and Parks Associates conducted a study that questioned whether consumers used sound quality as a factor in determining what device to purchase. Although the numbers were already high of people who agreed that sound was important, the study took it a step further by asking the question to participants twice: once before they heard sound improvements in smartphones and tablets, and once after they heard improvements in smartphones and tablets. The study claims that consumers expected smartphones to have bad sound quality in their smartphones and tablets, but after hearing the improvements that the company could make to mobile audio quality the number of people who found sound quality to be important suddenly went up.
"It turns out hearing is believing," Dolby ends their blog post with.
I have to agree with the statement. I never really considered sound quality to be such an important factor until now. Why? Because we didn't really have the option before. Audio quality itself has come a long way from the muffled, crackled 'Realtones' you would hear come from the flip phones of teenagers everywhere. You know the ones - the ones that you really had to listen to in order to recognize the melody. Although most smartphones can make audio sound clear now, the other issue is the fact that when we set our phones down on a flat surface we usually set them with the screen facing upwards. In most phones, this usually puts the speaker facing the table, and muffles any sound that comes after it.
The HTC One solves that problem with the simple solution of placing speakers on the front of the device, which they dub BoomSound. Not only does BoomSound solve the issue of muffled music and notification sounds we get from smartphones and tablets with table-facing speakers, but it also solves another minor yet overlooked issue - the sound now faces us, the user. With multimedia devices like these, many people often find themselves passing the time by watching videos and movies. It makes more sense to have the corresponding audio face us instead of outwards towards nobody in particular. It's a solution that just makes sense for a lot of reasons without many downsides. It's been said by many experts in the mobile industry that it's truly a mystery on why this hasn't been addressed or thought of before; regardless, it's better late than never, right?
As I said before, I can't really find a downside to front-facing speakers. Even if it isn't BoomSound quality, I feel like the front-facing speaker should be a standard in the industry. The only reason I ever had turned my phone on its front was to hear audio like music clearer from the speakers, or to use speakerphone. Other than for those reasons, I never used the backside of my device for anything. In the end, having the speaker on the front of the device just makes sense. Maybe it wasn't that important before, but now that we see how well it works out I'm really hoping it becomes an industry standard.
Readers, what do you think? Do you prefer having your speaker on the back of the device or do you think smartphones and tablets would benefit from having speakers on the front? Let me know your thoughts on the matter in the comments below!
Images via Parks Associates, Tech Hive, and Daily Tech