Could smartphone's biggest modern day "gimmicks" become common features?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| December 1, 2013

Every time a new smartphone comes out, it seems like the first thing to be talked about is how "gimmicky" something is - that is to say,  the phone has certain features that doesn't really do anything for the user. It's there for looks, as a selling point, and doesn't contribute much to overall performance of the device. When somebody describes something as a "gimmick" in the mobile world, they're basically stating that the feature could be taken out of the equation completely and they wouldn't notice because they would never use it in the first place. 

You pretty much can't have a phone release without the word gimmick being thrown out there by someone, somewhere. The one that sticks out most recently in my mind is the Samsung Galaxy S4 with all of the "Smart" features that were added with the device. Although Samsung's "Smart" features were introduced with the Galaxy S III, the idea was elaborated with more touchless features in the Galaxy S4. With features like Smart Pause, which detects when you turn your head away from a video and pauses the video for you; Air Gesture, which allows you to see certain notifications on your lock screen with the wave of your hand; and Smart Scrolling, which uses sensors to detect where your eyes move when reading a scrolling web page. Pretty amazing features - in theory. But since these are still in the early stages of development, they're far from perfect. 

Nonetheless, to a lot of people they do still seem very gimmicky. And why not? I myself considered them to be gimmicky at first. I thought that Samsung was getting as ridiculous with their gimmicks as they were with the amount of smartphones they were pumping out. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that these features could become very useful in the future - especially speaking in terms of accessibility, but even in terms of everday use I can see where I was wrong and Samsung might be on to something very futuristic here, especially considering that other technologies are starting to use this same technology on their products. Intel, for example, is trying to make personal computers more human-like by adding sensors that detect things like waving hands and facial expressions. 

According to Anil Nenduri, an Intel executive in charge of the new technology, "Once you give computers the ability to assess depth, a lot of wonderful things can happen." And since, generally speaking, we consider smartphones to be computers, then perhaps Samsung is really on to something here when it comes to things like Smart Pause, Smart Scroll, etc.

Samsung isn't the only company that has been ridiculed for gimmicks, however. Even more recently, I've seen accusations that the iPhone 5s's inclusion of a fingerprint sensor in place of its home button to also be considered a gimmick. I've seen Beats Audio called gimmicky. I've seen wireless charging called gimmicky. I'm not saying whether these things are gimmicky or not, at least not right now, because it is very up in the air. What I am saying is that perhaps all of these things that we deem "gimmicky" won't be gimmicky for long before they become very useful, commonplace features in our smartphones. 

What are your thoughts, readers? Do you think that certain "gimmicky" features in our phones will be used more commonly in future smartphone models? Or do you think there are certain gimmicks that are doomed to die as gimmicks? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Image via Engadget