It used to be that the smartphone was the data and media capability rich big brother to the humble voice capability focused feature phone. That was until the iPhone and to a certain degree the first Droid phone arrived. Today, we dont talk much about smartphones as being the cool devices to desire. Instead we have moved on to superphones.
So what are superphones?. It is kind of fuzzy. It used to be that every handset manufacturer had its top of the line handset with the best processor, max RAM, big screen and the latest OS. But that categorization applies to multiple phones from each vendor with different operators. Given the lack of specific definition, it might help that we create one ourselves.
The iPhone was not the first superphone, contrary to popular belief. It was the phone to trigger its competition to build superphones. The iPhone has never been a superphone. Instead it has been a top of the line handset that married consumer requirements with the best in class design that stands the test of time, atleast until the next model comes along. Most people will point to the Nexus One as the first to bear the moniker. But that was Google calling it thus. But then there were detractors calling it great, but not really a superphone. And going by the screen size argument, the Nexus One is 3.7 inches falling short of the 4 inch qualifier.
Slashgear cobbled together some pieces to give its definition of the superphone and it was fairly true until a few months ago. The device would have a 4+ inch screen, screaming fast dual core processor, HD video capture and extrapolating that list we can add copious amounts of RAM (512MB would be the low bar), cool display (OLED, SLCD, IPS). But with all definitions in tech, much of this is close to obsoletion already.
So what qualifies as a superphone today and going into 2012?. A display of 4.5 inches or bigger, 1GB of RAM or better (none better than a gig yet), 1.2 GHz dual core processor or better, 800×480 display resolution or better with a proprietary or unique screen offering like IPS or AMOLED variant, HD video capture, 8 MP camera with auto flash, 16GB inbuilt RAM with or without expansion slot and the latest version of their respective OS’es. Given these requirements, what are those than qualify- quite a few actually.
The Samsung Galaxy SII family qualifies although its ATT HSPA+ variant has only a 4.3 inch screen but the recently announced LTE capable Skyrocket on the same network bumps up the screen to 4.5 inches. Motorola Droid Razr has best in class from Moto and cuts it close with a 4.3 inch screen but excellent other specs. HTC has multiple phones that qualify like the HTC Vivid/HTC Rezound and the single core 4.7 inch HTC Titan with Windows Phone Mango. And then there is the most anticipated super phone for the holiday- the Google experience Galaxy Nexus built by Samsung with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The Galaxy Nexus has a 4.65 inch screen with a 720p HD display that is expected to turn a lot of heads.
And there is the elephant in the room- the outlier that sells better than all of the aforementioned devices. With the iPhone 4S, Apple has continued to innovate with features rather than go for the biggest and greatest moniker for its hardware configuration. This allows Apple to optimize its hardware for the software where its currently focused on innovating. While the iPhone 4S is no slouch when it comes to performance, the device boasts of one of the smallest screens for a smartphone, 512MB of RAM and a rumored 800MHz dual core processor. It still performs on par with the best in class Android device not to mention with some new software features, prominent of which is Siri.
The super phone will continue to get redefined every year. The question is whether it did or will ever make an impact on the consumer or not. As the iPhone has proved, its not all about the hardware. Its the experience that counts.