The 5 Dumbest Things in the Smartphone World

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The smartphone market has become one of the world's largest markets,so it shouldn't be surprising that finding insane things in it is likeshooting fish in a barrel.

Here are five of the lowest-hangingfruits:

1. Carrier contracts: This is as much the U.S. consumer's fault as is it the carriers' fault.

The U.S. consumer is apparently incapable of doing basic math. Theconsumer takes a $150-$450 subsidy up-front, for the benefit of paying$1,080 or so in higher monthly charges over two years ($45 in monthlysavings multiplied by 24 months). In the meantime, the consumer has adevice that's locked to one carrier, with zero flexibility.

Basically, the U.S. consumer is so stupid so as to look at the Day 1price but not consider what he or she is really paying over two years. I coulddraw a political analogy, but we're talking about the 47% here... orperhaps a much bigger number: Give me free stuff today; who caresabout what it will really cost me over the life of the agreement.

You can buy your Android, iOS or other device for cash up-front andsave mostly $45 per month -- or perhaps even more -- but the U.S.consumer is either too uneducated or to poorly proficient in basicmath to bother. When I see this, it's small wonder our society isdrowning in debt and irrationality. Very discouraging.

2. Tiny batteries: Regardless of platform -- Apple ( AAPL), Google ( GOOG), Microsoft ( MSFT), BlackBerry -- Ibelieve 99% of people are complaining about crummy battery life.Depending on how you use your device, most people are getting five to 10hours of battery life. That's dramatically unacceptable. Batterylife needs to at least double in order for customer satisfaction to bereasonable.

On the other hand, I believe perhaps 1% of smartphone buyerscomplain their device isn't thin enough.

Okay, so what do we have here? 99% of people complain about poorbattery life, 1% complain that their device is too thick. Seems to methat every smartphone maker should focus on adding a couple ofmillimeters in thickness in exchange for doubling the battery life.

This is a classic case of manufacturers totally misjudging thecustomer base. There is some sort of collective disease among all thesmartphone makers here, force-feeding the consumers too-thin deviceswhen they would rather have a slightly thicker device with double thebattery life.

3. Android skins: Google's pure Android Nexus is an excellent operating system, but it'sbeing fragmented and butchered by the various hardware makers. If youhave a good thing, what do you do? Create umpteenth variants of it,all of them inferior and confusing!

Make sure that different Androids have different kinds of buttons --some soft, some actual physical buttons -- and that they are put indifferent places, and then make sure that all menus look differentfrom device to device. Therefore, someone switching from one Androiddevice to another -- from Samsung to HTC to LG ( LGL) to Sony ( SNE), etc. -- will betotally confused.

Adding insult to injury, instead of getting the OS updates directlyfrom Google as soon as they are released, you have to wait anywherefrom three to 18 months to get them -- or never receive them at all. Bythe time you're 18 months overdue for an OS update, you have probablybecome so frustrated that you have moved on to a new device anyway --perhaps an iPhone. Google's loss.

Google offers the pure version of Google, which has not beenbastardized, in the form of the pure Nexus experience. Why someonemaking an Android phone bothers spending huge resources re-inventingthe wheel -- always unsuccessfully -- is beyond me. All of theseAndroid makers, from Samsung to HTC to Sony and so forth, should stickto the pure Nexus version of Android. Google should insist on it, forit's own sake -- and Android's.

4. Failure to copy the BlackBerry keyboard: There is a segment of the market that clearly prefers the BlackBerrykeyboard. It differs from different countries -- anywhere from 5% to50%+. When the BlackBerry platform was a competitive OS in general --until 2007-08, say -- BlackBerry had a huge market share almosteverywhere, approaching 50% on average.

Still, even today, there are some 80 million BlackBerry users outthere. If BlackBerry had a competitive OS, there would probably be alot more, although yet others would argue that the train has left thestation for this to actually happen in the future.

That said, imagine how easy it would be for someone to pick off these80 million BlackBerry subscribers, and attract even more who wouldlike that keyboard but left the BlackBerry platform already becausethey couldn't take it anymore? Clearly Apple is uninterested in this,but what about Google and Microsoft?

Some will say: But there HAVE been Android and Windows Phone versionswith BlackBerry style keyboards. Well, technically, there have been,but not really.

On the Windows side, there was the Dell ( DELL) Venue Pro that came to market2 years ago. It was not promoted by the carriers, so more than 99% ofconsumers didn't know it existed.

On the Android side, Motorola has offered a couple of devices on Verizon ( VZ) and Sprint ( S). However, they were so terribly bad. The batterylife was the worst I have ever experienced on an Android device, andthat says a lot. The screens had terrible resolution -- lower than aBlackBerry 9900 Bold series. Operating system? Android 2.3 or older-- no upgrade to 4.1, let alone 4.2. The processors were extremelyslow. I mean, if you wanted to guarantee failure...

How difficult would it be for someone to make a Nexus-class AndroidBlackBerry competitor? It would run unvarnished Nexus software, havehigh-end hardware and be SIM-unlocked.

Of all difficult things to accomplish in the smartphone world, copyinga hardware keyboard can't possibly count in the top 10. Thesecompanies could either pay billions to acquire RIM, or they could getthose 80 million subscribers by allocating $10 million of engineeringinto a competitive keyboard.

5. AT&T's software updates: This one is admittedly a narrower pet peeve, but it's worth mentioningbecause it's so stupid. AT&T ( T) is now forcing customers of some SamsungAndroid smartphones to use an arcane PC-based process if they want toupgrade their operating system.

Basically, what you have to do is to download a program onto a PCwhich will ingest the new OS, then connect to the smartphone over USB,and then it will upgrade. These files are several hundreds ofmegabytes large. So you need a PC and download almost a gigabyte.

You also need at least an hour or two, according to those few bravesouls who have sacrificed a good part of a day to figure this out.Most people, however, will never find out about this upgradenightmare, let alone have the patience to actually perform it. If ittakes more than 20 seconds worth of clicks, forget it. If it takes aPC, a PhD in computer science and perhaps two hours or more, forget iteven more.

Conclusion: The industry is far from perfection, and rife withimperfections. I'm sure it contains many more stupid things. Feelfree to nominate them.

At the time of publication the author had positions in GOOG and AAPL

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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