Tech pundits these days are heard saying sensors are going to be big in the next few years. A typical smartphone today has the following — accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor and magnetometer. These sensors, with the help of supporting software, enable cool things like changing UI orientation when you hold your phone from portrait to landscape, or turning off the display when you’re talking on the phone. These features may created a ‘Wow’ effect back in 2007 when seen on the first iPhone, but now even phones costing as low as Rs. 5,000 have them. Manufacturers these days have started going berserk with sensors. But many can be knocked off as a little too gimmicky — hand gestures to move between photos gets painful after 10 tries; touching the screen is better, trust me. Or there’s no way in hell I’m going to publicly “blow a phone to unlock”. But here are five really useful gesture-based actions that ought to be in every modern phone today.
- Turn on speakerphone when you remove the phone from your ear – I came across this feature for the first time on the Samsung Jet. It makes so much sense for the phone automatically go to speakerphone mode the moment you move it off your ear. Samsung employed the accelerometer to make this feature work. Thus you had to place it on a flat surface for the speakerphone to turn on. I’ll admit that the implementation wasn’t perfect; there were times when it wouldn’t work. HTC asks users to flip the phone over to turn to speakerphone mode. But I’d suggest instead of using the accelerometer, why not use the proximity sensor which anyway knows when the phone is off your face? This way, even if you’re holding the phone in your hand the speaker would turn on.
- Flip to mute – This was a commonly seen feature back in the day. If the phone rings when you don’t want it to, you can just turn it around to instantly silence it. It would also be nice to have the phone to automatically go to silent mode the moment you keep the phone face down on a surface. Great feature to have for phones that don’t come with a dedicated mute switch like the iPhone.
- Shake to Shuffle – Speaking of iPhone, here’s one that all of Apple’s music-capable product line have been supporting. During music playback, a simple flick of the device instantly changes to the next track. This can prove to be useful if you use your phone to listen to music while driving, so you can skip to the next track without taking your eyes off the road.
- Double Tap To Wake from Standby – This feature has been recently implemented by the likes of Sony and Nokia. Studies show that an average smartphone user will end up pressing the power button to wake up the phone several times a day. Phones like the Asha 501 or tablets like the XPERIA Z come with a double-tap to wake feature, where you simply have to knock gently on the screen to wake the device up. Pretty convenient feature to have, if you ask me! Taking this concept even further is the Moto X; that automatically lights up the notification lockscreen the moment you take the phone out of your pocket.
- Automatic Driving Mode – Yet another amazing thing about the Moto X is the Motorola Assist app, that automatically enables the ‘Driving’ mode thanks to the motion data it grabs from the GPS chip. In this mode, all calls are automatically turned on to speakerphone, messages and caller names are read out etc. You can even set a quick reply saying “I’m Driving, I’ll call you later” if you want no distractions. All that without you having to remember to put the phone in ‘Driving mode’ every time you get behind the wheel — Amazing!