Today’s high-end smartphones have a host of whizbang features that differentiate them from their competitors. From Samsung’s Multi Window, which lets you view two apps side by side, to LG’s QTranslate app, which scans foreign-language text with the camera to translate it in real time, a number of these goodies really do make your life better. However, like spinning rims on a car, many proprietary smartphone features are all style and no substance. These are the dumbest smartphone features today.
Ever wish you could have a grotty little picture of your face, sitting in a tiny box overlaid on top of those pics you took of your kids? LG and Samsung have you covered, with dual-camera modes that shoot with both the front- and back-facing cameras at once. If only Annie Leibovitz had this feature.
Android may support widgets, live wallpaper and custom launchers, but only the iPhone is immersive enough to make you nauseous every time you look at your home screen. The Parallax Wallpaper feature in iOS 7 causes the background behind your shortcut icons to move as you tilt the phone, making it look as though your apps are floating on a lake and making you feel seasick. I wonder what the attach rate is for Dramamine at the Apple store.
Air Call Accept
If you don't want the hardship of actually touching your phone to answer a call, Samsung has you covered with Air Call Accept. By frantically waving your hands in the air like you really do care, you can answer the call. Just make sure your fingers are only a few inches from the screen and pretend you're slapping an invisible person. This feature is designed to help you when driving, but wouldn't you be better off swiping on the display for one second than spasming in front of the camera for 10?
LG G2's Rear Power Button
Since the dawn of the smartphone age, handsets have had their power buttons either on the right side, the left side or the top. However, LG thinks it knows better, so it has put the power and volume buttons on the back of its G2 smartphone. This design is supposed to help you use the device more easily with one hand. But if you try picking up the device, you'll find yourself feeling around blindly for the power button as you loosen your grip.
Using a Samsung phone these days is like having sex in the movie "Demolition Man" — a completely touchless experience. Since swiping to see more of a Web page seems so 2012, the Galaxy S4 and Note 3 have Smart Scroll, which moves up and down in the browser based on your eye movements. All you need to do is jerk your head up and down violently until you throw up or get whiplash.
Moto X's Quick Capture Camera
Most phones try to make it easy to launch the camera app so you can capture photos quickly. That's why Samsung lets you put a camera icon on its lock screen and the LG G2 has its Rear Key button double as a camera launcher. But why tap an icon or press a button when you can gyrate your wrist until a bone pops out? That's the idea behind the Moto X's Quick Capture Camera, which, in our experience, takes some pretty rapid, violent twisting before it will wake up and let you take a photo. Perhaps this device should quick dial an orthopedist for you instead.
Using Samsung's Smart Stay feature is like watching a paternity episode of the "Maury Show" — you just can't look away. Avert your eyes while watching a video, and the playback stops until you stare intently at the screen again. So, if you want to keep half an eye on your toddler while watching a movie on your phone, forget about it. Of course, you can always disable this parlor trick and use the pause button as they did in ancient times.
These days, they'll let anyone post videos online. Vine, the leading short-video service, helps you shoot and share quick 6-second clips in iOS or Android, but who wants a media format you can create on any burner phone? HTC Zoes are also short videos with sound, but you can only shoot them on select HTC phones and only view them on HTC's website, not Facebook, Google+ or Twitter. Now that's quietly brilliant.
Sound and Shot
If you're the kind of person who browses through your photo gallery and wonders, "Why doesn't this picture make a frightening disembodied noise?" then Samsung's Sound and Shot was made for you. When you use this feature to shoot a picture, the still JPG is paired with an 8-second sound file that plays only when you view the image on your phone.
Samsung Group Play
These days, most people would use a Bluetooth speaker to provide the audio for a party. However, Samsung has what it thinks is a better idea: turn your friends into speakers. Never mind that the Samsung Galaxy phones have mediocre speakers. The company's Group Play feature allows you to stream your music to your friends' phones, provided they are within Wi-Fi range. As they move around the room, they take the sound with them, no matter how poor the quality.