Greatest Smartphone-Related Innovations of 2018 According to Popular Science

It’s 2019 and Popular Science is still doing its thing, and that means continuing its tradition of capping off each year with a roundup of the 100 greatest innovations covered in the last twelve months.

It should come as no surprise that advancements in smartphone technology are sprinkled throughout the list. As a matter of fact, many of these innovations seem destined to be the most widely accessible and commonly used of the whole crop. Which is pretty cool.

Now, there are some pretty nifty non-phone inventions included. Really, why wouldn’t there be? A rescue drone to help swimmers stuck in riptides? Awesome. Disney Engineering’s animatronic Cirque de Soleil Terminators? Slightly horrifying. But, being a part of the gadget repair industry, we decided to sift through the list to see what would most interest a phone repair technician. After all, as smartphones and electronic devices continue to evolve, the more things will go wrong with them.

It also helps to understand why a fully functioning phone is so critical, and how important your repairs are to those who need them.

We’ve tried to rank these innovations in order of real-life application to repair techs. What will be the most widespread? What might break down the most? The higher on our list, the likelier it will affect your job!

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

This is flattering for Samsung. Rather than any one single component or feature, Samsung’s whole flagship phone gets pride of place in the “Gadgets” section of PopSci’s 100 greatest list. Special callouts go to the Galaxy Note 9’s high screen resolution, Qualcomm processor, graphics chip, and copper vapor chamber, a feature becoming more prevalent as a cooling system on new phones. Of course, Samsung’s latest and greatest isn’t indestructible. Its fragile back cover, large screen display, and dual back camera lens are vulnerable to cracking, and S Pens go missing fast. A broken one won’t sit idle for long. Cutting to the chase: make sure you know how to fix one!

Corning Gorilla Glass 6

PopSci credits the rise of wireless charging – and thus the necessity for glass backs – as a good reason for manufacturers to up their glass game. Corning Gorilla Glass 6 is said to survive an average of 15 drops on a hard surface from 3.3 feet. Does it live up to the hype? Shattered screens and back glass are the bread and butter of the repair industry, so does this mean fewer screen display replacements? Every year brings advancements in glass, and we’re hopeful users will continue to find new, exciting ways to drop, crack, bend, and squash their phones.

Synaptics Clear ID Optical In-Display Fingerprint Sensor

The Vivo X21 premiered the Synaptics Clear ID fingerprint scanner, which rests beneath an AMOLED screen display and scans fingerprints in 7 milliseconds. Vivo extended the screen display down to the bottom of the phone, and rather than putting the fingerprint scanner on the back (or even the side, as some manufacturers do), it chose to embed it under the screen. If this catches on, what does that spell for screen repairs? Will in-display scanners be prone to breaking along with the display, or must they be replaced along with the screen? More important, when repairs are inevitably made, how well will they perform?

Google Pixel Visual Core

As if smartphone camera performance wasn’t already a driving factor in most users’ buying decisions, Google ramped up its photography game with Visual Core, which uses a chip to take the best HDR photography of any smartphone camera out there. The genius lies in the additional chip more than the camera hardware, but users’ expectations will only continue to rise as cameras improve. If the camera on a newer Pixel fizzles, it’s a tragedy. Be prepared to replace them.

Google Lookout App

Google strikes again with this Pixel-exclusive app that assists the visually impaired by calling out common objects and reading text. It uses the Pixel’s camera to scan users’ environment, and paired with a lanyard or even simply a front pocket, it allows the users to go about their business hands-free. With this app installed, a Pixel’s main camera does a lot more than take photos and videos.

Honorable Mentions

These are some other innovations that tickled our fancy, but may not directly affect repairs.

  • Duplex Assistant: Google makes the Pixel even more invaluable with the addition of this digital personal assistant, capable of interacting with humans on your behalf and taking care of things like routine calls and scheduling appointments.
  • Apple Watch Series 4: Apple’s new line of watches can perform accurate ECG tests and even detect arrhythmia when a finger is placed on the digital crown.
  • Qualcomm QTM052 mmWave antenna module: We get down to the chip level with this new antenna module, capable of connecting phones to 5G networks (when those become available for wide use).
  • AT&T and First Responder Network Authority FirstNet: A special SIM card gives registered first responders a dedicated band (or priority if a dedicated band isn’t available) on the AT&T network during emergency situations. As cool, or cooler than, the riptide rescue drone noted above.
  • Oculus Go, Magic Leap Goggles, VR in general: VR continues to improve, and users can incorporate their phones into the fun with special headsets that make use of phones’ screen displays. Yet another reason why having a pristine screen is paramount to modern phone users.

Shop for replacement parts for phones made before, in, and beyond 2018!

Apple watch series 4Corning gorilla glass 6FutureGalaxy note 9GoogleInnovationLookoutOptical in-display fingerprint scannerPixel visual corePopular scienceRepairSamsungSmartphoneSynapticsTechnologyVr