We run down the most baffling and pointless smartphone features we’ve ever had the misfortune of battling with, from eye-tracking shenanigans to face-warping weirdness.
It’s probably no surprise to users of Samsung phones that about half of this list contains annoying features found on Galaxy handsets throughout the ages. Samsung is the king of adding pointless crap to its mobiles, seemingly on a whim – although those days appear to be over after the pleasingly lean and user-friendly Galaxy S6 landed just a month ago.
And of course it isn’t just Samsung who’s guilty of throwing irritating and useless features onto its phones…
For instance, Taiwanese company Huawei recently got our hackles up with the infuriating ‘knuckle mode’, dumped merrily on to the new P8 flagship phone. This ill-advised display feature was supposed to determine between your fingertip and knuckle, and if it thought you were dragging your knuckle across the display, it would capture that part of the screen so you could share it around or paste into documents.
Problem was, it was a bit shit. So occasionally the P8 would mistake your swipes as knuckles jabs and end up tracing blue lines around the screen instead of doing anything useful, like below.
Chances are this will happen while you’re playing a game which requires fast actions to avoid death – so not only will your game character meet an unfortunate and avoidable early demise, but so will the P8 as you hurl the bloody thing at the nearest brick wall.
And the best part? As far as everyone can tell, knuckle mode is impossible to disable. Cheers fellas.
This baffling camera feature plagues almost every Asian smartphone and never fails to amuse, turning us into some kind of bizarre anime character/grey alien hybrid. Rather than making us drop dead gorgeous, the beauty or beautify mode often makes us look like the result of decades of inbreeding.
Kill it! Kill it with fire!
Rarely found these days, but a fair few early smartphones boasted the highly useful ‘torch mode’. This essentially turned the screen white, to help you stumble your way around at night. Because phone screens apparently don’t pump out enough light already.
Attempted back in the day by LG’s Optimus 3D, glasses-free 3D wizardry was a really nice gimmick for about ten minutes. Then you realised that practically no apps and movies supported it, and now you were stuck with this chunky handset for two years.
Amazon seemed to forget that 3D was a crap idea when it released its first own-brand handset, the Fire Phone, which went on to sell about three units. We’re taking bets on which manufacturer will try and fail in another couple of years to resurrect this pointless tech.
Dual camera/focus shifting
HTC’s One M8 was a great handset, boasting plenty of nifty features and a gorgeous design, but we still wonder what the point of the dual-lens Ultrapixel camera was. HTC bigged up the fact that you could do ‘focus shifting’, i.e. change the focus of a photo after you’ve already taken it. Which is all well and good, but the only time we ever used it was to test it out for the review, after which we promptly forgot it was even a thing.
Heart rate sensor
We’re sure that some people do actually use the heart rate sensor crammed onto the back of recent Samsung flagships and pretty much every wearable ever conceived. And to those five people, we say: fair play.
Samsung’s Smart Scroll, Smart Pause, etc.
It’s impossible to choose just one Samsung-birthed eye detection feature to pick on, so we’ve lumped them all together into one steaming heap of smartphone fail.
The Galaxy S4 was absolutely stacked full of irritating tools that were supposed to track your eye motions using the front-facing camera. Smart scroll, for instance, could allegedly work out when your eyes reached the bottom of a web page and then scroll down automatically for you. Because swiping with your finger is so 2011.
Needless to say, it worked about as well as a chocolate tractor and was immediately disabled by every user.
Galaxy Beam projector, K Zoom camera and other phones that aren’t really phones
Okay, look, we didn’t mean to pick on Samsung this much. It just happens to plough a lot of rubbish features into its phones – or at least, did.
Like glasses-free 3D, the Galaxy Beam – which packed in an actual projector – was great fun for a number of minutes. But as soon as we got bored of projecting cat videos on the wall, we realised that we were stuck with a fairly bog-standard mobile that was also far too chunky to fit in our pockets. Ditto with the K Zoom, which was basically a decent digital camera with a crap phone attached.
We’d be the first to big up how sexy the Galaxy S6 Edge looks, with its unique and innovative design. However, while those curved edges are a sexy addition, they’re also completely pointless. The best excuse Samsung could find for them is flashing coloured lights when the Edge is face-down, so you can tell who’s calling during meetings and quiet moments. Because that’s not at all distracting.
Here’s a full run-down of the Galaxy S6 Edge’s ‘uses’. In case you’re curious. It’ll take you approximately 24 seconds to read.
Got your own bugbear features which you’d like to complain about? Let us know in the comments below.