Good-Old Phone Features Eventually Killed-Off By Mobile Manufacturers


Mobile phones have come a long way. It is impressive how a gadget that barely let us read four lines of text in a single scroll can now record 4K videos. The change in this industry has been mostly good. But, sometimes phone manufacturers follow silly trends. Take for instance, the rate at which our beloved 3.5 mm jack is vanishing from phones. Mind you though, this is not the first time the industry is out to kill useful features. Without further ado, here are some of the features I miss the most on today’s smartphones:

FM Transmitter

These days people beam their music over Wi-Fi. With entertainment systems connected to fancy Google Home and Alexa devices, you can cast content instantly. There’s a catch though, as the entire thing works only with compatible “smart” devices. These devices also need to be setup on the same Wi-Fi network. Put off by such complexities, most people prefer pairing their phone with a music system over Bluetooth. But, what if I told you that there is a decade old technology, which could beam music to any radio made after 1940? Dubbed as FM transmitter, this technology enabled you to select a radio frequency on your phone and start beaming the music. To listen to this on your car stereo, music system, or even a dirt-cheap Rs 200 FM radio, you only need to tune into the frequency your phone was broadcasting to. It was much like having your own little radio station like Radio Mirchi sans annoying RJs. Back in 2008, our family car had Sony Xplode music system. It lacked Bluetooth connectivity, but I never missed it thanks to my Nokia 79, which was amongst the first few mobiles to feature an FM transmitter. However, along with Symbian operating system, this feature faded into obscurity. Last phone to feature FM radio was the Nokia 808 PureView.

Removable Battery

While today’s tech enthusiasts can bore you to death with unnecessary detail on processors, back in 2000s mobile experts were separated from amateurs based on their knowledge of battery compatibility. It mattered, because phone batteries were user accessible. My Nokia N79 had a BL6F battery and I owned two of them. It was the time when instead of buying a power bank, people carried a spare battery. Seriously, I used to think that swapping out a dead battery from my Nokia N79 was as cool as reloading a Glock 26. And I wasn’t alone, as the market was flooded with “kekda” crab chargers meant for topping up spare batteries. Apart from convenience, user accessible batteries also meant that you always had an eye on the health of your phone’s battery. Any sign of puffing meant that it was time to buy a new one. However, in coming years, phone manufacturers ditched user accessible batteries in favor of more streamlined designs. These days, once you are out of warranty, a dead battery effectively means the end of life for your smartphone.

TV Out

For last few years, “smart” TVs have become a rage and they play nice with smartphones. When connected to the same Wi-Fi network, you can mirror your phone’s screen on your TV. However, this feature doesn’t always work. There are many reasons including but not limited to your TV’s inability to handle certain video encoders or flaky wireless connection. Back in the day though, things were quite straightforward. Don’t stab me for mentioning my Nokia N79 again, but its 3.5 mm jack doubled up as TV out port. How cool is that? I could simply watch photos and videos on my CRT TV without any trouble. A few years later, my next phone Nokia N8 improved upon this feature by adding a dedicated micro HDMI port. Slowly though, these straightforward TV connectivity features were phased out in favor of a micro USB port with MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link). But, since it required additional hardware, MHL never really took off.

(Image courtesy: All About Symbian)

FM Radio

Watch any post-apocalyptic movie and you will see characters getting all their information over radio. If anything goes wrong, all your fancy 4G phones and broadband connections will be of no use. This is the reason why survivalists across the globe run their own ham radio networks to prepare for the worst. Even during natural calamities, radio communication can save lives. Despite knowing this though, the mobile phone manufacturers have phased out radio receivers mostly on the request of telecom operators. These network operators want to get rid of every free service that can take a user away from spending mobile data on content streaming or downloading. As NPR reports, despite packing in the required hardware, radio receivers are disabled on millions of smartphones across the globe. And with most telecom operators now offering their own content streaming services, you are unlikely get back the good-old radio back on your smartphone anytime soon.