Gone are the days we used feature phones for communication. The moment smartphone sales eclipsed Nokia’s, back in the early 2010, was also our turning point. In fact, over 1.4 billion units were sold in 2015 alone. The competition between smartphone moguls is now more intense than ever. Phones with good specifications and low-prices became the norm, while flagship companies offer features other competing brands do not have.
Which one should I buy?
Perhaps this question bothers you the most when you contemplate owning a smartphone. Assuming you are one of the few who solely use feature phones, it’s easy to get lost in the ubiquitous presence of smartphones. Numerous firms compete in the smartphone market, which gives you a lot of room for selection. You may stick with known brands like Samsung or iPhone, yet there are other factors you might want to consider, beside brands. There might be a phone which offers the same features, but at a lower price.
Are you aiming for flagship units? Or are you happy enough with the most affordable one? Keep in mind that smartphones are also divided in three categories: budget, midrange and flagship. Budget phones offer the most basic features, for a really low price, so do not expect anything grand with devices at this level. An example is One Plus X, which costs below $250. Midrange smartphones offer decent specs and cool designs, sufficient for your point and shoot needs. Samsung’s A series can be found in this group. These gadgets are a tad expensive, but generally still fall below $500. Lastly, flagship phones are (usually) the most expensive ones companies offer. These gizmos are also loaded with high-end specifications, heavily advertised and waited by people before release. Every smartphone producing company has their respective flagship phones, such as iPhone 6S and Samsung S7. If you cannot afford to pay flagship phones in cash, contact your local network provider. They usually let you have these for a contract.
Screen Display, Resolution and Size
If you decided the price range of what you’re going to buy, it’s time to take a look at details. Let’s start with the smartphone’s screen, since it’s the primary channel where it displays data. In addition, the screen is the most expensive single component of a smartphone. If you are new in buying smartphones, it is advisable to take a look for the screen size and the resolution in terms of pixel per inch (ppi).
As regards to screen display, you will notice some terms printed in a smartphone’s packaging box. In-plane switching (IPS) screens produce accurate colors, regardless of the viewing angle. Yet, color reproduction might be pale at times. AMOLED screens are more energy efficient and produce better contrast. However, the colors might pack too much punch and the display is a bit harder to view under the sunlight. Retina Display is solely found in iPhones. This technology allows a user to enjoy the benefits of an IPS screen, but with sharper and crisper images. Nonetheless, it uses the most battery power among the three. This explains why iPhone units are wall huggers.
Pixels per inch tells you how detailed the image is presented in your smartphone. Pixels are tiny dots making up the display in your computer. As a rule of thumb, a higher figure means your phone is able to show images with greater detail. You should also need to consider the screen size of what you’re going to buy in this case. A 267 ppi might be okay for a 4-inch smartphone, but that’s too small for a phablet. For your satisfaction, buy units with a 300 ppi or above screen resolution, if your budget permits.
Since smartphones are undeniably getting larger these days, it does not mean you need to follow the crowd and go for the biggest. Instead, you should go with what you need. Phablets (smartphones having screen size of 5.5 inches and higher) provide more convenience if they are used as multimedia devices and phones, at the same time. These last longer than their smaller peers, thanks to a larger battery size. If you prefer using your smartphone with both of your hands, phablets are perfect for you.
Smartphones with large screens take longer to charge, though. Moreover, these will not fit in your pocket and tend to be really heavy. Smartphones with smaller screen size (5.0 inches and lower) pose portability and ease of use. Nonetheless, many of these drain their battery faster and they might not give you an excellent multimedia experience.
If a phone has a larger screen it does not mean it’s more expensive. You can surely buy a decent budget unit with a 5.5 inch screen, as long as you are patient when surfing the online market.
Operating System – Android or iOS?
The availability of mobile applications is also to be considered when you are buying a smartphone. The apps set a smartphone aside from a feature phone, after all. The two most popular platforms right now are Android and iOS, and they both come with their set of pros and cons.
Android is the market leader today, and it’s easy to see why. Google aside, customizability is its strongest suit. You can change the look of your smartphone’s widgets and keyboards with ease. You also get the most number of applicants available in Google Play Store. However, this OS is far from perfect, because you will experience lags, especially if you buy a budget level smartphone. Your phone is also prone to malwares, because of its open source nature.
Lastly, you may opt to choose Windows phones. The Windows 10 layout gives you instant familiarization with your smartphone. This OS also gives the most elegant look among the three, if you are not a fan of iOS. However, the availability and responsiveness of applications are its biggest issues. The Windows platform for smartphones is relatively new, so it is still on the process of improvement.
What you should keep in mind is that more megapixels do not necessarily mean better pictures. The camera quality depends on more factors than that. A phone with a better lens quality helps the sensor by exposing it to more light. Hence, do not be surprised if a 12-megapixel smartphone camera takes better photos than a 20-megapixel one. Optical image stabilization is also becoming important, albeit only flagship phones are carrying this trait. This feature helps producing more stable and clearer photos. Lastly, the rise of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media ramp the importance of a good front camera. Some smartphones house front cameras as powerful as 13-megapixels.
Flagship phones take photos whose quality is akin to digital cameras. You might also find midrange phones hosting competent rear cameras, and the images they produce can very well be posted on social media sites. We won’t bother you much with details, but you can check sample photos posted online by smartphone users and judge which is the best.
The processing system indicates how responsive your smartphone is in running applications. It is also responsible for your phone’s speed or lagging when you scroll the screen. A good processor smoothly shifts from one application to another and runs multiple applications in home screen without freezing. Old processors are less efficient in executing tasks and they also use more battery. Playing taxing games such as NBA 2015 or Dead Trigger is almost impossible with lower processors without sacrificing fluidity or frame rates.
The yardstick in appraising CPUs used to be the clock speed measured in GHz. Today, the computing prowess of a chip’s architecture in terms of cores has become a reliable threshold. Midrange and flagship smartphones have octa-core processors, which make these units rightfully fast. Budget smartphones, on the other hand, use quad-core processors, which are enough in handling most applications in Play Store. If you are lucky enough, you might find a cheap one which uses octa-core. Qualcomm Snapdragon is the fastest processor on the market today and is found with flagship phones. MediaTek is available in most midrange and budget level smartphones. An exception to this is Apple, which has its own set of processors, in which case you should take a look at the phone’s processor generation.
Lastly, a flashy phone is ultimately useless if it does not last long before a recharge. Take a good look at the battery power of the smartphone you plan to buy. Normally, a phone has 1,700 mAH, but can go up to 4,000 mAH. Of course, the battery power should be compatible with the processing system the smartphone has. A 1,700 mAH battery for an octa-core processor is not a good match. On the other hand, 4000mAH is an overkill for quad-core processors. A smartphone whose battery lasts for a day is more than enough.
We hope we helped you in your journey towards the wonderful world of smartphones. Do not hesitate to voice your thoughts in the comment box!