If I were to list the number of calls, texts, emails, Facebook inbox messages, Twitter direct messages and the number of times that I’ve been stopped in the streets just to advise someone on what they should look for in their next smartphone purchase then I could easily be the editor of a very comprehensive directory. What I’m I driving at? There are quite a huge number of people out there walking into shops everyday either to upgrade their current smartphone, purchase their very first smartphone or simply getting an additional smartphone (yes there are such folks). If you are either one of those or just curious about what you should look for in your next smartphone purchase, this article is for you so read on.
Almost all smartphones being sold today are fully controlled through a touch screen. We still have smartphones with slide out keyboards and others with physical keyboards like the Blackberrys but the full touch screen smartphones far outnumber those ones so I’ll focus on these.
What do you look for in a smartphone’s display? We’re past the capacitive vs resistive era so every smartphone you meet out there (unless it is some cheap knock-off from East Asia or South America) will have a responsive resistive display. So what do you consider? There are many things to consider in a smartphone display but only one is basic: the display’s resolution.
A smartphone with a full high definition (HD) display is pleasing to look at and takes content consumption to a whole other level. Since most smartphone owners spend a lot of their time browsing the internet, checking out the latest on social media and at times reading or watching videos, a high definition display doesn’t disappoint. Be it 1080p or 720p, that is just enough for all your needs as a smartphone user. There’s talk of 2K and 4K displays but thoise are simply modern problems: the need for more. At this point in time you really don’t need such a high resolution on your smartphone. Most low end and mid-range devices pack displays with very low resolutions so when going for those you should know that beforehand.
Other things like the display tech are simply a matter of preference and I don’t place a lot of emphasis on them. For instance I am a big lover of Samsung’s AMOLED displays but I will never allow myself to be drawn into that LCD vs LED debate.
There are many things to consider as far as the memory of your smartphone is concerned. There is the RAM and the on-board storage. The more the better.
What is the on-board/internal memory capacity of your smartphone? The amount of internal storage capacity a smartphone packs tends to determine the pricing of that smartphone. A smartphone with 8 GB internal storage will be cheaper compared to one with 16 or 32 GB. Always look at what the actual storage space that is accessible to the user is. In most cases the operating system and other add-ons by the smartphone maker end up reducing the internal storage so that if the advertised internal storage space is say 4 GB you only find 1.5 GB is user accessible. Do not be lured by the marketing. That’s why there are demo stands in most dealer shops. Take your time to enquire about the actual user accessible storage either from current users of the devices, reviews or by trying out the smartphone yourself before making the purchase. You can check this article [thanks for the share @mmnjug] and see for yourself how the top smartphones of 2013 faired in this sector.
There’s also another critical thing to look at: expandable memory. Since we’re transitioning from local storage to clouid storage, the question on what cloud storage option bonuses the phone’s maker or the platform provider is offering also matters a lot these days. Who wouldn’t want 50 GB free storage on Dropbox or some extra 25 GB on their SkyDrive/OneDrive account? Companies like Google have been so anti-local storage as they aggressively push their cloud storage offerings thus devices like those in the Nexus family don’t have expandable memory support. Apple has always not allowed external storage citing security reasons so if you are going for an iPhone then get one that will have enough space for all your varied needs. While a 16 GB iPhone 5s may be cheap when compared to the 32 or 64 GB versions, with all those bulky iOS apps and your photos and music, you’ll be left asking for more.
After the screen, the camera is the next most sensitive feature in a smartphone. How many photos do you share on social media, email to your colleagues in the office or snap for use in your next article? Yes the camera is very handy.
Many have always confused more pixels for better quality but photography experts will tell you that there is more to good photos than the pixel count. Also today we have smartphones that are unveiled with the sole purpose of appealing to photography enthusiasts. Who wouldn’t love the radiance of the Galaxy S4’s 13 megapixel camera or the low light brilliance of the HTC One’s ultrapixel shooter? What of the Lumia 1020’s 41 megapixel sensor?
Go for a smartphone with a camera that you’ll be proud of. Again, you’ll only be limited by the size of your pocket as far as smartphones with good cameras go.
If there is one thing that almost all smartphones suck at then it is the battery. If you are a keen reader of mobile technology-centric blogs then you must’ve come at comments wondering why smartphone manufacturers are busy working on increasing the megapixel count on cameras, cores of processors and 4K displays yet they cannot do anything about the battery. The battery is every smartphone user’s nightmare. I doubt there’s anyone who doesn’t dread the moment that battery low notification kicks in and you’re just about to do an M-PESA transaction or you were animatedly talking to her. It’s happened to us all.
Personally I’ve resorted to many measures to make sure I never run out of juice since my life revolves around devices. A backup smartphone, a battery pack and an extra battery are just some of the quick remedies. The permanent solution is long lasting batteries but since almost all smartphones are just as bad when it comes to the battery, you’ll need to be careful before choosing which device you’re leaving that shop with. A smartphone with a 1500mAh battery will make you a slave of the USB cable or the wall socket. It may also lead to you spending the upcoming Valentines weekend alone since she’ll think your airtime ran out midway through your conversation and you’re one broke dude she can’t have a future with. You were warned. A beefy 3000mAh totting smartphone will make sure you are still able to snap a beautiful image of the sun setting as you commute home in the evening after a busy day in the office while you still 19% of juice remaining.
There are many things like processor speed (and lately the number of processor cores) that geeks and others with deep knowledge about devices will always want to take into consideration but those are not basic and many a time the ordinary user won’t give a hoot about those. Heck, even most shop attendants wooing you to make that purchase have no idea the device has an octa-core. There are other things that I consider crucial like the platform and the operating system version but again, those really don’t matter that much.
Other things like the brand do matter but they are hardly that crucial. Apple diehards will still get that iPhone whether it is not the latest or not. Nokia diehards will get an Asha device since it is the one they can afford no matter how much you tell them they can get a basic Android smartphone for around the same price. You can almost never convince a budget conscious guy to ditch their Tecno ambitions so I let that rest.
What do you look for when buying a smartphone?