How to buy the best smartphone for you..

Neel Vadodaria
Dec 29, 2018 · 10 min read
[The smartphone space is getting increasingly complicated; with swarms of devices launching each month. How do you choose the right one for yourself ? Image Courtesy: Gizmodo.co.au]

Understand your use case.

It’s seldom true that our buying decisions are based on endorsements from people we look upto, or brands/devices people take in at high regard.

Making choice based on these traits can make you momentarily happy, but to continue using your smartphone happily for years to come you need to be a wee bit more careful.

Smartphones have evolved as a device that can do multiple things at once, its your go to internet device, your primary camera and of course your phone.

To make the most out of your phone, you must first understand what is the most used feature by you. For many it will be still making calls, for heavy internet users, processor and software plays an important role and those who love binge watching, the quality of screen and speakers is the most important thing.

Many people put camera as a high priority even though they barely use that feature. It is a high priority only if you click 10–15 pictures each day.

If you are a mobile gamer battery, processor and a good screen and speakers are your needs, a slight trade off with cameras makes sense.

For people on the rush who needs to stay connected fast charging and a good battery backup is a must. Working professionals or free lancers who mostly rely on calls for work, fall into this category.

The first feature that comes in your mind when you want to buy a new phone is your “Desire A” feature. It’s not always your necessity, there are something’s your smartphone should always get no matter your Desire A choice. They are :-

1.) Processor processor processor

[Everything you do on your phone needs the processor to run it. Click a picture, place a call, fire an app the processor always kicks in. Image Courtesy : etechnotips ]

When a manufacturer decides to make a phone the first choice would to choose a processor. Your phone can have dual cameras only if your phone supports it, it can have a QHD screen only if the processor supports. What your phone can or can’t do basically depends on what processor your manufacturer has decided to put in your phone.

If you are a snapchat addict, all the beautiful AR stickers that you use are only due to prowess of your processor. Your phone runs snappy because, processor!

The key manufactures of mobile processors are MediaTek and Qualcomm. While MediaTek generally focuses on the budget segment and mass market smartphones, you can find a Qualcomm processor for every price segment for which the processors are available. A good processor will not heat even after prolonged use of the phone and will consume very less battery. Generally the Qualcomm’s do a better job at that than the MediaTek, and hence are considered a tad premium over MediaTek for same segment of the phone.

Processors are classified based on the clock rate ( 1Ghz, 2 Ghz etc), Core count (Octa-Core, Quad-Core etc) and fabrication technology ( 22 nm, 14 nm 7 nm etc). The higher the better in first two cases and lower the better in the last.

Clock rates can be thought as how many operations your processor can perform per second, the core count is how many such processor cores are there in your phone. The fabrication technology gives you how small the die size is, basically how power efficient the chip is. A smaller die size means more transistors can be fit into the processor, more the number of transistors the better.

If all this is a Jargon for you,processors are generally named in a manner that has numbers in it, like SD (snapdragon) 430, 625, 845 etc. the higher the number better the processor for the same make. 😉

2.) Software

[The IOS and Android logo; Copyright of respective owners used here for permitted academic use ]

The software in your phone governs how you interact with your phone. It’s not just enough for your phone to have a feature but it should also be easily accessible and the default options should work the best. You also want that the experience is optimized to give you the best balance between snappy operations and better battery performance.

If you need a feature or use an application a lot and its not available on the platform your phone runs at, this could be a major pain-point for many users. The scenario could be based on your location and use case. Some of the best professional applications and games are available on the Ios app store. Many public utility application by governments especially in India are Android only. It basically depends on which is the most preferred platform in your region.

In terms of performance and ease of use Ios is miles ahead of android. When you want a phone that just does the given task in one of the most seamless and easy to use manner this is your pick. Commands and options on Ios are kind of intuitive. Your intuition will lead you to the right setting most of the time even if you did not know it first.

On the other hand Android is known for its customizability. Here you can organize things the way you want them to, you can choose how a particular icon should look like, what information is displayed where. Even if two phones run the same version of android they can have very distinct software experience based on how the manufacture has configured the OS.

Most android phone manufacturers like to add their own personal UI experience on top of android. For Samsung it is called Experience UI, Oneplus has the Oxygen OS, Lenovo has the vibe UI and Vivo has something called the funtouch UI. While some manufactures prefer to stay with the stock android or don’t add any customization on top. This ensures speedy updates and fast responsive phones.

The oxygen OS on Oneplus and Stock Android is something that is designed to give you speedy operations. If you like a lot of features like 3 finger screenshot, flip to silent, one tap unlock etc. MIUI by Xiaomi and the Samsung experience UI has lot to offer, but they compromise on performance of your phone a bit. While some UI’s are downright junk, they try to emulate Ios or other popular skins, they may look attractive but are extremely non-functional. EMUI by Huawei, Funtouch by Oppo are some of them, they look odd or childish at best.

One must make sure that they are comfortable with the UI the phone has to offer. Also one must look for how many years will the phone be supported by software. If your phone is running on a dated software it is a security risk. You will miss out on new features and sometimes even the existing ones will stop working forcing you to upgrade.

If your phone is supported for a longer, it means you can use it for longer and derive more value out of it. Ios has the best track record in case of software updates, most Iphones are supported for 4 years from the initial release giving you the best value for money. The next are phones from google I.e. The pixel and those running on the android One program(Nokia, Mi A1 etc.). Then comes the flagships from various leading manufactures and the rest follows.

3.) The Cameras

Smartphones now come in various camera configuration than ever before. Its also one of the most used feature in a phone sometimes even more than the calling app. Image Courtesy :- AndroidCentral.com

It is said that the best weapon is the one that you have in your hand. The same is true for the camera. Smartphones have largely become the primary camera for most of the people. They are there with you on your special occasions, memories you would want to cherish forever and also document your mundane everyday to show on disappearing social media platforms.

Gone are the days when you could judge a camera based on its mega-pixel count. Nowadays the best flagship phone cameras have around 12 Megapixel and manufacturers have generally refrained from going further higher than that.

One must also look at the amount of light that can enter the camera lens, more the light better is the image. One of the ways to do it is to look at the aperture size or the f-stop value, it is denoted as f1.8, f1.6, f2.2 etc The lower the f-stop value the better.

It is not only about the number of pixels but also the size of the pixels that matter. The larger the pixel size the better. Many manufacturers will not mention it at all but those who do will flaunt it. If they do assume it is better than the others.

Dual Cameras are known to add features like portrait mode. Many a times a high premium is demanded for a phone that comes with a dual camera set-up. It is not that useful, to say the fact. You may use it occasionally but it has nothing much to offer. The portrait mode effects can easily be reproduced by a software application quite well. Even instagram does this in its focus mode.

One more such gimmick is the AI beauty mode. These features kind of try to make your skin look blemish free and smooth, they are much advertised features by some camera focus brands. Many a times the effect is so intense that the entire picture looks like a painting or fake. It is better to stay away from such features as they don’t add much value.

Features like the AI scene detection however are useful. Mostly the word AI is added to it to make it look trendy or high tech, but useful anyways. What this does is, it adjusts the camera parameters based on the type of image you are clicking to give you the best shot possible. The Google Pixel does an extremely good job at this with its might mode.

Most smartphone cameras are good enough to click nice pictures in adequate light by now. It’s only in strong backlight or Low light situation that they are really tested. For this there is no thumb rule you need to see for yourself. You can look for camera comparison videos to make your decision. Features Like HDR and HDR+ for the camera are useful. The amount of different colors that can be captured by your phone is highly expanded if it supports HDR.

Also most smartphone cameras now support Autofocus in the rear, you might want to look how much time the camera takes to lock in the focus and take the picture. This also depends upon the processor your phone uses. It is even better if the front facing camera also supports Autofocus and is having a wide angle lens for group-selfies.

If you like taking a lot of videos with your phone it is good to ensure that it has some amount of image stabilization, Electronic at minimum and best if it is optical. Image stabilization works to remove stutters and hand shakes from your video to give you a stable cinema like footage. EIS or Electronic image stabilization is a software method to reduce shakes in a video, In OIS dedicated hardware is used along with the gyroscopes to keep the position of camera intact and give stable footage.

4.) Battery life and Charging technology

Little progress and limitations in battery tech has shifted focus to ways in which an existing battery can be charged more conveniently. Image Courtesy : Droid-life.com

All of us wants our phones to be reliable. To run out of battery is a nightmare for most people, it means to remain disconnected to the world and in many cases, they feel like they have ceased to exist(A bit of a hyperbole).

A better battery life can be achieved by high battery capacity or efficient power management. Phones with smaller screens requires significantly less power to run than those with larger ones. A less powerful processor can also mean better battery, but such compromises are not desirable. We want the best of all worlds.

It is better to look for high mah rated batteries on a phone. Phones in the budget segment which are not much constrained by the aesthetics and design mostly triumph on this. Smartphones running on Ios are more power efficient than those on the Android, albeit much of this advantage is lost due to the smaller battery capacity on Ios devices. Large batteries also make a phone bulky and unwieldy.

One of the alternate way to have a good battery experience is to have comfortable ways to charge it. Many smartphones now offer quick and fast charging option where a sizeable amount of your phones battery can be charged in a short while. These ensure you have enough charge if you need to move out in an emergency.

Another way to do it never let your phones battery drain. Wireless charging does exactly that, your phone starts to charge the moment you place it on the wireless charging dock. Having such docks on your work table and study can ensure your phone is always charged when you are ready to move.

5.) The Other things

A movie buff may want a good sharp screen, an audio junkie may want a dedicated headphone jack with good output and drivers. Some may find that a notification LED is must in a phone. Fulfill your Desire A once you have got the first four things right.

You may always go for a product that has an exciting feature, but ensuring that it also fares well on the previous 4 parameters will make a lot of difference in your overall experience. These features are so fundamental to a good smartphone experience that not paying enough attention to them will leave you disappointed.

So Censure all phones in your wisdom, for you maybe the better judge.

Neel Vadodaria

Written by

Student Interested in Cosmology, Gravitational Waves and particle Physics. Nature enthusiast, NERD, Gujarati ,Part time poet, techie. (Friend links on twittr)

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