It seems like wherever we look, the hot subject in every one’s mouth is: Smartphones. At first, you didn’t had many options if you wanted a smartphone, but now, you see a smartphone getting released every hour or so. The smartphone market is one of the fastest moving markets in the world. You have technology advancing every day, smaller and smaller processors that pack a bigger punch than the one before, more memory, more graphics, more of everything. I admit, this is a wide market and to do an extensive survey on smartphones would require at least 10-20 pages. In this tutorial, I’ll try to summarize what buying a smartphone means, what you should look for and what are the features that you might want to pay an extra buck for.
Related Read: Smartphone as the Universal All-in-one Device
As you may be accustomed with, the 3 steps in buying gadgets or tech products are:
- What are you going to use it for?
- What is your budget?
- What features do you need?
Do you need a Smartphone?
When it comes to smartphones, there are lots to talk about. It seems that, nowadays, every major phone company has moved towards smartphones, and the reason is simple: you get a phone that can do extra things, like surf the web or watch TV, you need a good OS (operating system), a good processor and a very good data plan from your provider, and all of these cost money. Many people like smartphones because they can carry a miniature version of their laptop or PC in their pockets, they can answer emails anywhere, play some games to kill free time, see videos or movies when in transit and many others.
But when you go into a phone shop and try to find a phone that suits your needs best, you have to browse through their collection, looking at features that you don’t even know what they mean..it’s pretty daunting. I’ll try to explain for everyone what these features represent and give you a few tips for your next phone.
When Buying, be Careful with Smartphone Specifications
When you are looking on a phone’s specifications, you will probably see the following:
Here you will see all the 2G and 3G networks the smartphone will operate in (usually all the mobile networks supported). Watch out for useful Wi-Fi connectivity, as well.
This one speaks for itself. Here you will see the dimensions of the phone and weight. You will see that there’s a psychological barrier set between the size of a smartphone and a tablet. Usually, what’s more than 5 inch, should be considered as a tablet, albeit Galaxy Note proves to be the exception to the rule.
There are lots of types of displays, usually it will show you how many colours it displays (65k, 256k and 16M), the bigger the number, the more quality the image will have. The type of the display will also be noted here (TFT, TFT touchscreen, AMOLED, Super AMOLED, Capacitive, Gorilla Glass etc ), the dimension of the screen (usually up to 480 x 800 pixels and 4.0 inches) and other features the screen might have.
Here you will see the internal memory of the phone and if the phone’s memory can be extended with an SD card, usually you should aim for the most memory you can find (in some phones it can go up to 32GB), and in smartphones<, here you will most likely see the amount of RAM memory, and as before, aim for the most memory you can.
This specification refers to the smartphone’s connectivity and data transfer options, nowadays, the vast majority of phones offer GPRS, EDGE, 3G, W-LAN, Bluetooth and USB.
The camera of the smartphone is an important factor, you might want to find a smartphone with about 5Mpx, and before you buy it, check how it takes the photos. As you might know from the Digital Camera buying guide, lots of Megapixels do not offer better quality images, but still, try to find something in the range of 5Mpx so you can upload it on your computer and view it without any loss of quality. Also look for other features such as geo-tagging, auto focus and LED flash, HD video etc. Many consider iPhone 4S to have a really awesome camera.
Almost all smartphones have QWERTY keyboards now, they have the advantage of having all the keys there (not on the regular phones where you have 3-4 letters on one key), and provide a writing medium that you are used with from your PC. There are 2 types of QWERTY keyboards: the physical ones (with actual keys) or virtual ones implemented in the touchscreen.
Here you will find plenty things your phone can do, usually, different manufacturers have different features they pack in their smartphones, but keep an eye out for:
- How big is the processor (in my opinion, anything less than 1GHz is too low, but now you can find dual core processors and in the near future, quad core maybe)
- GPU (graphics processing unit, the processor that run games and videos on your phone, try to get a pretty sturdy one if you are into gaming)
- Radio (and as to my surprise, many smartphones do not have FM radio build in)
- Browser and many others.
This is a very important aspect of your phone, usually, smartphones do not have the battery life of the older phones, so try to find something which has some staying power. Remember not to trust what the producer of the smartphone says, those numbers are determined in lab conditions, not in real life usage, so they will most likely not be accurate.
OS (Operating System)
The operating system of a smartphone is one of the most important aspects. There a few manufacturers out there, each of them with its own advantages and disadvantages, but here it’s really a matter of preferences. The biggest names in the business are:
- Google’s Android
- Apple iOS
- BlackBerry OS
- Windows Phone
So, these are the main features of smartphones, now you have to think about what you will need your phone to do for you. For this tutorial, I’ll merge the first step (What are you going to use it for?) and the last one (What features do you need?) because with smartphones you don’t have all those options as with other gadgets, many of these features now come standard on most smartphones.
What Is The Right Smartphone for Me?
Apart from the obvious, to talk and send a SMS, you might want your phone to have a 3G connection so you can browse the net in 3G speed or make a video call, GPS if you plan to use it so and not have to get a dedicated GPS for your car. If you plan on watching movies on your smartphone, then you should go with something that has a bigger screen and bigger screen resolution, but also, for your phone to play HD videos, you might have to pay a little extra for a faster CPU and GPU, also, movies require space, so look towards a smartphone that has a minimum of 8 GB memory and the possibility to add an SD card.
On the other hand, if you want a smartphone for web surfing, social media or ending emails, then you won’t need so much horsepower, just a big enough screen, fast data transfer (3G and Wi-Fi/W-LAN are a must), a legible keyboard to type with and the battery to keep it up and running for some time (in my opinion, if you fall in this category, you should go for a BlackBerry). Depending on what tasks you need your phone to do, you will definitely find something that’s best for you, for example, if you (like some) are not that handy with a touchscreen and like the feedback received when pushing a button, you may want a smartphone with a physical keyboard or a hybrid with both keyboard and touchscreen.
Pick out the OS (Operating System) that you enjoy. I won’t go into specifics about each OS, but from past experience, you can figure out what OS you need. For example, if you are a long time user of iTunes and have owned an iPod, than you are more accustomed to iOS, or if you want to see what the big fuss is with Android and had one or used one in the past, go for it. Choose the OS you like to use and you know to use best, in many aspects, they all have lots to offer (apps) and they are not that different.
How Much is Your Dream Smartphone Worth?
The second aspect is the budget you have for a new smartphone. Keep in mind that some brands are cheaper than others, but necessarily inferior. The price of a smartphone is determined mostly by the features it has. So, if you want a powerful smartphone and have the money to pay for it, it could get you up to $500-$700 (even more depending on the brand). If, however, you want a moderately powerful smartphone, you can get some in the price range of $300-$400.
Some smartphones can go as low as $200, and for this, you still get a really good phone that does many of the things a premium product would, but not as good. This category could be reserved for the smartphones that are used mostly to search the web and send emails. The prices are based on the brand of the phone, so if you see a smartphone that has all the features you want, but from another brand, try researching it on the web, read a review of the product, compare it with other brands and then make your decision.
Also, do not buy your smartphone from the first dealer you see, again, do research, look on the web for deals and other stores, even in other countries, try eBay or Amazon before, you might get some really nice products for much less money. In this tutorial, as I said in the beginning, I could not have covered all the smartphones available on the market, simply because they are way too many. You can find lots of phones made by companies in China that have lots of features, such as Dual Sim or high res cameras etc, but I tried to cover the basics of buying a smartphone and kept mostly to well known brand names.
If you missed our previous buying guide, do check-out them now:
- [How to] Buy a Digital Camera – Beginner’s Guide
- How to Buy a Printer [Guide]
- [How to] Buy a Laptop: Detailed Guide
- Detailed Guide: Which Desktop PC Should I Buy?