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SmartPhone Buying Guide

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This 2000+ words guide on how to buy the right Smartphone for  you need. we gonna see what are all the aspects we need to know before buying a smartphone. We call it as Smartphone Buying Guide.

You might have encountered friends and colleagues asking you the same question most of the time, and you have felt the loss of words and explanations to drive your point. The ubiquitous question is – hold your breath – “ Which phone should I buy?”.  Even the technology blogs and review sites keep getting the same query over and again.

Answering it is not that simple. Especially with the current range of smartphones available. Also, it depends on your price range and the requirements. So, we thought of presenting a smart buying guide on the best smartphone that suits your expectations.

It would be way better if you are armed with enough knowledge before stepping into a retail store, or log into your account on an online store. Having a good knowledge of what to expect can help in making wiser shopping decisions.

 

  1. Don’t go for a cheaper one

Once you buy a smartphone, it will be your  companion for the most part of your life. For most of us, a new smartphone will stay with us for a good 4 or 5 years. So deciding only on the basis of pricing is not advisable.

The processor and camera are two features that decide the durability of your device. Your phone should provide you optimum performance until you decide to upgrade. Which could indeed take a long as I said before. The battery is one such component that loses out its quality ( or the capacity) over time. So you will need to go for higher capacity.

I would advice you to opt for best one that you can afford. Buying a high-end phone has another advantage – you can sell it off for a better resale value when you decide to upgrade.

  1. Look for Looks

Looks or the design should also be a matter of great concern. Your smartphone is going to be your constant partner for the most part of your daily routine. You should be comfortable with how it looks or feels. You have to have the feeling comfort when you handle it.

In today’s flashy lifestyle, even a smartphone makes much of a difference on how people perceive your personality. Choose a device that augurs well with your standard of living.

  1. Know the features

Prepare a checklist beforehand about the features you would want in your new smartphone. Some pricey phones may have some of the better features, but you may not need them. What is the point in paying for a feature you are not familiar with or have no inclination to?

Being in the know of the needed feature sets will help you avoid paying a hefty sum for something you are not going to use at all.

Having understood those first lessons, now it is time to delve more into the intrinsic parts of our discussion.  Here we go with each perspective in more detail.

 

TYPES OF MOBILE PHONES

  1. Smartphones

Smartphones, as the name itself indicates are smart devices. They let you do everything you want to do and will have the best components,  high-end specifications with best in class screen resolutions. Also, they  can run downloadable applications from affiliated app stores.

Smartphones, in essence, are those which run the operating system in the real sense of the word. By the virtue of their features, they usually have a higher price range.

  1. Feature Phones

Feature phones tend to be closer to the smartphones. They almost perform similar to smartphones but do not run on mainstream operating systems. Instead, they run on proprietary operating systems based on the manufacturers.

Feature phones can offer a little slice of what smartphones can do along with the messaging and email services. 

  1. Basic phones

This category is out of the purview of this discussion. Basic phones are those that have no additional features than basic voice calling and texting.  They have no complex algorithms to support them, neither do they have any fancy stuff.

 

What Points do I need to consider while buying a smartphone?

Well, this is where our actual discussion begins. There are many components you need to check out. We will list them out one by one. Have a piece of paper beside you as you go through the discussion and note down what would you wish to have.

SCREEN SIZES

We can broadly classify the smartphones on the basis of screen size into three types – Large screens, Medium screens, and small screens.

Smartphones with the screen sizes of more than 5.5 inch can be considered large screen devices. As a matter of fact, smartphones are getting much larger these days. A 5-inch screen was deemed to be a big size just a couple of years ago. Now, a 6-inch display is considered the best. This has more to do with the increased usage of HD media on smartphones. The big is better has been the undeniable mantra of late.

You can buy both high end and budget devices if you are fond of larger screens.

The phones with a screen size from 5 to 5.4 inch are treated as the Medium screen devices. Most of the devices usually come with screen dimensions of 5 inches, though you may find slightly incremental numbers. As in the case of Samsung Galaxy S6 which measures 5.1 inches. The medium screen smartphones offer you a comfortable handling as you can grip the phone easily. Also, you can reach all parts of the screen with a single handed use.

Small screen devices are those which have a screen size measuring anywhere between 4.5 inches to 5 inches. Interestingly enough, most of the initial smartphones came under this category( however,  it wasn’t the SMALL SCREEN then). Small screen smartphones are the best when it comes to portability and handling. You get to see most of the entry level smartphones in this range. Examples could be Moto E.

Apart from screen size, you also need to pay attention to the screen technologies used. You might have heard the names like IPS, AMOLED etc and so on and so forth. What do they really mean and how do they impact you in a practical sense?  Let us check a few of the out.

LCD

LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display. In the late 80’s they were used in arm clocks and wristwatches. They are nowhere near what LCD displays have achieved in smartphones. The LCD displays are capable of HD resolutions. They have even been able to come up with the times with a  resolution as high as 3840×2160 which is commonly known as 4K.

LCD screens use an external backlight. This results in loss of contrast. The viewing angles tend to be on a shallower side. But, yes -they are rich in natural looking colors.

AMOLED

AMOLED is an acronym for Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode. These have widely been replacing LCD screens. As the name itself indicates, they use organic chemicals that emit light. When the electric current passes through them, the OLED s create light. They do not need external light for illumination. And this lets them have better and higher contrast levels. Thus the AMOLEDs have more vibrant colors compared to the traditional LCD screens.  Samsung has been the pioneer in bringing up the technology to smartphones.

RETINA DISPLAY

This has been an Apple invention. It uses what it calls Retina Display. There isn’t any special technology involved here. The iPhone generally use LCD screens. The displays have a minimum pixel density of 325 ppi. The jargon like Retina Display is mere marketing strategies.

PROCESSORS

The processor can be equated to the heart of a smartphone. The CPU as it is called provides the computational power to your smartphone.  A faster processor has a huge impact on the performance of a device. It is the backbone and that’s exactly what decides how smoothly the phone runs.

While making a purchase decision, it would be advisable to go for a device with the better processor. The clock speed – measured in GHz is the guiding factor when it comes to deciding on a better processor. One with higher clock speed is always the best processor. Of late chipset manufacturers have been using more cores which work independently of each other in handling different tasks. However,  I do not think it should not make much of a difference as far as the performance is concerned. Agreed – more cores would mean better performance, but if the clock speed  is low- it would not make much of a difference. Going for quad core processor with better speed would be advisable than opting for an Octa-Core one with low clock speed.

Talking more about the processors, different smartphone makers have been making use of their own favoured partner. A little more detail on them here below.

  1. Qualcomm Snapdragon

Qualcomm has been the reigning queen when it comes to processors.  Snapdragon is a big family of processors, the latest from the house being Snapdragon 810. Some of the Snapdragon processors have had issues with the overheating in some devices – Snapdragon 615 and 808 being the major cases in point. Snapdragon will use its latest 820 processors in 2016 in many upcoming devices.

  1. Samsung Exynos

Samsung has been in the processors business since long. However,  it has not used its in-house Exynos processors, not its own devices. It has changed since Galaxy S6 has been launched. Samsung has been aware of the heating issues in Snapdragon processors and that was one of the reasons for Parting ways with Qualcomm. Most of the times, however,  Samsung uses Qualcomm processors on its devices.

  1. MediaTek

MediaTek is one of the most widely found processor brands in the low-end segment. The processor has been deemed to have issues, even then it finds usage in many entry-level smartphones. The processors find their presence in most of the Asian markets.

CAMERA

The camera is one of the features you would definitely look forward to in your new device.  The camera quality depends on various parameters.  Most of us go by the megapixel count. But, it isn’t always true. More megapixel appears great, but not necessarily have better quality. An 8-megapixel camera might be taking better pictures than a 21 MP one.

The lens quality should be of utmost importance. Lens is what lets light into the sensor. Having a better lens with good aperture will have a better effect. The sensor to has a larger role to play in deciding the quality of your images. Though the sensor may have a lesser pixel count, but if it is sensitive enough to light – it will definitely produce better low light shots. Pay attention to all these factors while deciding on your new device from the camera perspective.

Optical Image Stabilisation – or OIS has been gaining more importance these days. Gone are the days when we were told to hold your camera steadily and wait for a pose. These days we want more of a natural look to our images and spontaneous shots have been more in demand. And those spontaneous shots can’t wait for you to handle your camera steadily. OIS is what comes to your rescue.

If you are a social network fan, selfie camera ( the front camera as it is  called) should be more of a concern for you. More and more devices now have dedicated software for front cameras.  There are a few select ones like Moto X Pure which have an additional flash for the front camera.

BATTERY

What if your battery is not capable of handling it all? All those features that your smartphone has are a waste. Battery capacity is of much importance when you go out to buy a new smartphone. Smartphone batteries range from 1800 mAh to 4000 mAh.

The manufacturers list out the standard talk time and standby time. Please note that these times are based on standard conditions. They are based on the “just out of the box” device with not many apps installed. Please note that the battery  capacity goes down with each of the apps you install. I would advise you to consider a backup of at least 48 hours if you are a moderate user. Heavy users should aim for a limit of 70+ hours.

Operating System

The operating system is the brain of your smartphone. It is what runs all your tasks on the phone. Each of the operating systems has their own benefits and disadvantages. Go for the ones that you are comfortable with.

IOS

iOS, the operating system from Apple is the best when it comes to the good ecosystem. It has been considered to be the most secure OS. The operating system is well integrated.

The worst part, however,  is you get locked up with a single app store. There is no way to go beyond iTunes for your needs. If you are familiar with a Mac, or an iPad/iPod – you may feel comfortable with it. The best part is that all devices get timely and almost simultaneous updates.

Android

Android is the best open source operating system ever available. And the most popular at that. It boasts of a higher degree of customization. It lets the phone manufacturers to use their own custom layer to the operating system.

Android, however, suffers from slower updates to the software. Google has a strange policy of supporting a device only up to 18 months from the date of release. Also, the updates depend on manufacturers.

Windows Mobile

This is a mobile operating system from Microsoft. Frankly speaking, the least favoured among the competing devices, it has been trying to make inroads into the mobile operating sphere. It has a simpler better interface. The Cortana integration has made it a better option.

Yet, it lacks the flexibility that we are used to on Android. The operating ecosystem isn’t as robust as Android or iOS. The stronger integration with Microsoft Office and other allied Microsoft services makes it a better choice.

BlackBerry 10

BlackBerry was a premier operating system once upon a time. But it has been losing ground of late. The once a favourite of the business community.

With an increasing demand to adapt to the changing atmosphere, BlackBerry has gone Android way. It launched BlackBerry Priv- the first Android from BlackBerry.

OTHER POINTS

  1. Wireless charging

Wireless charging has been observed before with lot many occasions. It should be stated that it took a little more time to reach out to the smartphones. Wireless charging can either be available on the phone or through an external device.

  1. NFC

NFC means Near Field Communication. The feature is available in almost on all smartphones. It enables two devices kept at shorter distances to transfer data between themselves at a faster rate. It can also be used to make payments through Google Wallet (now Android Pay) or Apple Pay.

  1. Heart rate monitor

This is a unique and the newest feature smartphones have introduced. Samsung was the first device to bring it on. We can see it coming on most of the Samsung devices like Galaxy Alpha and Galaxy Note 5.

  1. Fingerprint scanning

Popularised by Apple, the fingerprint scanner has been currently just for unlocking your phone. The additional functionality of  the feature is coming up payment authentication through Android Pay or Apple Pay.

Well, hopefully in this guide should serve as a helping hand for your shopping. I have tried to make a listing of all the possible parameters that may influence, and aid you in taking a decision. If any more details are required before making the purchase, please come up with your queries in the comments below. I will be more than happy to include them in an update.

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