Be Smart Before Buying Your Smartphone

Have you ever felt that your smartphone is not the right one for you? Ever regretted shelling out thousands of rupees for a smartphone only to realise that it does not have all the features that you wanted? 

Well, you are not alone!!

Yes. You need to be smart before buying a smartphone. 

Gone are the days when a phone was used to only make calls. It’s a mini-computer now. With so many options out there you might end up being overwhelmed at first and then frustrated when you cannot decide on one single phone.

When you decide that you need a new phone, you don’t just walk into a mobile store and ask the guy to give you a phone. Or if you are planning to buy online, just google smartphones and you get thousands of results and offers on e-commerce websites.

There are many parameters that you need to consider before buying the right phone. Depending on your necessities you need to make the smart choice. 

Read further before you open a shopping website or go to a nearby mobile store so that you will understand the terms on those specifications. 

And don’t worry! You do not have to be a geek to understand these things. 🙂 

Budget

In simple terms, money. Yes, the first and foremost thing you need to decide upon is the amount of money you are willing or can afford to buy a phone. Keep an eye out on those online shopping websites for discounts, EMIs, etc. 

Hardware

The moment you read the specifications of a phone you come across a lot of technical terms which may or may not go over your head. Unless you are a geek don’t worry much about those processors and their numbers.

What you need to know are a few things:

Processor: Remember studying “CPU(Central Processing Unit) is the brain of the computer” in school? Observe that P stands for Processing. A smartphone is no less than a computer and a processor plays an important role in running the device.

A processor’s performance mainly depends on its number of cores and clock speed. More the number the better and more is the price. And you need to remember that the performance depends on the brand as well.

Most of the phones these days have 6 or 8 cores. These are sufficient for playing games, watching videos, running multiple apps simultaneously. But don’t fall for the number of cores. Instead, look for the clock speed.

A processor’s quickness depends on its clock speed which is measured in gigahertz (GHz). 1 GHz means that the processor can execute 1 billion instructions in 1 second. If you are an average user, a clock speed of 1.7GHz (gigahertz) is sufficient. You can go for higher if you need.

RAM: (2GB min, 16GB max) Random Access Memory stores the working data and is normally measured in terms of GB(gigabytes). You find the same phone models with different RAM options. Depending on your needs go for higher RAM. For eg. If you are an avid gamer, you need at least 6GB RAM. Opt for higher RAM only if you need it because higher the RAM higher is the cost. 

Data transfer: The cable used to connect to a computer and to charge may be C-type or micro-USB. It is not one of the important things but something to consider. 

Bluetooth version: Make sure it has the latest version 5 or at least 4.0. 

5G capable hardware: Not that important as 5G is not so prominent in India for now but it is a plus.

Dual SIM

You might be wondering why that is important since most of the phones these days are dual SIM. 

Nowadays dual SIM phones usually have 2 types of slots for the second SIM: dedicated or hybrid.

A dedicated slot is a slot exclusively for a nano-SIM. The tray may or may not have an extra slot for a micro SD card.

A hybrid slot is a slot that can have either a SIM or a micro SD card. Here you have to choose whether you want a dual SIM phone or a single SIM phone with extra storage.

Wondering what is the use of hybrid slots? Opting for hybrids help the manufacturers to save space and bring out slimmer phones.

Memory

The storage space or memory are of types: Internal and external storage – which are self-explanatory. 

Just like RAM, both internal and external memory are measured in GBs. And even here you find the same phones with different internal storage options. But you need to remember that higher the storage, higher the price.

If you store photos, music, movies and others a lot on your phone, go for higher storage. But the storage need not be internal itself. If the phone has an external storage option, you can buy a phone with less internal storage and add a micro SD card. But be sure to check out if the micro SD slot is hybrid or dedicated. 

Camera

In this age of selfies, phones have cameras on both front and back. And you might have observed that usually, both have different specifications. If you have a habit of taking a lot of selfies or video calling make sure to opt for a better front camera.

Now let’s talk about the back camera. If you are into photography, (or not) look for a camera with 12 or more megapixels(MP), image stabilization, an aperture of 1.7 or lower, ISO control and other options like high-speed and slow-motion, night mode, burst mode, etc.

I know it looks like a topic for a whole article but let me try to explain in brief.

MP: According to a common misconception, higher the MP(megapixels) better is the camera. Well, it is one of the factors that constitute a good camera but not the only one. 

Be careful, because some manufacturers cheat in the name of megapixels. For eg, one brand (who does not wish to be named) announced 48 megapixels whereas it was 12 megapixels and using what is known as pixel-binning.

Aperture: Aperture is an opening through which light travels into the lens. It is measured as f-number which is the ratio between the focal length and size of the hole. The smaller the f-number, wider is the aperture thus more light can reach the camera’s sensor.

Image stabilization: Many photos end up being blurred due to the shaking of our hands while clicking them. A phone with image stabilization option reduces this.

High-speed & Slow-motion: Shooting high-speed or slow-motion videos can be achieved by either different apps or sometimes from the built-in camera app itself. If you love shooting such videos, it’s better if the built-in camera supports them.

Night mode: Not all phones can take good pictures at night just like during the day. With this option turned on, your phone can take good photos at low-light conditions.

Burst mode: Burst mode, continuous shooting mode, sports mode, is a shooting mode in which the photographer captures several photos in quick succession. This is used to take shots of moving objects. The best shot can be chosen later.

Audio

Who doesn’t love music? Who doesn’t use their phones to listen to music? 

We all know how frustrating it is when bad earphones or speakers spoil a piece of really good music. It’s not just music. It’s also irritating when a good video or movie session gets spoiled because of bad audio.

When it comes to phone audio, there are two things to consider: external audio devices and built-in speakers.

External audio devices are your earphones, headphones, earbuds and even speakers connected externally. Some phones are included with earphones or earpods. If you already have good earphones see to that the phone has the required connecting port. 

Nowadays not all phones have a 3.5mm audio port. Some come with a C-type port which is also used for charging and usually they provide a C-type to 3.5mm converter. Make sure you have the latest Bluetooth version if you are connecting earbuds or wireless speakers.

Before I talk about built-in speakers let me explain mono and stereo sound.

Mono (Monophonic) tracks will output the same audio from both the speakers. Stereo (Stereophonic) tracks will often pan the sound, driving different audio signals through the left and right speakers.

In simple words, stereo sound imitates how we actually listen through our ears. If the sound is coming from the right side, we hear louder through our right ears than our left. You might have observed this while watching a movie or in some songs where we hear different sounds through our earphones.

Stereo sound is not only achieved in earphones but also in a phone’s speaker. If the built-in speaker has a mono output, audio through it is not as pleasant as through a stereo output.

Display

You need to pay attention to at least two things when it comes to a phone’s display. Screen size and screen hardware.

Screen size: When I say screen size, it’s not just the display size but it is also the size of the phone. Because screens with sizes around 7-inch may give good experience in watching movies but end up being too big for one-hand use.

Buy phones with sizes 5.5-inch or 5.8-inch if you have smaller hands or one-hand use is important to you. Another reason to go with a small-screen if for their compact design which easily fits into a pocket.

Screen hardware: Let’s talk about what these screens are made of. It might be LCD, TFT LCD, OLED, AMOLED, Super AMOLED panel etc. 

LCD means Liquid Crystal Display. In an LCD panel, the entire screen is lit up by a backlight. The display is bright, reduces glare and has better visibility in sunlight.

But it is not good at colour saturation. 

AMOLED stands for Active Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode. In an AMOLED screen, each pixel produces its own light individually. This increases colour saturation and hence good for watching videos, looking at pictures, playing games etc. But not good to look at in sunlight.

Super AMOLED is an improved version of AMOLED. Here, the touch response layer is integrated into the display itself, instead of an extra layer on the top of the display. Super AMOLED has better visibility in sunlight, consumes less power and is good at colour saturation.

Operating System (OS)

You might be thinking there are only two options: iOS and android which is true in a broader sense. If you are going for android it is not just the version (the latest being 11) you need to consider. You need to consider software updates, UI(User Interface), bloatware, etc.

Google recently released Android 11 but not all devices get the updates. So in case you are planning to buy a refurbished phone or a relatively older model, first check on the manufacturer’s website to know for how long they will be releasing updates.

Many Android device manufacturers add something called a “skin” on top of the OS. A skin is a UI overlay, which has custom designs like different icons and adds extra features for your phone OS. Many manufacturers like Xiaomi, RealME, OnePlus, Samsung have skins unique to them. 

You might be wondering if there are phones without these extra skins. Yes, there are and this type of OS is called as “stock android”. Manufacturers like Asus, Nokia, Google Pixel have stock android or something called as near-stock, which is UI with very minor changes.

Who doesn’t hate it when your phone has many unwanted apps that cannot be uninstalled? There is a name for it. Bloatware. They are preinstalled by the phone manufacturer. Make sure the phone you are buying has less of these apps.

Battery

All the above features are useless if your phone’s battery is dead. Hence having a phone with good battery capacity is important. 

Battery capacity is usually measured in mAh which stands for milliampere hour. If you are an average user look in the range of 3000-4000 mAh. If you play games, watch HD,4K videos, take photos or any apps involving graphics go for higher capacity.

Charging

What do you do when your phone’s battery runs out of its charge? Well, you charge it. And it really matters how fast your phone’s battery can charge.

You can either go with normal charging, fast charging or wireless charging. 

Normal charging is by your normal cable and normal charger which takes a few hours to charge. Something available in all phones but something which not all users prefer. 

Why? Because it takes time.

The solution is fast charging. Here you can charge your phone quickly within an hour. What you need to know is that for fast charging its not just the phone that matters but the charging cable and adapter too. So you will have to use the accessories provided along with the phone.

Now let’s move on to wireless charging. It is wireless not because you are not using any wires but because your phone is not connected with a wire. 

Confused? Let me explain.

Wireless charging requires a small charging mat, pad or some kind of holder on which you are supposed to place your phone. Your phone gets charged without being connected to any wire. But the device (pad, or some kind of holder) needs to be connected to a power source via a wire. So not exactly wireless.

Wireless charging definitely looks cool and all but its downside is it is slower. And the wireless charger is not something that is sold along with the device. You need to buy it separately.

Say you are hanging out with your friend and her phone runs out of battery. Neither of you has a power bank but on your phone, the battery is fully charged. Don’t you wish that you could just transfer some to your friend’s phone? You can if your phone has something called reverse charging.

Reverse charging is an option where your phone can act as a power bank and charge another phone. This can be done via a cable or wireless too depending on the phone.

Conclusion

What is important is that you need to research before you buy a phone. Especially when you are spending thousands of rupees you need to make sure your device has value for money. 

How do you research? Just read reviews and the specs on websites like Tech Focus and others, compare, see for discounts and offers (Yes. They are important too) and then buy your new smartphone.

Hope my post helped you understand those specifications. Do you think there are other parameters to be considered? Tell me in the comments.

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