Smartphone Buying Guide

Having a hard time deciding on a new smartphone? This smartphone buying guide should make things easier for you.


With so many brands launching new models with newer features, picking one can be real trouble. Add to that the marketing spiel and sales people, and choosing your next smartphone becomes more confusing. Well, this smartphone buying guide should make things easier for you. Here we are going to take a look at the various important things you need to take into consideration when looking for a smartphone that suits your requirements and budget the best. So here goes!

Buying a Smartphone: Things to Consider

Keep these things in mind when looking for the right smartphone:

1. Budget - The first and foremost thing to do before you even start looking for a smartphone is determine your budget. Smartphones today are available across a variety of price ranges. Once you are done with deciding the budget, choosing the right one will be a lot easier.

2. Operating System - When it comes to operating systems, you have four options to choose from - Google Android, BlackBerry OS, Apple iOS and Windows Phone. Apple and BlackBerry don’t license their operating systems to other smartphone manufacturers, so if you want any of these operating systems, your choice of smartphones will be limited to these firms’ range of models. Microsoft and Google on the other hand, allow a variety of manufacturers to use their OS, so there is a wider range of options. Apple’s iOS is slick looking and has an easy to use interface. However, you will be tied down to iTunes for loading content onto your smartphone. Windows Phone devices also have a similar situation, you will need to install Microsoft’s Zune software. With Android smartphones, you can just drag and drop files, which make them more flexible. Its open design however, does have some disadvantages. It’s possible that the smartphone may not be able to play or view the files you upload or they might use a codec, which isn’t supported. With Windows Phone and iOS, although you will be pretty much locked down, you can still be sure that everything is going to work. It’s a similar situation with apps too. While Microsoft and Apple vet apps at their app stores, Google doesn’t. That being said, it would be advisable that you try out the operating systems to get a feel before finally deciding on one.

3. Storage - Go big when it comes to storage. While you might not be planning to have a huge music library or storing lots of videos, having lots of storage space is always worth it for running apps. This is particularly important on smartphones like the iPhone, which cannot be expanded using memory cards. Storage capacity won’t be a big issue if you pick a smartphone that features a MicroSD card slot.

4. Processor - The higher the GHz of the smartphone and the higher the number of processors, the faster will be the smartphone. Smartphone processor options include, single core, dual core and quad core. That being said, a smartphone with a dual core processor would be a good option as it would have a longer shelf life as compared to a phone with a single core processor. Single core smartphones are cheaper. Also, BlackBerry and Windows Phone don’t offer dual core processors yet. Finally, when it comes to processors, if you have the option, pick a dual core or maybe even the quad core processor, as it will make the smartphone more responsive when you run multiple apps.   

5. Screen Size and Resolution - Smartphones are very personal gadgets, some people would prefer a smaller phone that easily fits in their pockets, while others would want a big screen for watching videos and movies. Smartphone screen sizes start at about 3 inches and go on to over 5 inches, with the larger ones being quite bulky. On the other hand smaller screen sizes may not be able to display the QWERTY keypad when upright, and the resulting condensed keypad could prove to be a bit cumbersome when typing. Screen resolution varies widely too. Opt for a smartphone with a screen resolution of 800 x 480 pixels for a good viewing experience. A smartphone with 1280 x 720 pixel or 720p resolution would offer the best viewing experience. Basically, the higher the number of pixels, the sharper will be the text and pictures displayed. Also, more pixels mean more information can be displayed on the screen at once.   

6. Display Technology - When it comes to choosing display technology when buying a smartphone there are basically two options - LCD and AMOLED. LCD or Liquid Crystal Displays have been around for quite some time. These screens use liquid crystals, glass and a source of light to display an image. While LCD screens produce very realistic colors, they may not offer as wide a contrast ratio as AMOLED. Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode or AMOLED screens use a thin layer of organic polymers, which light up when they are zapped with electricity. Because of its simple construction, these screens don’t require a backlight and are extremely thin. Dropping the backlight allows these screens to produce blacks that are so deep that the screen’s pixels can be shut off. Shutting pixels translates into saving electricity and hence longer battery life. All you need to do to save energy is keep the background closer to black.   

7. Keypad or Touchscreen - When it comes to input method you can choose between QWERTY keypads and touchscreens. Smartphones featuring touchscreens as the primary input method usually feature a larger display. However, some people may have difficulties typing on the touchscreen. In such cases you could opt for touchscreen smartphones with slide out QWERTY keypads or smartphones with a small screen and a QWERTY keypad on the front. If you are going to do a lot of typing and want a physical keypad, you should opt for a smartphone that has clearly labeled, well spaced and properly sized keys. Also, the keys should offer solid tactile feedback.   

8. Updates - Is having a constantly up to date smartphone with all the latest software really important to you? If yes, you might want to think really hard and long about which smartphone to opt for. Current Windows Phone smartphones in the market, such as Nokia Lumia 800, 900, 610 and 710, are not going to be fully updated to the newer Windows Phone 8. Similarly, none of the current BlackBerry smartphones will get the BlackBerry 10 update when it is released later this year. Android has serious fragmentation issues with relatively new handsets featuring Android 2.3. Another issue with Android is that many of them are never updated by the manufacturer after they are released or even if they are upgraded, it’s done very late. So far, Apple has had the best record as far as updates are concerned, supporting its smartphones for about two years on an average. Microsoft has also been good at updating handsets as compared to Google on devices running on Android OS. However, the schism that will be caused by Windows Phone 8 will get rid Microsoft of all of its progress in this regard. Basically, as far as updates are concerned no platform is perfect. But if you want to be up to date always, Apple would probably be the safest bet.

9. Apps and Games - Apps along with games (although to a lesser extent) can be considered as the lifeblood of modern smartphones. Way back in early 2010, the quality and number of apps on Android and iOS were the major differentiating factors with Apple winning. That is no longer the case now. Both Android and Apple now feature over 500,000 apps, while Microsoft has over 100,000 apps and BlackBerry over 60,000 apps. While Android and Apple are the forerunners when it comes to apps and games, Windows Phones is growing at quite a rapid pace, and will soon catch up.

10. Camera - Standard smartphones feature at least a 5 megapixel camera. High end phones may feature cameras with as many as 8 to 12 megapixels. However, a higher megapixel doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good camera. Look for features like flash, auto-focus and geo-tagging. Some high end phones can even record videos at full HD 1080p.

11. Battery Life - If you are going to use your smartphone as a camera, MP3 player or GPS device quite often, it’s important that you ensure the battery lasts through the day. Many new smartphones feature huge screens, which drain out batteries quite fast, making it pointless for people who tend to spend their days out. Without sufficient battery life, you will end up carrying your charger everywhere.

These pointers can be quite helpful for making more informed choices when looking for the right smartphone.

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