Before you buy a mobile phone, it is essential to know which make or model will best suit your needs as a user. Some of the most important smartphone specs include speed, memory and processing power. Before choosing a mobile phone, research the camera quality, screen resolution and battery life. Read on to learn more about which factors to consider when buying smartphones.
As a general rule, smartphone makers that are well-established and omnipresent throughout the world are generally more reliable than the lower-priced, small-name brands. That is due to the universal compatibility of most big-name devices, which have been tested and optimized for a broader range of apps and wireless networks. Overall, the most trusted phone makers are Apple, LG and Samsung. Consider the following factors.
- Brand reputation: While smaller phone makers often sell their devices at lower prices, you cannot necessarily rely on them for the standard range of modern-day functions. One phone maker, in particular, to beware of is Huawei, a Chinese tech manufacturer that has recently been the subject of controversy about purported security holes in its network. Tech makers Blu and OnePlus have faced similar criticism for allegedly collecting the private information of users.
- Longevity: When you shop around for a smartphone, keep in mind the probable durability of a prospective device. Any of the latest Samsung or Apple models will likely remain compatible with a full range of functions for the next three to four years, by which time you might be in the market for a newer phone. A Blackberry, on the other hand, is not as safe of a bet when you consider the problems that brand has faced in recent years.
- Platform: If you have already used either an Android or an iPhone for several years and you are looking to trade up to a newer model, you should probably stay with the same platform, especially if you have several years’ worth of media collected on one platform, as some of those files might not transfer easily. If you switch operating systems, there will also be a learning curve to do many of the same tasks you did on your old OS that will likely not be worth your trouble.
If all you wish to do is talk, text and occasionally check the weather, you could make do with a simple flip phone. Several phone manufacturers still produce noughties-style flip or clamshell phones, including Samsung, which offers an array of modern features on its Galaxy Folder 2, a compact device compatible with T-Mobile.
Android is the most popular option on a global scale due in large part to its open operating system, or OS, which allows you to customize Android phones to your unique preferences. With the Android 8.1 Oreo OS, an Android will launch Google apps with utmost ease. Oreo offers features such as notification dots and sub-pictures that make it possible to view updates and secondary open apps while you tend to your primary functions. Critics of the Oreo OS have complained about its slow updates, which typically do not arrive on phones until months after the release of a new version of the operating system.
All iPhones run on the Apple iOS operating system. As of September 2018, iOS 12 is the latest version available to iPhone users. On iOS, you can edit live photos and access a range of control features while on the move. Unlike the Android Oreo, each new version of the Apple iOS becomes instantly available on compatible iPhones.
Phones have gotten bigger in recent years to accommodate the expanded range of features some of the newer smartphone models offer. In some models, the screens take up more space across the front of the phone, with less in the margins. For those interested in smaller phones, one of the better options is the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact, which has a reputation for its powerful performance capabilities and mid-range asking price. Another option under five inches is the iPhone SE. Consider the following size-related concerns when you select a smartphone.
- Resolution: If you purchase a phone over 4.7” dimensions, make sure the screen resolution is at least 1080p. Better yet, see if you can get a 2,560 x 1,440p resolution, especially if the screen is 5.5” or larger.
- Hand use: If you intend to use the phone with one hand, choose a model in the midsized range, preferably under 5.5”.
- Gaming headsets: If you plan to use the phone for gaming with an attached headset, you will need a model that offers high resolution. An optimal phone for this purpose is the 5.8” Galaxy S8 or S9, which features an optimized surface resolution with 18:9 aspect ratio that makes it easier to perform tasks in multi-window mode.
Phones are getting larger as the purposes of everyday phone use expand with each new model. Currently, phones range in size from four to seven inches.
For the sake of your eyesight, make sure any phone you purchase comes with a clear, bright screen. When considering what to look for in a new phone, check for specs in the following areas.
- Resolution: For optimal resolution, a screen should be 1,920 x 1,080p, especially if you plan to browse the web and watch videos on your device. If you are willing to spend extra, choose a phone with a 5.5” screen and a 2,560 x 1,440 quad HD resolution.
- Brightness: An adjustable range of brightness and color settings are just as important as resolution. The ability to enhance the brightness and contrast on a screen could ultimately make it more readable and less strenuous on your eyes.
- Color: For vivid color, OLED panels light up individual pixels and therefore offer more vibrant, clearer tones than LCD.
Smaller phones are easier to use with one hand, but larger screens are easier to read and usable for a variety of functions that a more compact phone might struggle with.
Today’s phone users need more storage space than ever to accommodate the expanded range of use in newer smartphone models. If you intend to use a phone to take photos, shoot video or download games and music, you will need a phone well beyond the 16-gigabyte range of older smartphones. Your best bet is to shop for a phone with 64 GB of storage and compare some of its other features to smaller models. Consider how much space you are liable to consume with the following activities.
- Photos: For today’s high-resolution photos, you will need a smartphone with 32 GB or more if you plan to store hundreds of large, dense images. Unless you always upload the pictures to a cloud server or transfer them to another device, you will eventually lose track of the number of photos, especially if you take pictures on the fly to document your daily activities.
- Videos: If you intend to film high-resolution videos regularly, you should opt for a phone with 128 GB of storage space. Videos can quickly take up large volumes of storage, even if you periodically back them up on a computer or cloud server. Chances are, you might lose some of these videos unless you set aside time each week to label and organize them, so you will need space to accommodate the practice.
- Music: Smartphones have taken the place of portable MP3 players for most of today’s users. If you download songs to your phone or transfer them to the device to listen as you go, you will need to have space to host these music files. If, for example, you plan to carry upwards of 1,000 songs and a bunch of playlists, choose a phone with at least 64 GB of storage space.
- Apps: As apps get more sophisticated, they take up increased amounts of space on computer devices. If you do lots of gaming and intend to carry the latest high-tech apps on your smartphone, choose a model with at least 64 GB of space.
Even though 16 GB seemed like a generous amount of storage only a few years ago, today that would be a ripoff. For collections of high-resolution photos, you need at least 32 GB. For music and games, you need at least 64 GB. For large video collections, you will need at least 128 GB.
On certain Android phones, you can increase space by adding a microSD card. Overall, however, you should never view your phone as a permanent storage space because you could lose the device or the OS could get corrupted with malware, so you should still back your files up to the cloud periodically. Specific functions will require the presence of large, local media files on your smartphone.
For high performance from your smartphone, the device will need sufficient random access memory, or RAM, to pull up different files and programs at the click of a button. Depending on the size and density of an app or the number of apps you intend to run simultaneously, you might need anywhere from two to eight GB of RAM in your phone. Consider the following memory-intensive functions.
- Browsing: To use your phone as a remote web browser, the device should have a minimum of 2 GB of RAM.
- Sketching: If you intend to use your phone for activities like drawing and similar functions, you should have at least 4 GB of RAM. In all likelihood, you will have several other apps open while you sketch, especially if you do this at coffee shops or while riding public transportation.
- Gaming: Today’s gaming apps will generally require no fewer than 2 GB of RAM with 4-8 GB Recommended for the best performance on smartphones
On newer phones, 4 GB has mostly become the standard spec, while ultra-premium models will have as much as 8 to 12 GB.
The processor is the component of your smartphone that allows you to perform functions with the utmost speed and ease. For a program to execute instantly and process your commands without delay, the phone will need a processor of sufficient capacity for today’s apps and tasks. That’s why it is one of the most significant factors to consider when buying a phone.
The number of cores measures the capacity of a processor. Traditionally, processors consisted of a single core, which processed one function at a time. In more recent computing devices, processors often consist of two or more cores. A dual-core processor will let you handle two functions simultaneously, while a quad-core processor will allow you to enact four functions at the same time.
On Apple phones, processors are uniform, be they single- or dual-core, because they design all of their phones under the same roof. In an Android phone, the processor might come from one of several brands, such as Samsung, MediaTek or Qualcomm, all of which have been involved in the recent development of processors for Android smartphones.
A processor should always be ready to handle the demands of the immediate future. If you hope to get a good three or four years of use from your next new smartphone, the processor will need to handle current as well as upcoming apps, which increasingly demand higher amounts of processing power. If you intend to game, watch videos and perform various other intensive functions on your phone, go for at least a dual-core processor.
One of the more in-demand processors among avid techies is the Snapdragon by Qualcomm, which updates its processor each year. As a rule of thumb, the highest number currently available will give your smartphone the highest capacity. In 2018, the flagship version of the processor was the Snapdragon 845 and in 2019, you can find the Snapdragon 855 in phones like the Galaxy S10 and LG G8 ThinQ.
Not too long ago, megapixel capacity was the primary way to grade digital cameras. Today, smartphones have effectively usurped cameras, and a phone’s megapixel capacity is merely one indicator of potential photo quality. For many users, the camera function is one of the most important smartphone features. If photo quality is paramount to you, inspect the following specs on a prospective smartphone model.
- Aperture: This term refers to the size of the hole that allows incoming light to reach the sensor of your camera. The larger the opening, the more light your camera will receive. With optimal aperture, you can take photos in dim-lighted environments without a flash and still enjoy a clear image. To determine a camera’s aperture, look for characters like f/2.0. Somewhat confusingly, a higher number means a lower aperture. Even with a shaky hand, sufficient aperture makes it possible to capture solid, blur-free images in dark and lit settings.
- ISO level: This term is a measurement of a camera’s light sensitivity. The lower the ISO level, the less sensitivity your camera will have to the range of light in a given snapshot. A camera needs sufficient ISO to capture finer details. Otherwise, photos are liable to have a grainy quality. For clear photos, look for a phone that offers ISO 3,200 or higher.
- OIS: Optical image stabilization, or OIS, is another feature that reduces blurriness in photos taken in unstable situations. Without the presence of a tripod or similar place-holding device, it can be challenging to capture solid, blur-free imagery, especially if you are gripping your phone while on the move. OIS, like aperture, will help you take stable snapshots of objects in motion and also capture magazine-quality photos of fireworks and water fountains. However, OIS will not pick up all the minute details of a fast-passing object, such as a vehicle at 65 mph or a cheetah running through the jungle.
- Two rear cameras: The purpose of a second camera on the back of a phone is to create optical depth. Cameras like the iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, and Galaxy S9 Plus feature two rear cameras that allow you to focus on foreground images while applying the bokeh effect to background details if so desired.
Other features to look for in a camera phone include self-timers, beauty modes and various filters and effects. Also, look for a camera phone that offers high dynamic range.
Remember, the megapixel spec on a smartphone camera will not necessarily indicate photo quality, especially not if the aperture, ISO level, autofocus and pixel size are insufficient. A phone with a 16-megapixel camera could take poorer photos than a 12-megapixel smartphone if the former lacks the necessary specs for above-average photo quality. However, you should never settle for any phone with an eight-megapixel or lower rear camera, as anything lower than 12 is generally archaic by today’s standards.
Given how smartphones effectively function now as portable, handheld computing devices, it is no surprise the cost for new phones is often comparable to the price of a new laptop. To own one of the premium Androids on today’s market, you could pay anywhere from $700 to $1,000. Expect to spend similar amounts for top models like the iPhone Xs and Galaxy S10, at least if you hope to own a new one free and clear.
In the earlier days of smartphones, wireless carriers would give you the option of a two-year contract that would subsidize the price of the phone within your monthly service payments, provided you stayed with the carrier for the full duration of the agreement.
Today, most carriers have abandoned this option for the month-by-month payment package, where they allow you to pay off a new phone in monthly increments over two years. However, the cumulative price you could pay over this time frame will often far exceed the actual value of the phone. You could easily spend upwards of $600 over 24 months for a phone that would retail for only half that amount. Even worse, the phone could be hopelessly out of date by the time you finish making payments.
You can find some of the best deals on the market with unlocked Android smartphones like the MotoG5 Plus, which features a sleek design, high-definition screen, octa-core processor and long-lasting battery. The device typically retails for $229. If you are considering buying an unlocked phone, keep in mind you will only be able to use some of these with GSM carriers like T-Mobile and AT&T. However, there are newer unlocked sets that will work with both GSM and CDMA-based carriers. Before you purchase, always check to see whether a prospective phone will work with your preferred carrier.
In response to the unlocked phenomenon, carriers are now offering more flexible contract options, complete with unlimited plans. Of the top four carriers, Verizon offers the fastest speed, followed by T-Mobile, AT&T, and then Sprint. Sprint comes in fourth behind AT&T in performance tests, so it makes sense that they also provide the lowest-priced plan, with a monthly rate of $60.
Make, Model Year/Age
The average new smartphone comes optimized for three to four years of use. After that time, a phone might lack sufficient processing power for the newer apps on the market. Consequently, a used three-year-old phone could be incompatible with the latest security patches and apps. If you are looking to use your phone for a range of intensive functions, you will need to be selective when considering refurbished phones, whether they are Androids or iPhones.
If you are looking instead to use a phone for more basic functions, a refurbished older phone could easily meet your needs. Just make sure the make and model you choose will be compatible with your carrier.
Sell Old Phones and Buy Used Phones From The Whiz Cells
“Which phone should I buy?” That is one of the most commonly asked questions among people seeking tips for buying a new phone. Though most people know where to purchase phones, fewer people know where to sell their older devices after they have upgraded.
If you are wondering what to do with your old phone after buying a new one, cash it in with The Whiz Cells and recoup some of the cost. Browse The Whiz Cells’ eBay store and our blog for more information about buying and selling smartphones.