5 Essential Tips for Buying a Smartphone
There was once a time when buying a mobile phone was a fairly straightforward procedure, but the increasing complexity of smartphones has made things rather more complicated. After all, today’s smartphones are just pocket-sized computers, and they often pack more processing power than the hulking desktops of old. Whether you’re buying your first smartphone or you’re replacing an old one, the following key considerations will help you make a wiser purchase:
1. Operating System
For most buyers, the operating system is the single most important consideration, since it largely dictates which apps you can run on the device. For example, an iPhone cannot run apps made for an Android or Windows phone and vice versa. Android continues to enjoy by far the largest market share, with Apple’s iOS (iPhone) being the second most popular. Windows phones represent a small minority of smartphones, and as such, there are far fewer apps available for them.
iPhones tend to be the first choice for smartphone enthusiasts, due largely to the sleek and polished appearance they have and the cutting-edge hardware within. However, while iPhones excel in performance and usability, they often leave a lot to be desired when it comes to compatibility and versatility. Additionally, iOS is only found on iPhones, whereas Google’s Linux-based Android operating system is found on phones and other devices from a huge range of manufacturers.
2. Specifications and Features
Although salespeople love to talk about multi-core processors and multiple gigabytes of memory, far more important for most people are the physical and ergonomic specifications of the phone. For usability, the most important features for most consumers are the camera resolution and display size. If you intend to use your smartphone like a laptop on occasion, you’ll likely also want to be able to connect a physical keyboard, in which case an Android phone might be your best option.
Despite being commonly hyped up, processor and memory specifications are usually not of great importance for most smartphone users, since even low-end smartphones tend to carry out everyday tasks, such as Web browsing, quite adequately. However, high-resolution displays do require more power and memory to keep up with performance. As such, if you want a 1080p full-HD display, you’ll probably want a device with at least a dual-core processor and 2 GB of RAM.
3. Locked or Unlocked
With all of the capabilities of modern smartphones, it’s sometimes easy to forget about their primary purpose when purchasing one. Many smartphones are locked to a specific carrier, meaning that you cannot use a SIM card from another carrier in them. If you purchase a smartphone in a carrier’s own store, rather than in a general electronics or computer store, there’s a high chance that it will be locked to work only with that carrier. In this case, trying to use another SIM card will present an error.
Alternatively, smartphones may come unlocked, but they’re usually a lot more expensive, since you have to obtain a contract or prepaid SIM card separately. However, they tend to work out cheaper in the longer term, particularly for those who regularly travel and don’t want to be restricted by expensive roaming charges or long-term contracts. Fortunately, it is usually possible to unlock a smartphone that has been locked to a specific carrier, though doing so may void the warranty.
Choosing the right brand is a much more complicated decision than it once was, not least because there are dozens of relatively new manufacturers on the market now. While some brands are well-established and enjoy excellent reputations, they also demand high prices for their products. Apple is the prime example of a premium brand for which customers pay for the name to a considerable degree. However, Apple’s devices also have an excellent track record with reliability and performance.
For Android phones, Samsung is one of the market leaders, though Motorola and HTC are also big and widely respected names. Nokia has the monopoly on Windows Mobile, although HTC also makes a few Windows devices. Many well-known makers of computer hardware, such as Asus and Acer, have recently started making phones as well, though many are skeptical of the quality of their devices. The same applies to the relatively new Chinese brands, such as Prestigio, Energy Sistem, and Zopo.
Smartphone connectivity is a key concern for anyone who intends to use their device for heavy browsing and social media or transferring large amounts of photos and other files between different devices. Although features such as Bluetooth and 3G are standard among all smartphones, there are a few other important considerations. Most importantly, for faster mobile Internet, you’ll want 4G capabilities. It’s always best to go for a smartphone that offers all of the latest connectivity standards.
iPhones present the biggest shortcomings when it comes to connectivity, since they are not even compatible with the micro USB interface, which is used by all other smartphones. On a related note, although you can use certain Bluetooth keyboards with iPhone, they’re incompatible with wired ones. There’s even talk of Apple changing the size of the headphone jack in future models so that users will only be able to use headphones and speakers designed specifically for iPhone!
With hundreds of models to choose from, buying a smartphone is often not an easy decision. The best way to approach it is to first determine your requirements and purchase a feature phone that specializes in a certain area unless, of course, your budget is great enough to go for a high-end model. The apps you want to use will also help to shape your decision. For example, a larger screen will take priority if you want to watch films on the move, while a high-resolution front-facing camera is a must for anyone who wants to take selfies.