Everything you need to know before buying a smart phone

Smart must be smart enough, and we literally mean "Everything you need to know"

The struggle

You just lost that beloved gadget you always cherished or it got stolen, or you are just tired of your old one and plainly want a new one. Well, look no further. I have outlined everything you need to know when getting that new phone.

There is always that struggle of acquiring a new smartphone, especially when the market is flooded with lots of flashy new models and brands, that will leave you spiralling in confusion. No matter whichever brand fanatic you are, you want the greatest and newest.

Prices and higher prices

Maybe money is not a problem for you, and can easily acquire the newest flagship device. What about us, who can't afford that luxury. The problem with smartphone manufacturers is that they will tweak previous model phones a little bit and release them as the newest and greatest. Well, we are not here to discuss that, are we? "How do I choose the right phone for me?", is the question we are here to answer.

The Major gotchas when choosing a phone

Price vs Specs

Price may determine specs and specs may determine price. However, a third factor comes in, time.
It is not uncommon to see a 2017 flagship phone running at the same specs with a mid-range phone in 2020.
You may opt to buy a flagship phone of a past century and still have awesome performance since with time, the price has gone down with the same specs still intact. You may choose to wait out the price of a phone and after nearly half an year, you are getting the same phone at nearly half the launch price. So yeah, time is a factor.

The List

I will go straight to what we need to consider when buying a smart phone. The major things to consider when buying a smart phone include:

  1. Network Coverage and connectivity.
  2. Battery Life
  3. Screen size and technology
  4. Storage
  5. Memory a.k.a RAM
  6. Processor
  7. Peripherals
  8. Size and Bulk
  9. Camera, sweet cameras
  10. Manufacturer Warranty
  11. Software version and Software Upgrades
  12. Cost of Repair
  13. Price

Let's dip into the list:

1. Network Coverage and connectivity

This tops my list majorly because that is the most important thing a smart phone provides. This is especially because smart phones provide connectivity to mobile data. This is the most important consideration since you might decide to buy a phone from overseas. Different carriers support different bands of networks and thus may become an issue with your new phone. Let's take the example of your carrier providing 3G, 4G and 5G, you may find they use a certain spectrum or band that your prospective phone doesn't connect to. If your major providers, let's say only use 4G band 28 and the band isn't supported by your prospective mobile phone, then the phone will never connect to 4G. Always do a proper research on the phone to know if the bands supported by your carrier and compare that to the phone you want to buy.

Other connectivity aspects you might want to consider is the availablity of cutting edge connectivity technology such as WiFi 6 (Consider also availability to connect to 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi bands) and Bluetooth 5 as well as availability of NFC and Infrared. Depending with what you want to do, always pick a phone with these features. For example mobile payments may require NFC as well as authentication. Though these may not be necessary, they are essential depending on what you want to do with them.

Not all 4G phones will connect to 4G, depending on where you are.

2. Battery Life

tl;dr;
The larger the battery capacity the better.

Nobody wants their phone dying on them. And most especially a phone that always has a life line connected to it (I mean a charger).
The trickiest part about this is hearing those huge jargon such as 4500mAh and 5000mAh (MilliAmperes per Hour). Well, it is just simple, a larger number means better battery life. Well, it is true to some point. It only means that the phone has a large battery capacity, but doesn't necessarily mean better battery life. Things to always consider with battery life is the screen size and technology and processor. I will look into these and why they affect the battery life. But to sum it up, the bigger the capacity, the better for you to stay up and running. If you game alot, and constantly have mobile data on, consider a larger capcity battery.

3. Screen size and technology

tl;dr;
The larger the screen size the better.

A larger display means a better viewing experience and better media consumption with the caveat that the phone might attract a lot of attention ...wait... I am kidding, however, a larger display means that using the phone one handed will be much difficult and trying to reach for items at the top will be as well. Also a larger display means that your phone will consume more battery thus the need to have a larger battery. This means as you increase the screen size, the faster the battery will drain especially if you use your phone frequently with its display on, majority of the time.

When it comes to the screen technology, we have several technologies available. These include: LCD/LED, O-LED, E-Ink LED and micro LED(Still to come). Among the four, the most common is the LCD/LED screens which are notorious for consuming a lot of battery power because they light up the whole screen with back lit LEDs. They rely on the whole being lit for you to see what is on the diplay. O-LED displays are however different. They are more efficient and only light up individual pixels on the display at a time. This allows pixels that need to emit light to produce a color in order to display. Thus when in dark mode, you save a lot of battery and are easy on your eyes at night. In addition, it gives you a better viewing experience since it produces deeper blacks resulting to better contrast and also giving you a wide viewing angle. The E-ink displays have the best battery life but very poor viewing experience due to the limited color. They are howeveronly suitable for e-reader device.

The most advisable thing is to always go for O-LED displays, however, you should note that they are most susceptible to burn in. This is where the display tends to etch the things it displays most, or rather, what is mostly displayed on the screen. Thus it is important that you keep screen timeouts to the least possible timeout to avoid burn in. O-LEDs are also more expensive as compared to their counterparts.

4. Storage

tl;dr;
The larger the storage size the better.

More storage means more files to be stored, more picture to be stored and more apps to install.

A larger storage can be acquired, however, that will weigh in to you paying more to acquire it. I would personally recommend getting a device with not less than 32 Gb of storage. That will suffice for you to install the most necessary apps you need and have leave some room for your media.

5. Memory a.k.a RAM

tl;dr;
The larger the memory a.k.a RAM size the better.

Memory isn't as essential in a mobile phone as with a laptop or PC. Why is this so? Majority of users never use multitasking at all. With Android 7 and above, android comes with the ability to run two apps at once, however, a small percentage of people usually use this feature. This is due to the fact that multitasking on a phone is much difficult due to the limited inputs a mobile phone has. However, running multiple apps in the background will require alot of RAM or memory, thus if you run multiple apps in the background, consider larger memory. This is to prevent you running out of memory resorting to your operating system closing some of them to allow for others to run efficiently. For mobile gamers, consider more RAM to ensure that your games run smoothly.

Putting those into consideration, a minimum of 2GB should suffice for a majority of people.

6. Processor

This should be at the top of the list right? Well, yee....ah, actually, it is just something essential that most people don't consider. This is because most processor terms out there are but Jargon. Most manufactures tend to term them as SOCs(System On Chip). This means they are a couple of functions that are integrated on one chip. Those include the CPU, the GPU, RAM and Modem Chips onto one chip. The manufacturer will also throw speed and core counts here and there as part of the jargon.

I will simply put this into a simple statement. Read the reviews and benchmarks. An SOC may be the fastest, but in turn overheats and consumes alot of power. I will put to shame all Mediatek SOCS or MTK SOCs, they are notorious for power consumption and end up overheating in use and while charging. A device will overheat and slow down to compensate for the heat generated by slowing down. So at all costs avoid MTK phones.

I will personally recommed Qualcomm Snapdragon processors with lower processess (Processes are basically the number of transistors on a set size - smaller means more transistors on a small area) since they will consume less power and are faster. All other smartphones that have inhouse processors (Processors made by the manufacturer inhouse) have their perks and others are considered aweful such as the Exynos processors which are considered inferior as compared to their Snapdragon counterparts.
If possible go, for Qualcomm and avoid Mediatek

7. Peripherals

The trend is that smart phone manufactures are cutting off the head phone jack. Check if your device has a 3.5mm Earphone head jack if you use earphones on a daily or often. Also some manufacturers include earphones such as Xiaomi and Samsung with certain models. Make sure to check that.

Other peripherals include mobile phone chargers. Some mobile phones promise fast charging but don't come with the fast chargers or wireless chargers. So, it is essential to consider that. The type of charger connector is also important. You may decide to pick up a phone that uses USB-C port to charge and all your friends use MicroUSB to charge their phones. That means you will always have to carry your charger.
However, I recommend you buy a USB-C port phone since they have less difficulty figuring out which side is up and which is down. Also the USB-C ports are more durable than MicroUSB.

Consider the cost of buying the extra peripherals and add that to the cost

8. Size and Bulk

A phone may be bulky due to the battery packed inside. A larger phone most likely has a larger battery and a larger capacity phone is most likely larger and heavier. Some are compact and heavier than others due to the build quality that I will look into shortly. Compare the weight of your phone with the one you want to buy and if it is more, you will have to bare the additional weight until you get used to it.

9. Camera, sweet cameras

What is a smart phone without a camera?
The larger the camera pixelation the better right? To some degree, yes. You must consider the fact that software and processor matter. The Apple flagship as of writing this, uses all 12 MP cameras to take pictures that even beat 48MP cameras out there. This is due to the processing technology that Apple uses to using their A13 Bionic Processors. So a better processor and software plus excellent camera hardware gives you amazing shots.

The multiple camera trend is causing a frenzy, with the ultra-wide, main camera, depth sensors, and the newly macro and periscope cameras. A phone with three cameras is just sufficient and having five-seven cameras is just overkill.

Remember powering these, will require more power since also the processor is involved in handling the multiple swithes to cameras and processing of different camera type images.

Make sure to check reviews to see the various camera samples uploads to compare qualities.

10. Manufacturer Warranty

tl;dr;
The longer the warranty period, the better.

Some manufacturers give warranties for certain periods of time while others don't. Warranties basically cover faults that the manufacturer is responsible for and they do not include broken phones or phones destroyed due to water entry or sippage. All in all, it is better to have one with warranty and a longer one for that matter such that incase of their fault, they will wiillingly replace or repair your phone at no extra charge.

11. Software version and Software Upgrades

Always go for a phone with the lastest software or OS. This is because they have the latest software and security patches that your phone need to remain secure. The latest OS as of writing this is Android 10 and iOS 13.

Manufacturers tend to give the device updates for upto 2 years at best and other are so slow with updates. The Best devices with monthly updates include Nokia, and OnePlus that are always at the front end of pushing updates.

Also check that the manufacturers that add alot of bloatware onto the devices even before you start installing your apps. These apps cannot be uninstalled and are annoying and consume space. Consider picking a device with Android One. They hardly add bloatware and are minimal if at all any. The good thing with a modded OS is that, manufacturers give a unique skin to Android making the feel different from one Phone to another. This allows them to add additional and optional features that are unique to each device.

12. Cost of Repair

tl;dr;
The more expensive a phone is, the costlier it is to repair.
Most devices that are expensive when purchasing are as well expensive when repairing. Consider a phone that is easy to repair and even have spare parts around. You might buy a smart phone that is unrepairable after it is damaged to the high cost of repair.

13. Buid Quality

A plastic phone is lighter and more likely to break. A metallic phone is heavier and more durable. When it comes to the display, a plastic screen is more susceptible to scratches but is more durable such that it won't break when it falls. A glass screen is resistant to scratche but will most likely break.

" Glass is glass and glass breaks"
~ JerryRigEverything

There are various iterations of Corning Gorilla Glass, that boasts more strong, lighter and better than the previous one. You should pick the latest one but remember, glass will always break no matter what.

14. Price

Fyuks! That was an extremely long article, but I wanted to cover everything you need to know before buying a phone. It all boils down to the price of the phone you want to buy. Sure, it has amazing specs, but what trade off are you willing to deal with to get it at the price you have set.

I would recommend going through the list to identify what you actually require in a phone, head over to GSM arena and check out the specs you so desire and it will give you a list of devices that you are most suitable to buy and check out their prices on your favourite E-commerce platforms as well as your local stores.

When all is said and done, I would like to outline some of the things you should take care of when buying a phone:

  1. If it has extremely amazing specs at a low price, it is most likely having faked specs.
  2. A brand that has no name apart from a model number example P50 but no brand, is most likely having faked specs.
  3. Obscure specs such as 6/7GB RAM or 150GB storage, most likely is fake. Normal conventions such as 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, 12GB RAM is expected. 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB 512GB, 1024GB for storage is expected.
  4. Don't buy a brand. Some brands are too expensive for minor specs and others have a bad reputation for other things.
  5. Check if it unlocked for a all carriers and is an international version. Some manufacturers have region specific devices and my not have the phone in your language.

Till next time, see you on the next blog!


Karim K. Kanji

I love tech and making solutions for the society using Tech is my greatest passion! ❤