Basic Smartphone Buying Guide: Things to consider before buying

Lets go back 3 years into the past, smartphones were not commonplace. Their prices kept most people at bay, with you having to shed out almost 15k for even a remotely decent device. And “decent” in those days meant like 800 Mhz processor and 256 or 384 mb of ram.We could count the OEMs in those days on our fingers . Apple,samsung,HTC and …(yeah, keep thinking). Suffice it to say , smartphones in those days were a luxury.

And here we are in the present, the smartphone industry has grown by exponential proportions , and I am not using the word exponential loosely . There is a smartphone in the market for everyone today. A smartphone that will suit your needs  .A budget smartphone to im,social networking , some basic navigation , and a few games . A smartphone that will replace your point and shoot camera . A smartphone/phablet with big screens to satiate your media consuming needs. And lastly , you want a phone to just plain show off :) , there’s plenty to choose from.

Smartphone buying guide

The thing is , 3 years ago , the choices were pretty simple . You have money ? go buy the most expensive phone around and 9 times out of 10 you will have the best phone. Things are nowhere close to simple these days. There are a hundreds of  OEMs to choose from, each OEM has again a thousand products ( Samsung Galaxy , are you listening :) ) , covering almost every price point and every need out there. So , if you’re heading out to buy a smartphone , do make sure that you’re clear about a few myths that float around smartphones.

More Cores does not equal more speed

You gotta love a quad core processor , they’re fast right? Yes they’re fast than your simple single core processors , but that doesn’t mean you should jump at the sight of a quad core processor. A quad core processor essentially consists of 4 cores( genius ,eh? ) . But the catch is , most of the time , the phone is not even using 2 cores . When the phone is in deep sleep , it uses one the cores , and the rest are asleep.

Your most basic functions on the smartphone , running rudimentary apps like Whatsapp, facebook , twitter …these run on two cores. Very few apps( heavy graphics games for instance) can push the cpu to actually use all the 4 cores at the same time. So think, what are you going to use your phone for, and then decide , if you’re really going to use the quad core processor.

More megapixels doesn’t equal a better camera

A smartphone camera is not just about the megapixels. A lot goes on behind the scenes , the camera software , post image processing , optical image stabilization . Some cameras , like Nokia Lumia’s deliver a far superior performance in low light . If you’re just comparing camera’s just on the basis of megapixels , you’re missing out on the bigger picture( quite literally :) )

Updates Matter

I have seen people still running gingerbread phones . And they’re quite happy with it. Totally oblivious of the fact that android has developed generations from gingerbread. Less crashes , better performance , better battery life ,less data connection drops . You like the sound of all these right, then you should update your phone.

The major problem here is most OEMs  dont pay much attention to updating their phones , especially the low and and the mid range phones. They launch these phones at the then latest or 2nd latest operating system . People are attracted and then they buy those phones, but then they are just left in the wild , with the out of the box operating system.

So, the next time you go out to buy a phone , research a little about what are the OEMs plans for the phone , are they going to support it for updates, and for how long. Another catch is that the updates should be OTA (Over the Air) i.e you should be able to download those updates on your phone with a Wi-fi connection and install them yourselves , rather than you having to go the OEM’s service center and giving them your phone to update.

A big applause for Motorola , they have really started something , the updates to their phones rival Google’s nexus line and they usually ship out the updates for all their phones(yes, all their phones) within a month of the announcement by Google.

Specifications aren’t everything

Debunking this myth is more important for the budget smartphone consumers , because they’re already playing with very little  and the software and the hardware has to optimized very carefully . Your phone can have all the right specifications , but if it hangs so much , then you’ll want to smash it on the wall. Custom skins from the OEMs are more often than not a hindrance. So when you go out to buy a budget smartphone ( or a flagship for that matter) , make sure that you use it enough to carry out your day to day activities on it without any hiccups .

The Display

There are a plethora of displays available in the market today. LCD , TFT , OLED , AMOLED , Super Amoled , IPS . LCDs provide bright and vivid colors . AMOLEDs and Super AMOLEDs consume less power because the blacks don’t use any light . IPS displays provide better viewing angles . Its upto you what kind of a display you want and what are you willing to compromise on.

A good test for a display is to

  1. browse through pictures of different colors to actually see how the colors look .
  2. Pinch and zoom into text as much as you can to point it starts to blur (wont happen on high resolution displays) , this will give you the best indication about the sharpness and the resolution of the screen
  3. The sunlight visibility of the screen, some screens aren’t readable even at maximum brightness in sunlight, so keep that in mind.

After Sales service

I say the best warranty/guarantee is the one you never have to use.But then again , you might be unlucky and get a faulty device or maybe drop your phone and the screen shatter or the fact your phone isn’t waterproof and you are caught in the rains. Whatever the tragedy that may befall your phone , you must have a service center in your vicinity , or at least in your city . Again , having a service center doesn’t actually mean you’ll get the service you’re asking for quickly and adequately.

This is something you’ll have to ask your friends around . Everyone has different experiences , but an overall consensus is there , if the service of a particular OEM is good or bad . Ask around and then decide for yourself , if you find yourself in a soup , if the OEM will be willing to get you out , and in time :) .

No post will ever cover the entirety of the things to keep in mind before you buy a smartphone , but keeping the above points in mind will give you a good place to start.

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