Smartphone Buying Guide: How to Choose the Right  Smartphone Within Your Budget

by March 30, 2016 0 comments

With the progression of the smartphone industry, gradually more features are continuously being added/upgraded to do multilple tasks, such as to view emails, click and record photos and videos, etc.  And with added features there is always a question as to which smart phone should one buy and for what price. There are several aspects to consider while choosing a smart phone. Here’s what you should look out for, based on our experience of reviewing phones over the past six months or so. We present you a comprehensive smartphone buying guide to choose for the right smartphone..

The Ideal Screen Size

Nowadays mostly all manufacturers are targeting bigger screen sizes and this has become a key trend. The bigger screen is helpful in all aspects of mobile usage; be it playing games, watching videos, typing messages, video chats or using social sites. We can broadly categorize the screen size in three formats:

Between 3 to 4.4 inches

  • Compact design thus is easy to carry in pocket
  • Can be easily used with one hand without stretching your thumb
  • Great for checking mails
  • Key models: Apple iPhone 5S, Samsung Galaxy Star Pro, BlackBerry Z10 etc.

Between 4.5 to 5.4 Inches

  • Can be used for all purposes like watching videos, playing games
  • Good battery life
  • Fairly comfortable to use with one hand, depending on the button placement.
  • Examples: iPhone 6, HTC One M9, Galaxy S6, etc. Budget phones like Lenovo A6000 Plus, Redmi 2, Micromax Canvas Xpress 2 also fall under this category.

Screen Size 5.5 Inches or More

  • Great for multimedia consumption
  • Great for reading ebooks due to larger screen size
  • Requires two hand operation
  • Allows to run two apps simultaneously
  • Larger battery life
  • Examples: iPhone 6 Plus and LG G4, and the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 4.

Display Quality

The display of a smart phone is one of the most important aspect to consider when buying a new device because it’s the part where you’ll spend the most time directly interacting with the phone. The smartphone industry rotates around various names to describe the viewing experience on your smartphone screen viz. IPS, LCD, LED, Retina, AMOLED etc. Let’s find out what is meant by each of these terms and how they are different from others.

Also do check for protective coating on screens like Gorilla Glass that prevents breaking your smartphone screen from accidental drops or Anti-Scratch Resistant/Fingerprint coating that protects the screen from scratches or fingerprint smudges.

LCD Display

An LCD panel uses light modulating properties of liquid crystals. These liquid crystals don’t emit light of their own thus a backlight is required to generate light. A grid of IC is used to control each pixel by applying electric charge to them. Colors are created using red, blue and green subpixels and are then blended by various degrees to produce different combination of colors.

  • LCD panels produce a wider color gamut due to blending of primary colors but wider range is not better all the time as it can produce oversaturated images and images can also look distorted at times.
  • LCD screens produce realistic colors but do not offer as wide a contrast ratio as AMOLED screens.
  • LCD panels do not produce deep or clear blacks.

TFT-LCD Display

A thin-film-transistor liquid-crystal display (TFT LCD) is a variant of a liquid-crystal display (LCD) that utilizes thin-film transistor (TFT) technology to enhance image qualities such as addressability and contrast.

  • Most common type of display used in budget smart phones and also comes in some good tablets and phones.
  • The TFT-LCD display has narrow viewing angles and also if you look at them from the center it can be hard to see what’s on the display.
  • You will also have poor visibility in direct sunlight.
  • Color richness is dull.

IPS (In-Plane Switching) Display

IPS is a screen technology used for LCD displays and is a marked improvement over TFT-LCD panels. In-plane switching includes organizing and switching the molecules of the liquid crystal (LC) layer between the glass substrates and the movement of these molecules is in parallel instead of perpendicular.

  • IPS displays wider viewing angles and good color reproduction.
  • IPS panel display consistent, more accurate colors from almost all viewing angles.
  • IPS displays are costlier than TFT-LCD and are most common in High-end smart phones.
  • One of the disadvantage of IPS panels is they consume more power.

AMOLED Display

An AMOLED display consists of an active matrix of OLED pixels in order to produce light (luminescence) upon electrical activation that have been incorporated in a thin-film-transistor (TFT) array, which functions as a series of switches to control the current flowing to each individual pixel.

  • AMOLED displays deliver higher refresh rates and consume less power
  • AMOLED screens have brilliant color reproduction, higher brightness levels and good contrast ratio.
  • Also since the light in the display screen comes from individual pixels instead of being produced from a backlight, thus to create a black color, relevant pixels are dimmed off or turned off giving deep black.

Super AMOLED

Super AMOLED is Samsung’s defintion for an AMOLED display and uses Samsung’s PenTile matrix Layout.

  • Color gamut is high, images are much more granular, clear and sharp in Super AMOLED and color richness is higher than LCD panels.
  • Easy to view in direct sunlight.
  • Super AMOLED screens have battery saving efficiencies.

Retina Display

Retina Display is a term used by Apple for screens that have a pixel density high enough that the human eye is incapable to identify individual pixels at a typical viewing distance. The term is specifically used for several Apple products including iPhones, iPads, MacBooks etc.

  • Retina display screens are good, sharp, colorful and bright.
  • These have wide, sharper viewing angles and colors are much more vivid and vibrant and the Apple’s Retina display is hard to beat in terms of pixel density and resolution.

When buying a phone, the screen will always be a factor, but it isn’t going to be the only deciding factor. The ideal option must depend on what you will use your screen for. If you want to watch movies, play games AMOLED will be a better choice giving higher contrast ratio, and rich colors. On the other hand if web surfing, document viewing is more important to you than LCDs and Retina Displays will be more preferable offering crisper texts and making it easier to read on screen for long periods.

Camera Quality

If you’re looking for a good camera phone, don’t go blindly for the idea that more megapixels will give you better pictures or by promotion like best camera phone or best selfie phone. Instead, look for phones that pack good camera optics like aperture, speed and other relevant features.

  • If you want to capture decent shot indoors without using the flash look for a larger aperture. For instance, the Galaxy S6 has an f/1.9 aperture and the LG G4 is rated for f/1.8, while the iPhone 6 is f/2.2. A lower number means a larger aperture, which typically translates to better low-light performance.
  • Look for optical image stabilization to reduce blur and improve low-light performance.
  • If you want to capture long distant objects clearly, look for higher optical zoom.
  • For shooting in low light look for dual tone LED flashlight for good low light images, some smartphone have front LED flashlight.
  • The Panorama feature is useful when you are mostly out on vacation and want to capture a wide angle view.

Good photos are a result of adequate megapixels, good lens and sensor technology, as well as high-end processor chipsets. The smartphones like OnePlus 2,Nokia Lumia 1520, the Apple iPhones, Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, LG G4, Honor 6 Plus, ZTE Nubia Z9 Mini, Sony Xperia Z3 and Xiaomi Mi 4i have a good camera.

Operating Systems

The most popular OSes are Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS, Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS, and Blackberry OS.

Benefits of Android

  • Most popular OS and is available on a wide price range of smartphones.
  • It is an open OS, which means it’s easy to customize with widgets, launchers, your choice of keyboard and more.
  • Many more choices than iOS or Windows Phone when it comes to design, display size, specs, capabilities and price.

Benefits of iOS

  • The biggest reason to opt for an iOS device is its selection of apps. Apple’s App Store tends to get the hottest apps and games before Android, partly because developers have an easier time targeting a smaller set of devices that have similar specs.
  • Family Sharing lets up to six people in your family share iTunes, books and app purchases.
  • iPhone users enjoy the broadest array of accessories, because there’s less variation in design from one model to the next.

Benefits of Windows Phone

  • Offers some compelling features on its own, such as a dynamic Start screen and the Cortana digital assistant, but they haven’t been enough to sway shoppers.
  • Only available on select number of devices, mainly on Lumia phones.

Benefits of BlackBerry OS

  • There’s a BlackBerry Hub that aggregates everything from email to social updates in one place.
  • It’s also fairly easy to multitask on these phones, and you can get a physical keyboard from the BlackBerry Classic.
  • The UI is not intuitive, and the app selection is pretty skimpy.

Role Of CPU and GPU

Before choosing a smartphone, look for following specs for a hassle free experience

CPU Speed

  • The CPU speed for most of the phones fall into 1-1.3 GHz and 1.5GHz for high end smart phones.
  • Higher number of cores like Quad Core or Octa core ensures better performance than dual core ones.
  • Look for dual core if you want to perform basic functionalities, casual gaming etc.
  • If you want to consume more Full HD videos, want rich multitasking then preferred choice should be Quad Core.
  • If you want to perform high end gaming and tasks without the CPU coming to a crawl then go for Octa Core Processors with Mali or Adreno GPU.

RAM

The RAM in a smart phone is closely associated as to how its performance would be. The speed of RAM is measured in terms of MHz generally and they are classified as LP DDR1 < LP DDR2 < LP DDR3, etc. in order of their capabilities. Now a day’s smart phone manufacturers use DDR3 for enhanced performance.

  • Having more RAM gives you freedom for switching between apps or frequently used app and more RAM results into better multitasking.
  • If you want to play heavy graphics intensive games like Asphalt 8 or Dead Trigger you should choose at least 2 GB of RAM for good performance. Some low budget smartphones with 1 GB RAM are also capable of running these games and some of them have 2 GB RAM but are still not capable of giving lag free operations.
  • Smartphones running on Android OS need updates frequently on several apps or the OS. In such devices even 2GB RAM is less. Here Apple’s iOS is better because the OS update is not frequent.

Role of Internal Storage

Go for as much internal storage as possible. We have games that takes around a 1 GB or more of space like Asphalt 8 and Dead trigger 2 that requires having 500 MB of space. The minimum on most handsets, like the iPhone 6, is 16GB, but more phones (such as the Galaxy S6) are coming standard with 32GB or OnePlus 2 with 64 GB. We recommend 16 GB or more.

A microSD card can help expand your storage. It’s available on phones such as the HTC One M9 and LG G4, ASUS Zenfone 2 Deluxe, but keep in mind that microSD can often store only a portion of apps. These cards are better for storing media. Flagship phones like Samsung Galaxy Edge, iPhones, OnePlus 2 don’t have microSD card slot.

Do you really need a 4G smartphone?

LTE stands for Long Term Evolution, which is the “new” generation of faster data connectivity for both GSM and CDMA technologies. Often referred to as 4G or 4G LTE, it’s the speediest data throughput you can get right now. LTE Advanced, a step beyond LTE gives data speeds still another boost, and is rolling out in bits and pieces. Now a days from Micromax to Apple many phones have 4G ready. Although we recommend 4 G ready phones but still 3G phones are not bad.

Battery

While smartphones are growing more advanced and are becoming as powerful as laptops but with high-definition screens and professional camera technology they’re still limited by power.

  • Measured in mAH, go for higher numbers to give you more talktime, and enough juice to run your music and videos
  • Some smartphones are also equipped to run on Low Power Mode where battery is about to get fully depleted and can still run for hours which can be useful when you are out travelling and want to get hooked on remaining battery in case of emergency.

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