There are many smartphones on the market today and they are produced by many different manufacturers. You will most likely be using your smartphone every day, therefore, taking the time to choose the one that fits your needs is an important decision. To help speed up the process of choosing your next smartphone I have provided tips on what you should look for in your next one.
1. Pick an Operating System (iOS vs Android)
The two popular operating systems for smartphones today is Android and Apple iOS. Apple iOS is created by Apple and is an operating system that can be only found in smartphones created by Apple. Apple’s OS is considered easier to understand because there is not much customization.
Android is used by just about every other manufacturer, which is why there are more Android smartphones to choose from. Android offers more customization to their smartphones and it can take more time to get used to it.
Apple owns much of its hardware and owns the OS of their devices, therefore, they can make devices that integrate better together. This offers users a better user experience. They have better security in their devices for software and hardware such as USB restricted mode. In the past, there were ways data could be maliciously accessed from your device with a USB, but USB restricted mode combats this by requiring users to use a passcode to access your phone if it has been over an hour since it has been unlocked.
Software updates on iPhones support older phones for longer periods of time. There have been reports about how fewer people are upgrading their iPhones nowadays and that is partly due to how well their older models work. Another part of it, which is a con is just how pricey iPhones are. When your current phone already gets the tasks done that you need then hanging onto it to save money or any other reason may not be a bad idea.
Apps typically are released to iOS users first before going to Android users. Sometimes apps do not even make it to the Android store.
There is the Apple eco-system to consider if you are thinking about going iOS. The data within Apple devices can sync together, therefore, you can sync events within your calendar app, read emails between devices or send and receive messages between iMessage users on all the devices.
Some downsides of iOS though are that since they consider their products as premium items, their devices will be priced . They typically price their items at a high price but they have recently sold older items like the iPhone SE. Their latest devices use face ID and not touch ID which some people may prefer. They typically only have 1 big software update per year therefore if there were features you were hoping for or do not like then you will have to wait another year and hope it gets implemented.
Every manufacturer has their own version of Android because the software for Android is open source which means it is available for free for users to modify, study and distribute the software to anyone. If you switch from Android from one manufacturer to another you may see noticeable differences between them.
Android allows users to download apps outside of their Google Play App store. Make sure to be careful when doing this because you can download malicious data from an unsecured source.
The hardware-based security for Android will vary between manufacturers, therefore, doing research on the device you are going with is necessary. Android typically does offer more updates to their devices.
Android devices offer a split view for multi-tasking. If you enjoy having more than one screen open at a time than this feature will benefit you.
2. Display Size
Displays range in size from about 5 inches to around 6.5 inches. Typically the premium version of phones will have bigger display sizes such as the iPhone XS Max at 6.5 inches, the galaxy s9+ at 6.2 inches and the Google Pixel 3 XL at 6.3 inches.
The advantage of larger displays is that the larger screen size can be used for watching videos, reading e-books or accomplishing tasks that require a larger display. If you travel a lot then having the option to use your smartphone rather than having to pull out a laptop or tablet can be of benefit and reduce the items you travel with.
The downside of larger screens is they can be harder to navigate around with one hand, they can be tough to store in pockets, and they are typically higher priced phones.
The advantage of a smaller display size is the cheaper price you can get it at. If you enjoy a smaller phone in your hand and do not need as much space to read an e-book, navigate through your phone, or watch videos then a smaller display is right for you.
The storage space on your smartphone will determine how much data your phone can hold such as apps, pictures, videos, and music. The least amount of storage space you want to get on your phone is 32 GB because data on your phone can add up relatively quickly. Out of the box, part of this storage will be taken up as well from the operating system and the default apps within it.
If you plan to use your device to store big files photos or videos then getting a device with 64 GB or more may be what you are looking for. A cheaper option may be to start with 32 GB and download a cloud storage app. To learn more about cloud storage click here to navigate to the post on cloud storage I have written. Many of the cloud storage apps on the market such as Google Drive offer 100 GB of space for as low as $1.99 per month.
The advantage of cloud storage is that your personal data does not have to exist only within your phone. When you switch devices in the future you only need to access the previous cloud storage app you were using to get access to your data again.
4. Test Out the Phone Before Buying
When you come up with a few phones you are considering to purchase it is a good idea to visit a tech store that has the phone on display. Some phones may look like the right choice when you are researching the features they have, but holding it in your hand and playing around with it may reveal flaws that you did not see coming.
5. Face Recognition or Touch ID
Recent Apple smartphones have been moving from touch ID to face ID. This is a feature to check out for yourself and determine whether you enjoy it. If your hands are covered pretty often or you find the feature more convenient to use then face recognition technology is ideal. Between iOS devices and Android devices with face recognition, iOS is more secure.
Touch ID works is typically found on Android devices. The fingerprint reader for Touch ID phones on Android devices can be found on the back of the phone or on the bottom of it. For Apple devices, they are all found on the bottom on the smartphone. Every year touch ID has been getting faster and better at recognizing fingerprints which is why it is preferred by some.
Smartphones are moving towards using Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays. End users of OLED displays will experience enhanced colors and brightness. OLED is thinner, uses a plastic layer rather than a glass layer like LEDs which provides the brightness, and they do not require backlights, unlike LCDs. Each pixel within OLED shines its own light. Backlights can consume a decent amount of battery power which is why OLED is a great display for saving on battery power.
This display is used on more premium models of smartphones. An example of this is Apple’s new iPhone XR which is considered to be a budget iPhone uses an LCD display while their iPhone XS uses an OLED display.
Since they are thin plastic, it is harder for them to break. There are not as many OLED displays on the market though so they are costly to repair if you break it.
Liquid crystal displays also known as LCD are used on older phones or budget phones. They are made of a thin crystal layer and rely on a backlight. There are more failure points for this display to break, but since they were on the market for a while, they are not as expensive to fix. The color on this display is not as prominent as OLED.
I highly recommend to check out how both displays look in store to notice the difference.
7. Battery Life
When reading the features of your next smartphone, the battery life it says it offers assumes average use. If you plan on using your phone for intensive tasks like gaming, browsing social media, or need to use high levels of brightness then the battery life will not last as long as stated on the box. The options to get around this are to buy external battery packs or even the cases that also work as battery packs.
Smartphones typically come with a front facing camera and a rear camera. The front facing camera has the better quality of the two. Testing out the camera on your future phone will be best, but knowing the specs will also help you make an informed decision. If the smartphone camera is a priority then below is a list of features to look for when looking at your next smartphone.
If you just want to know specific phones that are known to have quality cameras then the Google Pixel is a popular choice for Android and the latest iPhone is a popular choice for iOS devices.
The megapixels within the sensor of your camera controls the resolution of your images. For better image quality from your smartphone, a camera with larger pixels within its sensor will provide you with better image quality. If comparing two similar sized sensors where one uses larger pixels and the other smaller pixels, the one with larger pixels will likely produce better image quality because the larger pixels have more area to take in light.
The higher the aperture on the smartphone camera the better the image quality. It will allow faster autofocus due to better light exposure to the focus technology. The sensor where your megapixels are will be exposed to more light, therefore, allowing you to take photos in darker areas.
High Dynamic Range (HDR) is used to process the bright and dark areas within photos with better detail. This feature can be found in iPhones and certain Android devices.
ISO Control refers to your camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. Smartphone cameras have an ISO rating. The higher the number the more sensitive the sensor is to light. This means the smartphone camera will be able to take better photos in low light conditions.
The latest premium devices can film videos in 4k at either 60fps or 30fps. When it comes to shooting videos, many people have reported that iPhones are the best followed by Samsung phones. There are many other smartphones on the market though.
9. Wireless Charging vs. Quick Charging
Wireless charging is convenient because as the name indicates there are no wires required. Wireless charging stations are just pads that you place your phone on. The downside of wireless charging is it charges phones slower compared to quick charging. If you are interested in quick charging then on the features for your next smartphone look for “fast charging” for iPhones and “quick charging” for Android phones.
The benefit of fast charging is that it can charge your phone to 50% of more battery power within 30 to 40 minutes. There are phones that do offer quick charging and fast charging. If you are usually in a rush, traveling a lot or do not see many benefits for having wireless charging then prioritizing quick charging as a may be the way to go.
10. CPU and RAM
The processor in your smartphone will determine how a task can get done within the smartphone. The speed of your processor measured in HZ determines how fast each of the cores within the processor can perform. The cores are the workers that get the task done in your smartphone and more cores generally mean that you have a faster performing phone but this can depend on other factors as well such as the generation of the processor related to its competition.
The CPU has been benchmarked between Android and iOS devices. Apple devices outperform Android devices when it comes to the speed of getting tasks done. (Apple CPU source, Android CPU source).
The RAM is random access memory and determines the number of apps you will be able to have open at once. When you open an app on your phone, that memory is loaded into the RAM and there is limited space within it. Smartphones typically have 4GB or more of RAM. More RAM is not always beneficial because different manufacturers have ways to get a lot of performance out of a little RAM. This can especially be found in higher-end phones.
Creating a budget can help you narrow out phones to look into and decide on what features you want to prioritize. This is an important step and can help you save time while trying to decide on the next phone you plan to buy.