Shopping for a new handset? Great! You can finally buy that device you’ve always wanted. But how do you navigate through jargon like dual- and quad-core , GHz, mAh, and megapixels? What makes one operating system different from the other? After reading this primer, you will be sufficiently armed with answers to help you pick a phone that’s right for you..
Make no mistake, it’s the OS that puts the ‘smart’ in your smartphone, so before buying, it’s always a good idea to know about the different ecosystems that exist…
Android OS promises native integration with Google services that include Search, Gmail, Maps, Hangouts, YouTube, etc. Besides, you get access to over a million apps in its Play store. The best part? Titles that might be paid downloads on iOS and Windows Phone are sometimes available for free here. Another advantage of an Android handset is that these are plug-and-play . You can simply connect it to your PC via a USB cable to begin transferring files to and from the device with zero hassles. Also, you can choose from phones—costing as less as 4,000 right to those that are priced at over 50k—from vendors such as HTC, LG, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony, and even from local players like Karbonn, Lava, Micromax, Spice and Xolo. Just remember, Android versions are alphabetically named, and the latest in the market are Jelly Bean and Kit-Kat . Make sure you’re putting your money on either of these.
Windows Phone is now playing catch-up with Android and iOS – and at last count, its app store just had over two lakh titles. Still, most popular apps have already made their way to this platform. Also, WP handsets in India primarily come from Nokia – and while the OS needs improvements, you get really good hardware for the price you pay. Plus, these devices come with subscriptions to free content like music and movies (depending on the model you buy), and also Here Maps and Drive+, which are arguably the best map and navigation services in the country.
iOS, only found in iPhones, is extremely intuitive to use – and since Apple vets every title that makes it to its App store, you’re promised high-quality digital content in the form of educational material, music, videos and apps. The OS itself promises smooth operations, and you’ll find very rare instances of iPhones freezing during use. On the downside, you’ll have to use iTunes to connect the handset to your PC, and this can prove to be quite annoying. And yes, only buy from local authorised dealers; iPhones picked up from abroad are not covered under local warranty.
When shopping, you are bound to hear about dual-core , quad-core , and even octacore processors. But what should you put your money on?
While a greater number of cores are supposedly better, it does not give you a true picture of how a smartphone may perform. Why? Well, not all cores are designed identically. UK-based ARM, which designs these chips, licenses different architectures – with names such as Cortex A5, A7, A8, A9, A12, A15 – to manufacturers. Here, higher numbers mean better chips. In effect, a phone that uses a quad-core A15 will definitely be more advanced than a handset with a quad-core A5. In fact, there might be instances where dual-core processors might fare better than quad-core chips.
Also, a lot of how a processor performs depends on how the OS utilises its abilities. So an iPhone on a dual-core processor could be a bett er performer than many quad-core Android phones.
That said, these are some of the names you can expect to hear when shopping… Qualcomm’s quad-core Snapdragon 600 and 800 chips, Samsung’s octacore Exynos, and Apple’s dual-core A7 (found on the iPhone 5s, and not to be confused with ARM’s Cortex series) are the top dogs in this market.
Devices like the Nokia Lumias use mid-range dual-core Qualcomm S4 chipsets that are also seen in handsets like the Samsung Galaxy Grand Quattro and the Sony Experia M. Older iPhones use a dualcore A6 processor (again, not to be confused with ARM Cortex).
In the mid- to low-price brackets, you’ll find dual-core Intel Atom chips, the quadcore MediaTek MT6589, and Qualcomm’s dual-core Snapdragon 200 and 400.
The best way to judge a smartphone’s screen is to look at it from different angles for changes in colour, and also in varying lighting conditions for visibility. Invest in a Full HD (1080p) display if you’re buying a phablet. On the other hand, HD (720p) screens work well for devices up to five inches in size. On smaller devices, load a web page to see if the text is crisp, and can be read without any strain to your eyes.
In any case, avoid smartphones with lesser than WVGA (800x480px) resolution. AMOLED screens are best when it comes to displaying punchy colours. LCD screens with IPS technology comes a close second, while TFT LCDs should be avoided if you can.
It’s plain and simple: more RAM is always better.
We carry our world – e-mails , social networks, photographs, videos, music – with us on our smartphones, so when buying, always budget for a phone that comes with ample storage. Generally, if a phone lists its capacity as 8GB, only about 6.5GB will be available to the user. So if you need 4GB, buy a phone with 8 to 16GB.
More megapixels and HD video recording capabilities result in images and videos that occupy more space. Also, if you plan on watching Full HD movies on your phone, ensure you have at least 32GB storage.
If possible, opt for a model that supports microSD cards of up to 64GB so you can always add more memory when you need it.
In our experience, a screen of four to five inches works well for most purposes.
A phone that has a screen bigger than five inches could be slightly uncomfortable to use with one hand. Also keep in mind that big-screen phones are heavy, and can be uncomfortable to carry in your pocket.
On the flip side, large screens allow for a better experience while watching movies, playing games and browsing the web.
A 5MP camera is capable of 8×6-inch prints even at 300dpi (dots per inch), which is the standard resolution used in professional printing.
So, if you’re looking for a good camera phone, dump the idea that more megapixels will give you better pictures. Instead, look for phones that boast of good camera optics (go for devices that come with Carl Zeiss lens). Remember, a high-resolution camera with a low-quality lens will only give you low-quality pictures in high resolution.
In any case, if you need a snapper only for photos you’d like to share on social networks or Instagram, a 10MP camera phone is going to be overkill.
Opt for cameras with BSI (backside illumination) sensors for better low-light photography; make sure it comes with an LED flash.
In our experience, if you want a good shooter, you have to shell out extra bucks. Good photos are a result of adequate megapixels, good lens and sensor technology, as well as high-end processor chipsets. The Nokia Lumia 1520, 1020 and 925, the Apple iPhones, the Samsung Galaxy S3, S4 and S4 Zoom, LG G2, and HTC One are known for their good snappers.
For your front-facing camera, one megapixel is more than adequate.
You may have the best hardware at your disposal, but if you keep running out of battery, your handset is quite useless…
Bigger screens, extra cores, and more sensors mean greater power consumption. If you’re considering a smartphone over 4.5-inches in size, look at devices that come with at least a 2000mAh (milliamp-hour) battery. The higher the mAh, the longer the battery will last.
If possible, select devices that come with lithiumpolymer batteries over lithium-ion . The former are lighter, and also retain their charge for longer.
And yes, preferably, buy a device that comes with a user-replaceable battery (although a handset like the Lenovo P780, which comes with a 4000mAh non-removable li-polymer battery, could prove to be an exception to the rule).