Specifications to Consider when Choosing a Smartphone

There are many different things to consider when choosing a smartphone. If you are in the process of looking for a new or different smartphone then you might want to consider reviewing the following specifications on those smartphones before making your final choice.

This Guides Outline

Internal Memory

Storage space and available memory is one of the most important, if not the most important, specifications to consider when choosing or buying a smartphone.

I highly recommend that you make sure to try to get a phone with at LEAST 8GB (Gigabytes) of memory devoted towards user storage. Anything less than 8GB of memory, in my opinion, isn’t going to be enough storage space and will diminish quickly over an extended amount of time.

If you come across a smartphone that only offers 4GB or even worse 2GB of built-in storage space then don’t even consider choosing that phone. Not even if that phone allows you to use an external memory card.

Some of these types of phones even come with a memory card because the phones internal memory is just horrendous. This can be a good selling point for a store representative trying to convince you to buy the phone because “you even get a free memory card with this phone” but apps don’t always save to your SD card and if you only have a couple of Gigabytes of storage space available on your phone then after a month or two guess what… your phone is going to start having some serious issues.

Freezing and crashing are two of the biggest problems resulting in low memory but the phone might also start getting “low memory” or “no storage” error messages, the phone might start crashing and powering off on its own, and might even crash and lead to a loss of personal information. If the specifications for that phone are not readily available then don’t hesitate to hop into the phones settings and storage to make sure that you have a decent amount of internal memory on the phone.

Just remember to try to get a phone with at LEAST 8GB (Gigabytes) of memory devoted towards user storage. The more storage space the better.

Micro SD slot

While some phones do not offer the ability to extend its memory with an SD card you may want to consider getting a phone that has this option.

Memory cards not only offer additional storage for your phone they can also offer added protection for your content. If your pictures are saved directly to a memory card when using the camera then if your phone ever malfunctions or if it is accidently damaged your less likely to lose that information.

A memory card is never a bad investment if your smartphone can utilize one, just don’t forget to set the storage location to automatically save to it. If you are interested in purchasing a good memory card then you might enjoy this post on memory cards to learn more about what to look for when choosing the best memory card for your cell phone.

Camera Quality

Now and days a smartphone might be able to take better pictures than your digital camera can, which is perfect for you because you might not always have your camera with you but chances are that you will have your phone with you.

When comparing cameras on your potential Smartphones you can start by comparing their megapixels. In a nutshell the higher the megapixels count then the better the resolution of the picture will be. Megapixel means one million pixels so a six-megapixel camera can produce images with six million total pixels. If you have two phones and they appear to be exactly the same except one has a 4 megapixel camera and the other phone has an 8 megapixel camera then the smartphone with an 8 megapixel camera is going to have the highest resolution.

Picture Quality

Even more important than how many megapixels a smartphone camera can capture is the actual picture quality of the images that the camera produces. While picture quality is a hard spec to judge without actually using the phone you might want to consider whether the phone can take quality photos both indoors and outdoors as well as whether or not the smartphone has a built in flash.

Make sure that you get the quality that you are going to be happy with. Picture quality trumps megapixel capability every time.

Power Consumption and Battery Life

One of the biggest shocks to new Smartphones users is the battery life on their new devices. The average Smartphone battery charge is probably around 8 hours, you’ll get about a day’s use out of it. Now there is a TON of setting on these phones that can be adjusted in order to maximize battery life, but that is a topic for another article.

Smartphones can be pretty powerful tools and the more you use them the more they use their batteries. For the most part a day’s use is fine for the average user; they get home from work and plug it into the charger before bed, take it off the charger when they wake up, sometimes even using their phones as their alarm clock, and take it to work. Lithium-ion batteries are the primary battery choice for portable electronics these days and if taken care of properly can outlast your phone itself.

Screen Size

Sometimes size does matter, in the cell phone world this is true as well, and should be considered when buying your phone. Some screens of course are bigger than others, and that extra centimeter or two can seem to make a big difference when using your phone. Smart phones are awesome when it comes to media and entertainment. If you’re like me and are late to jump on the Netflix bandwagon then head on over to their website and sign up (you can try it absolutely free), than once you get your Smartphone go and download the Netflix application and stream movies onto your phone! It’s awesome! Just remember when watching movies and videos from the internet (known as streaming) it’s using data, so make sure you use a WiFi when available. It’s faster and doesn’t cost you a dime from your Wireless provider. But I digress.

A bigger screen size can make viewing photos or watching videos or watching movies a lot more enjoyable on your smartphone but keep in mind that bigger is NOT always preferred, a bigger display means a bigger phone and you might not enjoy using a phone that feels too big, but we’ll talk about phone size a little later.

Screen Type and Quality

Not all Screens are Created Equal, and not all screens are made the same, but for the most part, you probably won’t notice too much of a difference between different screen types and this will not likely be a huge contributing factor when deciding on a smartphone but when buying a phone you might run across different screen types or technologies like LCD, AMOLED, Retina, Bravia and some minor others but LCD and AMOLED are two of the most common among screens found on Smartphones.            

TFT-LCD

TFT-LCD (Thin-Film Transistor Liquid Crystal Display) often just referred to as LCD is the most common type of screen and LCDs are found on all sort of Smartphones ranging from the most affordable to some of the more pricy phones. These types of screens might be a tad wider and not as thin simply because of their design using light to shine through the pixels to create its picture.

AMOLED

Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode, or AMOLED for short, are a little different from LCD screens as an AMOLED screen doesn’t use a backlight; each pixel actually produces its own light. There are many types of AMOLED screens but since they tend to be a little more pricy to produce AMOLED screens tend to be less common than LCD screens.

In a nutshell you won’t notice a huge difference between screen technologies, however if you mostly use your phone for searching the internet, reading documents, or reading text for that matter than LDC might be your preferred choice. If you use your phone for watching videos, movies, gaming, etc, the AMOLED might be your preferred choice.

Size Matters

We discussed screen size already but the size of the phone itself is a very important factor as well. Some Smartphones can seem huge, like the Galaxy Note series for example. The original Note had a Display Size of a whopping 5.3 inches. This device is actually kind of a hybrid between a phone and tablet and has a bunch of fun and interesting features on it. I know a few people that own a Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone and they love it. It is however a bit BIG and that needs to be considered because of how you plan to carry your phone and how you’re going to take it with you. I know another person who owned a Note and didn’t care for it because it was a little too wide for his hand and was hard for him to hold properly…

The screen size or general size of your smartphone can be the exact opposite as well being extremely tiny like the HP Veer with a 2.6 inch screen. I also knew someone who owned this phone and they liked it as well. The phone is so tiny it didn’t even require a mini USB port to charge it. Heck the Veer didn’t even have a headset jack built into it like most other phones, it came with an accessory that attached to the side of the phone which you then plugged a headset into. It was actually a pretty cool little phone.

The Color

Kind of a funny and seemingly obvious thing to consider but if there are multiple colors available for your phone then you might want to stop and think about which color phone you want. A Pink phone might not be the best choice for a young man who is captain of the high school football team but if you’re getting this for your little girl then it might be the perfect fit; assuming that her younger brother wont want to use it as a hand-me-down. If one of your siblings or if your spouse or someone that you spend a lot of time with has the same type of phone then you might want to choose a different color to avoid confusion.

In any case I usually recommend that you go for the black, grey, or white colors and then customize it with a case that’s more your style afterwards.

Removable Battery

This doesn’t sound like a big deal but it actually can be. If you have a phone right now then what do you do when it freezes? You either try to restart the phone, or since it’s frozen and not responsive, you pull the battery out and put it back in. Well if you can’t remove the battery then what are you going to do? Wait for the battery to die and then hope that the phone will power back on? This can be pretty aggravating and there is almost nothing you can do about it. So keep that in mind when buying a phone, if you can’t pull the battery then make sure there is a key combo to activate a simulated battery pull or an alternate method you can use to reboot the phone.

Consider its Design

We talked about size and color already but try to also consider how the phone is actually set up. What do you do when a phone freezes and you cannot power it off? You pull the battery. Can you get the back plate off of this device easily? I Love HTC phones and think that the HTC Inspire was a good phone for the average user but… the HTC Inspires design sucked. It had 2 different back plates! It had a back plate on the side that you have to take off to get to the battery and then one on the bottom to get to the memory card.

The battery cover or the side back plate was a REAL pain to get off too, and what made it even worse is that the volume keys or controls are right there too. So while you’re trying to be as careful as possible and trying to gently pry that back plate off to pull the battery out you also ran the risk of damaging your volume controls. Then the battery doesn’t sit flat like a normal phone it slides out amongst other design decisions that I really didn’t care for.

Then on the HTC inspire for some reason they hid the LDI sticker… it’s on the bottom of the phone under the second back plate underneath the plastic where it says FC in white letters. You have to actually look through the blurry plastic and it’s a little sticker that’s very difficult to see if you’re not in a good light, so it’s hard to know if your phone even has liquid damage, and if you try and file a warranty claim with liquid damage you can get charged a lot of money.

The HTC Inspire also had a limited internal memory, which is why the phones came with a memory card. The phone had to automatically save pictures to the memory card because the storage on the phone itself was insufficient. And guess what happened if your memory card stopped working or the phone malfunctioned and it could no longer read the memory card… No more taking or reading pictures, no more videos, no more camera.

Oh I’m pretty sure that the HTC inspire also had part of its antenna built into one of the back plates so if the back piece ever broke when trying to remove it, or if that piece ever got lost or if you took it off or if it didn’t fit onto the phones correctly then the phone would lose its service.

In any case, try removing the battery, if you can, and make sure you don’t have to almost break your phone in order to do so, sometimes replacement back plates are hard to get a hold of as well.

So try to keep the design of your phone in mind when choosing a smartphone as it can save you a lot of time and frustration later.

Hearing-aid Compatibility

This is pretty self explanatory but not all phones are hearing aid compatible. If you wear hearing aids or plan on buying the phone for someone that uses hearing aids then confirm the compatibility of the device and make sure to check the phones volume at maximum level to make sure that there is no feedback and that the speaker is loud enough for the user of the phone to hear the person speaking on the other end. You’ll certainly need a phone that has an internal speaker loud enough for you to hear. One way conversations or having to put your phone on speakerphone for it to be loud enough to hear can be pretty aggravating.

Operating System

We have gone over a lot of the physical specifications that you might want to review when choosing a smartphone but another very important specification that you are going to need to decide upon is how the phone thinks and what Operating System does that smartphone utilize in order to function.

If you have not yet chosen which Operating System (OS) you want your phone to use then this subject can seem like a pretty daunting topic unto its self so you might find Choosing a Smartphone Operating System helpful when making your decision.

Recap and Conclusion

While you may stumble upon other specifications when choosing a smartphone such as its weight, resolution, pixel density, RAM, processor or other features the topics mentioned in the article above should be given extra consideration.

  • Internal Memory - If you take anything away from this article make sure to always check the internal storage space that is going to be available for you to use on your smartphone. This applies to every smartphone on the market regardless of its Operating System or its Manufacture. If your phone does not have enough available built in storage space to function properly for an extended amount of time then there is no point in owning the phone and these types of devices should be avoided whenever possible. 
  • External Memory – Does the phone allow you to extend its storage space with an external SD card?
  • Camera Quality – while picture quality might be more difficult to judge on a phone that you’ve never had the opportunity to use before the megapixel capability is often a spec that’s easy to find and compare against the cameras of other smartphones. Don’t forget to check the cameras flash feature as well.
  • Power Consumption and Battery Life – make sure to do some research on the smartphones battery life. The average “talk time” of a smartphones battery under optimal conditions is a specification often available when researching and comparing the specs on smartphones.
  • Screen Size – a bigger screen has both its advantages and disadvantages. If viewing multimedia is something that you plan on doing often or if your eyes are not as young as they used to be and need a little help then you might want to lean more towards choosing a smartphone with a bigger display screen. Just remember that the bigger the display is the bigger the phone often is.
  • Screen Type and Quality – the two most common types of display screens found on smartphones are the LCD and AMOLED screens.
  • Phone Size – a bigger phone might seem like a great idea at first but if you cannot hold the phone in your hand comfortably then you might not be happy with your decision. Handling a potential smartphone in person is never a bad idea just to get a feel for what you might be getting into.
  • Color – while the color selection may be limited to only a few options to choose from the color of your smartphone is going to be one of the easiest features others will notice on your phone.
  • Removable Battery – this is more important than you might think. Can you remove the battery if your phone has complications? Can you easily replace the battery if your smartphones battery needs replacing?
  • Consider its Design – remember that function is more important than aesthetics. What is the point of a phone that looks nice but you cannot use properly or that has issues do to some slick new design flaw?
  • Hearing-aid Compatibility – pretty strait forward. You want to try and eliminate audio problems, not create some.
  • Operating System – more important than how a smartphone looks is how it thinks. Make sure to choose an operating system that is not only popular but user friendly as well.

Want to learn more?

This article is PART 2 of Choosing a smartphone. Click HERE to start at the beginning or feel free to jump to a different part in this series of posts by selecting one of the links below.

Part 1: Choosing a Smartphone - Getting Started

Part 2: Specifications to Consider when Choosing a Smartphone (YOU ARE HERE)

Part 3: Choosing a Smartphone Operating System

Part 4: Choosing a Smartphone Manufacturer

Part 5: How to Choose the Best Wireless Service Provider

Part 6: Smartphone Buying Tips

Part 7: Things to Check in Person after Buying a Smartphone

Part 8: Things Often Overlooked when Choosing a Smartphone

Thanks for reading

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1 Comment

RAM too

Don't forget RAM (all the apps are going to take some of that memory) 1-2 GB min.

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