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Droids that Do More, but Cost Less.

Updated on August 15, 2012
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That's a lot of Droids

According to OpenSignalMaps, a developer of mobile phone apps, there are 3,997 unique Android models out there. With so many Android smartphones and tablets out there, how do you pick which one to buy? How do you get the best deal? How do you get as much performance as possible while spending as little as possible?

The More Androids the Merrier

Although there are close to 4,000 different Android devices there are only a handful of different mobile processors out there. With the processor being the single most import component that determines performance this is a good place to start when determining value. The processor is also referred to as the central processing unit or CPU. The CPU's job is to carry out instructions. The faster your CPU is the more instructions that it can carry out in each second. Therefore a better CPU translates into a faster phone. Modern computers and smartphones can have multiple processors all on the same chip. This is referred to as multi-core processors.

Another important smartphone component is random access memory (RAM). RAM is like your mobile phone's short term memory. The less RAM your phone has the more often it will need to go through its internal storage to look for information. If you have more RAM then the information that your CPU is looking for is right there and readily available. This allows your CPU to process the information immediately--making your CPU more efficient. Therefore, more RAM translates into better multitasking on your phone, increased speed, and less lag. Of course, all of this doesn't mean a whole lot if you don't have any room to store apps.

The smartphone's internal storage stores the Android program and whatever is left over is used to store apps. The larger your internal storage the more room you will have for apps. Larger internal storage space will also give you more room to upgrade the Android program in the future. As Android advances from version to version it adds more and more features. This increases the size of the Android program. The larger the program the more room it will take up on the internal store and the less space you will have for apps.

If you run out of internal storage there is a backup. When your internal storage becomes full you could also start storing your apps on your micro SD card. The SD card is another way of expanding the amount of storage your smartphone has. By default your pictures, videos, and music that you download will usually go straight to your SD card. You can also set your apps to install to the SD card. Therefore your micro SD card slot is a convenient and cheap way of expanding your smartphone's storage capability. Cloud storage is another option. These are just a few of the major features that are important to look at when considering a smartphone.

Other factors that you should consider are the graphics processing unit (GPU), the size of the screen, the quality of the camera both front and back, the number of LEDs that your camera has, and the dimensions of the phone i.e. thinness and thickness. The sound capabilities are becoming more important too as phones are replacing Mp3 players. You can see this in the new HTC phones that come with Beats Audio built in. Battery life and data connectivity are also becoming more important as we find ourselves in an increasingly mobile world. Look for phones that offer 4G LTE because LTE is the future of data connections. The last and most important factor for some is price. So how do we use these principles to get more and pay less? The helpful way of seeing the above principles put into practice is by seeing examples.

Is the Samsung Galaxy SIII the best choice?

There is a lot of hype surrounding the Samsung Galaxy SIII (GS3). It was the most pre-ordered smartphone in history with over 9 million pre-orders. The next most pre-ordered smartphone was the iPhone 4s at 4 million pre-orders. This hype was not without reason. This phone was billed as the first "Super Smartphone". The international version of this phone boasts a Samsung Exynos quad-core 1.4 GHz processor with some models having 2 GB of RAM and up to 64 GB of internal storage. However, in the U.S. version, Samsung opted against using their own Exynos processor in favor of the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4. The Qualcomm processor is only a dual-core 1.5 GHz processor. Samsung chose this processor, because it had the US LTE radios built into the processor and the Samsung processor did not.

Given that Samsung opted for the dual-core 1.5 GHz processor in the GS3 U.S. model, is this smartphone still worth its hefty price tag? This phone cost upwards of $635 on eBay which is about twice the price of the Samsung Galaxy SII Skyrocket (AT&T). A quick look at the specs comparison chart reveals that the two smartphones have the same clock speed and the same number of processors. The GS3 has twice as much RAM, faster LTE, a much better display, and a slightly better battery. Given these slight improvements, it might be a better value to go with the GS2 Skyrocket. Had the GS3 shipped with a quad-core like some of its international counterparts then it would have been a true upgrade, but as it stands the Skyrocket probably gives you the best value for your money.

One of the other major selling points of the the GS3 is the "Touchwiz Nature UX" which is a bundle of brand new software features exclusive to the GS3. However, these features have already been ported over to the GS2 by the Android community of developers. This makes the GS2 Skyrocket an even more attractive smartphone in comparison to the pricier GS3.

Droid Saves

Being able to upgrade your older phones with the latest software allows you to save money. It allows you to hold off on upgrading while still being able to enjoy the latest features of some of the newest Android phones. The key to saving money on Android smartphones is timing your upgrades to coincide with a true hardware upgrade. This is the advantage of Android and its open source community, which was explained in greater detail in one of my hubs. The chart below shows comparable alternatives to GS3 and the eBay links above should give you an idea of the current price of each phone. Hopefully, these tips will save you money and allow you to do more with your Android smartphones.

Android Smartphone Comparisons

 
Galaxy SIII (U.S. version)
Galaxy SII Skyrocket (AT&T)
HTC One X (AT&T)
HTC Amaze 4G (TMOUS)
Processor
Qualcomm MSM8960 Snapdragon Dual-core 1.5 GHz Krait
Qualcomm MSM8260 Snapdragon Dual-core 1.5 GHz Scorpion
Qualcomm MSM8960 Snapdragon Dual-core 1.5 GHz Krait
Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 APQ8060 1.5 GHz dual-core
RAM
2 GB
1 GB
1 GB
1 GB
Storage
16/32 GB
16 GB
16 GB
16 GB
Network
HSDPA, 21 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps; LTE, Cat3, 50 Mbps UL, 100 Mbps DL
HSDPA, 21 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps, LTE
HSDPA, 21 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps; LTE, Cat3, 50 Mbps UL, 100 Mbps DL
HSDPA 1700 / 2100 or HSDPA 1700 / 1900 / 2100 HSDPA 850 / 1900 / 2100
Display Size
4.8"
4.5"
4.7"
4.3"
Pixels Per Inch
306
207
312
256
Display Resolution
720 x 1280
480 x 800
720 x 1280
540 x 960
Primary Camera
8 Megapixel
8 Megapixel
8 Megapixel
8 Megapixel
Secondary Camera
1.9 Megapixel
2 Megapixel
1.3 Megapixel
2 Megapixel
Battery
2100 mAh
1850 mAh
1800 mAh
1730 mAh
Weight
134 g
130.5 g
129 g
172.9 g
Dimensions
136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm
129.8 x 68.8 x 9.5 mm
134.8 x 69.9 x 8.9 mm
130 x 65.6 x 11.8 mm
Release Date
June 2012
November 2011
May 2012
October 2011
Special Note
 
 
No Removable Battery or micro SD slot. Built-in Beats Audio
No LTE
 
 
 
 
 
The Galaxy SII Skyrocket, HTC One X, and HTC Amaze are all lower priced alternatives to the Samsung Galaxy SIII.

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    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Another well written hub with everything explained in an easy to understand way. Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • Gamerelated profile image
      Author

      Gamerelated 4 years ago from California

      Thank you for taking the time to read my Hub, mperrottet. I really hope that you and other readers find this useful. I was inspired to write the Hub because I found myself explaining this topic to many people about how to identify value in smartphones and get a good deal. Smartphone development happens in waves that seem to coincide with processor development. Recognizing these patterns can help people buy phones that will last them longer.

    • John1892 profile image

      John1892 4 years ago from Edgewater, Florida

      Really thorough job on this piece. I found it very well organized with easy to understand language and suggestions. Good job.

    • Gamerelated profile image
      Author

      Gamerelated 4 years ago from California

      Thank you for reading my Hub, John1892 and thank you for your comments too. I really appreciate your feedback as I think this will help me be a better writer. My goal in writing is to help people and if people can't understand what I am writing then it won't be helpful. I really value your comments because it gives me an idea of whether my writing is clear and well written.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      A very useful read here. There are so many Androids to choose from so this is a good read.

    • Gamerelated profile image
      Author

      Gamerelated 4 years ago from California

      Thank you ChristyWrites for reading my Hub. I really appreciate your comments. Hopefully, this Hub will help people understand how to get the best value when buying Android smartphones.

    • JimMiles profile image

      Jim Miles 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Thanks for this. I'm a DX user on CM7 (Kang), Verizon customer. I'm due to upgrade now, and appreciate this overview. I'm leaning toward dumping the Motorola and going Samsung. But which model??? This helped. But I wonder, do you see any trends around the corner which would advise me to wait to upgrade? I'm waiting anyway, till I save some more $$$.

    • Gamerelated profile image
      Author

      Gamerelated 4 years ago from California

      Hello JimMiles, your question is a great question. The iPhone 5 is rumored to release around the Fall time. HTC has been very quiet as of late. This usually means that they are going to release something. I suspect that they will release something big and groundbreaking right at the time of the iPhone 5 release.

      Historically, both HTC and Samsung like to release phones right before Apple releases theirs. Samsung's recent ad campaigns have featured the slogan, "The next big thing is already here." Samsung has been trying to highlight the fact that they are always ahead of Apple on hardware specifications and that they can put out these phones faster.

      I have not heard much from Samsung, but HTC is rumored to be working on a quad-core 1.7 GHz phone. The rumor is that this phone will go to AT&T. Verizon is rumored to get a quad-core 1.5 GHz phone that is a follow up to the HTC Rezound. Although this phone will have a lower clock speed than the AT&T phone it suppose to have superior graphics performance.

      If Samsung releases something this fall it will likely be a Galaxy SIII variant. There are rumors of a black Galaxy SIII with 64 GB of internal storage space. I would only go with a new Samsung variant if they put a quad-core in it. Otherwise I would go with one of the HTC devices. I hope this helps.

    • JimMiles profile image

      Jim Miles 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      It does. I sure would never go back from quad core after having it on my desktop. My wife's DX2 was disappointing. I'm not anti-iPhone, but I can't stand not being able to root a device. I'll look at the HTC's.

    • Gamerelated profile image
      Author

      Gamerelated 4 years ago from California

      I don't prefer iPhone because the hardware specs tend to be lower and their release cycle is slow. This means having lower hardware specs while paying a higher price.

      I also prefer the Android OS because you can get root on your device and then install custom operating systems. Not having root on your phone is like not having administrator privileges on your computer. I don't want to be on the guest account on my own phone.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      A friend of mine was looking at new phones and I am back today to look at your stats here. It is a good one the way you put the table together. Very informative!

    • Gamerelated profile image
      Author

      Gamerelated 4 years ago from California

      Hello ChristyWrites, the stats were intended to put the principles into practice. In my table I compare one of the newest smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy SIII, to some of its predecessors that have similar hardware. Here I was trying illustrate the fact that the Galaxy SIII is only a minor upgrade to some of the previous phones.

      However, if you are able to get a phone subsidized through your carrier then it could be more cost efficient to take the more expensive phones. Sometimes your carrier will give you free phones. In that case you should take the best and most expensive phone or phones that you can take.

      Also, the stats that I listed above are for the U.S. version of these phones. The Canadian version of the GSIII is much better. It has a quad-core processor making it a significant improvement over all of the phones listed above--as all of the phones above are dual-core phones. If your friend is from Canada then the Samsung Galaxy SIII would be the best phone available at the moment.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for the added information. You really should write more on this subject given how much you are at ease with the concepts. I believe he is looking at that Galaxy model so I will touch base with him. Thanks again!

    • Sethughes profile image

      Sethughes 4 years ago

      Nice, I have an Iphone but have never used a Droid. Would be eager to. Good hub!

    • dwachira profile image

      [ Danson Wachira ] 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      In these days of accelerated gadget innovation it is the users who are having a fun day. With more gadgets to choose from that users can imagine certainly there is a gadget there for every user. You did well here Gamerelated to highlight the features as i find some marketing jargon can be really intimidating to users. Voted up.

    • Gamerelated profile image
      Author

      Gamerelated 4 years ago from California

      @ChristyWrites, in the middle of composing my comment to you I realized that you are from Canada. I wanted to give you added information so that you could have the most accurate information since my chart only gives a list of U.S. phones.

      Even though my chart only lists U.S. phones I hope that people are able to use the chart as an example of how to value phones in general.

      I do want to continue to write about smartphones and technology, although I do have a lot of other interest that I would also like to write about--too many interests not enough time.

    • Gamerelated profile image
      Author

      Gamerelated 4 years ago from California

      @Sethughes, if you approach Android with an open mind and you are willing to learn I think you will find that Android has more potential than iOS. The hardware tends to be better and the software is evolving faster.

      Apple iOS is more stable. They are a more mature operating system. The release cycle on iPhones are slower therefore it is easier for them to build their operating system. There are advantages and disadvantages to releasing phones at a slower rate. The disadvantage is you are always behind on hardware technology and your software technology can also lag behind if it requires a hardware update in order to use it. The advantage is that you have a more stable operating system that has fewer bugs. The Apple iOS is more polished and stable at the moment.

    • Gamerelated profile image
      Author

      Gamerelated 4 years ago from California

      @dwachira, thank you for stopping by and giving me encouragement and feedback. Smartphone technology is pretty amazing. I really had no interest in cellphones at all, until smartphones were first released. Specifically, Android because that is the first smartphone that you could truly customize and it was born out of the philosophy of being custom. It has open source as its base. It is this customization that really makes it so that there is a phone for everybody.

    • carladominique profile image

      Carla Dominique 4 years ago from Philippines

      This hub is nice. I now have the idea how to choose an android phone. But is there a difference between a smartphone and an android phone?

    • Gamerelated profile image
      Author

      Gamerelated 4 years ago from California

      The smartphone is a broader category that includes Android, iPhone, Window's phone, and Blackberry just to name the most popular ones. Therefore Android is one type of smartphone, but it is not the only smartphone. Thank you for taking time the read my Hub and comment.

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