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Specs to Consider when Buying a Smart Phone

Updated on February 27, 2016

The Basics

RAM (Random - Access Memory) -This is the memory where your data is stored while your phone is running. RAM is used to access temporary storage data that requires quick access, since all information will be lost when you cut off your phone's power supply. More RAM on your phone means you can run more complex software and open multiple applications at the same time.

How much RAM do you need? As of today, if you want to get the most out of your android phone then you ought to buy a phone that has at least 2GB of RAM. For those who just want to use their android phone for basic apps such as mails, internet, a few games and such; then you will be good with just 1GB of RAM. For iOS and Windows phone users 1GB of RAM is more than enough to get the most out of your phone.


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Storage Memory- For most android phones, there are two types of storage; the first is internal storage (built in) wherein your OS and most of the core applications are installed. And external storage (micro-USB card slot) wherein you can expand your storage so you can install more applications and files. It is a no brainer that having a bigger memory is better but how much storage do you really need? If you want to install essential apps, and HD games then you ought to have at least 16GB of internal storage since your operating system and core apps will surely occupy almost half of your storage if you only have 8GB of space (or lower). For external storage, the same applies, if you can afford a higher SD card storage then go for it, since you are going to store all images, videos, music and mails in it. Additional advice: make use of cloud storage if your phone supports it.

Chip set - This is your system, all your primary computer assets on a chip. You ought to go for a more advance, faster, and feature packed chip set if you are going to buy a new phone. Some of the popular chip set names are; Nvidia, Qualcomm, Broadcom, Texas Instruments, and Intel. You can go straight to their sites and search for their latest chip sets or judge the chip sets on the phone you want based on their; (1) clock-rate, (2) bitness of the CPU and the (3) GPU.

Clock rate - This is the fundamental processing rate of your CPU in cycles per second. This means that higher clock rate is equal to higher performance of your CPU (in terms of processing speed) but how much clock rate do you really need for your smart phone? Currently, a phone can handle pretty much any application imaginable if it has at least 1Ghz CPU clock rate. But take note that speed is based only on clock rate: Most phones today have multiple cores, which makes processing and multitasking better. As of today you must at least get a phone with a dual core, 1Ghz processor if you want to enjoy heavy processing applications, but if you want to address the advance of technology for the next two years or so, you'll be safe with a quad core, 1Ghz processor.

Bitness of the CPU - This is the architecture of of a computing system based on how many bits compose the basic values it can deal with. In simpler terms a higher bitness means your computer can process higher calculations. It is quite obvious that a higher CPU bitness is better, but how much bitness do you really need? As of today most smartphones can make do with 32-bit processors but this may change due to the fast pace of advancement in smartphone technology and applications. Thus if you are buying a new phone then you must aim for a 64-bit phone.

GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) - This is a specialized circuit designed to accelerate the image output in a frame buffer intended for output to a display. These feature is needed if you want to play HD games and videos on your mobile phone. And since mobile games and 3D applications are getting more popular and are pushing the boundaries of smartphone experience, you must aim for a phone with GPU. Click below for a link of GPUs you can check out.



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Camera - Camera quality on smart phones is one of the most improved specs by developers nowadays. Some phones today even have a camera resolution of 16 megapixels. But how much resolution do you really need? For an average joe, using a the camera on normal daily activities then 5 - 8 megapixels will be more than enough but if you want to use your camera phone in your profession then you can aim for 8 megapixels or more. Camera resolution is not just the only factor on choosing a camera for your smart phone you may also check the camera hardware per se sensor and image processing software.

Operating System (OS) - This is the software that runs your smartphone, manage their resources and memory. The top OS on mobile phones today are iOS, Android, Windows and Blackberry. But which one should you pick?

Every OS has its own specialty, it can be; music, apps, interface, camera and the list goes on and on (see link below). But as of 2015, the battle for the best OS goes to android and iOS, between these two it is hard to choose a better one, (although windows is not far off). Bottom line is, if you want an affordable, tweak-able phone with lots of content that can be downloaded online, then you ought to go for Android. Whilst if you want a phone that is more future proof, with a slick platform, peripherals and a tight security then iOS is the operating system for you.

The Hardware

Size - these is a very important hardware feature that is based on what you aim to do with your phone. If you want a phone for gaming and watching videos then you should aim for a phone with a bigger screen (5 inches and above). But if you want a mobile phone that can be brought anywhere and fits comfortably in your pocket for basic communication and features then you want to aim for a smaller screen phone (4inches and below).


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Screen - the screen is one of the most important part of your phone, since this is where you will view and control all of the activities you want with your phone. Thus screen durability is important, phone screens nowadays are mostly made of corning gorilla glass, you must aim for a phone that has at least corning gorilla glass 3 if you want a durable phone screen. There are also phones that has unscratchable sapphire screens although only a few of them are out now, but you should be able to see more of those soon enough.

Battery - Your phone is only as good as its battery, since the point of having a mobile phone is to have a handy piece of gadget for communication and entertainment in your bag or pocket. And you need a good battery to keep it mobile and not plugged in all the time. Battery capacity is measured in Milli-Ampere Hour (mAH), and you should aim for atleast 2,000 mAH if you want you are a heavy phone user, it will last you 18-22 talk-time. You must also check if it is a Lithium type of battery since they work better than nickel types.

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Miscellaneous

Connectivity - if you are going to use your phone for messaging and file sharing then you should check its connectivity options before buying it. Two connectivity options you must check are:

1. Connectivity to the internet - Most (if not all) of the smart today has can connect to WiFi, if your eyeing a phone without a WiFi connectivity option then you obviously should not buy it. Cellular generation connectivity must also be considered, this is what you see on cellphone specs as 2G, 3G, or 4G devices. A higher number of generation is better than the lower ones but as you most possibly are going to use WiFi connections then I think you would be good with at least 3G devices.

2. Connectivity with Other device - If you have 2 or more devices then you are highly possible to share files among them. And to eliminate the problem of having a hard time to share the files among your devices you should first check its connectivity options before you buy them. Aside from connectivity to the internet, you must check the phone if it has blue-tooth connectivity if you plan to transfer files offline or check if the phone supports USB debugging mode so you can connect it to other devices with a LAN cable.

Ports -

USB ports - Recent technologies made it possible to make USB devices that can be read in both USB ports on your PC and Micro-USB ports on your phone. These devices are called Dual (OTG) USB devices and they are very convenient to have since most mobile phones today have low storage. In order to take advantage of this technology, you must check the phone you are eyeing if it has OTG capability.

Video ports - If you are going to use your phone to play video hosting apps such as Netflix and Youtube, then you might want to project your phone's display to a bigger screen. This is where micro - HDMI or MHL ports come in, this ports can be used to connect your smartphones to your TV, providing that your TV has HDMI slot, through an HDMI cable. So if you want to use your phone as a mini - Home theater device then you ought to check if it has HDMI ports or supports MHL.

Sim Card Slots - Although it is almost certain that the phone you are going to buy has sim card slot(s). You might as well make sure that it has the mentioned slot(s) before buying it. You might also want to check if it has micro - sim card slots, since regular sim cards are quite hard to purchase in some places. Also you might want to check if it offers Dual - Sim capability, as the name suggests, you can put in two sim cards at the same time in a single phone.



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Sensors- These specs are devices that measures and detects a certain physical property in which makes your phone record, indicate or respond to it. These sensors play a big role in the usability, and functionality of your phone. Without a certain sensor then your phone will not have a certain function, thus you might want to check if the phone your eyeing has these sensors below:


Accelerometer -
These is one, if not the most, important sensor on your phone. This sensor measures the rate of change in velocity (the amount of distance a certain object travels in a certain amount of time in a specific direction) of your phone. It is the one responsible in rotating your phone whenever you change its orientation.

Gyroscope - While the accelerometer measures linear movement of your phone, gyroscopes gives that measurement another direction, thus this sensor can also detect the twist and rotation of your phone. Gyroscope may not be a must have sensor today but in the near future, it will probably become as important as the accelerometer. Why? It is due to the sudden increase of interest of app developers on 360 degrees apps. Such as virtual reality apps, google skymaps, and the 360 camera and videos. Thus if you want your new phone to play these futuristic apps then you must check if it has a gyroscope.

Magnetometer - If you are aiming to use your phone for navigation then this is the exact sensor you need. This magnetometer uses magnetic field of the earth that can show you the true north, in simple terms; it can work as a compass. It also helps on automatic orientation changes of your screen and GPS tracking.

Proximity sensor - Another sensor you might want to check is the proximity sensor (although I am quite certain that most, if not all, smart phones today has this. Proximity sensors detect the presence of surrounding objects without having physical contact. This sensor functions popularly when you are making a call, this sensor is responsible for detection of your ears getting near your phone which in turn darkens the screen and prevent any input done when your ears touch the screen. It can also be used to unlock your phone by saving your face profile through proximity detection.

Light Sensor - As the name suggests, this sensor detects and measure light surrounding your smartphone, most smartphones today has this. This sensor is used in automatic setting of brightness in your phone screen, also some users take advantage of this sensor by using it to automatically turn their phone into sleep mode whenever it is in their pocket, or covered with their leather case.

Other sensors you might want to check are (although these sensors are rare, and not really necessary) barometer, thermometer, pedometer, heart rate sensor, finger print sensors.

Summary of Specs

Specs
Suggested Minimum
RAM
2GB for android, 1GB for iOS
Storage Memory
16GB internal memory
Chipset
1GHz dual core
GPU
present
Camera
5mp
OS
Entirely your choice
Size
Entirely your choice
Screen
corning gorilla glass 3
Battery
2,000 mAH, Lithium
Connectivity
Bluetooth, WiFi, USB
Ports
USB, HDMI or MHL
Sensors
Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer, Proximity, Light

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Do you think I have missed or wrong about something? Then hit the comments and I'll do my best to address it.

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