More than a tool, now an extension of our body: the smartphone. By choice or by necessity, it is replaced in less and less time by the most recent and powerful models. Are you really sure to make this choice thoughtfully, based on the use you will make of it, or do the intrusive offers full of terms such as "Ultra, Max and Plus" prevail? Are you a tech neophyte or a geek nerd?
Today we offer you one practical buying guide to keep handy the next time you put your hand to your wallet and, therefore, when you ask yourself how to choose your smartphone best suited to your needs.
Let's start by providing a rough indication of the purchase price. Indicatively, we can classify smartphones into three bands:
- low: under € 200
- media: between 250 and 500 €
- high: over 500 €
Many may disagree on this first division. However, comparing the top of the range of the most famous brands (1000/1200 €) with a good hardware compartment for the needs of a average user (around € 250) we do not go very far from a more objective view of costs.
We therefore feel we can reserve products above € 500 for work or personal needs of a certain level. If you are avid gamers and fans of mobile gaming, nothing to say; you probably need a top of the range too.
For those who, on the other hand, both for availability and for the lack of interest, aim for something cheap, remember that, despite the numerous offers, a low-end hardware is saturated faster and faster by all the apps installed. In fact, although small in number, the size following updates can cause final memory and performance problems.
We therefore recommend spending a little more instead of having to change phones after a while. A good compromise, around the €250, it should guarantee you decent experience and usability for at least a couple of years.
Let's start by going into the details of the main components. What it mainly affects the fluidity and multy-tasking (ability to do multiple things at the same time) is the heart of our smartphone: CPU and RAM.
The average user doesn't pay so much attention to the characteristics of these components; he thinks rather about the megapixels of the camera. Please note that for a satisfying and lasting investment this information is essential.
- CPU: the brain that is in charge of processing all the data. Going into detail here becomes complicated. We just advise you to pay attention to processor frequency (how fast it processes the data) and the number of cores from which the unit is composed (how many "sub-cerebellums" the processor is composed of).
The frequency averages around 2 GHz; therefore, for the same price, a phone with a frequency of 2,3Ghz will generally be faster than one with a 1,6Ghz processor. As for the cores, the number of units is usually 2,4 or 8. So “more cores” is better than “fewer cores” at the same frequency;
- RAM: it is a particular type of memory present in all computers. Unlike the actual memory, which we will analyze later, the RAM acts as a temporary store for the data processed by the processor.
It is thanks to the RAM that temporarily stored all the data (images, text, etc ...) to make them available immediately. Commonly a smartphone has from 2GB to 8GB. We hardly go above 4GB for the mid-range. Therefore, understanding the importance of this component, we advise you not to go below this last value;
A word loved by all buyers, it actually represents the phone's ability to store data (not temporary as for RAM). Be it applications, photos, music or documents; the more memory there is in the phone, the more you can save. The values in gigabytes are always powers of 2, therefore: 8, 16, 32, 64, 128… The average range in this case is 16/32 GB.
We can distinguish between two types of memory: internal memory (fixed) e expandable memory (movable). The first represents the factory mounted hardware inside the device, the second a removable memory - you have surely heard of microSD - usually purchased separately. There is a limit for the phone to expandable memory, usually high (eg 128GB).
As an example, a model from a few years ago - Asus Zenfone 2 Laser - had 16 GB internal memory and expandable memory up to 128 GB as standard. It is possible to buy a microSD card to be inserted in the appropriate slot to increase the data space available (for example, a 64 GB memory is a good compromise quantity / price).
So the total memory is 16 + 64 = 80 GB.
It is essential to note that there is a fair difference in terms of speed between the two memories. In quick terms: internal memory is faster than removable memory. What does fast mean? A memory can be written or read. As a result, the time it takes the processor to read or write a file will produce both a read and a write speed.
If your data are photos and songs, the external memory is the most suitable for saving them. If we talk about apps, the situation changes: applications are processed more continuously (think of an online game or streaming); there must be a good read / write speed for things to work. For a static file, such as an image or a song, it is not that important to be read / written very quickly. To stay on the subject: RAM is an extremely fast type of memory compared to all the others.
Summarizing the speech:
- internal memory: it is very fast, suitable for saving all apps and games;
- removable memory: it is slower, suitable for all files such as photos, songs, documents;
Take this into account when looking for memory among the features.
The "application" that most of all needs to be read and written quickly is undoubtedly the operating system (abbreviated SO). It is the structure software that runs the whole phone; we can see it as a set of instructions that tell the device what to do. For example, if the gear icon located in the menu is selected, the settings page must be opened. The main systems used on smartphones are Apple's iOS and Android.
There are whole forums that compare one and the other, so we won't go into detail about the differences. From the management of the system to the graphics, some users will be better off with one of the two; just note that Android is open-source software (therefore free to be copied and modified at will, for example by the various brands that will customize their devices from the factory), iOS is not.
What can I say, one of the most loved features by smartphone owners. Instantly immortalizing your day through photos and videos has become essential. Having them available at any time on a (more or less) small pocket screen to show and share them is now part of everyday life.
Perhaps this somewhat ostentatious conception tends to overestimate the camera, at the expense of other rather important details. Of course, those who need to take many shots a day have the full right to consider this parameter like RAM or memory. I take as an example an architect who, often visiting construction sites, has to report on the progress of the work; or, how would the staff post super interesting photos and stories on their Instagram page?
Returning to the guide, there is much more to look at in the choice of the camera, apart from the mega-pixels. Even if it is not a reflex camera, the photo sensors of mobile phones have reached an excellent technological level. The "experts" will check the photographic sensor model mounted inside the device; we simplify our life with the essential features to consider:
- single / dual camera: The latest models also have two rear cameras. Often the second is wide angle (captures a larger portion of the image), a very useful feature;
- sensor and pixel: let's debunk this marketing trick once and for all: the sensor impressed by the light produces many digital points called pixels. However, the equality "many megapixels = better photos" is wrong. One sensor with more mega-pixels than another only produces larger photos, with the same technology and sensor size. It is however true that a larger sensor, with the same megapixels, will produce a higher quality image.
- stabilizer: system that allows you to reduce the noise in the photo due to hand shake
- aperture opening: the lower the value, the more the sensor is able to receive light without digitally illuminating the photo (values lower than f / 2, thus indicating the aperture, are excellent for low-light shots).
- Video e frame-rate: they are perhaps the most explicit detail of the photographic sector. In order of resolution (from ugliest to most beautiful): HD