With new smartphones launching like new leaves during spring, companies are pretty sure that the customers will fall for superficial upgrades, and will change their smartphone every two years, or worse, within a year. Companies play the game of planned and perceived obsolescence, but it is not always the phone companies to take the blame. As we change smartphones every two to three years today, we are not serious about our requirements, and hence end up purchasing handsets we regret later.
So, it is important to understand your needs, and hence proceed with the purchase. Don’t worry, understanding your needs won’t be as tough as finding the right SIP for your future goals, or health insurance with no red flags. Most information is abundantly available in the public domain, and unless you are a serious user looking for something very specific, this guide will be the ultimate smartphone-buying guide if you want to use your smartphone for 3 to 4 years, or even more for some not so tech-savvy users.
Starting with the thing that you will first encounter on unboxing the phone, and basically, it is the element you will interact with the most. I am talking about the UI. The user interface aka. UI must be pleasing, if not extraordinary. Forgetting to look and feel, which is subject to vary, Samsung One UI is currently the best Android UI in the market for its current update situation and has been quite smooth lately. The brand has come a long way since TouchWiz UI, which made Samsung phones suck almost a decade ago to One UI.
If a Samsung with the features you want is beyond your budget, go get stock Android on certain phones from Motorola, Infinix, etc. One UI even has some bloatware and ads here and there, but stock Android is bliss. It has no ads and bloatware, however, it lacks even the simplest features. You can also get budget smartphones with Color OS, MIUI, Funtouch OS, etc., but there will be ads and bloatware, and hence won’t recommend such interface-packed phones to regular users. Some techies might get rid of the junk, but for the majority, it is a pain, however, if you have no issues, you are good to go.
It is not that you will need the Android 13, 14, or the latest Android version released every year. However, software updates are not just about getting the latest Android with the latest features. Security updates and bug fixes are extremely important from a privacy point of view, and also to have a decent experience using the smartphone daily. So, when it comes to software updates, Samsung is again the winner, and is better than Google, as most budget Samsung phones get at least 3 OS or UI updates and around 4 years of security updates.
However, the dark reality is, that we cannot predict a company’s big future decisions, and we can see promises being broken. Look at OnePlus. The company used to be great in terms of offering software updates, but the good old days are gone. So, just look at a company’s current software update situation, and just hope the brand delivers upon its promises. More often than not, companies will try to keep their promises. If your phone gets 2 OS updates, and 3 years of security updates, that seems to be a sweet spot, if not a compromise.
For most users, it is the battery capacity that makes the final decision on whether to purchase a phone. And why not, most people want their phone to last a whole day on a single charge. A battery with a higher capacity can drive you throughout the day with a single charge, and hence you should try to get a smartphone with a higher mAh. But at the same time, getting a smartphone with extremely high charging speeds can be counterintuitive, as heat generated in charging a phone fast will make the battery degrade faster.
No, a charging speed of just 5 watts won’t be a great option to charge your 5000 mAh phone, and hence, the sweet spot is around 25 to 30 watts. However, things are not always under our control, and if you are getting a mid-range to a flagship phone, the odds are, you will get at least 4500 mAh with charging speeds higher than at least 50 watts. Dig into the settings, and you will find a way to put a cap on the charging speeds to get the best of both worlds.
Network is the most basic requirement in a smartphone, and chances are, you will take it for granted. Most phones are good when it comes to network reception, but certain models are pretty bad in this department. The pain is, that you won’t come to know about the problem unless you start using the phone. However, you can see the phone reviews, and if the network reception is really bad, reviewers will make it a point. Going beyond just network reception, carrier aggregation is even more important than having 5G in your phone.
With carrier aggregation, the internet speeds will be dramatically high if your network provider offers the same in your location. Talking about 5G, get a 5G phone, only if you are staying in a big city, and you want to use 5G once it is rolled out at its full glory. It is simply because 5G plans will supposedly be more expensive than 4G, and due to something called dynamic spectrum sharing, 4G speeds will still be great, even after a full 5G rollout, unlike 3G and 2G, after the roll-out of the subsequent cellular generation.
Your smartphone isn’t the ideal storage option for your digital possessions. But it should still be a notable aspect while purchasing a smartphone if you want to use it for a long. It is not just the capacity, but the read and write speed should be great, as well. The apps are ballooning in size, and thanks to our smartphone cameras, the moments captured through photos and videos also consume a lot of space. Capacity is your choice, however, when it comes to the read & write speeds, it isn’t advertised aggressively by the brands in most cases.
If you are getting a flagship, you should get at least UFS 3.0 or 3.1, or even UFS 4.0 and in the case of budget smartphones, you deserve at least UFS 2.1 or 2.0. Make sure, the brand isn’t cutting corners by offering eMMC storage, which isn’t just old standard but is painfully slow, no matter whether you are trying to open an app, or just want to enjoy BGMI during short breaks at work. Even if you depend on cloud storage for regular files, fast storage with a decent capacity should always be your priority.
No matter whether you use your camera a lot if you want to get a value-for-money smartphone, you should go for a smartphone with a decent camera. However, don’t just go for megapixels, as that is deceptive in most cases. I can write a whole guide on the aspects you should look at, to get the best smartphone camera, but if you don’t have enough time or the camera isn’t your top priority, there’s another way to choose the best camera on your smartphone.
Simply go online, and check the camera samples of the smartphone you have chosen. Look at the colors, detail, and other aspects that make a good photo. I will also recommend that you see the photos on a screen that is mostly color-accurate to have a proper idea. That way you won’t get the best camera in the universe, but the best camera your budget can buy.
Processor and SoC
If you want to get a long-lasting smartphone, you don’t necessarily need a flagship SoC, as most modern SoCs are good enough, no matter whether you get one from Mediatek or Snapdragon. Even though the performance of SoCs hasn’t been saturated yet for smartphones, most budget SoCs perform great in everyday situations, and even if you are into gaming or multitasking, SoCs of the generation won’t disappoint you. You should always try to get a smartphone that has an SoC, which has been released the same year, for budget smartphones, or one that isn’t more than a year old.
However, if you want to get a flagship on a budget, try not to get a smartphone with a flagship SoC more than 2 years old. It is not that flagship SoCs older than 2 years are bad in terms of performance, but you won’t get the latest hardware components like modem, hardware security, etc. To say the truth, it is not always the SoC that delivers optimum performance, the manufacturer also tweaks the UI and OS to run optimized with the hardware.
Those are some pivotal points you should remember white purchasing your next smartphone if you want to use it for several years. However, you should also look out for specific features based on your personal preference, like the presence of stereo speakers, AMOLED or IPS display, display refresh rate, etc. All these will not impact the longevity of a smartphone, but they will impact the overall experience of using your handset.
So that’s all about the aspects you should look at, before getting your next smartphone. Do you have any further points I missed? Feel free to comment on the same below.