The offers of individual manufacturers are expanding, even new brands are being added, and individual smartphone often differ from each other only in small things, which may be what determines your comfort.
I look not only at smartphones, but also durable smartphones, flip smartphones and more. And the goal? To choose the smartphone that’s just right for you!
Design: smartphone or flexible body?
Smartphone You can recognize a smartphone by its large touchscreen display, which you use for basically all control (the physical buttons on the sides are usually just for adjusting volume and unlocking).
There are countless models in all classes, so you can easily get a smartphone for a school kid, a top manager, a senior citizen…
In order not to take away from the definition, i can add that a “smart” phone must always have an operating system that provides it with all the functionality – the biggest players are Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS.
Among smartphones, you will find extremely durable models. They are not, of course, designed to be thrown from the fifth floor or run over by a tank, but they will be appreciated by anyone who moves in more extreme environments that are not conducive to electronics.
A durable smartphone should be able to handle not only moisture and dust (regular phones can do that too), but also drops and bumps. You can use them, for example, during trips to the countryside, but also on construction sites, in workshops… When choosing, focus on extra features such as an integrated flashlight, the ability to operate in gloves, etc.
Remember that no smartphone is unbreakable. If you don’t want to buy an outright rugged device but still want to protect it in some way, at least get a phone cover.
Phones with flexible displays
As a rule, they fold out (either like a book, or really vertically like a V), so you can have them folded compactly and portable, but easily get a huge display area.
No, i don’t mean the V’s. A new feature of recent years are smartphones that have “normal” displays made of “glass”, but which are flexible.
That said, you should know that there is no seam, groove, protrusion or anything like that on the display – it really does unfold into a smooth surface with a perfect display. Because this is a new technology, the supply of such models is limited. They are usually high-end phones with a higher price tag to match the fact that they are ‘speciality’.
What class will you choose? Basic or top?
Like other consumer electronics (or cars, for example), mobile phones are divided into different classes. They differ in performance, equipment, features and design… and of course also in price, which can start in the low $80 (for basic button models) and end in the tens of thousands for the best models or specialties such as smartphones with flexible displays.
It’s not possible to go by price alone. It can also be influenced by the brand or a specific feature (e.g. increased durability). However, i can simplistically divide the phones as follows (prices overlap on purpose):
- Phones for the undemanding: up to $200
- Reliable middle class: up to $600
- High-end phones: up to $800
- Top models for the most demanding: $800 above
Smartphones for the undemanding
The key point is that these are no longer smartphones that annoy users with inappropriate behaviour or ‘inferior’ features. Even a cheap smartphone can offer a decent display, smooth operation and all the basic features (Bluetooth, GPS, 4G internet…). Using it should not frustrate you in any way.
The difference is in the quality of the equipment compared to higher end models. The camera takes decent pictures during a sunny day, for example, but the quality drops rapidly in the evening. You can play a simple mobile game, but for demanding 3D shooters in high quality the phone is not enough. The memory can cope with normal use, but you can no longer work efficiently with five apps at once.
Reliable middle class
Mid-range phones are designed for – no offence – “normal” users who don’t need super features or super performance, but for whom the phone is a useful assistant.
You like to take photos (but you don’t need to print them, just keep your memories), use your phone as a tracker when playing sports, listen to music on it, read emails on it, play a game now and then…
As the name suggests, mid-range phones don’t have “top” features, but they should offer a noticeable improvement over the base models. They’re versatile and do everything they do “well” in a good way.
Higher-end smartphones are designed for more demanding users, for whom the phone is a useful everyday tool – whether for work or play.
They’re not necessarily “exceptional” (we’ll get to the top models in a moment), but they’re great in function and features. They take beautiful photos, their performance is sufficient for more demanding tasks, they have a “premium” design (e.g. they are made of more luxurious materials), …
Also, they often already offer at least some of the parameters at the highest or at least very high level; e.g. quality display with fine resolution, superior internal memory, etc.
TOP models are what move the mobile world forward. You can expect all the “normal” features to be uncompromised, and you get a lot of extra features on top of that.
For example, the display will not only be beautifully contrasty and fine, but also offer advanced eye protection, high refresh rate and touch pen support. The camera will also take great photos in the dark, record video in exceptional resolution, and include a very special lens. You can also look forward to the best materials (such as the latest and most durable protective glass variant), state-of-the-art design…
The so-called “flagship” can be bought by a user with specific needs (e.g. a mobile photographer who demands the highest possible photo quality) or, for example, a person who uses the phone extremely intensively.
A top manager can use it to deal with correspondence, prepare a presentation, connect it to a computer, write notes on important documents, take photos of documentation and much more – conveniently and efficiently. For this, you need both top performance and perfectly tuned software and smart functionality. The price, which matches a laptop, is then adequate for a pocket-sized device with the same capabilities.
Who is the smartphone for?
Few phones are specifically targeted at one group of users; most are universal and fit “just about anyone”. Still, it’s important to consider whether you need (or want) specific features as part of your job or hobby. I have selected a few examples.
Smartphone for sportsmen
The good news is that every smartphone offers GPS, so for example, you can use a smartphone for $200 or even $2000 as a navigation for walking or to record the route of a trip. Just consider what you’ll be doing with your phone.
If you’re a keen cyclist who won’t be stopped by rain and mud, you can use your phone as a bike computer and navigation, so you might consider a durable model that you can put in a handlebar mount without a case. If you’re a climber or like to hike “for the view”, it might be worth paying extra for a better camera.
Smartphone for photographer
Of course, a smartphone won’t replace a DSLR, but the quality of photography today is incredible. It’s no problem to take a beautiful, print-quality photo with a smartphone, and even night photography (previously unthinkable) has become a reality.
At the same time, the camera is the piece of equipment that is perhaps most affected by price. A $5k smartphone will get you a decent, usable photo of you standing in front of the Eiffel Tower on a sunny day while on vacation. Even many of the cheaper models already have HDR (High Dynamic Range), which evenly illuminates the entire photo.
But the quality of a photo from a $1000 or $1500 phone will be incomparably better (not to mention better bokeh, better zoom options, AI enhancements and so on).
Smartphone for manager
Manager is such a nice word – it depends on what you manage and administer. Above i described a worker who uses a mobile phone instead of a laptop, has it in his hand almost all the time and requires top equipment. In such a case, feel free to choose a smartphone worth $1500, because its reliability and performance will make it an efficient helper and every efficient minute counts.
But a manager can also be a person who doesn’t actually do anything “computer”, but just does a lot of things. In that case, you may not need a powerful processor, a large memory or a high-end camera, but you’ll appreciate good endurance.
Smartphone for gamers
Video games are an incredible business, it’s one of the most successful industries in the world right now. Gamers like quality in their accessories, which of course is also true for smartphones.
Display quality is essential (a large, soft, vibrant display, ideally with fast response and high refresh rate), high performance and large memory (lots of GB RAM, spacious internal memory and a fast processor), a battery with great battery life… And extra features like game modes, advanced cooling, power management, etc. are ideal.
By the way, did you know that you can connect a gamepad to some phones and stream modern console games from the internet to them? The smartphone then becomes a high-end portable console.
What are the basic parameters when choosing smartphone?
I definitely recommend that you at least familiarize yourself with the basic parameters before you buy, and if necessary, consider what your priorities are.
Of course, the display’s diagonal size is the most important thing. The size of the phone itself depends on it. You should know that the trend is for displays to stretch to wider and wider aspect ratios, so they grow in height but the width doesn’t change – even a phone with a giant diagonal (e.g. 6.5″) can fit perfectly in your hand thanks to its narrow aspect ratio and borderless design.
Higher-quality models offer a better panel (AMOLED technology is popular, or In-Plane Switching display), higher resolution (HD would do, but Full HD or its widescreen variants is a more reasonable minimum, and anything higher is a luxury). The best phones also offer harmful blue light filters or high refresh rates (e.g. super-smooth 120 Hz), etc.
Smartphone performance: RAM, CPU and memory
A liking can give you some idea of the performance. With processors (CPUs) it is more complicated, because for example the number of cores alone does not tell you anything (an eight-core processor has a mobile phone for $130 and $2000).
But it’s simple with memory. But first, let’s be clear about the difference between RAM and memory. The designation RAM refers to the performance of the mobile. Here it is clearly true that more is better. Among other things, the smartphone can better cope with more open applications at the same time and is smoother overall. So if you’re choosing between, say, 6GB of RAM and 8GB of RAM and can afford the higher option, i definitely recommend it.
With internal memory, it also makes sense that the bigger the better, but it depends on how you use it. 32 GB is enough for less demanding users, 64-128 GB is a reasonable standard, and 256 GB or more is a luxury. If necessary, it is possible to buy a memory card in phones that have a memory card slot to expand the storage space.
Smartphone battery: battery life can be an afterthought
You can get a rough idea of battery life from the 2000 mAh capacity (again, the more the better), but in real life, so many factors matter that it’s a guess at best. By default, a smartphone lasts a “day” – it’s sort of assumed to be user-friendly if you use it at will during the day and always charge it in the evening. The largest battery capacity today is around 7,000 mAh, which usually provides 2-3 days of battery life in normal use. However, beware, a larger and therefore logically heavier battery can noticeably increase the weight of the entire smartphone.
However, recent years have brought an interesting trend that can put endurance itself on the back burner – fast charging. Make sure your phone supports the latest fast-charging standard, use a compatible powerful charger and your worries are over; you can be at 50% capacity in as little as 20 minutes. This is especially convenient for users who, for example, play games on their phone. No smartphone can handle 10 hours of mobile gaming, but if it lasts five, then quickly charges and offers another five.
The choice of power connector is also important. The modern one is the reversible and fast USB-C connector. I can’t recommend the older micro USB anymore, although that’s not exactly a reason not to buy an otherwise good smartphone. Also, the wireless charging trend has become very popular.
Cameras: quantity doesn’t have to mean quality
As i have already mentioned, the camera is one of the parameters that greatly affects the price. Nowadays, it is no longer true that cheap mobile phones take bad photos – in good lighting conditions, they usually take nice pictures. But the best mobiles also excel in lower light and of course take significantly better photos overall.
Specialised lenses are the trend; a standalone macro lens, an ultra-wide angle lens, a telephoto lens… Autofocus is also popular. For cheap models this can be more “marketing”, but for better phones they can give really interesting results.
Operating system: Apple or Google?
When it comes to operating systems, you basically have two choices. iPhones (and other devices) from Apple are built on iOS. Smartphone from other brands will offer Android (from Google).
Neither system is a bad choice. iOS is a well-tuned, user-friendly, regularly updated, and overall excellent performing system. Android, on the other hand, offers more customization options. It can also provide more advanced options for experienced users.
As mentioned with durable smartphones, some devices are nowadays not only dust-proof but also water-proof, for example. Protection ratings can be used as a guide. The abbreviation IP and two digits serve as a designation. The first of these indicates protection against the ingress of foreign objects or dangerous contact. Liquids protections (water) is indicated by last digit.
You may also find that one digit is replaced by an “x”, i.e. the mobile does not provide specific protection. For these devices, you’ll probably mostly encounter IP67 or IP68. With IP67, the smartphone can be submerged in water up to 1 metre for 30 minutes, however IP68 can withstand greater depths. Conversely, some phones are not waterproof and their rating won’t protect them from moisture (e.g. IP20). Across the internet, you will find many lists where the abbreviations are listed. However, if you really want to be sure about the resistance of your device, i recommend that you ideally refer to the manufacturer’s information.
Whether we like it or not, a mobile phone is not just an electronic device, but also an accessory. First of all, you should focus on the parameters, on the equipment. But looks matter.
The materials used play a role in the overall impression. Plastic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the cheapest phone nowadays. There are already high-quality plastic processing for the upper middle class of mobile phones. Glass is then sometimes used for back covers on more expensive devices. Another material used for more expensive mobiles is aluminium. The combination of aluminium with plastic or polycarbonate is then found in the mid-range. The last material that can occasionally be used for the perimeter bezel is stainless steel. Furthermore, the colour scheme, the width of the edges around the display, the design of the camera block. Equally important, of course, is ergonomics. A mobile phone should feel like an extension of your hand when in use; the grip should be sure and firm, but comfortable.