The Definite Smart Phone Buying Guide: 2015 Edition

Not all phones are made equal. We have high-end ones, mid-range ones and low-tier ones. We have pricey flagships at one side and the budget-conscious ones at the other end. Well we also have some low-quality clunkers out there that need to be avoided at all costs.

But not to worry, as this guide is geared towards people both well-versed in the technical specs of phones out there as well as the casual person who just needs a phone that gives them the best value.

The bare basics of choosing a smartphone

Smartphones have come a long way. Manufacturers such as Apple, Samsung, HTC, Motorola, LG, Oppo, Microsoft and more keep on surprising us by how much power and performance they can cram into their phones today.

For the smartphone buying customer in 2015, here are some of the basic features they need to look out for:

  • Battery Life: Here’s why this feature is at the top of this list – modern smartphones are gluttons for battery life, with most of them lasting only a day or less before you scream ‘Charger!’
  • Software and OS: Phones are as good as their Software and Operating System. Keep an eye out on the latest and the greatest (more on this later).
  • Screen Size – So these sophisticated phones come in sizes as small as 4 inch and as big as 6 inches! So deciding on the screen size and its resolution (more on this later) is also important.
  • Cameras – You want a phone for selfies? A great quality camera? Or maybe not (I kid, I kid!). Phones from different manufacturers carry cameras of varying quality and features.
  • Speed and Processing Capabilities – There are fast phones for power users and then there are normal phones for casual users.

So without much further ado let’s go in-depth with these features.

Battery Life

Ask any smartphone owner about the biggest annoyance on ‘modern’ smart phones of today and many people will say battery life as if it was some plague on earth. Many phones are constantly cramming bigger batteries and battery-saving tech in their phones so that running times can get better.

For first time buyers, remember this rule of thumb – get a phone with at least 2000 mAh battery as a baseline, specially if the screen is above 4.7 inches. This can ensure that you make it through your phone throughout one and a half day at least. Results may vary based on the display size and usage patterns but generally speaking this is the right approach to choose a phone.

If you want to go for the best : High end phones like HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy Note 4, iPhone 6 Plus are all putting 3,000 mAh batteries in their phones. Please note that bigger batteries may not necessarily mean longer runtimes. These high end phones have humongous displays and bleeding-edge tech on them which can affect battery life.

If you are going for mid range : Some of the mid to high end phones also come with battery saving innovations that can help you get extra running time from your phones. Phones like the Moto X (2013), HTC M7 are examples of software optimizations helping and enhancing battery life.

Software and OS

Since this is a guide geared towards casual users AND power users both, we will simplify this.

  • If you are getting an Android Phone – Try getting a smartphone with Android 5.0 OS (also called ‘Lollipop’). If not, then go for phones with Android 4.4 update (KitKat) at the very least. If you want to buy something lower than that, make sure there is a planned software update.
  • If you are looking to get an Apple device like iPhone 6 – You are pretty much taken care of in terms of software updates. Apple will drop the 8.1+ iOS updates for almost all of its devices.
  • If you are getting a Windows Phone – Any phone that you are buying should run the Windows Phone 8.1 update. Anything older is not recommended especially Windows Phone 7! And we are hearing that Windows 10 is going to come to these phones as well. You heard that right folks, Windows 10!

Many smartphone manufacturers have a habit of installing junk software. For Android users, going with either a Nexus or Motorola brand is a good choice if you like vanilla Android. Samsung and Sony and HTC feature modified skins that are required for their special phone features to perform as advertised. Anyways, thanks to Google, phones in 2015 will have less crap apps on phones.

Apple iPhones don’t tend to have some extra apps by comparison, other than those which are part of its OS. Same goes for Nokia (or is it Microsoft now?) Lumias.

Screen Size

Do you want the extra real estate on a phone or not? Do you want a small, portable and a more ergonomic phone or a device that makes consuming media and reading stuff a lot easier? This is more a matter of personal preference.

Things that people should probably keep an eye on to ensure that they choose the right phone display quality:

  • AMOLED, IPS and Super LCD – These are 3 different display panels that are great on phones. Each one of them has their pros and cons. AMOLED makes for some saturated and vivid colors, IPS is sharp looking with great viewing angles and LCD offers a mixed balance between the two but excels in superb brightness.
  • PPI – Do you want text on your smartphone screens to be easily readable and images to be sharper? The higher the pixel-per-inch (ppi) rating of a phone’s display, the better it is. Choose 250 ppi as a good baseline for your display.
  • Scratch-resistant and Durable – Get a phone with at least Corning Gorilla Glass 3. You may run into one of those situations where your car keys might rub against the phone’s screen and Gorilla glass is made exactly to deliver the kind of protection you require.

Cameras

Many phones come with the front and the rear camera both. But which one is worth your while? This guide can tell you how to settle for a good camera.

  • For Android Phones: Sony, Samsung, HTC’s high end phones feature great camera tech. They are all rounded and deliver everything from their 8 MP to 20 MP shooters. Quality is great. Some phones do have issues with low light performance so make sure you do your research here. Nexus phones are ok in terms of camera. Motorola is better.
  • For Windows Phones: Nokia Lumias are some of the best camera phones in the market, both in terms of hardware and software. Camera quality is variable from their low end to high end offerings but these phones, some would say they were created to take high-quality videos and pictures.
  • For iPhones : Another brand of phones that take brilliant snapshots and videos are the Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. They are great for casual photographers who don’t want to fiddle around with complicated settings. In fact, these are the smartphones with the camera tech to beat.

Speed and Processing Capabilities

Last but clearly not the least, you want phones that perform like race cars. You don’t want your apps or games to limp along and take forever to load now do you?

  • For Android Phones: Any processor with at least quad core capabilities and a baseline 1.5 Ghz processing speed will do. And since you are buying a phone now, get one with at least 2 GB of RAM to stay future proof.
  • For Apple iPhones: No need to worry about processing specs because Apple has you covered with the A9 processor with 1 GB RAM of memory.
  • For Windows Phones: In general Windows Phones require less horsepower than Android devices. So even if the device has a processor, a high clock speed would still make it run quite smoothly.

The last word on buying phones from local markets

They say to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Now when you either order the phone online (go for stores with proven track record in returning and replacing sets) or pay a visit to your local mobile market, you will be in a better position to cut through the hyperbole the mobile wala feeds you.

Most of these shops let you test out the phones and you will have an overzealous shop keeper telling you how that phone is the best thing since sliced bread (or naswar if that’s what they are into). They say that about all the phones to all the people all the time. But of course, you know better than that.

Now that you know which specs matter (and which don’t), you won’t ever have to encounter buyer’s remorse. Which brings us to the question of warranties. A lot of shop keepers promise you the moon and offer you ‘checking’ warranty of a few days or a year (depending on the smartphone model). Insist on seeing the warranty card first.

 

Samir heads the sponsored content department at ProPakistani. He also looks after the LIfe section.


  • SDKforLumia

    Samir Yawar, there are some minor glitches in this article which really affect your credibility as a tech-blogger. !st. You have mixed qHD with AMOLED and LCD. If you really know tech well, you must know that both are completely different classification.

    2nd. You have written that WP requires at least 1.5 Ghz Quadcore processor to run smoothly. Seriously?????? If you know anything about WP handsets or have used them ever fort a month, you must know how wrong that of yours is!

    • Inam

      ‘minor glitches’ which ‘really affect’ credibility.
      Dude, are you high on something?

      • salmanbaig0312

        LOL inam you owned him haha

      • Fakhre Alam

        it’s alright as english is not his mother language. he pointed out technical mistakes unlike you . grow up kid.

        • Inam

          That is exactly what I pointed out. If you read my comment for the intent of understanding rather than just ‘replying’. That mistakes DO happen! Everyone is human & mistakes need to be corrected in a friendly envo. No-one is impressed with some guy trying to be macho by telling others of their minor glitches with serious impacts.

          And by the way, I pointed out an extremely technical mistake as well. But that’s not visible for mistake-poking eyes.

      • Ooops – Grammer Nerd Detected

        @SDKforLumia consider his comment as you are in a Examination Room for English Grammer Paper :)
        No_Offense

        • Inam

          Yeah you better watch your back. ;)

      • SDKforLumia

        hey genius Inam , have you ever heard the word ” Polite”? as in Urdu, we say, ” aapki tehreer mein chand ghaltiyan hein jinhe hata kr apki tehreer boht behtar ho skti thi”? I know how much mistaken is that person while writing this article, but all i wanted to do was start my comment with a little politeness. Baqi, ye ” Taa hai, ti hai, ty hein” ki grammar aap parha dein, kuch hum bhi seekhein aap se.

        • Inam

          “Seriously?????? If you know anything about WP handsets…..”

          Yeah, your politeness is very visible. It was your politeness that made me comment in the first place. You like telling others when they are wrong but can not stand one someone tells you your mistake (which wasn’t of a mere article if you can read your comment again). Get a life buddy.

    • Asad

      qHD only specifies the resolution, and not the display type. qHD = quarter of full HD.

      Full HD is 1920×1080 so a quarter of that is 960×540.

      • SDKforLumia

        That’s exactly what I was saying bro.

    • Arsalan Shah

      Dude. He never wrote 1.5GHz Quad Core for WP. He wrote that for Android. Please read carefully again before questioning the credibility of the author.

      • SDKforLumia

        Oops.! Sorry. Really, my mistake. Thanks for correction brother

  • faaria

    in short you could say that buy flagship devices only! -_-

  • Tuaha

    Not a word about Blackberry! Totally indefinite

    Smart Phone Buying Guide: 2015 Edition

  • Inam

    TRUE STORY of every Power-User. :O

    • Sulaiman Lalani

      Disagree! A power user doesn’t know how to use the phone smart! if you know the power hungry apps which makes you dumb more then the battery cannot betrayed you

      • you are ryt – hahaha

      • Inam

        What do you think power users do? Run Antutu 3D Benchmarks all day 24/7?

        • Sulaiman Lalani

          they just blame the bloody phone & call them dumb just like you did 2days before. dont be fooled if a 3000Mah Battery will going to give you much more timing or they going to stretch more than 2days ,coz they are built for power hungry display & rich hardware

  • cvcvvxcvxcvxc

    Useless Article

  • Akram

    I would recommend moto G because for its price,pure android experience and fast updates.

    • pk

      kitnay ka buy kiya tha aapne ?? aur second hand ya first hand ?? i am really interested in buying moto g these days

  • Ammar

    IPS and LCD are not two different forms of display tech. IPS comes under the umbrella of LCD.

    • Arsalan Shah

      Not really. There’s a slight difference. SLCD – due to not having any air gap – produces much better results, and has better brightness as compared to an IPS. IPS has better viewing angles. Yes, both are usually LCD (CCFL) Backlit Displays, with some newer models having LED Backlit Displays.

      • Ammar

        ” Yes, both are usually LCD (CCFL) Backlit Displays”
        And isn’t that precisely what my post meant?

        • Arsalan Shah

          I just mean it’s a ”slightly” different kind due to having different results.

  • ahsan

    Good one for people who are not into technical details of mobile phones

  • Arsalan Shah

    Smartphones have come a long way. Manufacturers such as Apple, Samsung, HTC, Motorola, LG, Oppo, Microsoft. – Why can’t I see Blackberry, Sony, Huawei, Xiaomi, Lenovo, Acer, Asus, etc especially when I AM SEEING OPPO. Sony and Blackberry are WAY OVER OPPO!

    Camera – Sony, Samsung, HTC’s high end phones feature great camera tech. They are all rounded and deliver everything from their 8 MP to 20 MP shooters. – HTC has a 4MP Camera

    Battery – If you want to go for the best: High end phones like HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy Note 4, iPhone 6 Plus are all putting 3,000 mAh batteries in their phones. – HTC One M8 has a 2600mAH Battery

    Seriously, does this guy have any knowledge about mobiles? Or is this just an article that promotes buying upper class branded mobiles WITHOUT even going into the specs….

    Incomplete Article – Why can’t I see Blackberry OS when I am seeing Windows? Lots of topics need more attention eg. Camera, Specs, and the only thing I see this article doing is confuse people not having adequate knowledge, and only tell them to see the cream of the cake rather than digging to know what it is made up of.

  • Basit Saeed

    That’s 4 minutes of my life I am never getting back. For an article that calls itself a “guide” to buy mobile phones, you seem to be a lot biased towards a certain brand of phones, the Apple iPhone. I stopped taking the author and his article seriously when I read, “No need to worry about processing specs because Apple has you covered with the A9 processor with 1 GB RAM of memory.”
    Not to mention many technical mistakes that really question the author’s technical knowledge on this topic.

  • Covered the article very nicely. Really it was useful for me