There are many smartphone references available on the market? It becomes difficult to choose the best one that suits your use, depending on whether you are a seasoned or beginner user, a frantic or occasional user, young or old, familiar with new technologies or not? This little guide will try to guide you through this jungle.
In the space of a few years, the smartphone has established itself as the reference tech product, becoming almost, for the most addictive, the natural extension of their hand. The object of design, almost as powerful as a computer for the best, ultra-versatile – it allows you to phone, surf, play, or photograph, the smartphone is not a device that you buy lightly.
At the time of the choice, it is even often the puzzle. Here are our tips for making the right choice.
Which system to choose? iOS or Android?
Forget Windows Phone and BlackBerry OS, unless you plan to buy your smartphone on a flea market. In 2019, only two operating systems remain iOS, present on all iPhone and Android for the rest of the world.
iOS, you are guaranteed to have an up-to-date operating system capable of getting the most out of your favorite applications and regularly providing you with the latest software innovations. However, you should know that Apple’s OS is not what is called an “open system”.
For example, it’s impossible to expand iPhone memory or customize the interface of its home screen. On the other hand, the ergonomics of this OS was able to convince a very large audience by its simplicity and its efficiency. The Apple system is also much more respectful of the privacy of its users than Android, and more secure.
Android, Google’s mobile OS, has improved and established itself over time. Certainly, many manufacturers continue to impose their own overlay which, if it brings a certain functional richness to users, sometimes deprives them of the very latest news from Google.
However, Android smartphones all have a common base of must-have apps ranging from Gmail to Google Maps to YouTube. They have the same app store (the Play Store) that is not ashamed of Apple’s (the App Store).
More open than iOS, Android allows you to install applications from any source, more easily access its files, customize the interface, etc. On the other hand, the Google system is less secure: distrust, in particular, with the applications that you download.
Choosing between iOS or Android is also a matter of taste. Regarding the latter, however, beware of overlays – MIUI at Xiaomi, One UI at Samsung – likely to have a more or less strong impact on the ergonomics of the system. In any case, Android offers a wider price range in terms of terminals. Enough to meet all budget expectations.
Finally, note that Huawei smartphones released between late 2019 or early 2020 run on a version of Android without Google services, with their own application store (the AppGallery). We do not currently recommend these devices to all audiences. Before buying a Huawei, make sure it is a model released before this period.
A SMARTPHONE FOR WHAT USE?
This is the first question to ask. If you are looking for a smartphone mainly for calling, checking your emails, or surfing the internet, do you really need the latest style Samsung Galaxy S20 or iPhone 11? You will be able to access all these functions – with more or less fluidity – on all smartphones including the more affordable models (less than 200 $).
Rather than investing in high-end products, keep the amount saved to treat accessories (protections, headphones, supports, etc.). Some brands specialize in models with an advantageous price & quality ratio, foremost among which is the French Wiko. New players are trying to impose themselves on this market, such as Logicom or Honor, the second more affordable brand from Huawei.
This product category is very crowded and there are very good products from Samsung, HTC or Nokia. A good plan: take a look at the high-end models from the previous year, there are often good deals to be made and the products concerned remain of excellent quality.
Let’s finish with the most demanding category, that of the users who are looking for the best of the moment. They are the ones who snatch the last power monsters out of Samsung, Apple, Sony, or LG.
They are uncompromising on the quality of the photos, the fluidity, the power (especially for the game), the finish, and the display quality. And they are ready to put the price. We will rank in this category an iPhone 11 Pro, a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, a Xiaomi Mi Note 10, or the OnePlus 7 and the Huawei Mate 20.
WHAT ARE THE CRITERIA FOR CHOICE?
Between a 6.3 inch phablet and a 4.7-inch smartphone, that’s a big difference. If you often watch videos, if you are a big fan of video games or if you use your smartphone for office automation or generally in a professional setting, a large screen brings more comfort both for consultation and for the input.
A more modest screen will be easier to fit in a pocket and easier to take in hand. The current trend is for big screens, which distresses fans of small-format smartphones. When to reconcile small format and high-end configuration, there is little more than Sony to risk it with its XZ2 Compact and the iPhone SE.
But which screen technology to choose? With its deep blacks (we speak of absolute contrast) and its bright colors if not always faithful, the OLED wins all the votes. Even Apple got into it. Its advantage is that it consumes less energy than competing technology, LCD, but it is also more expensive.
Fortunately, there are excellent LCD screens which have the advantage of providing high brightness (ideal for viewing the screen in direct sunlight) while offering a high contrast ratio. On entry-level models, almost always offered in LCD, make sure that the screen is IPS, for comfortable viewing angles.
2. SCREEN RESOLUTION
Again there is everything on the market, from entry-level smartphones with the anemic resolution to high-end models offering high resolution and even now 4K. Besides that ultra high definition is not always justified on a screen which remains of reduced size, the inflation of the pixels induces screens more and more energy-consuming, and from there real autonomy which tends to level off.
If your preference is for giant screens (more than 6.5 inches), choose a Full HD definition at least, to benefit from the most precise display possible. We are talking about the high resolution here. Around 300 dots per inch, the quality of the screen should not disappoint. Below, you risk receiving “points”. Beyond that, it’s almost geeky gluttony and it can have an impact on autonomy.
|Appellation||Minimum screen width|
1. The “real” 4K is a cinematic format of 4096 pixels.
4G LTE is now offered as standard on almost all smartphone ranges, including now on the entry-level. Now, it is towards 5G that looks are focused. Smartphones are already compatible with the new generation standard which promises speeds much higher than the current 4G. As for WiFi and Bluetooth, they are also found on all models, just like GPS. Regarding Wifi, prefer when possible a Wifi ac compatible smartphone, or even Wifi 6, more stable and faster.
5G is not yet deployed in all world but in other countries, the new generation of mobile networks is already on the market. It’s, therefore, no surprise that many manufacturers offer compatible smartphones, which are generally sold at a slightly higher price.
Some like Samsung offer it as an option (100 euros more), others like Huawei or OnePlus integrate it into all their new mobiles.
Gradually, 5G becomes the standard of the high end. There are still few mid-range 5G compatible smartphones but brands like Xiaomi and Realme are already on the move.
Should I buy a 5G smartphone? For the moment, this novelty does not have a very good reputation. He is criticized in particular for consuming too much battery and for heating smartphones.
However, if you decide to change your mobile and plan to keep it for a long time, we recommend that you choose a compatible model. If you are a fan of regular changes and you plan to choose a new device in a year or two, then maybe go your way. Future 5G smartphones should be more economical and even faster. No need to ruin yourself right now.
Apart from the special cases of Apple, it is advisable to prefer models with a memory card reader to expand the storage capacity, and with video output (HDMI or MHL) to broadcast the image of your smartphone on a large screen.
Regarding this last point, many smartphones are now skipping this type of connection and favor wireless screen duplication (mirroring). A USB OTG (or Host) port will allow you to connect peripherals – notably USB keys or external hard drives – to your smartphone. Note that USB-C is starting to take root everywhere.
4. PHOTO FUNCTION
Having become an essential use on smartphones, the photo function has seen great progress since the first sensors. Beware of the manufacturer’s miraculous figures, the millions of pixels are not everything.
Other important criteria must be taken into account, such as the zoom, the HDR function (process for optimizing the shooting), the Flash Led, the Panorama mode, the stabilization, or even the Burst mode.
Editing and sharing options should not be overlooked either. Lumia and Sony are renowned for the quality of the sensors on their smartphones. The latter even offers lenses dedicated to smartphones running Android or iOS.
Good cameras are reserved for smartphones at $400 minimum. In some models, manufacturers have incorporated photo-specific technologies, such as optical stabilization, and software processing has improved significantly.
Several smartphones are even equipped with a double lens, wide-angle, and telephoto (Huawei P9, iPhone 7 Plus, Samsung Galaxy Note 8, iPhone X, etc.) or even a triple-lens (Samsung Galaxy S10 and S10 +, Samsung Galaxy A7 2018).
5. TECHNICAL CHARACTERISTICS (processor)
The more powerful the processor and a large amount of RAM, the more fluid and comfortable your smartphone will be, especially in 3D video games. Even if this is not always the case, a Quad-Core processor (4 cores) will generally be more suitable for demanding uses.
More and more high-end models now offer an Octo Core processor (8 cores). 2 GB of RAM is today the minimum union on most smartphones, but there are high-end products with 4 or even 8 GB installed. The graphics chip is also taken into account.
Mid-range terminals are equipped with slightly less powerful chips (Snapdragon 710, Snapdragon 765, Kirin 820 ...). They will meet most of your gaming requirements.
Finally, entry-level smartphones – even equipped with an underpowered processor (like the Snapdragon 450 or MediaTek Helio), as long as they benefit from a system well optimized by the manufacturer – will allow you to communicate, surf, photograph and even sometimes play titles that consume little resources and this, in a fairly comfortable way.
This is an angry subject. A number of smartphones, very good anyway, fish by their reduced autonomy. One indicator is the battery power (measured in mAh). The higher the number, the more autonomy is supposed to be substantial. Except that other criteria are involved, such as the interface, the manufacturer’s overlay, the type of use, etc.
Also note that notifications, the selected screen brightness or Bluetooth have a significant impact on the consumption of your smartphone. Beware of announcements from manufacturers, they are often very optimistic. In this regard, user feedback can be a real gold mine.
7. ADDITIONAL FEATURES
Certain functionalities can be a criterion of choice. For example, the presence of an NFC chip allows a simplified connection by simple contact with compatible devices.
The dual SIM card slot will be useful for travelers who can integrate a prepaid SIM card without removing their main card while traveling. The Miracast function allows wireless broadcasting of your content on a compatible screen.
Finally, the high-end models are most often equipped with a fingerprint reader, for better security.
SO, I hope that these tips “necessarily incomplete, there is so much to say!” will help you find the best smartphone according to your use.