On a computer, your input is through a keyboard and a mouse or trackpad. The output is on the screen. Things change on a smartphone, where both input and output is on the same screen.
Your TV stays on one wall, motionless, while you move around. Viewing angles become important. With your smartphone, you stay in one place but the hand moves—as you try and read that article on the crowded local commute, as you try to keep an eye on the road while walking and texting, or as you try and get a shot by holding your camera away from your body at a weird angle.
You are never going to accidentally drop your TV and have its screen shatter. You aren’t going to throw your laptop with the screen open in a bag full of sharp objects. But smartphones are small enough to slip out of your hand, and get put into a pocket unprotected from other elements like your keys.
The point of all this, of course, is to illustrate how crucial the screen is to a smartphone. And yet, all too often, companies skimp on that one element.
Take, for instance, the Gionee Pioneer P3. It gets most things right in the performance department, even throwing in a quad-core processor. The camera surpasses most others in that price range. But the screen, oh that crucial screen, is a nightmare. Bad viewing angles and poor display quality mean that even as a Rs 7,500 budget phone, it’s difficult to recommend it.
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At a slightly higher price, the Lenovo P780 offers the best battery life we have seen in a smartphone. And the rest of the performance is decent too. But the lack of a scratch-resistant glass for a phone that costs upwards of Rs 15,000 is unforgivable. At that price, you shouldn’t be putting a screen guard and marring the experience.
Even at the top end, Sony is guilty of asking people to pay Rs 40,000 for its Xperia Z1 and throwing in a screen that distorts colours when you look at it from an angle. It’s got all the protection in the world, including waterproofing, and the best hardware money can buy. But what’s the point of running Asphalt 8 smoothly if your car’s and track’s colours change when you move frantically to steer?
Performance matters a lot in a phone, as does the battery life. Music is important for a few, while some people are all about the camera. Budget phones always force you to make some sacrifices, but if you have to, then don’t compromise on the screen. It’s what’s going to ensure how much you use your handset in the long run; it’s what dictates how rough or delicate you will be with the phone; it’s what decides whether you enjoy that technological marvel in your pocket.