Buying a smartphone is still considered a big deal in India, given that a lot of us spend a substantial part of our income on getting one. Hence it is important that we get it is right as there are usually no second chances. With so many brands and models available across the price range, choosing a phone can be a tedious task.
Here are some tips that will help you find the smartphone that suits your requirements, dodging the pushy salespersons and navigating the comparison sites.
Do the homework
Do the research first. Check if a certain phone meets your criteria and budget, then compare prices online, read reviews from trusted sources and visit local stores for a hands-on experience if needed. Don’t get fooled by big promotions or special sales. Buying a smartphone with 1GB RAM and 16GB storage and praying it will work for the next four to five years is not wise. Hence always future-proof yourself by paying a bit more for specifications that will last a few years. Read our review of OnePlus 6T here.
Focus on features you may want to use
Don’t rush into a new smartphone purchase. There are dozens of things to consider when buying a smartphone. First, understand what features you need the most in a smartphone, as it can vary dramatically from person to person. Do you need a phone with lots of storage to save music and video files? Are you looking for long battery life in a smartphone? You may want a phone with a Snapdragon 845 processor and superior front-facing camera, there are others who can live with a regular selfie camera but want a powerful processor to play games. Be logical, and don’t get swayed by gimmicky features and don’t end up paying for something you will never use. Read our review of iPhone XR here.
Screen brightness matters more than resolution
While it may sound enticing to have a Quad-HD (2K) resolution display on a smartphone, even a Full HD is technically more than you probably need. Experts believe a regular human isn’t going to see a difference between 2K and FHD. This is why buyers should look at brightness and colour quality more seriously. Make sure you are buying one that’s bright enough to see outdoors, and sharp enough where the text doesn’t look blurry.
You’ll also want to think about the display size. If you are going to spend hours looking at it, we recommended a smartphone with a good screen size — popular sizes are between 5.8 and 6.4-inches — for watching movies and a minimum resolution of 1920 x 1080p (Full HD). If you are an average user with limited needs, a smartphone with a 720p (HD) screen would also be fine. In terms of screen technology, OLED screens have better contrast with deeper blacks than LCD screens. A number of smartphones sport OLED screens but they don’t come cheap. Read our review of Samsung Galaxy S9+ here.
Ergonomics also matters
With smartphones getting bigger in size, we have seen compromises being made in comfort and portability. Perhaps the reason why many people don’t like to use extra large smartphones is that they cannot be used one-handed and feel far too bulky in the pocket. Always make sure you choose a smartphone that allows easy typing and fast swiping. Plus all parts of the screen should be reachable with one hand. Never compromise on comfort and usability, hence try out shortlisted phones in a physical store before buying it. Read our review of Nokia 8.1 here.
Don’t go after specifications
The OnePlus 6T McLaren edition comes with 10GB RAM and a Snapdragon 845 processor. The question is, how much RAM do you really need in a phone? Does a Snapdragon 845 make a huge difference in performance?
The spec sheet of a smartphone doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. What really matters is the day to day performance. These days most mid-range smartphones (Redmi Note 6 Pro, for example) offer good performance. But if you are a power user who plays graphics-intensive games a lot, maybe a phone with a Snapdragon 845 with 8GB RAM makes sense. However, 8GB of RAM isn’t required for a smartphone at the moment as there are not enough apps to make use of this. A smartphone with 4GB RAM will be more than enough to quickly open apps.
But iOS works differently, unlike Android which requires more memory. The iPhone XS Max comes with 4GB RAM but can crush any Android-powered flagship in terms of performance. The A12 Bionic processor in the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR is the fastest mobile chip yet. Read our review of iPhone XS here.
Buy smartphones with minimum 32GB storage
If you spot a good deal on a smartphone with 16GB storage ignore it. Instead, look for a smartphone with minimum 32GB of internal storage and if possible 64GB. While a lot depends on your usage, ideally you would want to store games, photos, videos and music on a phone. It would be nice to have an Android smartphone with a microSD card slot to expand your storage. But Apple doesn’t offer microSD support on iPhones. Read our review of Realme 2 Pro here.
Android or iOS
The operating system (OS) is something that powers your smartphone. There are two main options these days: Android and iOS. Android is more popular because it is open and any manufacturer can customise it on its own; Android also has more hardware options available.
If you already use Google’s core apps and services like Gmail and Maps, then Android is better for you. Plus, Google Assistant is still by far the best virtual voice assistant today. Affordability is one big reason why Android is so popular. The downside is that these budget and mid-range Android smartphones tend to get a bit slow over time.
iOS is the mobile OS for iPhones, and is much simpler to use. Plus, iOS is more secure and has apps which are quality checked before being released on the store. Those in Apple’s ecosystem, and who use devices like the iPad and Apple Watch, are more inclined to buy an iPhone. iPhones are a great choice for those experiential customers, but iPhones generally cost a lot more. Read our review of Oppo K1 here.
Always look for smartphones with large battery
We all want our smartphones to last all day, but we already know that’s not true. Of course, how you use a smartphone also has an effect on battery life. Streaming from YouTube, for instance, takes up a lot more battery than simple browsing. So does poor network. If you are planning to buy a smartphone, consider one with a large battery and fast charging. Players like OnePlus and Oppo ship smartphones with the special chargers inside the box that can charge a battery to 50 per cent in just a few minutes. Read our review of Redmi 6A here.
Pay attention to camera aperture
The camera is an important smartphone feature most users pay attention to. More expensive phones like the iPhone XS, Google Pixel 3 XL and Galaxy Note 9 have exceptional cameras. But the problem comes when choosing budget and mid-range smartphones which don’t really good cameras. Make sure to focus less on the megapixel count and more on features such as aperture, dual lenses AND optical image stabilisation. If possible, quickly try out the smartphone camera at a nearby mobile store. This way you get some idea about the camera performance before your purchase. Read our review of Google Pixel 3 here.
Regular OS updates
If you opt for a new iPhone, then you will definitely get the latest version of iOS on it, but this isn’t the case with Android. Given the manufacturers apply their own customised user interface on top of Android, it can take a while to push the latest updates. A select few smartphones like the Google Pixel series are guaranteed regular Android updates. Even to date, the manufacturers continue to launch smartphones with Android 8.1 Oreo when the latest version is Android 9.0, and even that will soon get replaced by Android Q. We recommend to buy only those Android smartphones with Android 9.0 Pie out-of-the-box. Do check the track record of the brand when it comes to pushing out OS updates. Read our review of Xiaomi Mi A2 review here.
Watch the launch calendar
There is no fixed time to buy a new smartphone, as the manufacturers keep on launching new phones every month. Keep an eye on March and November specifically, this is the time when both Samsung and Apple update their latest flagships. If you are clever, pick up last year’s model as you can save a lot on the price of a smartphone.
Should you buy a new or Used smartphone?
This is something you have to evaluate on your own. Buying a used smartphone can be a haunting experience because of the possibility that the device could be stolen, abused and worn out or even all of the above. So think twice before picking up a used smartphone.
A used smartphone could save you a few bucks, but could lead to more expenses in terms of repairs. Consider what you are looking for and why you need a used smartphone. If a used smartphone is being used as a secondary device, it might make sense to go with it. But if you want to use it as a primary device, maybe you should not consider a used smartphone that is too old in the first place. Logically, you should only consider a used phone if it is under warranty and the device’s condition is satisfactory.
Questions a buyer should ask a seller during the sales negotiation process:
• Is there anything wrong with this smartphone?
• What can you tell me about the history of this smartphone?
• Do you have the warranty card on this smartphone?
• Have you made any repairs to this smartphone?
A pro tip is to click on the exchange link on any online seller and enter the EMEI number of the old phone to see how much it is worth.