The Ultimate Spec Guide


Buying a new smart phone is not only exciting, it can be fairly confusing too. There are just so many numbers, and everyone wants to persuade you that they've got the best specs. So just what are you looking at? We're taking an in depth look at mobile specs so that you'll know exactly what you're spending your money on. So without any further ado, let's get started!

Screen Specs

Okay, you're getting a smart phone so you want a decent screen, fair enough. Screen specs are usually given in two numbers, the first is a resolution number (something like 1080 x 1920). However, this isn't really the number you should be looking at, since 1080 x 1920 resolution is very different on a four inch screen versus a five inch screen. The number you're interested in is the PPI (or Pixels per Inch). The higher that number is, the sharper and clearer your picture is going to be. PPI numbers should be higher than 400 if you're looking for something good.

Once you've got resolution down then there's the matter of screen material, and here there are three common types. IPS-LCD (manufacturer names vary a little, but most will include “LCD” in their descriptions) is the more traditional choice. You get great colour resolution, and excellent viewing angles (you don't need to be head on looking at your phone), but because these screens are glossy viewing them outdoors or in bright light can be tough. Then there's OLED screens (sometimes called AMOLED or LED). These have decent colour resolution and good light contrast, but due to the tech used can sometimes come across as “pixellated” rather than giving a smooth picture. Finally, there's Super LCD, the newest tech, and this gives you all the pros of regular LCD screens but also minimises glare for better outside or bright light viewing. Screen material is more or less about taste though, so check out different models and see what you like best.

Processor Specs

The processor or CPU is the engine that drives your phone, and we're going to be a little controversial here. Ostensibly, bigger, faster processors are better. However, there's a lot of tech jargon surrounding processors, and there are many different types around (usually from either Intel or AMD) and comparing them just by the specs is tough. What we really recommend is rather than looking at processor specs you instead look at benchmark scores. When new phones come out different companies and bloggers test them in various speed tests and then release their benchmark scores so phones can be compared. Benchmark scores give you a realistic idea of how fast you can expect a phone to be so you don't need to deal with all the processor jargon. You can easily find benchmark scores online, just search for the phone model you're looking for.

Memory Specs…

Moving on to memory, and you're looking at two specs here. The first of these is RAM, which is the memory your phone reserves to use for every day operation. More RAM usually means more speed, however RAM isn't as important as you might think (unlike when you're buying a computer). Basically anything of 1 GB or above is going to be just fine, and that's all you need to know.

The second type of memory is internal memory, and this is how much space you have to store apps, games, music, photos and everything else you want to put on your phone. Internal memory sizes range from around 8 GB (possibly smaller in real budget models) to about 128 GB. How much memory you go for depends on how much stuff you want to keep, though we recommend around 16 GB for most people to avoid needing to delete photos etc. too often. Keep in mind that you can always use cloud memory to store things (Google Photo, for example), and that many (but not all) phones come with an SD card slot that will allow you to add a cheap SD card for even more storage space.

Camera Specs…

Things get really complicated when you take a look at camera specs, and as a rule we recommend that you simply go in-store and check out cameras for yourself, since specs don't always tell the whole story. However, there are three things you should look at. The first of these is how many “MP” or megapixels the camera has. More MP means more detailed and sharper photos, for the most part. Second, there's video resolution, which again gives more detail and sharpness the higher you get, and you should look for at least around 1080p. Finally, check out the “extras” such as flash, image stabilisation, and slow motion. Dual tone flash is best, though any flash is better than none, and image stabilisation will result in less blurred pics and video.

And Other Stuff…

There are a few other things that you're probably looking for. All smart phones are 3G, but some also have 4G which will give you faster mobile internet service (but you'll need to make sure that your operator has a 4G network and may need to change your contract to take advantage of this). All smartphones also have WiFi. Here 802.11n is older tech, whilst 820.11ac is newer and gives faster speeds (but only if you have a 802.11ac capable router at home!). If you're a regular Bluetooth user then all phones should come with Bluetooth, the newest version is 4.1, but look for anything that's 3.0 and above and you'll be fine. Finally, there are two kinds of mobile phone: GSM and CDMA, and many top end phones support both. This shouldn't concern you for the most part, but if you're a frequent traveller to the US or some parts of Asia know that certain operators there only support CDMA, though this is becoming more rare.

And that should be all you need to know about mobile specs. Good luck shopping and enjoy your awesome new phone!

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