The headache of buying a new smartphone

The headache of buying a new smartphone

I am that guy who has to recommend phones to friends and relatives. They ask me whether a certain phone is good and whether they should spend their hard earned money on it. I used to enjoy providing that service but now things are different. Being the family tech guy has never been this hard. But just how hard is it? Allow me to explain.

“Cheap is expensive but occasionally you find a device that ticks the right boxes. On the other end, expensive tends to offer more but just make sure you are paying for the right features and not gimmicks.”

Not all phones are the same in terms of price and specifications and other unique identifiers I will explain later. You see, the more feature packed a phone is, the more pricey it is. However, that is no longer true. Feature packed phones are becoming cheaper but some other feature packed phones are still expensive. So what is the difference? Why pay more for virtually the same package? This is where things get complicated. Allow me to use specific examples. We have reviewed 2 different phones in this site, the LG G3 and the recently released Infinix Zero 3. On paper, in terms of specifications, these are almost similar devices but the price difference is majestic with the LG device being the more expensive. There are several other examples with the likes of Xiaomi, Alcatel etc.

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In terms of specs, the Infinix Zero 3 (pictured) is almost the same as the LG G3 but the LG G3 costs more – almost twice the price, But does this make the Zero 3 a better deal?

What you need to realize, and the sooner you do the better, is that we no longer pay for sheer specifications. Most phones cost between 100 – 250 USD to make and this includes the mighty iPhone 6S. At this point you may want to open a new tab and look for the retail price of the iPhone 6S and then get back to me. So what exactly are we paying for?

The answer is simple. We pay for the name. We also pay for unique features like curved displays, better low light camera, a slick design which includes being thin, light and made of either aluminum or a glass finish. If we are lucky we also pay for updates. This means that the manufacturer will have a team of dedicated competent programmers to ensure that the device is upgraded to the latest software version a few months after its release.

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Now that you know that most phones cost between 100 – 250 USD to manufacture, how much do you think this one cost?

Now I know what you are thinking and it is along the lines of “I should just buy a cheaper device with flagship specifications”. OK mystery reader, you can do that but it is rarely advisable. There are a few cheaper devices that are highly encouraged but most are painful to even consider. The reason why these devices cannot be considered on this site requires a separate article because of the technicalities. But briefly you should know that not all quad-core or octa-core processors are the same. 1 or 2 GB of RAM requires perfect harmony with the software. Also, that glorious 8 or 13 megapixel camera may leave you wondering how incredible it is to make calls with a pinhole camera. Cheap is expensive but occasionally you find a device that ticks the right boxes. On the other end, expensive tends to offer more but just make sure you are paying for the right features and not gimmicks.

In conclusion I would recommend you to do thorough research before buying your next phone. And please drop the “I only want a phone with a good camera and enough storage for my songs and movies so something around 150 USD will do fine” nonsense. A phone with a good camera is worth 400 USD and above. And before you argue with me, a good camera does what most other cameras don’t do e.g. instantaneous focus, Optical Image Stabilization(OIS), a wide aperture which should lead to better low light photography, large pixels in some cases etc.

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If you are looking for unique features like a camera which performs well in low light, you’ll have to chuck some good money for that.

Also, there is nothing like a phone for basic use. People who go for “basic use” are the first ones to ask why a game like Need for Speed: No limits cannot work on the devices yet it works on a colleague’s device. So, exhaust your expected usage for the device and do research. Find out about things such as overheating over a heavy load, battery life, planned software update path and camera performance just to avoid disappointments later on.  After all these, you can now check whether the price is right.

Talking about camera performance, check out our Galaxy S7 review by Joel below

Samsung Galaxy S7 Review: A Perfect Iteration

Galaxy S7


  • Rigamortis

    Well, I tried to read and understand you, but here’s my kind of dilemma, and its solution – sort of. Nowadays, it depends on which kind of compromise you’ll be comfortable with while buying a phone: midrange bracket and forgo minor fine points on design and mostly on camera, the low end segment and bid consistent performance fluidity bye, or the high end portion if you’re ready to pay for it, which is a compromise, at least, according to me. Now, zeroing down to me, I’ll put battery life and top notch performance as my two prerequisites for a daily driver, other things be damned because I 1) can live with generous bezels 2)can tolerate an okay camera and 3)cartoonish interface with another dose of overgenerous bloat if 1)performance is guaranteed and 2)battery life wows me.