There are many references of smartphones available on the market? It becomes difficult to choose the one that will best suit your use, depending on whether you are a seasoned user or a beginner, a frenetic or occasional user, young or old, familiar with new technologies or not? This little guide will try to guide you through this jungle.
A SMARTPHONE FOR WHAT PURPOSE?
This is the first question you have to ask yourself. If you are looking for a smartphone mainly to make calls, check your emails or surf the internet, do you really need the latest Samsung Galaxy S20 or the 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, keep the money you save to look after accessories (protections, headsets, brackets, etc…). Some brands have specialized in models with an advantageous quality/price ratio, at the forefront of which is the French Wiko. New players are trying to establish themselves on this market, such as Logicom or Honor, Huawei’s second most affordable brand.
If you have a more advanced use with functions such as photo or multimedia, a mid-range smartphone will be more suitable (between 200 and 400 €). Equipped with better sensors and more powerful, they are a good balance between a reasonable budget and performance. This product category is very crowded and you can find very good products at Samsung, Xiaomi or Realme. A good tip: 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 users looking for the best of the moment. They are the ones who are fighting for the latest power monsters from Samsung, Apple, Huawei or OnePlus. They are uncompromising on photo quality, fluidity, power (especially for gaming), finish and display quality. And they’re ready to put the price tag on it. This category includes an iPhone 11 Pro, a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, a Xiaomi Mi Note 10 or OnePlus 8T and Huawei P40.
WHAT ARE THE SELECTION CRITERIA?
Between a 6.3-inch phonebook and a 4.7-inch smartphone, that’s the big difference. If you often watch videos, if you are a video game enthusiast or if you use your smartphone for office use or in general in a professional setting, a large screen provides more comfort for both viewing and inputting.
On the other hand, a smaller screen will be easier to fit in a pocket and easier to hold. The current trend is towards large screens, which is a source of frustration for fans of small-format smartphones. When it comes to reconciling small format and high-end configuration, Sony is the only one left to take the risk with its XPeria 5 II and iPhone SE.
Screen resolution and refresh rate
Again, everything from entry-level smartphones with anemic resolution to high-end models offering high resolution and now even 4K is available. In addition to the fact that ultra-high definition is not always justified on a screen that remains small in size, the inflation of pixels leads to screens that consume more and more energy, and hence to real autonomies that tend to reach a ceiling.
Recently, we are witnessing the arrival of many screens offering increasingly higher refresh rates. If in games, the contribution of a 120 or 144 Hz screen, as on the Asus ROG Phone 3, is essential, the rest of the navigation is also more fluid and more pleasant with a high refresh rate (more than 90 Hz).
The 4G LTE is now standard on virtually all smartphone lines, including the entry-level model. Now the focus is on the 5G. Smartphones are already compatible with the new generation standard, which promises much higher data rates than the current 4G.
As for Wifi and Bluetooth, they are also found on all models, as is GPS. Concerning Wifi, prefer when possible a smartphone compatible with Wifi ac, or even Wifi 6, which is more stable and faster.
The operating system
This is a matter of taste. Without going into details, Android is archi dominant today (more than 80% of the market) and offers great freedom to the user. As a direct consequence, it is also the least secure since it concentrates the vast majority of viruses and other malware on cell phones. On the other hand, Apple’s iOS is renowned for its security and ease of use, but remains a closed system, with all the constraints that this implies.
Huawei makes resistance on this side. Indeed, the situation with the United States has forced the Chinese manufacturer to offer on its recent terminals, a home operating system without Google services. In practice, the interface is very similar to what is found on the latest Android devices. However, the PlayStore and some applications are missing.
On this subject, it may be consistent to stay on the same ecosystem, and to opt for an iPhone if you are already on a Mac, even if it is not mandatory. Synchronization will be greatly facilitated. Another aspect to take into account is the number of applications available in the different stores. iOS and Android are always in the lead with hundreds of thousands of free or paid applications.
Apart from Apple’s special cases, it is advisable to prefer models with a memory card reader to extend the storage capacity, and with video output (Hdmi or MHL) to display the image of your smartphone on a large screen. Regarding this last point, many smartphones are now bypassing this type of connection and prefer wireless screen duplication (mirroring). A USB OTG (or Host) port will allow you to connect peripherals – in particular USB keys or external hard drives – to your smartphone. Note that USB-C has also been implemented everywhere. And don’t hesitate to use a chromecast for the external broadcasting of your programs available on your smartphone.
The photo function
Having become an essential use on smartphones, the photo function has made great progress since the first sensors. Beware of the manufacturers’ shiny figures, millions of pixels are not everything. Other important criteria have to be taken into account, such as zoom, HDR function, Flash Led, Panorama mode, stabilization or slow-motion mode. Retouching and sharing options should not be neglected either. Huawei and Sony are renowned for the quality of their smartphone sensors. Today, manufacturers are multiplying the number of sensors and lenses in order to offer ever more creative shooting modes. The optical zoom will delight lovers of distant details, the ultra-wide-angle mode will be perfect for landscapes or group photos while the macro mode will be used to observe the small details of everyday life.
The technical characteristics
The more powerful the processor and the larger the amount of RAM, the smoother and more comfortable your smartphone will be, especially on 3D video games. Even if it is not always the case, a Quad Core processor will generally be more adapted to demanding uses. More and more high-end models now offer an Octo Core processor (8 cores). 2 GB of RAM is now the union minimum on most smartphones, but there are high-end products with 4 or even 8 GB installed. The graphics chip also comes into play.
It is the subject that annoys. Many smartphones, which are very good by the way, suffer from reduced autonomy. One indicator is the battery power (measured in mAh). The higher the number, the longer the battery life is supposed to be. However, other criteria come into play, such as the interface, the manufacturer’s overlayer, 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 manufacturer announcements, they are often very optimistic. In this respect, user feedback can be a real gold mine
Some features may 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 will be able to integrate a prepaid SIM card without removing their main card while on the move. The Miracast feature enables wireless delivery of your content to a compatible display. Finally, top-of-the-range models are most often equipped with a fingerprint reader, for better security.
Some high-end smartphones, such as the recent Samsung Galaxy, are even waterproof and IPXX certified. These phones are therefore resistant to immersion as well as to various attacks from humidity and dust. Useful for those who are afraid of dropping their phone in the water or at the pool.