Hundreds of smartphones are on the market, and each one claims to offer us exactly what we need. But what is it? How good does the battery have to be, what material is worth it and how much memory should you have at least on your smartphone? We have compiled a list of the points you really need for a good selection.
Buying a smartphone isn’t just about design, it’s also about whether hardware and software are keeping what advertising promises. Of course, new components are constantly being developed, prices are plummeting for older devices and rising for new ones, but you can take a snapshot of current key data. So we will guide you through the most important technical data that a modern smartphone should offer.
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What is a good battery capacity?
On the one hand, the battery depends on the capacity. Values of more than 4,000 mAh are now common on large smartphones. For smaller devices, values of more than 3,000 mAh are also fine. This should not include capacity. It alone says nothing about the actual running time of a smartphone. This depends on display, processor and software optimizations.
In smartphones, almost without exception, lithium-ion batteries. These actually always have the same energy density. This means that the heavier they are, the more capacity they have. If you buy a particularly light and slim smartphone, it will inevitably come at the expense of battery life.
Smartphones with a battery life of more than 4,000 mAh include the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+, the Huawei Mate Xs or the Realme X50 Pro. But even they only manage two days of running time with ach and crash. As a rule, after one day is over. Unfortunately, smartphones are still not among the mobile phones that only need to be powered once a week.
There are a few fast or wireless charging technologies that you should know about. Here are Quick Charge from Qualcomm, Huawei’s SuperCharge and Super VOOC from Oppo. OnePlus also offers extremely fast charging. Wireless charging is generally slower but comfortable – all you have to do is place your smartphone on the appropriate charging tray and not plug it on.
Qi-Charging is a technology that allows wireless charging of smartphones. After initial difficulties, Qi has now established itself on a broad front and is the quasi-standard for wireless charging on smartphones – even with Apple and the new iPhones.
But what we have to miss are replaceable batteries. Since mobile phone batteries often break or become significantly weaker after around 2,000 cycles, replacement will sooner or later be due. While Samsung had replacement batteries up to the Galaxy S5 and LG up to the G4 and V10, almost all smartphones now offer only fixed batteries. Only smartphones such as the Fairphone 3, where almost all parts can be changed, are exceptions.
What about the software?
Unlike Apple, Google relies on manufacturers for its updates. As a result, these are delayed or completely eliminated on some smartphones. If you want to buy a device with an older Android version, you should ask beforehand if it will get the update to the new version. Many manufacturers are now more open about the topic of updates than they were a few years ago, and mid-range smartphones are usually supplied with Google’s monthly updates quite reliably for two years. If you want to be on the safe side, you should go to a Pixel smartphone from Google grab, the updates come directly from the head office and especially long. Since the Google Pixel 3a you don’t even have to pay 400 euros for it.
Almost all new Android smartphones are sold with a processor with six or eight computing cores. However, due to a different computing architecture, these cannot be compared with the processor in the home PC. And, so that it does not become too simple, due to their heterogeneous structure, they are only partially comparable among themselves.
The smartphone processors also contain the radio modules and the graphics processor, which are now often also their own computing units for artificial intelligence and machine learning. You can read which processors are most powerful in this article:
You can never have enough memory, which is similar to the PC with your smartphone. But you don’t have to overdo it either. At the latest from the price-high class it should be 4 GByte RAM, with very cheap devices it also do 2 GByte. In the upper class from 600 Euros you should charge 6 or 8 GByte. In addition to the processor, memory determines the speed of your smartphone in everyday life, because the running applications and processes store their data in this particularly fast memory. By the way: Unlike a Windows PC, it’s not bad with an Android smartphone, if the RAM is used to a large extent during use, so you can switch back and forth between apps faster and more smoothly.
While values of 16 or 32 gigabytes initially seem sufficient, it is important to remember that even the Android system with the pre-installed apps is often up to 10 GB in size. This system-reserved memory is simply not accessible to you.
Apps, photos, videos, music, radio plays and other data share the remaining space. In addition, apps write log files, galleries and music apps store thumbnails, and each application keeps components in the cache. 32 gigabytes is therefore the absolute pain limit, which should not be lowered when buying a new one. More storage space is always good.
If your smartphone has a microSD card slot, you can offload music and photos to it – and save them right away. Since Android 6.0 Marshmallow, you can actually expand the internal memory with microSD cards. However, internal storage is preferable to a memory card because it is faster, equally usable everywhere, and less prone to damage.
Depending on the smartphone, the number of available cameras differs. More cameras are drawing the trend and for good reason. High camera density offers more creative variety with different lenses, for example through a wide-angle and a zoom camera. You can’t read the quality of the camera on the pure megapixel number, but it shouldn’t be less than 12 megapixels. Google has been showing for years that it is also possible to take great photos with a single camera and the corresponding software – the Pixel 3a, which costs just under 400 euros, scores with its particularly good camera, for example. A complete list of our recommendations can be found here:
While the display size has increased significantly on average in recent years, the frames around the screen are getting smaller and smaller. Result: Large display in relatively handy housings. Unfortunately, the number of high-end smartphones in the range of less than 5 inches continues to decline. If you like it quite compact, you have little choice.
Displays are manufactured as backlit LCD, IPS panel or AMOLED display. The latter has proven to be the best technical platform in most of the time, you can find out more about it in our special article:
The screen resolution is always given in two factors (columns x rows) and results in the pixel density (pixels per inch, ppi) in the diagonal of the screen. If this exceeds a value of 300 ppi, no pixels are usually recognizable. If the resolution is too low, a visible hem is formed around screen fonts. This blurring has a tiring effect on the eyes. This is particularly annoying when reading long articles. So make sure that the 300 ppi limit is not significantly lowered. Rule of thumb: Under Full HD resolution, i.e. 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, you should buy the highest yet extremely cheap smartphones.
To keep the devices from getting too big, many manufacturers have moved to cut a gap in your display that the front camera looks through. Not every user likes this so-called Notch, but it is practical, because this allows the display edges to continue to grow. However, Samsung, Sony and Google in particular still offer smartphones without gaps in their teeth.
The fast 4G mobile standard, which goes by the name LTE, is now standard for smartphones in all price ranges. But not all smartphones that control LTE do it properly. In Germany, the frequency bands are primarily decisive. If bands 3, 7 and 20 are supported, everything is good and you can quickly surf mobile with your new smartphone in the German networks. The 800-megahertz band 20, which is widely used in this country, is not supported by some imported LTE devices, but will inform you before purchasing. The Frequencycheck web portal can help with the search here.
5G in smartphones is getting started slowly, but also really very slowly. Providers are starting to set up the networks, the first tariffs are already in place, but both the radio cells and the offers of the providers can still be counted at one hand. You can safely do without a 5G smartphone for quite a while yet.
New smartphones all look very good on the store shelf at first. However, different materials make some devices look good for longer than others. Aluminium, for example, gets bumps in contrast to glass, but does not splinter. Plastic and glass allow radio signals to pass through better. Manufacturers are often keen to experiment with the colours, but most smartphones will end up in a protective case anyway. This is also more than advisable when it comes to preserving value.
You should take care, especially with more expensive smartphones, that they have IP certification, i.e. against water and dust. That doesn’t mean you should dive with things all the time, but you’re protected against falling drinks, falls in the sand or unexpected downpours.
The perfect smartphone for everyone does not exist, because every user has different preferences and requirements for a smartphone. It’s good that Android has plenty of choice for all sorts of impossible things. If you follow our tips, you will surely find your very personal perfect smartphone.
Logical – A fragmented display or a broken battery quickly ruin the pleasure of a smartphone. Especially if the warranty has just expired. Even if, as already mentioned, the battery is permanently installed on many devices, this does not have to mean the death sentence for your phone. Repair cafés are just one point that allows you to live out your smartphone behavior in a more environmentally friendly way. Here Eric shows you some possibilities.
This article was updated in March. Older comments have not been deleted and may therefore appear to be taken out of context.