At this point of summer, with much of the telephone artillery pending to be presented, talking about pure and hard specifications is complicated, since we are going to see change some things. Without fear of letting go of any obviousness, let’s review what we find interesting on a telephone so that we can be with us as long as possible , and also anticipate the things that will end up being obligatory. It will be a good read for those who are more lost and need to catch up.
This is not a traditional shopping guide, with concrete terminals, rather it is a list of important points to consider, while reflecting on the life of a phone and the things that are really important. The question that we should ask ourselves at the beginning is what kind of phone do we need? How much are we going to renew it?
It is logical to invest heavily in something so useful, but do not pay more than what you really need. Of course, if you want to endure, you have to go to the highest range.
We should have a clear budget, it would also help to select if you have preference for a brand. But the most valuable thing is to know what you really do with him to interpret which specification would have more weight among the chosen ones. The two most obvious points are usually the camera and autonomy , both closely related to high-end phones, with spending more money. We will discover that in the medium term there are other things that are going to change in the market.
How is a phone resistant to the future?
Now we are going to review in ten sections the things that interest me to value for a phone to be resistant to the future – 2 to 3 years -, while we explain what the market now offers us and where it is aimed:
1. – It has a wide screen, OLED and QHD
We could say that you have to choose the screen size according to your needs and uses. When you use your phone a lot to play or watch multimedia content, such as series, buy a large screen. Unless you have 5.5 inches and your resolution is at least Full HD.
If you want a phone to use with one hand, or have small, put the limit on those 5.5 inches. Although it is not the market sector that has more supply, below we find the Google Pixel , the iPhone 7 , or an Xperia X Compact .
These figures are blurring a little since the LG G6 and Galaxy S8 appeared on stage with their elongated screens and minimal frames , so in these cases we can stretch the size of those inches. They also introduce systems that simulate HDR. Each month that passes there will be more content than support for this screen format, so if we choose this now, we are ahead of the curve.
As far as quality is concerned, it seems to me more important that the representation of color and brightness be very good, that we have more resolution. QHD screens have not yet proven to me to be a specification that gives me more, however, having a lot of brightness makes it easier for me to read outdoors. I also appreciate that you can lower the brightness to minimum levels that let us read in the dark, without disturbing roommates.
If we are determined to choose a screen with QHD resolution, it will start to be interesting when approaching 6 inches in size. If you like very large phones, it must be said that Android is making efforts to take advantage of bigger screens, implementing things like multi-window and floating windows.
I’m not going to fight with anyone in terms of technologies: I prefer OLED screens in most cases, but I recognize that high-end LCD panels are offered at the same level.
2. – Two cameras are needed for computational photography
Another very optional specification, which is usually linked to the most expensive phones. If you do not care at all about the camera of a phone, or take pictures or videos with it, in the mid-range you’ll find lots of decent phones with which to save a lot of money.
As this situation seems to me more and more complicated, since the mobile phone has become our day-to-day camera , everyone is going to study which device will work best when it comes to renewing. The first thing I have to say about it is that we ignore the megapixels .
More or less megapixels do not make a better camera, in fact the big competitors were planted around 12 megapixels, knowing that there is the balance to make sensitive captors that fit in a mobile device.
Now the double cameras flourish and we will inevitably find that 75% of interesting phones to buy will have them. Who are you interested? Although the issue is still green, initially those who do many portraits are interested , this is where computer photography is taking its first shot , but there is a long way to go.
On double cameras I want to emphasize that we are starting, Galaxy S8 or Google Pixel are excellent examples that you can have a single sensor and that the results are fantastic. Neither do we go crazy with this.
Going hand in hand with brands such as Samsung or Apple is a guarantee of the future, since the new photography is closely linked to the software of these small devices. The two large companies have teams of image engineers who can not match others, they are constantly thinking about the matter to improve, and this has to be noted in telephone renewals, also in updates.
Better a camera with good optics than one with more megapixels
Apart from megapixels, a “specification” that is very interesting to look at is the optic chosen. Always trusting that the materials are of the highest quality and taking into account that in such a small thing we can not expect a correspondence with large camera lenses, it is definite that the opening is as large as possible .
A f / 2.0, or smaller in number, means that there is more light in there, it will help us with complicated light shots. The other thing that I value is that the software allows me to manually work certain values. It’s not something I use all the time, but it helps me get shots that automatically would not be possible.
The last issue I wanted to address is stabilization . Very important in a mobile gadget with such small elements, and that marks differences in both photo and video. It can be implemented in two ways, electronically, or in the own optics: in any case, it will help us in stabilizing video, we will have less moved photos, and better results in low light.
3. – Yes, it takes a lot of RAM
In the lower phone ranges this is paramount, we have to look for things that at least have 2GB of RAM. Right now I would say that the ideal amount of memory for an Android device is 4GB, I am talking about a new phone and a medium-high range.
The arrival of 64-bit processors enabled the possibility of having more than 4GB of RAM
Although it is not a thing that we can quantify in a clear way, in practice, the amount of RAM is a critical element for multitasking, it is also a thing if we want a phone that is resistant to the future. If they do not charge us at the price of gold, more will always be better .
With the way in which Android works and updates, the RAM memory will always come in handy. If the interface used by the phone has no restriction by number of applications, if we have more RAM, we have more programs running at the same time and it is faster to switch between them . IOS is another story, it is a system in which concurrent applications are much more controlled and do not need as much memory.
The simpler and more similar to the original Google system, the better. On loose applications, I’m not sure there’s any that take advantage of so much memory for her alone, possibly not, but they’ll come.
The interface marks too much RAM consumption on Android: a Nexus 6 consumes 1.2GB of its 3GB available, without having any applications open. If we go to a Galaxy Note 5, to give an example of heavy interface, it is 1.7GB that you need, of the 4GB available. Samsung has dramatically improved the operation and cleaning with the S8, but it is still less fluid than a OnePlus or a Pixel.
4. – It has to be a rugged, sophisticated phone
A phone, like any gadget, has something very subjective in its design. Almost all of them are similar and it is up to you to decide which one you like the best, so there we can not value much. Yes we can evaluate if the quality of construction or materials are better or worse.
Normally we find two types of materials, metal and plastic , the latter being the usual in the short history of these pots. In the high range the use of metallic materials has been imposed, although the odd bet on glass to get more attractive results, but also less resistant.
We can not expect an indestructible thing when the brands themselves launch telephone renewals every year, but it is a reality that brands have made great advances in recent years: more modern and worked materials, additional protections such as Gorilla Glass .
At this point of the film all high-end phones are water resistant (IP68), and it is a specification that will gradually spread. If you can access a phone like this, it is highly recommended for protection and ease of cleaning.
Finally there is the color, brands have taken the quiet to change the color of metals and plastic easily, without losing quality. I’m not the one who has to tell each one how his cell phone should be, but the textures and tones they offer are very grateful: I’ll keep the matte black phones .
5. – The winning horse is Snapdragon
When I spend money on a phone I like it to be modern in all its components, also in its main hardware, but the reality is that it is not as noticeable as they want us to appear. It is also true that the Snapdragons that appear in the market change slightly from one model to another, none, in recent years, has been a revolution . Rather they fix problems and improve something in energy efficiency.
The little improvement that we find year after year in the chipsets we are going to notice if we see it with the perspective of more than two years. The more powerful the better
In the middle range I would always look at something that had a Snapdragon 600 series, and if my budget is higher, then I would bet on a Snapdragon 835 , without disgust at 820/821, if the price deserves it. In iPhone there is little to choose from, they have the fastest processors in tasks that have to do with a single core, everything is optimized to the maximum.
Outside of Qualcomm I can only recommend two things, in my experience, the hardware that Samsung makes called Exynos , and the Kirin of Huawei. In both cases we have solutions at the level in power and connectivity that the Snapdragon. I do not like MediaTek too much.
Having the best hardware does not guarantee you the best experience either, there’s a lot to do with the operating system itself, its user interface or the bloatware that the manufacturers put into it. It will also help a lot the amount of RAM we have, along with a fast and modern storage memory.
Why bet on a very powerful hardware ? It is the option if you are interested in playing demanding titles, use demanding applications such as photo editors, or be prepared to last a couple of years without problems. If what you are going is to use the phone for WhatsApp, with a mid-range quality you have plenty.
Speaking of photos, that a phone has a first level camera is linked to having a chipset of the same status, it takes a lot of process power to deal with guarantees with the results. More now than with the double cameras there are many calculations to be made, what we call computational photography.
6. – Not much faster networks and payments with the mobile
We could expect that the connectivity in our mobile devices changes at a complicated speed to assimilate, but it is not like that, the infrastructures are slow to catch up, so there are things like the 5G that we will not see in the next two years .
Keeping in mind that the 4G is going to accompany us this time, what we have to look at is that the LTE category is as fast as possible (16,15,12), here is a list with those phones . In addition to this I would take into account the support of band 20 (800MHz) which is a space that is going to be used more and more in Spain for 4G, so if we have it we will be cured in health.
Finally we have short-range connectivity. It would not make sense that we did not choose a phone without NFC , it is the key for mobile payments . Jumping to Bluetooth, the current offer with 5.0 is short but very interesting, as it is giving us more range and speed, while special things like the use of two headphones that Samsung has implemented . Having Snapdragon 835 opens this door for you.
About WiFi connectivity, because things go slowly with new things projected – ad , there are no phones yet – but they always take a while to establish themselves. The most interesting thing to keep in mind is the ac support, since the phone will work with cleaner, less saturated signals.
7. – At least 3,000mAh of battery. Not without fast loading
My recommendation, regardless of the level of the phone, is that the battery is at least 3,000 mAh . As telephones are, it is an amount sufficient to withstand the day with moderate use. If you are a very demanding user – games, calls, series, networks -, better strip for now that is closer to 3,500mAh. You will spend the most peaceful day.
The manufacturers have educated us that our phone lasts, hopefully, a day: at least we can make fast charges during the day
The other important thing that we have to take into account is the fast loading. For manufacturers it is impossible to invent a phone that lasts much longer, no brand or operating system does, so one way to improve the experience is to educate ourselves in filling the battery.
Fortunately, with fast loading systems we can raise the percentage with small loads during the day. Most modern phones carry the Qualcomm Quick Charge, as an alternative I prefer the system used by Oppo and OnePlus in their phones: faster, safer and more useful.
If what you are asking is for batteries that can be replaced, this is better we forget , it is something that is staying in the past as brands opt for much more complicated, special phone designs. There is no room for a lid that opens or a battery that is replaced.
Recommendation for those that the battery is something essential, go to Android and choose the Huawei Mate 9 . Its 4,000mAh capacity and modern hardware allow you to be a couple of days of work without loading.
8. – The internal memory never left over
An aspect that will be quite secondary for some, very important for others. If I’m investing heavily in a phone I would not look at anything that does not have at least 32GB of storage, regardless of whether it can be expanded or not with cards (something that is increasingly happening in the background).
Especially in the case of people who have their cell phone as the main video and photo camera, the memory will never be left over.
Obviously in lower ranges the amount of memory they offer us is not that high, but I would not content myself with less than 16GB. In any case, as soon as we start recording videos and downloading applications – without taking into account the system itself – the memory fills up faster than it seems.
I would say that the ideal thing to do is to backup what we care about, and to keep the phone a little bit, but in the end few do that and it is better that we go loose of space. If you are a ‘mobile photographer’ that does not scare you choose 128GB of memory , there are options like OnePlus that offer it for a fair price.
We do not pay attention to what they sell us on the cloud, it is very good to have a parallel accommodation for many things, but it is not available to us instantaneously, we do not count it as storage space.
The improvement in memory technology is something that is becoming common in the high-end, but we have to look in detail if we like to know what we pay for: the most modern storage is UFS 2.1 , while in RAM we have have to look at LPDDR4X . In both cases we have more speed and efficiency.
9. – Please, stereo speakers
How important is the audio to you? I do not mean the quality of calls, this is something that is more or less overcome, all manufacturers have a good level in their teams. I mean the speakers, the dedicated hardware that they implement to make your phone a good source of audio .
Wonderful displays accompanied by a mediocre sound, let’s make an effort with this
All this is not so exploited, most brands have to make an effort to offer better solutions. Few are those that offer you a stereo speaker system that allows us to listen to “hands-free” content such as video calls, calls or movies. Without going crazy with the stridency.
Having the speakers on the front seems to me a better option, we do not cover them with our hands or when placing them on a surface. Phones that I have in good esteem for these things that we are commenting: HTC U11 , ZTE Axon 7, Sony Xperia XZ , Huawei Mate 9 , the latest iPhones .
On connectors? Much mess with this right now, there are already several brands that forgot the jack and want you to use special connectors. I like that the ports are modernized but in practice they are taking things away from me: I can not charge while I listen to music through headphones, for example. In any case, I would always choose that my phone came with USB-C , reversible is equal to comfort.
10. – Recognize your footprint, your face and your eyes
This is also something quite optional. In the last two seasons we have seen how the authentication methods of telephones were democratized , reaching biometric systems in lower ranges and obviously becoming something normal among the most expensive terminals.
Having a Google or Apple phone is being updated faster on security issues. Another issue is the authentication systems
The new wave is in front of us, adding innovative security methods such as the iris sensor or facial recognition . For the first, additional hardware is needed, for the second, with a front camera it is practically possible.
They are alternatives less secure than the footprint, but also comfortable and fast. I do not lose sleep if the phone you buy does not have them, but you know it’s something that is going to become normal: LG already has it in the mid-range .
iOS or Android, a long way together
With the Google platform we have dozens of possible options, with iPhone, the thing is reduced to practically two models, and it is a trend that will not change in coming years. Anyone who is a phone user Apple will be happy to continue as is, but you will be surprised how well Android works in a well optimized phone, such as Google Pixel or OnePlus . Android is more flexible , it allows you to do more things.
Sadly there are only two options in the market to follow in coming years: Android or iOS. A high-end phone purchased today should receive updates a couple of years
The opposite case seems more complicated to assimilate, an Android user will be a bit more limited in options and interface, or at least that is my experience: iOS is simple, functional, but more closed.
Although I already bet every year for the operating system of Google, being fair I have to say that if Android customization is not very basic, I almost prefer the set that IOS offers . The support and optimization in the case of the Apple phone also seems better. If you are a user of the ecosystem of Apple products, better to stay on iPhone.
Android will have no problem in assimilating the good things that iPhone does, and will invent many in the coming months, the other way around will be more complicated since Apple does not pay so much attention to others to make its way. A big difference we will find in those who know how to better integrate augmented reality in their platforms and I think that those in Cupertino are making great strides in this.
I would not choose any phone that did not already come with Android Nougat (7.0), it is difficult for manufacturers to update their creatures, as to start late. Apart from redesign, greater personalization and functionalities, what is really important is that it is more efficient, consuming less thanks to an evolved Doze. The graphic performance is at a new level thanks to the Vulkan API and we have support for Google’s virtual reality, Daydream.
The need to change
The brands will renew their phones every year, at the most, every 18 months . Between all we are going to create an expectation before the new product, and somehow we let ourselves be carried away by the novelties, that many times we do not know how to see fast if they are really relevant or a small step in the way.
The phone you are using right now is probably fine, with a slight loss of autonomy and the odd scratch, but I live to endure another season, think again . It is already in the economy of each one to renew, also in the valuation that our current model has, if we are going to sell it before buying the new one.
Reflecting on the money to spend on a product, I am of the opinion that it is smart to look at high-end models from the previous year , or buy things that are fairer by price, and not have to pay a million for the novelty. At the same time I justify that it pays a lot for a device that will be 90% of the day with us: it is our communication tool, our first computer, it is leisure in the palm of your hand.
If you are destined to change, I recommend betting on phones that cost just enough and offer a lot: Xiaomi Mi6 , OnePlus 5 (or 3T if you find it), Honor 8/9 and Huawei P10 . If the budget is not a problem, you know: the latest iPhone , Google Pixel or Galaxy S8 . Finally we have the always smart solution to go to a high range last year.
The life cycle should be longer
Once reviewed all the points we wanted, we have to say that there are models better designed to hold more time with us, and that is almost always related to software, so, I would always recommend looking at devices such as Nexus or iPhone : without detracting from the work of others, Apple and Google will always strive to ensure that their reference models receive news from their platforms.
When will it stop being your efficient phone? We could say that it is when I can not receive a major update of the system, with new features and applications that the team can no longer support.
Sometimes it may be due to the manufacturer’s laziness , sometimes because we have been left behind. If I had to put a date, we could say that a couple of years is a good average age for a phone of a demanding user, who already starts to scratch with the new and have less battery life. A good, well-maintained phone can spend three years without problem.
The modular telephone as a solution?
Although commercially the idea does not curdle, insists on replacing parts of the phone, creating modular accessories that give you special functions
A very logical solution, on paper, is that the main elements of the phone are modular, allowing us to change or update the device according to our needs: improve the camera, update the battery or get new and specific functionalities .
This the reality is that it has not come to fruition, neither LG nor Motorola have broken the market with their options; we have not seen many alternative projects succeed.
It’s not exactly a modular element, but it’s fair to say that right now we have Samsung working on transforming your phone into a computer with DeX (previously Microsoft with Continuum). There is a journey in this too, each generation the mobiles are more powerful and capable.
Although we do not market a product, we believe that the company that has taken the idea of a modular phone more seriously is Google. Project Ara had offered demonstrations and promises, accompanied by so many delays that ended up diluting the project. As this went dark, another light lit up in the Facebook offices .
The last proposal that would be sold comes from the father of Android, Andy Rubin , and is called Essential Phone. We have an Android phone, with some frames and a very clean design: there are no logos or denominations anywhere. We also have double camera. Your starting price, $ 699