Smartphones have been steadily increasing in price over the last few years. For example, the iPhone 4S was released with a starting price of $199 in the US, but the newly released iPhone 8 starts at $699. Unfortunately, the full price of a smartphone is often hidden in the form of a 2-year contract, so small increases year by year can easily go unnoticed. The fact still remains, a huge amount of money will be leaving your bank account over a 2 year period. Do we really need to be spending this much money on a device which we’ll probably only use for 2 years? I personally don’t think we should, and here’s why.
Compromises you make with a cheap smartphone
When you opt to buy a cheaper smartphone, you often make some compromises. One compromise is that cheaper smartphones often don’t undergo as much in-depth testing than the more expensive flagship smartphones. As a result, it’s not uncommon to find little bugs in the software of cheap smartphones. For example, my Moto G from 2014 had a bug with the signal indicator for the entire 2 years that I had owned it. For me, this was a minor issue because it doesn’t impact the way I use the device or my experience while using it. In this case, I didn’t mind so much because the phone only sold for a bit over £100.
In addition to the software, another compromise you can make is with the camera. Generally speaking, smartphones in the sub-£100 range have awful cameras. Moving up to the £100-200 range should give you a decent camera, but the technology is a few years behind meaning that it might lack more modern features such as image stabilisation. When you spend £200+, the cameras start getting very good indeed. You get the general idea, smartphone cameras tend to follow the trend that more money gives you better photos. At the higher end, the Samsung Galaxy S8 has a fantastic camera, possibly one of the best you can get in a smartphone. It currently sells for £579, but you’re getting your money’s worth. When you reach this price point, it’s very easy to take good photos by just pointing the camera and clicking the button - there’s no need for fiddling with focus and exposure.
In my opinion, the smartphone which strikes the best balance between price and camera quality is the Huawei P10 which currently sells for £429. In addition to taking stunning photos, it’s actually got two rear cameras. One of them has a monochrome sensor which means you can get some really arty photos. Definitely something to consider if you enjoy getting creative with photography.
Get a decent processor and plenty of RAM
I’ve spoken about some of the compromises you make when you buy a cheaper smartphone, but there are some parts of the smartphone don’t improve beyond a certain point. One incredibly important aspect of a smartphone is the performance. Nobody likes waiting around for their smartphone to open an app, and this is all down to the processor and RAM. When buying a smartphone, it’s very easy to find out the specific processor running the show. The manufacturers tend to publish the technical specifications at the bottom of the product pages. If you’re looking for a real powerhouse, the Snapdragon 800 series provide great performance for gaming and intense multitasking. The 600 and 400 series processors are not quite as good, but they’re perfectly good for everyday tasks. The clock speed (shown in GHz) and the number of cores is often a good indicator of the performance. If you’re unsure, I suggest trying out the smartphone in a shop or reading online reviews.
In terms of RAM, I would strongly recommend getting a minimum of 2 GB of RAM for an Android smartphone. Less than 2 GB of RAM will be a struggle because you’ll quickly run out. When you run out of RAM, the whole device slows down and it’ll test your patience. Moving up to 3 GB or 4 GB will show a noticeable improvement because there is more space for running apps and you’re less likely to encounter slowdowns. Smartphones in the £100-200 range vary quite a lot, some have 2 GB but a few have 3 GB. Most of the time, you won’t need any more than 3 or 4 GB of RAM, so bear this in mind when you’re hunting for your next phone.
If you want the absolute best performance from your smartphone without breaking the bank, I would point you towards the OnePlus 5. For £450 you get a whopping 6 GB of RAM and a Snapdragon 835 processor, the same processor you’ll find in most of the high end Android smartphones of 2017. To top it all off, it’s running a very clean version of Android with very few modifications. As a result, the operating system flies through pretty much anything you throw at it.
OnePlus 5 - oneplus.net
Smartphones to match your budget
This blog wouldn’t be complete without recommending some smartphones, so of course here are my favourites at under £200:
If you’re looking for a wallet-friendly smartphone which doesn’t compromise on performance, this one might be right for you. The Alcatel A5 LED has 2 GB of RAM and a reasonably capable processor to keep all your apps running. The camera might not be very good, but you can’t have everything right?
The Moto G5 also has 2 GB, but it has a more capable processor and a far better camera. It also runs a clean version of Android Nougat without any unnecessary skins and software. The £40 step in price is well worth it in my opinion.
At £179, I think the P8 Lite 2017 hits the sweet spot. It’s got 3 GB of RAM and a very snappy processor. Once again, the camera is improved with the price increase and at this price point, you’re getting a pretty good 12MP rear camera with an 8MP front camera.
Huawei P8 Lite 2017
My personal standpoint on this issue is that you don’t need to spend a huge amount of money on a smartphone. There are certain creature comforts from the flagships which you might miss (such as an abundance of accessories) but the most important thing is that you can get your tasks done quickly and effectively. For that, you should focus on the internal specifications. What’s your opinion on smartphone pricing? Do you prefer to keep your money to yourself, or do you prefer to buy the same phones that everybody else uses?
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