Buying a smartphone in 2018 isn’t easy because there are a variety of devices on the market. Making sure you buy a smartphone which is fast, and remains fast for a long time, is even more difficult, but today I bring you some tips to help identify and avoid the weak performers.
In this blog, I will be primarily talking about Android devices, but given the popularity of iPhones, I will take a moment to talk about the current iPhone lineup. My personal recommendation is to not buy an iPhone which Apple isn’t currently selling, so this restricts us to the iPhones 6S, 6S+ and SE at the low end of the scale.
The iPhones 6S, 6S+ and SE all have 2GB of RAM and Apple’s A9 CPU, which isn’t far behind the A10 Fusion CPU in the iPhone 7. In terms of performance, the iPhones 6S, 6S+ and SE should be fast devices for a few years yet. Historically, Apple have provided 4 to 5 years of iOS support for the iPhones from their release. If Apple follows their track history, support for the iPhones 6S, 6S+ and SE should easily last until 2020. In my opinion, this makes them the minimum iPhone models you should buy in 2018. If you do buy an iPhone, I would also suggest upgrading to 32GB or more, because 16GB fills up incredibly quickly.
There is far more variety in the Android market of smartphones, which makes it more complicated when choosing a smartphone. The two crucial components to look at are the CPU and the RAM. There are other parts of smartphones which play a part in the speed, such as the storage type and the OS, but these are slightly less easy to gauge before buying. If you want to find out about the specifications of a smartphone, I suggest trying gsmarena.com or the manufacturer’s website.
In 2018, I think that 2GB RAM is bare minimum you should consider if you want a good smartphone experience. The Android OS itself consumes a large amount of RAM, and 1GB simply doesn’t leave enough space for your apps. In my opinion, 2GB is great for everyday tasks, and it leaves enough leg room for most apps you might throw at it.
My old smartphone running out of RAM
If you have the option, getting 3GB (or more) is a good idea, even if you don’t need it right now. Most people hang onto their smartphones for 2 years or longer, so it’s best to future-proof wherever possible. If you’re the type who tends to use lots of apps, particularly social media apps, then 3GB will be great for you. Social media apps are continuously running in the background to retrieve messages and notifications, so the extra RAM allows them to do that while not slowing down your device.
There are many different ways of ranking the CPU in a smartphone, but the clock speed is always a good place to start. The clock speed is measured in GHz and it tells us how many instructions the processor can execute each second. Long story short, the higher the better. I would recommend ~1.4 GHz as the lowest for a fast experience.
Another measure of the CPUs ability is how many cores it’s got. Octa-core CPUs are making their way into many different smartphones nowadays, so there is no reason to settle for a quad-core CPU, especially when the price gap is so small. Even the Moto G5 manages to pack an octa-core Snapdragon 430 for under £150.
Snapdragon CPUs are very common in smartphones, and they tend to perform well across the board. The current lineup includes 4xx, 6xx and 8xx series CPUs, where the middle digit indicates the generation and the last digit is for minor variations of the same chip. Here’s what you need to know about the various generations:
The 4xx CPUs provide good performance for everyday tasks such as using social media apps and light web browsing, particularly the newer Snapdragon 430.
The 6xx CPUs are one step above, offering better performance and premium features such as 4K recording and faster 4G LTE speeds.
As you may have guessed, the 8xx CPUs are top-of-the-line. They offer the best performance and features in current Smartphones, particularly the Snapdragon 835 which is used in many of the latest flagship devices, such as the Google Pixel 2.
While the storage capacity doesn’t play a big role in the speed of a smartphone, running out of storage certainly does. Shockingly, there are still some smartphones being sold with 8GB of internal storage, which is completely insufficient. It’s easy to fill 8GB of storage just by updating the pre-installed apps, forget about installing your own apps. 16GB is the bare minimum amount of storage you should consider, but I usually recommend 32GB of storage for a painless experience. Remember, MicroSD cards are only good for storing photos, videos and music - not apps.
If you're buying a new smartphone in 2018, ensuring it has a minimum of 2GB of RAM is very important, because the RAM holds all of your active apps. Running out of RAM makes smartphones crawl at a snail's pace, so we should avoid this at all costs. Future-proofing is also important, you should think about how long you want to keep your smartphone and whether it will stand up to the test of time.
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