Fellow Technophiles (and non-techies out there), are you looking for a new smartphone but you’re confused because of how there are so many of them now in the market? Read this guide to help you decide the perfect smartphone.
- There are a multitude of displays on smartphones on the market, the common ones being IPS LCD and AMOLEDs. AMOLEDs are typically found on higher-midrange smartphones like the Realme 7 Pro and on Flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S21 series. IPS LCDs are found on budget and lower-midrange phones.
- IPS (In-Plane Switching) displays are cheaper to replace and cost less to manufacture. IPS LCDs use a polarised backlight which run on a colour filter. Vertical and Horizontal filters on the sides of the liquid crystal help in controlling brightness and tell whether each individual pixel is on or off.
- IPS LCDs have good viewing angles, has great clarity as well as sharpness, and have accurate colours all around. However, since individual pixels are backlit (including blacks), contrast and blackness can suffer. These displays also consume more battery even when on stand-by because of the backlight.
- AMOLEDs (Active Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode) do not need a backlight and instead, pixels are lit separately (Active Matrix part) on top of a TFT (thin film transistor) that passes electricity through organic compounds (OLED part). In the simplest sense, AMOLED use electricity to generate light on each individual pixel, think of them as individual light bulbs that light simultaneously.
- AMOLED displays are known of their vivid and vibrant colours, deep blacks, and accurate colour reproduction. They also save battery better than IPS LCDs (in theory, still depends on how you use your phone). However, they suffer from burn-in as the quality of the pixel degrades, they are more expensive to manufacture and repair and have lesser sharpness than LCD when viewing up-close.
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- Phones these days are constructed using plastic, glass or metal. Depending on the manufacturer, these phones have different finishes and styling to make them appealing. For instance, the Realme C2 has a diamond-cut styling on the back
- Most budget phones are built with a plastic frame and plastic back. This is because plastic is cheaper to manufacturer and replicate. They are not as slippery as glass, have a lot of colours to choose from and they are also good for manufacturers that wanted a removable battery. Plastic phones may be uncomfortable to hold and they can also look cheap, the most infamous example being the Samsung Galaxy S5 with its band-aid back.
- Metal has also seen as a good building material, they make phones look premium and rugged. The most common metal seen on smartphones is aluminum as they are cheaper to manufacture and are easily found. The aluminum used on smartphones are very thin and light to lessen weight. (They are still heavier than most plastics). However, metallic phones are easy to bend and chip, and radio frequencies have a harder time reaching your phone, which is why some metal phones include antenna bands to make them flow easier. Because metals are conductors of heat, most users may feel their phone getting warmer faster than other types of materials used, even if they are used within the same temperature.
- Glass recently also saw its use when building smartphones. They are seen on a company’s top-of-the-line phones such as the Galaxy S21 family and the iPhone 12 series. Radio waves transfer easier with glass and thus preventing the need of a antenna band cutout. Phones that use glass as the building material use tempered glass such as Gorilla Glass, making them scratch resistant. They feel great in the hands and make phones look more premium than metals. However, a legend once said: “Glass is glass, and glass breaks”. They are slippery too, making glass phones fall much easier than metals or plastics.
- There are a multitude of screen sizes today on the market, the smallest one available today being 5 inches. Most phones these days have large screen sizes measuring 6 inches and even 7 inches if you’re going for phablet levels. Choose the screen size that is comfortable for you to hold, makes you do tasks easier (such as gaming or watching videos) and easy for you to carry.
- Are you into photography/videography? Better know which camera suits you best. Consider their aperture, focal length, megapixel size pixel micron size, manual settings, camera systems, OIS/EIS support, type of sensor used, sensor size and the camera software. You may also include RAW support and video quality.
- Most midrangers will have the following setup: An ultrawide camera, a wide camera, a depth sensor and/or macro. There are phones with a telephoto camera instead of an ultrawide, such as the Realme 6 Pro. There are also phones with dual camera setup (usually a wide and a depth sensor) on the front for selfies
- Most of the time, the quality of a photo is done through software. Take a look at the Google Pixel for example, up until the Pixel 3A, the company only use one camera and let the software do the rest. Even with a single camera, it can defeat midrangers with multiple cameras and is on-par with flagships in terms of quality. This AI algorithm is one of the primary reasons why the Google Camera is a favoured port among Android smartphones.
- Megapixel is not everything. Sometimes, the 48mp is just marketing hype to get you to buy phones. Higher MP may mean better sharpness and detail but may also cause your photos to be oversharpened. Also consider the shutter speed, micron pixel size, focal length and sensor size.
- When choosing smartphones, the micron pixel size matter. Unlike DSLRs, phones cannot switch between lenses and so manufacturers have to put that camera in into an already confined space. Pixel size are measured in micrometres (µm) and the larger the µm, the more light can enter, so a phone with 1.5µm pixel size can take brighter images than a 1.0µm one because more light can get in.
- Shutter speed is how long the shutter is open before it captures the image. Essentially, it measures how fast your phone could take a picture. A slower shutter speed takes more light in because it is much more exposed but also makes images blurry, on the other hand, a fast shutter speed makes photos steadier but also makes images darker.
- The focal length of the camera measures how wide or how narrow you can take an image. They are measured in milimetres (mm). The longer the focal length, the narrower the image but also has larger magnification. On the other hand, the shorter the focal length, the wider the angle but also with less magnification.
- Take into account the sensor size as well. Phones are not DSLRs so they are bound to have a smaller sensor size. The smaller the sensor, the less light will be able to enter and therefore, could cause more digital noise (those grainy things you see on your image). Conversely, larger sensors let more light in and have less digital noise at the cost of weight and space. This is why 48mp cameras need to have a larger space to an already confined space on the phone, to have less noise.
- Consider the sensor being used. Major manufacturers of CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) camera sensors include Sony, Samsung and Omnivision. Their photo quality differs for every smartphone and some manufacturers may partner up with other optics manufacturers, like Nokia with Zeiss and Huawei with Leica. It is a personal choice what quality you think it’s best. Every person has different tastes so yours may differ as well.
- Consider the Camera type. Below are their descriptions:
- Wide- The standard camera found on phones. They take a wide angle view of roughly 28mm focal length.
- Ultrawide- Takes Wide angle camera to the next level. It has an increased viewing angle than wide cameras, usually 120*
- Telephoto- These cameras have a large focal length and can digitally zoom, usually 2x or 3x, without losing quality. The perfect lens to capture the moon.
- Monochrome- These sensors are used to take monochrome images and/or for depth.
- Depth Sensor- This is the main reason why phones can take pictures in a “bokeh” effect. They help blur the background in order to create said effect.
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