Buying a new Android smartphone can be quiet a daunting task for the uninitiated. With various models — priced at various levels, running on various processors, with various screens — flooding the market, it can all get a bit overwhelming in the beginning. But fear not, because we’re here to show you how to buy an Android phone that’s perfectly suited to your needs.
When it comes to buying an Android phone, there are the three “Ps” to remember — Price, Performance, and Power. Hitting the sweet spot with all three “Ps” is the key to getting the right Android smartphone.
Note: All prices mentioned are carrier-free and reflect general retail pricing. Prices will vary from country to country and prices of phones gained from carriers via contracts will typically be lower.
Most Android phone are priced between $150 to $700. There are cheaper and more expensive models available as well, but the $80 Android phones are a plain waste of money while the $900 ones are pure ripoffs.
If money is no issue, then for $500-$750 you can get a top-of-the-line phone with all the bells and whistles. Not only that, but the more expensive a phone is, the more future proof it typically is as well thanks to all the features it has. If money is a minor issue, you can still get a pretty good mid-range or previous generation phone for about $250-$500. These phones work well, look good, and are generally compatible with most apps without requiring you to shell out the big(ger) bucks. However, if money is major issue or you’d like to test the waters before fully jumping into the shark tank, you can get a decent entry-level Android phone for about $150 to $250.
An Android phone’s worth is measured by its performance; how well it handles content (including apps, pictures, music, games, and movies) pretty much defines a smartphone’s worthiness as a technological tool. The performance capabilities of Android phones are available in three categories — low-end, mid-end, and high-end.
Low-end performance devices usually feature a 600-1,000 MHz processor, about 256 MB of RAM, low-resolution screens (less than 800×600), and an outdated version of Android. These type of Android smartphones are great for people who are either short on money or don’t want to risk too much in case they don’t end up liking the Android operating system or mobile devices in general.
Up next, we have the mid-end (or mid-range, as some people like to call them) smartphones. These usually hit the sweet spot between performance, price, and screen resolution. These have faster processors — usually between 1,000 MHz single-core to 1,000 MHz dual-core — close to 512 MB of RAM, a decently recent version of the Android operating system, and screens with 800×600 resolutions or higher.
Finally, we have the high-end range of Android smartphones. These $600+ behemoths have it all: massive screens with HD resolutions, powerful Quad-core processors, 1GB of RAM or more, and the latest version of Android (although some do come with latest version of Android minus one, meaning the one before the latest one).
As a general note, a smartphone’s performance is based upon the processor speed (which is affected by the number of cores — single, dual or quad) and the amount of RAM (random access memory) it has. So, the general rule of thumb is the bigger the numbers, the better the phone will be. An example: 800 MHz is better than 600 MHz, and 1.5 GHz is better than 1 GHz (note 1 GHz = 1,000 MHz). And while there is a point of diminishing returns, trust me when I say processor speed makes a huge difference.
We use the word “power” here to refer to a smartphone’s stamina; or in simple terms, how long the battery lasts.
Typically, the more expensive the phone, the larger battery it has. However, larger battery does not always mean longer battery life. You see a high-end phone may have a larger battery than a mid-range or low-end device, but it also has better hardware (larger screen, better resolution, etc.) that suck up more juice while running. Generally speaking, smartphones will only last about a day on average use — no matter how expensive the device is. While there are exceptions to this rule (such as the Motorola DROID Razr Maxx which has been specifically designed to maximize battery life), this holds true in most situations.
The capabilities of a smartphone are like digital locusts… they just consume everything in their way. Indeed, price is not as good a determinant of battery as how you use the device. The more you use the device, the less time it will take before you must charge it again. (Duh.) Not only that but the types of tasks you do also affect battery life. For example, watching movies or playing games drains battery quicker than surfing the web while surfing the web drains battery quicker than checking messages.
While price may not be a huge factor in battery life, my experience has lead me to a different differentiator — manufacturer. You see it may sound odd but some manufacturers are better at power efficiency than others. Generally speaking, I’ve found Motorola to be the best Android manufacturer when it comes to battery life, followed by Samsung in second and HTC in third. The tail is rounded off by ZTE, Huawei, and LG in no particular order.
Conclusion and Recommendations
While it would be simplistic to say price, performance, and power are the only three factors that go into you deciding what is the best Android device for you, they are three important ones. Based on these three factors, the following are our recommendations.
- Low-end ($150-$250): The range of cheap smartphones by ZTE are your best bet when it comes to bang for buck, as their ZTE Skater and ZTE Blade phones feature LCD screens, fairly fast processors, and are easily customizable. Huawei and LG are also strong competitors here. If you are willing to purchase used devices, the Nexus S or the original Samsung Galaxy are excellent devices… you just won’t find any more new ones.
- Mid-end ($250-$500): Almost any high-end device from Samsung and HTC from 2010 to late 2011 now fits into this category, and nothing beats them in terms of power, build quality, and screen resolution. One of your best bets is the Samsung Galaxy S II, which can be had for $300 if you live in the United States. Another great option is the Galaxy Nexus, a $350 device (if you live in the US) that gets software updates directly from Google. Samsung Galaxy Note is another good device but it will cost you towards the higher end of the $250-$500 range.
- High-end ($600-$750): Well, since this is the spend-all-you-can Android smartphone buffet, go for the latest and greatest; at the moment, that happens to be the Samsung Galaxy S III and HTC One X. There are also other options such as the Galaxy Note II or the Motorola DROID Razr MAXX.
Feel free to let us know your thoughts on the process of purchasing Android devices. and provide any recommendations you may have for great Android phones. in the comments below.
[This article has been contributed to dotTech by Mohseen Lala.]
[Image via Wikipedia]