What are 5 specific things you look for when buying a smartphone?

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TheMystic

Senior Member
Mar 18, 2017
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469
I think we have come to a point where smartphones have reached a mature phase in product design where there can only be marginal improvements in terms of performance and overall experience.

Year on year, there are marginal improvements in hardware and a lot of money is spent in marketing how the current version is an improvement over previous version. Tests are 'designed' to show the current version being 'x%' better than previous iteration, although there is hardly any noticeable difference in real life use.

Today, fortunately, the premium flagships are hardly any better than phones selling at half the price in terms of performance and overall experience. The primary or only differentiating factor is the Camera. So if you buy a $1,000 phone, it is just as good as a $500 phone in terms of performance and overall experience in day-to-day use. The other $500 is primarily for the camera! Ofcourse, there are some other benefits too that come for this premium, such as IP certification, 1 or 2 years of additional software support, etc.

With that background, what are specific things you look for when buying a smartphone today?

Here are some unique features offered by brands:

SAMSUNG

1. Best cameras on an Android phone. If you have the budget, go for a Samsung flagship because the camera experience is best. Other brands are offering very good cameras too, but then overall Samsung leads here (Pixel is close).

2. Silent Call Recording (as of OneUI 5.0): Fortunately, this feature is still present in Samsung phones when other brands (including OnePlus, Xiaomi, etc.) have unfortunately moved on to replacing their dialers with Google Dialer.


OnePlus/ Xiaomi/ Oppo/ Vivo/ Realme/ Redmi/ iQOO

1. Superfast charging: This is one area where Chinese brands have nailed it. The dual battery system, and charging technology that limits heating to the charger instead of the phone make this aspect an enviable feature for owners of other brands. Not sure why Samsung and other brands are not adopting similar technology.

2. Specialized cooling hardware: Specialized cooling technologies like vapour chamber, use of graphene, etc. to reduce thermal throttling is another area where they are doing exceedingly well.

3. Built-in firewall: This is one outstanding OS feature that only some brands like OnePlus, Oppo and Xiaomi (including Redmi) provide. It is not available on Vivo. Not sure about other brands.


Pixel/ Nothing/ Motorola

Stock Android experience
which leaves a lot to desire.
 
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Dayuser

Recognized Contributor
Jun 26, 2016
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Moto G7 Power
For premium smartphone

1. Stock Android
2. Decent cameras
3. Snapdragon processor
4. "Big battery" at least 5000 mAh or near
5. Build quality (metal frame)
6. Price under $1000 / 1000€ not over

For budjet smartphone

1. Stock Android
2. Decent cameras
3. Snapdragon processor
4. "Big battery" at least 5000 mAh or near
5. Price under $500 / 500€

I did not mentioned screens because i prefer LCD screen but most premium smartphones these days comes with oled screen. It's really hard to find premium high performance phone with LCD screen.
 
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TheMystic

Senior Member
Mar 18, 2017
975
469
For premium smartphone

1. Stock Android
2. Decent cameras
3. Snapdragon processor
4. "Big battery" at least 5000 mAh or near
5. Build quality (metal frame)
6. Price under $1000 / 1000€ not over

For budjet smartphone

1. Stock Android
2. Decent cameras
3. Snapdragon processor
4. "Big battery" at least 5000 mAh or near
5. Price under $500 / 500€

I did not mentioned screens because i prefer LCD screen but most premium smartphones these days comes with oled screen. It's really hard to find premium high performance phone with LCD screen.
Stock Android is quite basic and leaves a lot to desire for. I'm talking of features, and not UI. Examples would be scrolling screenshots, screen recording, gestures for activating features (e.g. 3 finger screenshot), etc.

Snapdragon processor: why is that a must? The Mediatek Dimensity series of processors are quite capable, and so is Exynos. I don't go by standard tests and numbers shown by them. They don't reflect real-life usage, and can be manipulated.

I'm happy you didn't mention 'glass back', because without wireless charging it is a liability.

And why 'decent' cameras for a premium phone? Great camera should be the criteria since that is what you are paying a premium for.

For me, this is how they would be:

Premium Phone

1. Best cameras
2. Silent call recording

So I'll choose Samsung as this is the only brand today with the above features.

Budget Phone

1. 3.5 mm headphone jack
2. Infrared (IR) blaster

So I'll choose a Xiaomi (Redmi) phone in this category as this is the only brand offering these features.

I'm not mentioning others like display, storage, ram, etc. as pretty much all premium flagship phones offer the same hardware. Same holds true for performance and battery life.
 

Dayuser

Recognized Contributor
Jun 26, 2016
1,905
7,129
Finland
Moto G7 Power
And why 'decent' cameras for a premium phone? Great camera should be the criteria since that is what you are paying a premium for.
I mentioned "desent" in both categories because it's mainly up to user who knows what is great camera. All premium and flagship have good cameras, or at least main camera.

Snapdragon because GCam ports mainly works best on Snapdragon phones.
 
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TheMystic

Senior Member
Mar 18, 2017
975
469
I mentioned "desent" in both categories because it's mainly up to user who knows what is great camera. All premium and flagship have good cameras, or at least main camera.

Snapdragon because GCam ports mainly works best on Snapdragon phones.
Do you really need GCam for a premium flagship phone? I think the stock cameras do a great job.

I see GCam as a nice solution for mid rangers that lack premium camera hardware and software processing required for excellent shots.
 
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Dayuser

Recognized Contributor
Jun 26, 2016
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7,129
Finland
Moto G7 Power
Do you really need GCam for a premium flagship phone? I think the stock cameras do a great job.

I see GCam as a nice solution for mid rangers that lack premium camera hardware and software processing required for excellent shots.
No not really needs but it's a choice. It's really what people like.

Let's say it this way and this works for many brands.

If you want over saturated colors and over sharpened pictures, then use stock camera. If you want more natural colors and decent sharp.. use gcam.

and sometimes stock cameras noise processing is too much.

But all these what i said is small things and most of people doesn't really care :ROFLMAO:
 
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TheMystic

Senior Member
Mar 18, 2017
975
469
No not really needs but it's a choice. It's really what people like.

Let's say it this way and this works for many brands.

If you want over saturated colors and over sharpened pictures, then use stock camera. If you want more natural colors and decent sharp.. use gcam.

and sometimes stock cameras noise processing is too much.

But all these what i said is small things and most of people doesn't really care :ROFLMAO:
It is true that often the difference in quality isn't substantial among premium smartphone cameras, and also that the end result is subjective. The cameras on my S22U are very good, and I never felt a need for GCam.

GCam is often found to over sharpen things a bit though.

On a personal level, i prefer great shots over natural ones, as long as saturation and other aspects aren't overdone.
 

blackhawk

Senior Member
Jun 23, 2020
11,490
4,684
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+
Expandable storage, 1tb minimum.
I demand a dual drive device. Screw Google cattle herding the masses for their self serving ends. To hell with the idea cloud as a viable alternative. Right from the pages of MS's playbook of control.
Spen.
Square display corners, blah, blah, blah.

It's a lost cause... lol, I'll be using the N10+'s/Android 9 and 10 for another 3-5 years. Zero faith in Google or Samsung to get their sorry assets back in line ever again at this point. Junkware.
 
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TheMystic

Senior Member
Mar 18, 2017
975
469
Expandable storage, 1tb minimum.
I demand a dual drive device. Screw Google cattle herding the masses for their self serving ends. To hell with the idea cloud as a viable alternative. Right from the pages of MS's playbook of control.
Spen.
Square display corners, blah, blah, blah.

It's a lost cause... lol, I'll be using the N10+'s/Android 9 and 10 for another 3-5 years. Zero faith in Google or Samsung to get their sorry assets back in line ever again at this point. Junkware.
Expandable storage is something that only very few mid range devices offer. With higher internal storage and cloud services, OEMs have made it clear that it is not something they are willing to support.

A lot of investments are being made in technology and i don't want to lose out on these advancements on a personal level, as some of these features are truly incredible. But I am careful of granting permissions like camera, microphone, sms, etc. to apps and I don't use voice assistants (I'm not comfortable with the idea that something is constantly listening to me or my environment).

But it is a tradeoff, and it has to be that way. Without input, one cannot make use of technology. So everyone must part with an amount of data they are comfortable with. There should be very strong regulations where data being collected is strictly limited and some types of data must never be collected. GDPR is a welcome step in that direction, but is grossly inadequate and therefore ineffective. While it has forced companies to show a Privacy Policy message prompt, it has hardly done anything to what data is being collected, and if it is actually necessary for the product/ service being offered in return.
 

contrinsan

Senior Member
Jan 23, 2013
421
220
i always worry ONLY about 2 things when i buy a new phone :
1. can it be rooted
2. is there custom firmware (or is someone working on it)
This is about the only thing i worry about.
i will check later if i can also make a phonecall or take a picture also :)
 

TheMystic

Senior Member
Mar 18, 2017
975
469
i always worry ONLY about 2 things when i buy a new phone :
1. can it be rooted
2. is there custom firmware (or is someone working on it)
This is about the only thing i worry about.
i will check later if i can also make a phonecall or take a picture also :)
I stopped doing that a few years back. I would rather trust an OEM software than one made by an unknown developer. Besides, some of the developers are very arrogant.

And today, there isn't really anything a rooted device can do which a non-rooted device can't. The risk/ effort is not worth any potential marginal benefit.
 

Danish on XDA

Member
Jan 21, 2022
43
3
i always worry ONLY about 2 things when i buy a new phone :
1. can it be rooted
2. is there custom firmware (or is someone working on it)
This is about the only thing i worry about.
i will check later if i can also make a phonecall or take a picture also :)
same :D but i look for like famous phones among XDA developers
 

contrinsan

Senior Member
Jan 23, 2013
421
220
I stopped doing that a few years back. I would rather trust an OEM software than one made by an unknown developer. Besides, some of the developers are very arrogant.

And today, there isn't really anything a rooted device can do which a non-rooted device can't. The risk/ effort is not worth any potential marginal benefit.
well, i am running stock for 2 months now and i wish i never flashed stock android 12 because i don't find a way to go back to custom firmware but some things i really miss
- used to have phone call recording,
- adblocking without vpn or heavy battery use,
-youtube vanced working properly,
-wifi and 4g optimized
-battery use optimized and deep sleep working properly (my stock android 12 samsung s10e can run 8 up to 12 hours when i am at work, it is 12-18 hours when running CF. I can no longer survive a day at work without extra charging..
- change splashscreen, boot and shutdown logo, change whatever sound in the firmware,..
- viper sound mod for good sound experience or removing all kinds of annoying restrictions for louder music
- something i miss a lot : configuration of phone like 2 rows instead of one at the top (very uselful to have time with seconds and date on first line and all the notifications go on 2nd line)
- i also miss android auto being able to run other apps,
- i can only shutdown or restart the phone, no other options,
- i can no longer take screenshots from a payment in my banking app (and many other apps), - i can no longer decide i want 7 icons in the first line of the dropdown menu (and many, many, many, many other handy features)
these are just a couple i think about, there is also Xposed with so many handy things
Also if you want a little bit of privacy it is not possible on a phone that is stock android, it is also full with rubbish bloatware such as facebook and other spy programs that i can not remove unless when rooted.
i really see no advantage in having stock android, it makes me feel as if i don't own half of the phone
 

Skorpion96

Senior Member
Aug 28, 2014
368
87
Palermo
This is my list: is it bootloader unlockable?
Is it supported by lineage os and twrp?
Is it powerful enough?
If these are yes I could consider buying the device
Price under 500 €
 

TheMystic

Senior Member
Mar 18, 2017
975
469
well, i am running stock for 2 months now and i wish i never flashed stock android 12 because i don't find a way to go back to custom firmware but some things i really miss
- used to have phone call recording,
- adblocking without vpn or heavy battery use,
-youtube vanced working properly,
-wifi and 4g optimized
-battery use optimized and deep sleep working properly (my stock android 12 samsung s10e can run 8 up to 12 hours when i am at work, it is 12-18 hours when running CF. I can no longer survive a day at work without extra charging..
- change splashscreen, boot and shutdown logo, change whatever sound in the firmware,..
- viper sound mod for good sound experience or removing all kinds of annoying restrictions for louder music
- something i miss a lot : configuration of phone like 2 rows instead of one at the top (very uselful to have time with seconds and date on first line and all the notifications go on 2nd line)
- i also miss android auto being able to run other apps,
- i can only shutdown or restart the phone, no other options,
- i can no longer take screenshots from a payment in my banking app (and many other apps), - i can no longer decide i want 7 icons in the first line of the dropdown menu (and many, many, many, many other handy features)
these are just a couple i think about, there is also Xposed with so many handy things
Also if you want a little bit of privacy it is not possible on a phone that is stock android, it is also full with rubbish bloatware such as facebook and other spy programs that i can not remove unless when rooted.
i really see no advantage in having stock android, it makes me feel as if i don't own half of the phone
1. Samsung is the only (or one of very few) OEM offering silent call recording feature today. Since Samsung flagship has (one of) the best cameras on any smartphone, this is my choice of Android for now.

2. Adblocking is possible using private DNS server (dns.adguard.com) that doesn't require VPN or drain battery.

3. Vanced YouTube (non-root) works perfectly fine on Android 13 (tested on OneUI, OOS and MIUI).

4. Viper makes a marginal difference today, especially over Bluetooth. This makes it unattractive given the efforts required to make it work today.

Many of the other stuff you mentioned are available only on custom ROMs, which I am unlikely to return to. They are non-essential and mostly 'fancy' stuff one can live without.

I use Google apps and some of their services (Photos, Drive, Gmail, YouTube, etc.) are very important for me. I have never seen any significant battery life gains with any custom ROM or tweaks as i can't uninstall Google Services.

Netguard does an excellent job of blocking unwanted apps and services from connecting to the internet.

There were essentially only a handful of things (adblocking, viper, titanium backups, ad-free YouTube) why I was rooting my devices, and pretty much all of those have proper non-root replacements today.
 

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    I think we have come to a point where smartphones have reached a mature phase in product design where there can only be marginal improvements in terms of performance and overall experience.

    Year on year, there are marginal improvements in hardware and a lot of money is spent in marketing how the current version is an improvement over previous version. Tests are 'designed' to show the current version being 'x%' better than previous iteration, although there is hardly any noticeable difference in real life use.

    Today, fortunately, the premium flagships are hardly any better than phones selling at half the price in terms of performance and overall experience. The primary or only differentiating factor is the Camera. So if you buy a $1,000 phone, it is just as good as a $500 phone in terms of performance and overall experience in day-to-day use. The other $500 is primarily for the camera! Ofcourse, there are some other benefits too that come for this premium, such as IP certification, 1 or 2 years of additional software support, etc.

    With that background, what are specific things you look for when buying a smartphone today?

    Here are some unique features offered by brands:

    SAMSUNG

    1. Best cameras on an Android phone. If you have the budget, go for a Samsung flagship because the camera experience is best. Other brands are offering very good cameras too, but then overall Samsung leads here (Pixel is close).

    2. Silent Call Recording (as of OneUI 5.0): Fortunately, this feature is still present in Samsung phones when other brands (including OnePlus, Xiaomi, etc.) have unfortunately moved on to replacing their dialers with Google Dialer.


    OnePlus/ Xiaomi/ Oppo/ Vivo/ Realme/ Redmi/ iQOO

    1. Superfast charging: This is one area where Chinese brands have nailed it. The dual battery system, and charging technology that limits heating to the charger instead of the phone make this aspect an enviable feature for owners of other brands. Not sure why Samsung and other brands are not adopting similar technology.

    2. Specialized cooling hardware: Specialized cooling technologies like vapour chamber, use of graphene, etc. to reduce thermal throttling is another area where they are doing exceedingly well.

    3. Built-in firewall: This is one outstanding OS feature that only some brands like OnePlus, Oppo and Xiaomi (including Redmi) provide. It is not available on Vivo. Not sure about other brands.


    Pixel/ Nothing/ Motorola

    Stock Android experience
    which leaves a lot to desire.
    2
    For premium smartphone

    1. Stock Android
    2. Decent cameras
    3. Snapdragon processor
    4. "Big battery" at least 5000 mAh or near
    5. Build quality (metal frame)
    6. Price under $1000 / 1000€ not over

    For budjet smartphone

    1. Stock Android
    2. Decent cameras
    3. Snapdragon processor
    4. "Big battery" at least 5000 mAh or near
    5. Price under $500 / 500€

    I did not mentioned screens because i prefer LCD screen but most premium smartphones these days comes with oled screen. It's really hard to find premium high performance phone with LCD screen.
    1
    And why 'decent' cameras for a premium phone? Great camera should be the criteria since that is what you are paying a premium for.
    I mentioned "desent" in both categories because it's mainly up to user who knows what is great camera. All premium and flagship have good cameras, or at least main camera.

    Snapdragon because GCam ports mainly works best on Snapdragon phones.
    1
    I mentioned "desent" in both categories because it's mainly up to user who knows what is great camera. All premium and flagship have good cameras, or at least main camera.

    Snapdragon because GCam ports mainly works best on Snapdragon phones.
    Do you really need GCam for a premium flagship phone? I think the stock cameras do a great job.

    I see GCam as a nice solution for mid rangers that lack premium camera hardware and software processing required for excellent shots.
    1
    Do you really need GCam for a premium flagship phone? I think the stock cameras do a great job.

    I see GCam as a nice solution for mid rangers that lack premium camera hardware and software processing required for excellent shots.
    No not really needs but it's a choice. It's really what people like.

    Let's say it this way and this works for many brands.

    If you want over saturated colors and over sharpened pictures, then use stock camera. If you want more natural colors and decent sharp.. use gcam.

    and sometimes stock cameras noise processing is too much.

    But all these what i said is small things and most of people doesn't really care :ROFLMAO: