Buying the best mobile is not easy for an overwhelmed consumer among a huge offer with hundreds of models for sale and a marketing that promises results that are not always achieved or that requires spending to acquire a model that not everyone needs.
Despite the sales stoppage, due to market saturation, lack of innovation and the increase in the average price, the smart mobile is still the current computing star with annual sales of 1,500 million units. And it is expected to increase this year with the arrival of 5G or with the new folding as revulsive.
The reality is that the smarphone has become an indispensable device in personal and professional fields and today it is used as a tremendously versatile miniature computer for a lot of applications and beyond voice calls. So that you can separate the grain from the straw and find the model that best suits your needs, today we relaunch one of our great guides where we review the news of the last months, the characteristics to be taken into account for your choice and a guide to Updated purchase for each market segment.
How to buy the best mobile
Mark a maximum budget to spend It is a good starting point. Not all users need to buy a top of the range of more than 1,000 euros, because today the mid-range is more than qualified to cover most needs and is the most interesting in the market in price / features. In addition, except for the comments of 5G and folding (both still very green) there have been no significant developments to rule out the purchase of previous generations, much more adjusted in price and another option to value
Another question that should be answered is what are we going to use preferably the smart mobile. The reality is that what we do least is calls and today we use it more to surf the Internet; use social networks; instant messaging; videoconference; take pictures and videos; watch movies or series; listen to music; read electronic books; as an engine of a virtual reality device or to play in mobility, an upward section.
Its tremendous versatility complicates the choice, but there will always be some section of use that seems most important to you, for example taking photographs or special features such as resistance or simply those that offer greater autonomy.
And that in consumption, because a professional must assess other aspects such as security, its use as a digital agenda, the dual SIM, resistant models or other functions such as the possibility of “Turn it into a PC” when we use it on a desk. Definitely. depending on the primary and secondary use each user or professional will have to set your priorities and the maximum purchase price.
The Screen size It is another parameter to value to choose the best smartphone, although the industry is not leaving too many options because today the vast majority of mobile phones are very large in a trend that has not stopped growing in recent years. As with everything else, the choice will depend on your tastes and needs. A larger size will increase viewing comfort, but will increase weight and make it difficult to use with just one hand.
The current average is clearly above 5 inches and some analysts dare to predict the “goodbye to smartphones” and the arrival of the era of the phablet, a “word” invented to define the devices halfway between mobiles and tablets with sizes that exceed 7 inches.
In screen technologies, IPS are still the most used, while LCDs are used in the input range and OLED derived panels are reserved for the high range. All are multi-touch and most support the use of pencils although the experience is not the best except in specific models with active digitizers. Support for technologies such as HDR10 or Dolby's are another addition, although perhaps the greatest novelty in recent months (together with flexible screens) is the arrival of panels with a refresh rate of up to 120 Hz, for mobile phones specialized in games.
Refering to native resolution, The average is about 1080p acceptable, although there is variety from the HD used in the input range. In the high range we can find 2K and up to 4K of some particular model, a real barbarity taking into account its size. Special “elongated” resolutions such as FHD + or 2K + are in full trend as the 18: 9 or 19: 9 aspect ratios have been fully consolidated.
Designs – Finishes
The great novelty of the last months in the design section have been the new form factors announced that make use of the flexible or dual screen displays. All major manufacturers Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, Motorola, LG and even Microsoft with the Duo, or have sold their news or are on their way to do it. At the moment, they are delicate in terms of the resistance of some components such as the same screen and hinges. In addition, its price is out of any logical parameter that is not for the premiere of a technological sample. Although we see models that we like, for the purchase we recommend you wait for next generations.
A trend that has been consolidated are the formats called "All screen", where bevels and frames are almost completely eliminated, betting on occupying the entire front of the terminal. An interesting design that allows to expand the viewing area without having to increase the total size of the device, as we saw above, getting bigger.
In chassis and finishes The fundamental difference comes from the use of premium materials such as aluminum, magnesium and glass in the high range, compared to the polycarbonate plastics used in the input range. In the mid-range there is everything, especially in the "premium" that are getting closer and closer in quality of materials and finishes to the top of the range. The use of protective layers such as the one offered by the specialized firm Gorilla Glass remains a plus, as are the certificates for water resistance, and against bumps and drops that are usually offered in the high range and in special terminals for professionals that work in environments that what they require.
For the rest, although they are prettier and thinner than ever, the fragility of some models (including expensive ones) is obvious. One tip that should not be forgotten with the purchase of the smartphone is the acquisition of the best screen protector and / or case you can afford.
According to surveys, the camera system has become one of the components that users value most when buying a new smart phone. The tendency of recent months is to hide the front cameras to avoid the notch notches that have proliferated since its premiere by Apple. One way to do this is to use flip cameras with designs that take the concept to the extreme like that of the ASF ZenFone 6. Another trend that is going to come is also to include it under the screen as we saw recently from Oppo.
Moreover, its potential continues to increase and smart phones have ended up sinking the sales of traditional compact cameras thanks to the improvement of their quality, software potential and the versatility of the terminals. Increasingly capable, the current trend in mobile cameras is committed to multisensor to divide the tasks according to the shot to be performed or as a complement to the main one, and the increase in their capacity with models up to 108 MP.
If until recently the multisensor was in the high-end and implemented for the rear camera, many others are already used in the mid-range and there are certain models that also mount multisensors in the front camera for selfies or videoconferences.
If you are going to use your mobile phone as a main or single camera, you should value more things than the “chorro hundred” megapixels or their number of sensors. The best smartphone camera in 2018 was mounted by Google on the Pixel 3. And with a single sensor. Good optics and applications capable of taking advantage of it They are even more important than the marketing with which they sell them. Other options to evaluate are the optical image stabilizer, autofocus, lens aperture, double LED flash or video capability with resolutions up to 4K.
All in all, make no mistake, the dedicated compact cameras are at the price of demolition and both the hybrids and the SLRs have come down a lot in price. And they continue to offer a higher performance than the one installed in smartphones, although in no case can they fight against the versatility of a smart mobile and cameras that certainly offer increasing possibilities in hardware and software.
The designs under ARM RISC architecture completely monopolize the engines for smartphones in all market segments. If they had already dominated it for years, Intel's exit from this market by canceling the Atom Mobile chipsets of the Broxton and SoFIA series has left ARM alone. At least for now, There is no alternative to ARM.
Yes there is competition between ARM manufacturers, and growing, while increasing their power at all levels. The Mobile SoC The most widespread in the western market and world number one are the Qualcomm Snapdragons, although the chipsets of the Chinese manufacturer MediaTek dominate in Asia and have increased market share worldwide. The Tegra of NVIDIA have almost disappeared, while the presence of those customized by large manufacturers such as Samsung Exynos, HiSilicon Kirin (Huawei) and Apple-designed SoC exclusive to iPhones continues to increase.
The novelties of the last months have gone through to increase the performance thinking especially about those destined to the execution of videogames and those that are going to give support to the new 5G networks and that we not only expect in the high range, but in all the market ranges . In addition to CPU and GPU performance, we expect increasingly integrated chipsets, with expanded support for AI, augmented reality, DSP signal processing and ISPs to support increasingly larger photographic sensors.
Memory and storage
The amount of memory and storage of smartphones have not stopped increasing in recent years. The minimum permissible RAM is 2 Gbytes for the low range up to 4-6-8 Gbytes that are being standardized in the middle or higher range. Above, we reach 12 Gbytes that exhibit some models and as technology does not stop, we have already announced a Black Shark 3 that will include up to 16 GB of RAM It is a monstrosity that far exceeds the average installed on PCs. As we always say, a good optimization is better than the quantity provided it is sufficient, but the trend is clear and manufacturers are committed to install more and more.
In terms of storage capacity, the minimum would be located in the 16-32 Gbytes up to 256-512 Gbytes of the high range. The Tbyte brand is on its way, while the new UFS 3.0 standard for storage solutions based on NAND Flash memory is an important advance that will allow to achieve infarction rates on mobile devices of up to 2,300 / 1,800 Mbytes per second in read / write mode. The same as with RAM; faster storage than quantity is preferable as long as this is sufficient.
Rate both components at the time of purchase. The RAM will not be able to expand it and the storage in some models either because the tendency of not supporting the microSD cards that allow us to expand the internal storage is being extended to all manufacturers. Finally, note that not all memory or storage is the same (even if they are of the same capacity) and more advanced models use LPDDR4, eMMC 5x and the commented advanced standard UFS.
The new mobile broadband networks 5G have been protagonists in recent months and will be even more so in the following months once their deployment has begun. Qualcomm introduced the Snapdragon X55 combined with the 855 chipset and is the one the industry is using the most. The problem may come from its prices and objectives for the high range. It is certain that the manufacturer will offer other versions in different market ranges after MediaTek makes its way with modems that will allow the arrival of cheap 5G smartphones.
You already know that 5G will be a beastly leap in all aspects, especially in performance and latency. Operators like Vodafone have announced the July marketing of its 5G services in Spain. At the moment it will only be available in some cities, limited in benefits and for starters added to the most expensive service offers of the telecos.
Outside of 5G, the mid-range of today's smartphones support fourth generation broadband networks, most of them LTE and differentiated by the category (Cat + number) implemented and that will offer us greater performance. You should not settle for less although only in very small budgets you should opt for a 3G networks that already support all current models.
Another important point to assess is the new peripheral interconnection port, USB Type C, the connector of the future in smartphones and included in a large number of mid-range and high-end terminals. The dual band ac Wi-Fi is another of the minimum components to look for for wireless connectivity, the same as the new Bluetooth 5 standard that already extends in a good number of models. The short-range communication technology, NFC, is standard in high and medium ranges. Wi-Fi 6 is already reaching some models and should be extended by 2020.
To overcome the insecure passwords, the systems of biometric authentication They are another upward trend in smartphones. Apple's Face ID released on the iPhone X, even with its lacks and controversies, points out where the segment will go in this regard. The fingerprint sensors are other of the most accepted methods and this year we have already seen another interesting novelty: its installation under the screen itself.
We finish this section assessing the possibilities of dual SIM They offer some models. This is the ability of a device (here we will try smartphones, but there are others) to include two communications SIM cards and with it two different phone numbers. This feature, you will see it promoted in some smart phones (modems, adapters, etc.) and its same name – "real SIM" – indicates its objective.
The clearest example of use is that of a user who needs two different mobile phone numbers for professional and personal use. Instead of buying, maintaining and transporting two terminals, the use of the dual SIM allows the same function with the convenience and savings of handling a single smartphone. It is another option to value at least until the new eSIM arrive, the Next-generation virtual SIMs that will replace the current physical removable cards and that will offer those functions on a single chip.
It is a section that also values another group of users. And there are many differences between the best and the least good. To begin, let us cite one aspect to our negative opinion in trends such as the elimination of popular 3.5mm jack connector, that more and more manufacturers practice and in more models. More for commercial than technical reasons, but you know how the market is. Apple started – and as in other issues – copied by other Android manufacturers, incomprehensibly.
The most important part of the base of the musical experience on a phone will be offered by the DAC converter (Digital-to-Analog Converter). It is a small chip that converts a digital signal into analog and reproduces it through the speakers or the headphone jack. Of course, count on stereo speakers It is mandatory to start. Some of the best smartphones in this section include larger and more powerful speakers and design the inside of the terminals as a resonance chamber to reinforce the sound.
The use of dedicated external speakers, generally connected by Bluetooth, is another option when we are not mobile, in the office or at home. There is a lot of offer of all prices and qualities, without forgetting that we can also reproduce the audio of our smartphone in the new digital assistants or send it to high definition systems.
Another more important point is that of headphones. In the mobile world in which we live, having good quality ones is mandatory. It is useless to have a good internal system if we later use those that include manufacturers, which, with honorable exceptions, "make noise" and little else. The offer is also very wide, from models of few euros to others of three figures. Despite initial criticism, the trend goes through wireless models like Apple's AirPods, very, very expensive, but with high sound quality, excellent connection, integration with the Siri assistant, improved autonomy or wireless charging. There are other models such as Samsung's Galaxy Buds or Microsoft's.
Autonomy in smartphones remains a pending account. Today's smartphones have nothing to do with the “dumb mobiles” of the past and are increasingly powerful miniature complete computers and with it a greater energy consumption on screens, processors and sensors.
The issue is aggravated by the tendency to extreme thinness of modern mobile phones that prevents mounting larger capacity batteries. Also for design (and for commercial reasons), Manufacturers are betting on non-replaceable batteries complicating this section. As a general rule and at a minimum, you will have to charge your smartphone every night shortly if you give it some cane. If autonomy is an important aspect for you, value the capacity of the battery and that it can be replaced because as we said, not everyone allows it.
Also look for smartphones with quick recharge systems and additionally, those that allow wireless recharge that improves the comfort of the process without wiring. There are also specialized models that include higher capacity batteries than the industry average, which we could place between 3,000 and 3,500 mAh.
Here is little to think about because There are no real alternatives beyond Android or iOS. Android sweeps the mobile market with 87% share. With this, almost the entire offer is centered around the Google system. Of course, you will have no problem finding anything you are looking for, in size, performance or price, because there are hundreds of models that can be found.
Apple's iOS is the second in market share (and the last). As Apple does not license the operating system to other companies, you can only access this platform with the purchase of an iPhone. And a little more. Outside the big two, the offer is minimal. With Windows Phone / Windows Mobile officially dead the offer is limited to some Microsoft Lumia in stock and some additional terminal. It is hard to find some alternative mobile Linux with Tizen, Ubuntu OS or Firefox OS and others like BlackBerry OS are buried because the Canadian company sold the brand and uses Android.
Before the Trump blockade, Huawei is developing a Linux-based operating system named Harmony OS and still with a lot of problems due to the issue of apps and services could be a solution for Huawei. We do not believe that it could be an alternative to Android outside the terminals of the brand itself. Not even Microsoft on its return to mobility hardware has escaped from Google, although the new Windows 10X.
Buy the best mobile in each price range
The offer of smart phones is simply overwhelming and if you have come here reading all the above you will have verified that there are many features to be valued to make the perfect purchase or the one that best suits our needs. Since our last buying guide, all manufacturers have updated their smartphone catalog and many of them are already on sale. The arrival of new models has caused large price reductions in previous generations. Do not forget them, because there has not been so much innovation and they may be worth it.
To help you in the selection and as an example because the offer is endless, we have divided the purchase by price levels in free sale and selecting some of the ones that seem most relevant to each range, trying to include models from all manufacturers. Do not get carried away by marketing; Rate with all the above information according to your own needs, set a maximum budget and good shopping!