Smartphone Overboard: Where Do We Draw The Line?

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A few weeks ago, Smartisan launched a new smartphone. In case you haven’t heard of them, Smartisan Technology Co. Ltd. (commonly known simply as Smartisan) is a Chinese multinational technology company headquartered in Beijing.

They deal with developing and manufacturing consumer electronic devices such as mobile phones and earphones as well as online services such as the Smartisan Store, the Smartisan OS App Store, and Smiling Cloud. What really caught our attention was the Smartisan R1 smartphone.

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The Smartisan R1 Smartphone packed a whopping 1TB internal storage (Image Credits: Tapscape)

The Smartisan R1 looked like it packs all the bells and whistles of a flagship smartphone. This includes the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and a gorgeous looking aluminum body sporting a 6.17” 2424×1080 display. Adding to that list was a 24MP front camera and a 20+12MP rear dual camera setup.

What really piqued our interest was that the Smartisan R1 packs a whopping 1TB of internal storage. This is backed up by 8GB of RAM. Before you get confused, yes the Smartisan R1 is a smartphone, not a PC.

This got us thinking, where do you draw the line between packing everything including the kitchen sink into a phone, and giving a user just the right features he/she would need without having to go overboard?

How much RAM do we really need?

Well, for starters, we need to take a look at what we do with our phones. For example, I use a Oneplus 2. Scoff and chuckle all you want, but for a flagship killer of 2016, the Oneplus 2 can certainly hold its own two years later. Sure, it can’t handle a lot of the most graphics intensive applications on the Google Play Store, but then again, neither can most smartphones unless they’re premium or flagship devices.

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So much RAM in your phone, but do you even use all of it? (Image Credits: Digital Trends)

That being said, my typical day of using my phone revolves around playing Pokémon GO and Jurassic World Alive. These two games are known for draining a battery faster than you can say abracadabra (the spell, not the pokemon). This is because they require you to set your device’s GPS mode to High Accuracy.

In addition, because you’re connected to mobile data or WiFi, you’re going to experience even more battery drain. Add to that the screen time when you play the game and you’ll find yourself, like me, scrambling for the nearest plug point or a power bank.

So these two games aside, I also spend my time on Instagram, Facebook, Google News and also listening to music. All of this is handled quite well on 4GB of RAM. Now, again, this could very well be carried out with similar effect if you were on say 2 or 3GB of RAM as well. The point is, after 4GB of RAM, you’re not really going to see much of a difference.

If you disagree, then consider this.

At any given time, even if you were to use two apps via split screening, and each app took up to 1GB of RAM, you’re still left with around 800MB of RAM left on a device with 4GB of RAM, that’s still enough for you to carry out your normal everyday work. So what can you do with 8GB of RAM? Well, pretty much anything you would do with a smartphone that has 4GB of RAM.

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With Apple’s ARKit, Playing Pokemon Go takes on a whole new level of interaction. That is, if you can afford and iPhone X

If you recall, the iPhone handles pretty much anything you can throw at it comfortably with only 3GB of RAM. I feel that this is because apps for iPhones are developed in a much more efficient manner than for Android. If you want an example, try playing Pokémon GO on an Android device and an iPhone and see the difference.

Let’s talk about smartphone cameras

I would like to start off by saying that I am by no means a professional photographer. Any and all images you see in my Instagram feed are the product of me being at the right place at the right time and also relying heavily on Instagram’s filters to make photos look good. However, that being said, I do like to play around with the manual settings on the camera of my Oneplus 2. Having used my friend Raoul’s Samsung Galaxy S9+, I also realized how far smartphone cameras have come in terms of technological advancements.

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The Huawei P20 Pro, for example, packs a triple camera setup. But is it really worth it? (Image Credits: ePHOTOzine)

Heck, you can even add AR stickers to your photographs and look like you’re posing next to a Storm Trooper or a dinosaur. But then again, for a person who just wants a simple point and click camera, would these features make sense? For me, that answer would be no. Sure, during the first few days, if I had a phone like that, I would probably flood both Facebook and Instagram with AR photos. After a while though, the novelty would die down.

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Phones such as the Google Pixel 2 allow you to augment reality with stickers. But how soon till the novelty wears off? (Image Credits: Road to VR)

Instead of having effects such as AR stickers, animoji or even Bokeh effects, I would prefer to have a camera that can take high-quality images without the need for spending like 10-15 minutes twiddling around with the settings. I also wouldn’t really need a triple camera setup like Huawei’s recently launched P20 Pro smartphone. It is a gorgeous phone. It takes amazing pictures, but if I needed to twiddle around with so many settings, I would just invest in a DSLR. Call me weird, but that’s just me.

There are exceptions to the case, though

However, if you’re a person interested in photography but not willing to invest in a proper DSLR just yet, a phone might feel like a safer option for exploring the path and getting yourself familiar with the settings. In that case, you would want to weigh your options carefully and decide.

If you have the cash to splash, then by all means, nothing is stopping you from getting a smartphone with a 40MP camera and inbuilt AI. But like they say, a photo doesn’t depend on the camera alone, but also the person behind it.  Also, think about how you can use all that technology to improve your photography skills. We have some tips for you if you’re interested.

All that horsepower, but nowhere to use it

Forking over a fortune for the latest phone powered by a Snapdragon or Exynos or even Kirin processor may sound tempting. But again, what good is all that processing power if you’re not really going to use it? It’s akin to buying a Ferrari and driving around Colombo in second gear. Sure it looks good when it’s driving past you, but you’ll never achieve its full potential.

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A processor to create infinite possibilities, if one knows how to use it (Image Credits: BGR India)

However, that being said, there are certain instances that having a powerful processor and lots of RAM can be handy. For example, if you’re the executive of a large company and you’re using your smartphone to monitor your manufacturing floor via an ERP, then you’ll need a device with some serious juice.

You won’t need an Octa-core processor to check Facebook or Instagram. Once again, do your research. There’s no point in forking over our hard earned cash for a phone that has a goliath of a processor if you’ll be using it like a David.

Consider a smartphone with fast charging

This may seem impractical at first, simply because the cost to include fast charging in mid-range smartphones may, in turn, increase their price. But I do feel that adding some form of fast charging to mid-range phones will solve a lot of problems.

This is true especially if you’re a heavy phone user and you use your phone for everything. It wouldn’t do to find yourself stranded in the rain after a long day to find out your phone has no juice to call yourself a cab. While looking at all the features your phone has, make sure you pay some attention to the battery and charging, otherwise, your phone would end up being a no-call at the end of the day, and I don’t mean the vegetable.

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A phone with fast charging can really save your life in an emergency (Image Credits: CNET)

The benefit of fast charging is the sheer fact that you can go from 0% to 60% charge in a little under 10 minutes means you can literally plug your phone to charge, head off for a quick snack and by the time you’re back, your phone is more or less ready to go. If by chance you spend around 30-45 minutes, then your phone is fully charged. Even better!

If you’re a person who spends a lot of time on their phone and you need to charge your phone fully, look for a phone that has a fast charging option that also won’t leave a hole in your wallet. For example, the OnePlus 3 is still a good buy if you can find one for a second-hand price and the phone has been used well. Also, a number of phones from Samsung such as the Galaxy S3, S4 and S5, despite being older generation phones, still offer decent bang for the buck performance.

How high-def are you willing to go?

Remember the good old days when phones packed a 320×240 resolution display? Well, now you have the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium packing a 4K UHD display. While this is good eye candy for playing back all that 4K content, it also raises a number of questions.

For example, are you going to be watching all your content in 4K? Because if you’re not, then even standard Full HD content will look like you’re watching a DVD on a full HD screen. Not exactly where you want to be after forking over a fortune to get the phone.

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The Sony Xperia XZ2 packs a gorgeous 4K UHD display, if you have the content to make use of it (Image Credits: Technology News World)

On the other hand, a Full HD display that is either 16:9 or 18:9 (essentially 2:1) will give you a lot more viewing area. Phones such as the Huawei Nova 2i and the Samsung Galaxy J6 offer wider aspect ratio smartphones that allow you to see more and have access to more content.

They also are able to do that without making the phones ridiculously expensive. In fact, if you look around you, you might notice the sheer number of people who use the Huawei Nova 2i. So in conclusion, high-resolution displays will also help but again, full HD is more than enough.

How much would you pay for a smartphone?

This is perhaps the biggest conundrum in Sri Lanka. For starters, phones that are launched by smartphone manufacturers end up being horribly overpriced when they come to Sri Lanka. Take for example the newly released OnePlus 6. It’s marketed starting off at $529. That is around LKR 80,000/-. In my opinion, for a smartphone that offers all of the features of a 2018 flagship the OnePlus 6 is actually well priced.

But the problem is with Sri Lankan phone resellers, the price goes up significantly. Right now the OnePlus 6 starts off at the 6GB RAM/64GB internal storage model for around LKR 104,000/-. It goes all the way up to 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal memory for a whopping LKR 128,000/-. And these are with software warranty only. If you go for a hardware warranty, the price goes up further.

So whatever OnePlus stated about the phone being affordable to all and it being a flagship killer goes down the drain when you can actually buy a flagship for around the same price. So once again, do your research when buying a phone.

If you’re looking at a phone as a long-term investment where you won’t be upgrading for around 3-4 or even 5 years, then spending on the latest flagship makes sense so that your device would be future-proof. But if you’re looking to upgrade within a year or so, then settle for a phone that has all the features you’re looking for and go for that option.

In conclusion

Ultimately, how much you choose to pay for a phone depends on you. On one hand, Smartphone manufacturers don’t make it any easier either. They either go all out on one feature and forget the rest or put everything in there and price it at a ridiculous level.

If you want a phone with everything and the kitchen sink thrown into it, that is your choice. If you would rather invest in a high-end phone without getting yourself a Laptop, TV, and DSLR separately then that’s a fair choice and up to you.

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*Insets motivational caption here* (Image Credits: YouTube)

But if like me, you want a phone that has specs that you would actually use, then you will obviously have to do your research. Like I’ve spoken about above, if you’re a power user who wants to get the maximum out of your smartphone, take your time and go through all the brands and phones available and take your pick.

However, if you want a flagship phone just for bragging purposes, then go ahead and buy the most expensive phone you can possibly get. But if you’re just a casual user who wants only the basic functions from your phone, think twice before going for the latest flagship model. In the end, it’s up to you where you draw the line.

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