How to Choose a Smartphone Now that Innovation has Slowed
Mobile devices have changed the world. They’ve definitely changed the way people do business. The prevailing sentiment is smartphone innovation has stagnated a bit over the past few years as most of the flagship smartphones are using extremely fast processors, data storage has moved to the cloud, and many other factors. Just look at the new iPhone, which traditionally looks just like the last iPhone. Today, we’ll take a look at what you need to know when buying your new phone.
The Modern Smartphone
With device reviewers becoming big business on platforms like YouTube, these reviewers have become the audience that smartphone manufacturers play to, even if the general public couldn’t possibly understand the year-over-year improvements that these devices have made. Consider that the biggest change in the smartphone over the past couple of generations is mostly improvements to the camera system while making marginal improvements to processing, data storage, etc. This indicates that most improvements are driven by the marketing benefits to be had.
The fact is that other than the folding phones most devices have very similar form factors. All flagship smartphones have a 5 nm processor or better, 356 GB of flash memory, 8 GB of RAM, and a bezel-less display. That said, savvy consumers are constantly looking for a specification upgrade, so it forces each iteration of a device to make marginal improvements (if only in name). If you think about how much you’ve paid for your current device, and how similar it is to the last device you owned—especially if you haven’t moved to a device with a brand new form factor—you may just feel like you aren’t getting the value for your money that you once did when you upgraded after two years of using a device.
What to Look for In a New Device
Before we get into what you should consider when looking for a new smartphone, we have to talk a little bit about form factor. The form factor of a device is how the device is built. As we stated above, most smartphones have laughably similar form factors. The ones that don’t are using innovative new OLED screens that allow the displays to fold in half. This presents users and app developers with interesting new constructs (with very large price tags), but for the most part, devices adhere to the more familiar form factor.
So what should you look for when buying your new device if you don’t want to pay a premium price for a foldable phone? Let’s go through some considerations:
The build quality of a smartphone may not have a lot to do with its ability to do what you need it to do, but devices that have better build quality will last longer and enhance the user experience. Most of the top-tier smartphones are built on a stainless steel or aluminum frame. These devices are typically draped in some type of tempered glass, such as Corning’s Gorilla Glass. The better materials used to make the smartphone, the more premium it will feel when you are using it.
Today, most flagship smartphones come with impressive displays. For people that use their smartphones for media consumption, you will want a larger display with a higher resolution, but there are plenty of mid-range models manufactured today that have impressive screens that could have been found on a flagship phone only a couple of years ago.
This is where smartphones vary wildly. Most of the top-end smartphones have a multi-core 5 nm processor or better nowadays. This means that the top smartphones have the computing power of pretty powerful workstations that can fit in your pocket. The better the processor, the better the phone will be.
A lot of manufacturers will point to a high number of megapixels in their marketing, but the effectiveness of a camera is contingent on many other factors. Obviously, the features of the camera system: number of lenses and their focal length, ISO levels, pixel size, and autofocus ability have to be taken into account. Each year the camera systems on devices do improve, however, some substantially.
An often overlooked feature when buying new hardware is the battery life. For the smartphone, it is one of the most important considerations. After all, if a device has to be plugged in, it isn’t really “mobile”. Most phones that have upwards of 3,500 mAh batteries should do, but the foldable phones will use more juice than devices with the traditional smartphone form factor, so be mindful.
Most phones typically have one of two mobile operating systems: Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android OS. The majority of phones will come with some semblance of Android on them, but not all versions of Android are created equal, so knowing what version of the OS your handset is on is pretty important considering it will dictate what apps you can run, how your device’s security is handled, and many other factors important to a clean and productive smartphone experience.
Probably the most important factor in the purchase of a new device is the cost it presents to you. If you are planning on buying one of the top smartphones on the market, you will likely be paying about $500 or more per year of use for the device alone (and that is if you don’t have to have it repaired). Mobile service providers mostly work with users to finance smartphones, but it can add a lot of money to your monthly bill.
All other factors are basically the icing on the proverbial cake. There are devices with larger displays. There are smartphones built for gaming. There are ones that have huge batteries so they don’t need to be charged every day. Some users like to have a 3.5mm headphone jack, but most flagship phones have done away with them long ago.
Finding the phone for you may come down to these small features, but chances are that they won’t have as big of a role on the reliability of the device as the variables listed above.
Have you recently bought a new smartphone? What are the features that got you to buy the model you chose? Leave your comments below and stop back soon for more great technology content.
The Highest-End Smartphones Right Now – Foldables
For the past two weeks we have looked at some of the best phones and some that bring the most value. This week, we turned our gaze to a form factor that is only a couple of years old, but seems to be the future of mobile technology, foldable screens. The different form factors made possible by foldable OLED technology make the future of mobile devices more exciting. Let’s take a look at three of the top foldable devices right now.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G
A couple of years ago Samsung came out with their first foldable device, the Galaxy Z Fold, and while the device itself wasn’t anything to really write home about, it did usher in a whole new era of mobile computing. The Galaxy Z Fold3, the third iteration of the line, is by far the most notable of the foldable devices.
The Z Fold3 is built on an aluminum frame with Gorilla Glass Victus front and back. When the phone is folded, it has a 6.2-inch, Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 832 x 2268px display that has a booming 120 hertz refresh rate. Basically they put a high-end, mid-size smartphone screen on the outside cover of the phone. This means that it can ostensibly be used folded up most of the time, but unfolded it gives you a nice tablet-like experience. The larger screen is made from plastic, but it’s remarkable how it doesn’t lose any effectiveness.
The rest of the phone has flagship specs. It runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G chip, and comes with a whopping 12 GB of RAM and 256 or 512 GB of onboard storage. The device runs Android 11, but is able to be upgraded to Android 12 and Samsung’s One UI OS. More and more applications are being designed to take advantage of the foldable screen and the flexibility it gives users.
The Z Fold3 features a 12 MP wide-angle lens with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), a 12 MP telephoto lens with 2x zoom and OIS, and a 12 MP ultra wide-angle lens. The front-facing camera on the large display is a 4 MP in-display wide-angle lens, while the cover camera is 10 MP wide-angle lens. Overall, the Z Fold3 presents a pretty impressive cache of cameras to do most anything you would need a smartphone to do.
The battery is pretty small at 4,400 mAh, but comes with 25 Watt fast charging to offset the lowly 75 hour endurance rating. For security, there is a side-mounted fingerprint sensor. Other features include a iPX8 water resistance rating, Samsung’s DeX capability and 5G capability.
This ingenious device is available in Phantom Black, Phantom Silver, Phantom Green, Thom Browne Edition, and an exclusive Wooyoungmi Edition, the Galaxy Z Fold3 costs nearly $2,000 from Samsung and most major cell carriers.
Body: Aluminum Frame, Gorilla Glass Victus front and back, plastic large display
Display: Closed – 6.2-inch Super AMOLED 2X, 120 Hz, 832 x 2,268 (~374 ppi); Open – 7.6-inch Super AMOLED 2X, 120 Hz, 1768 x 2208
OS: Android 11; upgradable to Android 12, One UI 4.0
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Memory: 12 GB RAM; 256-to-512 GB onboard storage
Expandable Memory: No
Cameras: Rear – 12 MP, 26mm, OIS; 12 MP 52mm 2x optical zoom OIS; 12 MP 123º ultrawide. Front of device – 10 MP 26mm; Front of folded display – 4 MP under-display
Sounds: Stereo Sound
Battery (battery endurance rating): 4,400 mAh (75 hours)
Security: Side-mounted fingerprint sensor
Miscellaneous: Samsung DeX, IPX8 water resistant, 24W fast charging
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3
Samsung is definitely the leader in foldable devices. As the Z Fold3 is an engineering marvel, the Z Flip3 brings back one of the most popular form factors in smartphone history. The Z Flip3 is Samsung’s best folding phone for people who want both a compact device and a large smartphone experience. The Z Flip3 is effectively a flagship smartphone that folds in half for safekeeping.
The device is made on an aluminum frame, it has a plastic front and a back made from Gorilla Glass Victus. The screen is made from plastic and houses a 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display that comes in at 1,080 x 2,640 pixels and sports a 120 Hz refresh rate. Not bad for a phone that folds in half. When folded there is a 1.9-inch Super AMOLED screen for quick view of time and notifications.
The device runs Android 11 (upgradable to Android 12 with Samsung’s One UI 4.0) on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 FG chip. It comes with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB or 258 GB of onboard storage. For security it has a side-mounted fingerprint sensor.
The camera on the Z Flip3 has a 12 MP wide-angle lens and a 12 MP ultrawide angle lens, while the selfie camera is a 10 MP wide-angle lens. The battery is a paltry 3,300 mAh offering that allows for 15W fast charging. At a 69-hour endurance rating, the device is at the low end of the premium smartphone market…but it folds in half.
Available in a litany of colors including Phantom Black, Green, Cream, Pink, Dream White and more, the Z Flip3 runs about $1,000 from your friendly neighborhood cell carrier or from Samsung directly.
Body: Aluminum frame, plastic front, Gorilla Glass Victus back
Display: 6.7-inch Foldable Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120 Hz, 1,080 x 2,640px
OS: Android 11; Upgradable to Android 12, Samsung One UI 4.0
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G
Memory: 8 GB RAM; 128 GB-to- 256 GB of onboard storage
Expandable Memory: No
Cameras: Rear – 12 MP 27mm OIS; 12 MP 123º; Front – 10 MP 26mm
Sounds: Stereo sound
Battery (battery endurance rating): 3,300 (69 hours)
Security: Side-mounted fingerprint sensor
Miscellaneous: IPX8 water resistant, 15 W fast charging
Microsoft Surface Duo 2
Samsung might have superiority over the foldable device space, but other manufacturers are creating some pretty useful devices, too. Microsoft is one of them and their newest folding smartphone is a big upgrade over the first Surface Duo. Well, it has cameras this time at least.
The Surface Duo 2 has great build quality, what you would expect from a Surface line product. There is no outside display like you would find on the Samsung devices, but when closed there is enough of the wrap-around screen to show the time, notifications, and other information. When the device is open there are effectively two 5.8-inch AMOLED panels that add up to a total of an 8.3-inch screen when it’s completely folded out as it functions with large bezels.
The Surface Duo 2 runs Android 11 on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G chip and has 8 GB of RAM and can go up to 512 GB of onboard storage. It comes with a side-mounted fingerprint sensor for security. The battery of the Duo 2 is a 4,449 mAh power cell with available 23W fast charging.
Microsoft decided to put a full suite of cameras on this year’s model, a feature that was suspiciously left off of last year’s. The rear mounted cameras have a 12 MP wide-angle lens with OIS, a 12 MP telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom and OIS and a 16 MP ultra wide-angle lens. The front-facing camera is a 12 MP wide-angle lens.
Available in Glacier and Obsidian, the Microsoft Duo 2 is currently being sold for $1,500 online and at microsoft.com.
Body: Plastic frame, Gorilla Glass Victus front and back
Display: 8.3-inch AMOLED, 90 hz, 1,832 x2,688 (~401 ppi)
OS: Android 11
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Memory: 8 GB RAM; 128-to-512 GB onboard storage
Expandable Memory: No
Cameras: Rear – 12 MP 27mm OIS; 12 MP 51mm telephoto 2x optical zoom OIS; 16 MP 13 mm; Front – 12 MP 24mm
Sounds: Stereo sound
Battery (battery endurance rating): 4,449 mAh
Security: Side-mounted fingerprint reader
Miscellaneous: Stylus support
The foldable phone, or some other form factor using the incredible OLED foldable panels, is definitely not a fad. Once manufacturers can roll out these devices for less, you will see more people snatching them up.
Mobile Management Is More Crucial than Ever
Make no mistake, the impact that your mobile device strategy has on your business is an important one. It can make or break your organization’s security, as well as stymie or encourage your organization’s productivity. Therefore, you should do everything in your power to make sure that your mobile device management platform is working to your company’s advantage. Let’s take a look at some of the features that all good MDM platforms should enable.
Even with all of the features that mobile device management platforms allow, there are some that are absolute non-negotiables that your organization cannot afford to pass up. Here are just a few of them.
The Ability to Lock and Remotely Wipe Data
This feature is one that you hope not to need, but this does not make it any less necessary. If employees are to lose devices, or if they are stolen and inaccessible, you need to have a contingency plan in place to remotely wipe them of all data, sensitive or not. Doing so ensures data privacy and keeps hackers or thieves from stealing data that does not belong to them.
Whitelisting and Blacklisting Apps
If your employees are using devices for company purposes, they should not be downloading apps all willy-nilly. Rather, you should have a specific policy in place regarding the use of applications with certain ones designated for work-related purposes. This helps you control the flow of data to external applications and helps to mitigate opportunities for leakage. Furthermore, if you give employees a list of acceptable applications, they can then use that information to find the best solutions for their own specific needs.
Device Tracking and Inventory
Your mobile device management platform should be able to track devices, but most important of all is knowing who is responsible for which device and how many of which device you currently have issued to your staff. This gives you opportunities to collect information on how your devices are used, as well as provides a way of getting in touch with someone if their devices start to show inconsistencies that could lead to security troubles. Really, this just boils down to making sure that you know where the devices are and what they are used for.
Enforcement of Security Features
Your mobile devices should be protected in as many ways as possible with proper passwords being the absolute bare minimum. In fact, we recommend that you also implement some type of multi-factor authentication, such as biometric authentication, whenever possible, as well as powerful encryption tools that keep the data found on mobile devices as secure as possible.
If your organization wants to take its mobile device management to the next level, we recommend working with Point North Networks, Inc., to establish your needs. We can then work with you to ensure your business is taking all of the appropriate steps forward with its mobile device strategy. To learn more, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.