Five Things To Consider When Buying A Smartphone

Buying a smartphone can be a frustrating task to say the least with so many factors to consider. As such, we here at TechGarage have compiled a list of things to consider when buying a smartphone. This list comes from our very own experience of being frustrated with smartphone hunting in the halls of Lowyat and Imbi Plaza here in KL, with the high propensity of being cheated to say the least.

Will this list be the final answer to all your smartphone search needs? Perhaps not. But we hope that we are able to help you cut down on the time spent to search and evaluate, and instead spend the time to enjoy the phone.

1) Things To Consider When Buying A SmartPhone : Needs

First and foremost, you need to consider if you really need a smartphone or just another phone that lets you make phone calls. While having the smartphone is good, it might not suit everyone. Not if it is your second phone and you already have a robust smartphone to begin with. Or if you are on a very tight budget and don’t plan to upgrade your phone on a regular basis.

Having said that, smartphones are the way to go for most of us. With the ability to store information and access it, and with various apps to do certain tasks, the smartphone has replaced many physical tools and devices for us. The savings you make via instant messaging and video calls such as WhatsApp, Viber or WeChat, might be enough to justify investing in a smartphone itself.

I have friends and relatives who swore off smartphones as they deemed it too complicated for their needs. However, once they had one, the ability to reply emails, get instant information via the net and just message others without worrying about the SMS charges got them hooked.

2) Things To Consider When Buying A Smartphone : Operating System

Before heading down to the mall to look at phones and listen to the latest tirade on why the latest model of Oppo is better than iPhone or why Blackberry’s latest model is the best, you would need to consider the operating system (OS) first. This is because the operating system powers the phone and undergirds the various applications that runs on it.

smartphone photo

Here’s why choosing the right OS is crucial for you:

1a) You Might Miss Some Great Apps

This is especially crucial as OS like iOS have way more premium quality apps compared to say, Android and the Blackberry OS. 1 This is because iPhone users are proven to spend more on their apps, while Android users are more used to free apps with ads or rooting their phones.

This difference and the fact that an Android developer has to ensure his app works for various screen sizes and phone configuration (RAM, SoC, Processor) makes it much more profitable for developers to focus on the Apple Appstore. In one research

If you are a heavy app user, ensure that your favourite app is available for the competing platform before you switch over. If you haven’t gotten into apps yet, be sure to test out apps on major OSes before deciding.

1b) Beware Of Security Risks

Another reason to consider the OS would be because different OS tend to get different problem when they get older. While the iPhone and iOS tends to get slower with each major update, most Android phone ends up missing crucial security patches. 2

A check on Android phones sold in malls shows that some sellers still sell phones with outdated Android versions, which opens you up to being exploited from the get go. And with most Android phone makers not providing updates after awhile, causing your phone to be a security risk to both your privacy and your personal data.

3) Things To Consider When Buying A Smartphone : Budget

Now that we’ve got the issue of OS out of the way, the next consideration would be your budget. It is crucial that we consider the OS first before the budget, as most of us will end up with an Android phone if it is all about the budget. If you prefer the iOS from Apple, your budget needs starts from RM 2500 and above, as the 64GB version does not come cheap.

However if iPhones are not your cup of tea, then your budget becomes way more adjustable. You see, if you don’t mind going down the Android route (or the Microsoft/Blackberry one), you get to choose from a range of manufacturers that offer different phones to different segments of people.

The good thing about Android based phones is that, if branding isn’t much of a concern, you can easily find a Samsung Galaxy replacement for about 1/3rd of the price but with equal performance. This makes it much easier for your to sustain, instead of shelling out two thousand plus every two years for the latest model.

Be careful  though of mobile handphone sellers trying to push you some obscure smartphone model which they can’t tell the version of Android from. This is because the Android 4.3 and below has tons of security vulnerabilities which usually are not patched by the manufacturer.

smartphone ram photo
Photo by Prepayasyougo

3) Things To Consider When Buying A SmartPhone : RAM

While it is good to consider the processor speed, it is crucial to consider the amount of RAM first. This is because the amount of RAM ensures whether your phone runs smoothly or ends up crashing on a regular basis. It is also the difference between a phone that lasts you a year or two, and a phone that lasts longer.

One analogy of RAM is like our old mini bus in the streets of Kuala Lumpur, while the passengers as instructions that needs to be ferried around. With only 1GB of RAM, you will find that you might have more passengers than you could handle, or that you might have to manage your passengers smartly. But all these will cause a bottleneck in terms of performance, as additional passengers would have to queue up and wait for the bus to arrive.

On the other hand, with more RAM, you’ll have more buses. That immediately improves performance as more instructions can be ferried and loaded simultaneously. It also enables more resource intensive applications which loads more instructions than perhaps what 1GB of RAM can handle.

The lack of RAM causes apps to hang or in worse case scenarios, the smartphone to behave in a weird manner. Your smartphone might even hang regularly. If you are on a UI heavy phone like the Samsung or HTC, you might need more, as the UI for these models are known to be inefficiently built and consumes a good amount of RAM as well.3

In our opinion, you should go for the minimum of 2GB RAM when on Android, with 3GB as a good option if you can afford it. Investing in RAM is crucial because unlike computers, you cannot increase the RAM on your smartphone by purchasing more after.

4) Things To Consider When Buying A Smartphone : Processor

Another thing you need to consider is the processor speed. While the RAM is like the amount of mini buses ferrying passengers, the processor is like the engine of that bus. With a slower processor, you might end up taking up minutes on what could be accomplished in 30 seconds on a more powerful one.

The processor is crucial if you plan to use your smartphone on resource heavy apps that might need some intense processing power. In such cases, the CPU and the GPU (Central Processing Unit & Graphics Processing Unit) plays an important role. Especially if you use apps that does number crunching, graphics processing or just plain computation heavy.

For example, loading a website on with powerful processors will be much faster than loading it on one with half the clock speed. This also influences stuff like games, photo editing and even numbers crunching on some spreadsheet app.

However, if you have to choose between having a faster processor but less RAM vs a slightly slower processor with more RAM, always go for RAM first, as it will influence how much you can do with your smartphone. You don’t want to be able to do things fast but not be able to do certain things, no?

smartphone battery capacity photo
Photo by Janitors

5) Things To Consider When Buying A Smartphone : Battery Capacity

The final thing you should consider is the battery capacity. Now, we’re not asking you to compare Samsung’s battery capacity versus the iPhone’s, as that is incomparable due to the fact that the iOS is much more efficient than the Android. However, it will be good to compare between the various models within the same OS.

For example, I would compare between a Samsung Galaxy and a Xiaomi or an Oppo smartphone. Other than having a power bank (which we recommend), the battery capacity enables you to do more work on the phone before you need to charge again.

As smartphones become more powerful, the battery size becomes more crucial, as things like the processor and the display consumes a lot of power. In comparison, Apple’s iPhone is designed to consume less power through a process of vertical integration4, an efficient processor and OS.5

That is why while it is good to compare apples to apples, comparing between Apple’s iPhone and some Android smartphone isn’t exactly an Apple to Apple comparison. Rather, the iPhone should not be benchmarked against Android phones, but against other iPhones.


Choosing a smartphone can be either a straightforward process or one fraught with problems. If you understand that not all phones are created equal (e.g.: the iPhone is much more efficient than the various Android phones), you’ll then be able to choose a phone without being bamboozled by the over-eager phone salesman in the shopping mall.

Rather, once you are able to find out these five things that we have mentioned, we are certain that you will be able to wisely choose a good smartphone that fits your budget. May you enjoy your new phone!



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