Buying a new Android phone used to be easy just a couple of years ago. Every new generation of smartphones came with some serious improvements, so anything you bought would be a major upgrade over your current device. That’s not the case today.
Modern smartphones are filled with impressive specs, but the difference between two consecutive generations is smaller than ever before. So it’s more confusing as to what you should buy. In this article, we’ll cover seven features your next Android phone should have to ensure its future-proofing.
1. A Strong Processor
The processor is the brain of your smartphone. It dictates all the activities of your phone including gaming, photography, storage, communication, and web browsing. The better the processor, the more workload your phone can handle.
Without a strong processor (otherwise called a chipset or an SoC), the actions you can perform on your phone will be limited. Which processor is right for you depends greatly on your usage. You can judge a processor’s performance using benchmarks like AnTuTu and Geekbench.
Anything between an AnTuTu score of 300K–500K is a pretty solid mark for casual users. However, for power users and gamers, that might not do. In that case, you want a processor that can pull roughly 700K or higher. But do note that benchmark scores don’t always tell the whole story, so take those results with a grain of salt.
2. At Least 6GB of RAM
Unlike ROM, which is the main storage of your phone, RAM is used for short-term memory. The more RAM you have, the easier it will be to multitask on your device. This is helpful because more apps can remain running in the background without closing, so they won’t load from scratch every time you reopen them—saving time.
The amount of RAM you can get on a phone varies considerably. It ranges from 2GB on some entry-level devices to up to a massive 16GB on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. For an average user, 6GB of RAM is the sweet spot. With it, you can easily do several activities simultaneously. You can chat with your friends, stream music, and browse the web—all at once.
3. At Least 128GB of Storage
More content is posted online today than ever before. We download movies, games, apps, documents, photos, videos, and songs. And all of it goes straight into our devices. Plus, since cameras are getting better, the quality (and therefore the file size) of photos and videos is increasing too.
Just a couple of years ago, 32GB of internal storage was the standard. Today, we see some flagships coming with up to 1TB of storage. But both are unfit for an average buyer. While you can survive with 64GB of storage, it’s likely that you will fill it up quickly because of the reasons we mentioned above.
So, 128GB of fast UFS 3.1 storage is the safest bet to future-proof your phone. If your desired phone has a MicroSD card slot, you can get away with 64GB of internal storage as the external card will help share the load. Support for external storage is very useful since you can simply insert your current SD card into your new phone.
4. A High Refresh Rate Display
Display tech has come a long way in the smartphone industry, and it makes perfect sense for it to be as good as it is. After all, most of the content is viewed on mobile screens. Unlike many other features such as a flashlight or speakers, a smartphone display is in use pretty much all the time.
Depending on your budget, the display specs will vary. But at the very least, a modern smartphone display should have a 90Hz refresh rate, FHD resolution, AMOLED colors, and more than 80% screen-to-body ratio.
Brownie points if the screen has a hole-punch camera cutout for a clean viewing experience, rather than a notch.
5. At Least 4000mAh Battery With Fast Charging
Anything below a battery capacity of 4000mAh is no longer acceptable for a modern Android smartphone. After all, we’ve already seen Samsung’s mid-range Galaxy M51 rock a massive 7000mAh cell. For your next phone, you can eye a battery capacity between 4000–5000mAh.
However, do keep in mind that software optimization plays a huge role in the actual battery life of your phone. A phone with a 4000mAh battery and amazing software will easily outperform a phone with a 5000mAh battery but poor software. That’s why iPhones are able to get away with smaller batteries.
Alongside good battery life, you also need fast charging capacity of at least 20W. If your phone also supports reverse wireless charging—where it can charge accessories like wireless earbuds—that’s a sweet bonus, but it’s not a strict necessity.
6. An Optimized Camera System
Smartphone photography is increasingly becoming more computational. Although hardware does matter, it’s not as important as it once used to be. Pretty much all phones today have good camera hardware, but it’s the software treatment that makes the difference.
Some phones tend to exaggerate color and sharpness, while others opt for a more realistic appearance. Some are excellent at low-light photography but take bad videos, while others create cinematic masterpieces but lack fun filters and additional features. It’s a mess, basically.
Brands boast about high megapixels, but they are not as indicative of the actual camera quality. Instead, check these two other specs that may be more telling of the kind of quality you’ll get: aperture and sensor size.
- Aperture: This controls the amount of light that the lens lets in. The larger the aperture (confusingly shown as a smaller f-number, like f1.8), the wider the lens can open so it can let more light in. This is especially useful for low-light photography and getting a natural bokeh effect.
- Sensor size: An image sensor captures light and converts it into an image; it directly affects image resolution and size. Sensor size isn’t always specified, but a larger sensor is always better.
Still, the only way to judge the camera quality of a phone is to simply test it yourself, or watch reviews. Alongside the main camera, an ultra-wide lens is a must. Telephoto and macro lenses are nice to have, but might not be as important to you depending on your preference.
7. Other Specs to Look For
As well as the headline specs, there are several other things you should look for on modern phones.
- Clean software: Ideally, you want a clean software experience that doesn’t feel too pushy. For that, you have mainly three options: stock Android, OneUI from Samsung, and OxygenOS from OnePlus, although the latter is losing its charm. Try to avoid MIUI, ColorOS, and FuntouchOS if you can.
- Headphone jack: Headphone jacks are disappearing fast throughout the smartphone industry. But if you can find it, get it. Without a jack, you have to either bear the inconvenience of using a USB-C dongle or buy Bluetooth headphones that will become obsolete quickly.
- USB-C: USB-C is more powerful, easier to use, and more future-proof than the old micro-USB standard. It can also be used for audio on devices where the headphone jack has been removed.
- In-display fingerprint scanner: In-display fingerprint scanners are currently limited to flagships, but as they become more common, you can eye them in mid-range offerings as well.
- NFC: If you hate carrying cash, NFC (Near Field Communication) is great for making secure wireless payments with a touch.
- Water-resistance: A prerequisite on most flagship devices and quality mid-rangers. Water-resistance may not mean you can go swimming with your phone, but you can drop it in the sink or use it in the rain without fear.
Buy a Phone You Will Love to Use
The performance, capabilities, design, and build quality of smartphones are better than they’ve ever been. As long as you know what you’re looking out for, you’ll be able to find your perfect Android phone, no matter what price point you’re shopping at.
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