We know that buying a smartphone can be a daunting task for many. We have taken the hustle out of it by showing you all you need to know and do to help make the best smartphone decisions. Let’s start with the basics.
What are your needs?
Even though many of us own smartphones, we don’t all have the same needs. This is one of the most important reasons to consider when you are buying a smartphone. Some people want smartphones with good sound and customized headsets for music. Others want a smartphone with a better image processor and advanced camera tricks for crisp images and video.
Others want smartphones with bigger screens, productivity apps, better batteries and faster internet speeds to help them work and stay online longer. Others just want to stay in touch or chat on WhatsApp or Facebook, the needs are endless. Determining what your needs are is the first step to getting an appropriate smartphone that will solve them.
What is your budget?
Your budget will determine what kind of smartphone you can get. Fortunately, there are very many budget friendly options that can do most of what the high end smartphones can do. It’s important at this point to understand how smartphones are categorized.
There are entry level, mid-range and high-end smartphones. Entry level smartphones have the basics and are not very advanced but can get the job done. These are normally good for first time smartphone owners to get accustomed to a particular brand or OS before they upgrade.
Mid-range smartphones are the affordable versions of their high end colleagues and normally have better specifications and capabilities. The high end smartphones are most times the flagship devices of the major manufacturers with the latest features and technology e.g. the Samsung Galaxy S6 is a high-end phone and also the current flagship device for Samsung. Your budget will determine which category of smartphone you buy.
Understanding Technical specifications
This is what we normally call specs. The quality, size and speed of the different elements of your smartphone. Specs help you determine if a phone is low or high end. They are also an indicator of what the phone may be capable of doing.
The major specs are OS version, RAM, Processor type and speed, internal memory, Camera quality, battery capacity and lastly Screen size/Resolution.
An example of the key specs mentioned above are: Samsung X, Android 5.0 Lollipop, 2GB or RAM, 2.3Ghz processor speed, 32GB ROM, 12MP camera with optical image stability(OIS) and 2.8 aperture, a 3100 mAh battery and 5 inch 1080p display with 477 pixel density.
Read a more comprehensive guide to understanding smartphone specifications to help you get a grasp of what all this jargon means.
Choosing a smartphone Operating System (OS) and Apps
There are 4 major smartphone operating systems (OS’s); Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS, Microsoft’s Windows and Blackberry. There are others like Firefox, Sailfish and Ubuntu but they aren’t as popular.
For starters, all the 4 major OS’s work fine and have huge followings so going with any of them would be generally fine. Apple’s iOS and the Blackberry OS are exclusive to those particular devices. This means that you will not find a Samsung phone running iOS or an HTC phone running the Blackberry OS.
Google’s Android OS and Microsoft’s Windows are more open and run on multiple devices other than Google or Microsoft’s. Below I have tried to summarize a few benefits or downsides to each Operating System
Pros and Cons of the major Operating Systems.
- Exclusive to Apple devices
- Easy to use
- Regular updates across all devices
- Uniform experience across Apple devices regardless of which device you hold
- Closed platform that cannot be tinkered with (if you are the kind that loves to play around)
- Many apps are for purchase and not for free
- Not easily customizable
- Most used OS installed on over a billion devices
- Supported on multiple devices with a good range of devices from most of the popular brands to choose from e.g. Samsung, HTC, Tecno etc.
- Easy to sign up and easy to use
- Lots of free and popular apps for almost anything
- Open OS makes it easy to tweak and customize e.g. you can flash the device and install your own OS like Cyanogen, ColorOS or Oxygen OS
- No uniform OS updates due to fragmentation (updates depend on device manufacturer other than Google) except you own a nexus device
- Lack of a uniform experience as each device manufacturer is allowed to tweak the OS with their own custom User Interface (UI) e.g. the HTC sense. Samsung Touch wiz or Huawei Emotion UI
- Clean, fresh, less cluttered design
- Easy to sign up
- Not very user friendly
- May not have all your popular apps like on other platforms
- Good with productivity apps such as MS Office
- Uniform experiences across all devices
- Over-The-Air(OTA) Updates to all compatible devices
- Closed platform that is hard to tinker with for the geeks
- Good range of devices inclusive of non-Microsoft devices
- Exclusive to Blackberry devices
- Stable and much secure
- Less popular than the rest
- Fewer apps on the blackberry store (May have support for some Android apps)
- Not very user friendly
- Uniform updates to compatible devices
- Closed platform that is hard to tinker with for the geeks
Choosing a smartphone brand
There are multiple brands to choose from. It boils down to preference and brand loyalty, design philosophy as all these brands actually make good phones.
Unlike the rest, there’s no entry-level or cheap iPhone unless it’s a second hand device. The rest of the brands follow the categorization model we earlier talked about; Low-end, Mid-range and High-end. That means that you can get your preferred brand from low to high budget points.
Here are some of the numerous phone brands. iPhone, Samsung, Microsoft, LG, HTC, Sony, Google Nexus, Motorola, Asus, Alcatel, Blackberry, Huawei, ZTE, Oneplus One, Tecno, Infinix, iTel, iDroid and Innjoo. We cannot mention all as there are so many others but these are the most popular – at least in Africa.
Choosing Where/Whom to buy a smartphone from
When choosing a smartphone, availability is a big deal. In Uganda we have many smartphone vendors. From the Telecoms, actual vendors to online stores, one may get confused as to who they should buy from. The information below will help you decide whom to buy from.
For telecoms, there is MTN Uganda, Airtel, Africell, Vodafone, and Smart Telecom that have multiple stores across the country where you can purchase a smartphone.
There are vendors like Simba Telecom, Midcom, Elite computers, HTC Hub, Banana Phone World, Socho Telecom and many other vendors downtown who sell devices. Samsung and Huawei also have independent dealerships.
Before you buy a smartphone
After ascertaining your needs, determining your budget, choosing your Operating system, preferred brand and where you are going to buy it from, you are now ready to buy a device. But before you buy a smartphone, look out for the following.
Compare prices/Look for good deals
Visit your favorite store (offline/online) and compare prices and devices to see who has the best deal. Jumia and Kaymu normally have great smartphone deals.
Brand new Vs. Second hand.0.
Are you buying a brand new or second hand phone? It’s always advisable to buy brand new phones with a warranty. If buying second hand, make sure it’s from a trusted dealer or friend. If they can offer a 3 month warranty in case of defects, the better. Even when buying a second hand device, always make sure you get a receipt for the purchase and also the original receipt of purchase of possible.
Read online Reviews
Get as much information as possible about the device you want to buy. Get information like features, specifications, price, where to buy etc. If you haven’t personally had an experience with the device you want to buy, consider reading reviews from reputable smartphone review websites about people’s experiences with the phone. Many people will be honest about what they like or don’t like about a phone. If you have a friend who owns one, ask them about their experiences. Some stores have experiential tables where they allow you to have a feel of the device before you buy it.
Customer Care and After Sales Support
How they treat you after you buy the device is more important that how they treat you before. Customer care seems to be the major differentiator between the multiple smartphone manufacturers and vendors. After sales support becomes key to turning you into a brand loyal.
It’s important to look at a few things like; can I repair my phone from my home country if it got a problem? Does the warranty apply in my home country? If you cannot get your device repaired in your home country, you may want to reconsider the brand.
Always make sure you get a functional warranty before you buy a device so that if it malfunctions or gets a problem, you have it covered. Ask about what your warranty covers, for how long and if it is functional in your country. If you are buying a device that is still covered by warranty, make sure you get the warranty card as well. Make sure the box is sealed upon receiving it or else the warranty may be void.
Tecno, Infinix and iTel give a 13 month warranty on all their smartphones giving great after sales support in case your phone gets a problem. They partner with Carlcare centers across Africa.
iDroid also gives after sales support through an app to help you get your device fixed if it gets a problem. (Clarify with the vendor before purchase as we don’t have sufficient information on how it works.)
Samsung has a 24 month warranty program if you buy the device at select stores. (Clarify with the vendor before purchase as we don’t have sufficient information on how it works.)
Whenever you purchase a device, make sure you get a receipt as proof of purchase as this may be a prerequisite to claiming your warranty. If they cannot give you a valid receipt, go buy from elsewhere.
You are now ready to buy a device. We hope you found this information useful. If you did, please share.