How to Choose a Smart Phone

I did a phone conference recently with some folks from Qualcomm. These are the people who make the processor that’s powering that smart phone you can’t live without.

I’ve done my share of “processor-level meetings” in my day. So I have a little post-traumatic meeting stress related to them. One year at a trade show – I’m going back a few years here – I found myself in one. The people running the meeting spoke for about 20 minutes. I spent all of that time trying to identify a single word (beyond articles and prepositions) that I knew or could even guess at their meaning. I entertained myself by making up phrases to go with the acronyms they tossed out three at a time. Then they asked, “Do you have any questions?” I was with my boss, Steve, from PC World and he looked at me desperately, hoping beyond reason that I could put together an intelligent question. I couldn’t even tell you what the product name was or the topic of the meeting, let alone probe the details of either. So I grinned and asked some “marketplace” questions. (Those are always safe.) And Steve and I spent the rest of the meeting suppressing giggles and trying to get out of there.


So I went to this phone meeting with Qualcomm with some trepidation and a few “marketplace” level questions handy in case they were planning to speak entirely in code. But I was delighted to find the people on the other end of the Skype line funny and speaking lucid English. I actually had a good time. They were fun — even funny! And they had lots of good advice about choosing cell phones based on real criteria such as how long the battery will last and how hot it will get when it’s in your pocket. They even named their latest mobile processor Snapdragon so people can remember it.

Don’t believe me? They asked me to watch this video, which they named the “Butter Benchmark.”

See? It’s geeky. But funny, right?

Phones do sometimes get super-hot. But, until this conversation, I didn’t realize there was a way to predict how hot when evaluating them until they started burning up my purse.

They had lots more advice, too. And they even offered to write up some tips for my readers. Buying a smart phone is confusing. So I totally took them up on that – after thanking them profusely for being so easy to understand and fun to talk to.

Tips for Choosing a Smart Phone

If you are shopping for a phone, read on for some tips from the people who build its innards.

Consider the network

“4G” doesn’t always mean the same thing. Look for an LTE network if you want the fastest available data speeds.

Choose the OS that’s right for you

Modern smartphone operating systems — iOS, Android and Windows Phone — have come a long way. They all have unique features and differentiators. Figure out which is right for you is by giving them a test run at a store or on a friend’s device.

Pick a form factor

Today’s smartphones are trending bigger with displays ranging from 3.5” to 5” or more. The extra real estate can be great for casual games or browsing the Web. But be sure to handle the phone so you know that it’s comfortable in your hand and you want to carry it around.

Evaluate performance

At the heart of every smartphone is a processor, such as Snapdragon processors by Qualcomm.  Mobile processors are the brains inside your smartphone or tablet. They enable important functions such as Web browsing, mobile applications, location awareness/GPS, visually stunning graphics and gaming, HD and 3D video, dual cameras, crystal clear audio and seamless touch screens. Snapdragon processors power more than 420 of the best smartphones and tablets on the market from leading device manufacturers and operators. There are 400 additional Snapdragon-powered devices currently in development. You can find Snapdragon-enabled devices at

There’s been a lot of talk lately about multi-core processors, but as is often the case, more is not necessarily better. Don’t rely strictly on the spec sheet. Give the phone a test run, paying close attention to how responsive and smooth it is when loading apps or moving within the operating system.

Battery life

There are a variety of factors that determine how long a smartphone’s battery lasts, including the size of the battery and the efficiency of the processor. Ultimately, however, the biggest factor is how you use the phone. If you’re streaming video, your battery will drain more quickly than if you’re checking email. Ask about battery life! It doesn’t matter how fancy your phone is if it can’t survive your daily schedule.

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