The prac­ti­cal guide to choos­ing a smart­phone

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - BUSINESS - BY HAYLEY TSUKAYAMA The Washington Post

Buy­ing a smart­phone can be daunt­ing, par­tic­u­larly when there are so many new op­tions on the mar­ket. Choos­ing the right phone is an in­tensely per­sonal de­ci­sion, and one an­swer may not fit all — even for those who aren't ob­sessed with the minute dif­fer­ences in tech­ni­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

No mat­ter who you are, the first thing to fig­ure out is what fea­ture is your top pri­or­ity. While we'd all love for phones to have it all, the right de­ci­sion re­quires you to rank some at­tributes. Based on the ques­tions I of­ten field about new phones, here are four com­mon ways that you can frame your smart­phone searches — and thoughts on how to use ap­ply them to this fall's most pop­u­lar smart­phones.

The cam­era

Cam­eras have be­come a top pri­or­ity for many smart­phone buy­ers. Think­ing about what kind of pic­tures you shoot and your own skill level may help you here. The good news is that most of the phones on the mar­ket have pretty good cam­eras, so it's hard to land with a bad op­tion.

If you're mostly a pointand-shoot per­son, Sam­sung's Galaxy S8 and Ap­ple's iPhone 8 will work for you. But they do lack some photo fea­tures avail­able on more pre­mium mod­els.

If you of­ten have trou­ble fo­cus­ing on the right part of a pic­ture with scenic views, for ex­am­ple, you may want to think about the Note 8. That phone al­lows you to ad­just fo­cus of a pic­ture af­ter you've taken, in case you de­cide later that you want the back­ground in fo­cus. It also al­ways records a wide-an­gle pic­ture with your close-up. That's nice for those of us who aren't al­ways get­ting the per­fect shot.

Tend to shake a lot when you're tak­ing pic­tures? Go for a phone with a fea­ture called im­age sta­bi­liza­tion, which helps when shoot­ing from a mov­ing lo­ca­tion (like a car) or for zoomedin shots. The Note 8 has made this a sell­ing point. Ap­ple has sta­bi­liza­tion in both of the iPhone X's cam­eras, and in the tele­photo lens of the iPhone 8 Plus.

If you take a lot of pic­tures of peo­ple, the iPhone might be the bet­ter op­tion for you. The iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus have ex­panded on Ap­ple's pop­u­lar "Por­trait Mode" set­tings, which al­low you to shoot dra­mat­i­cally lit shots of peo­ple. With func­tions such as "stage light­ing" or "con­tour light­ing" they make sure that faces pop in al­most any sit­u­a­tion — and you can ap­ply those ef­fects ei­ther be­fore or af­ter you take your shot.

LG's new V30 also has an im­pres­sive rear-fac­ing wide-an­gle lens, which may have par­tic­u­lar ap­peal to those who are al­ways snap­ping vis­tas. The trade-off there is that the front-fac­ing cam­era isn't as good, so your self­ies won't be as good as your other shots.

If self­ies are to­tally your thing, the iPhone X prom­ises ex­cel­lent self­ies, thanks to the fancy tech that also pow­ers fa­cial recog­ni­tion in the front-fac­ing cam­era.

The bat­tery life

Bat­tery life is a good at­tribute to con­sider, par­tic­u­larly if you're on the go a lot and can't stay plugged in through­out the day.

Phone mak­ers — Ap­ple, in par­tic­u­lar — aren't giv­ing spe­cific hour es­ti­mates on bat­tery life any more, per­haps be­cause mileage varies so much de­pend­ing on how you use your phone. When I'm test­ing phones, I'm mostly look­ing for a prac­ti­cal stan­dard: to see if they get me through a full day with­out re­quir­ing a top up.

While the most ex­pen­sive phones tend to have the best bat­tery life, it's not nec­es­sar­ily the case this year. The Galaxy Note 8, Sam­sung's most ex­pen­sive phone, doesn't have much bet­ter bat­tery life than the S8+, for ex­am­ple.

For Ap­ple, the iPhone X boasts the most bat­tery life, ex­plic­itly promis­ing two hours of ex­tra bat­tery life over the iPhone 7 — an ex­trap­o­la­tion you could ex­tend, pre­sum­ably, to the iPhone 8.

But stats can be a lit­tle de­ceiv­ing. The iPhone 7 wasn't the best for bat­tery life in the Ap­ple lineup; the iPhone 7 Plus did. If bat­tery life is your main fo­cus, then, the sim­i­larly lon­glast­ing iPhone 8 Plus may of­fer the most bang for your buck.

Cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy

If you want cut­ting-edge hard­ware, then you will have to pay for it. The Note 8 and the iPhone X are your phones here, as they are jam-packed with fea­tures such as fa­cial recog­ni­tion on the iPhone X or the sty­lus pro­duc­tiv­ity fea­tures on the Note 8.

If you re­ally like try­ing out new things, there is an in­ter­est­ing op­tion on the ta­ble this fall: the Es­sen­tial phone. Made by Andy Ru­bin, the cre­ator of An­droid, the Es­sen­tial phone is es­sen­tially an ex­per­i­ment. It has mod­u­lar ac­ces­sories, such as a de­tach­able cam­era, to let you cus­tom­ize your pur­chase with add-ons.

The down­side of hav­ing an ex­per­i­men­tal phone is that it's, well, ex­per­i­men­tal. The Es­sen­tial phone got dinged in early re­views for not liv­ing up to its prom­ise. The fur­ther into the un­known that you get, the more chance there is of things not work­ing quite right yet — that's worth re­mem­ber­ing for all de­vices.

One other thing to note: if you want new soft­ware im­me­di­ately, then a) you're prob­a­bly an An­droid fan and b) you'll prob­a­bly want a Pixel. The Pixel is Google's phone, and is the first to get An­droid up­dates and all the new fea­tures that come with it. The Pixel should get an up­date later this fall.


This is the at­tribute that, gen­er­ally speak­ing, re­quires the most in terms of trade-offs. But fo­cus­ing on price makes sense, par­tic­u­larly as smart­phone prices are now hit­ting $1,000.

Price is of­ten what makes peo­ple stick with the ba­sic fla­vor smart­phones; this fall, for most peo­ple, that'd be the iPhone 8 or the Galaxy S8, which work for those who just want a phone that works well. The price-con­scious may also want to con­sider last year's phones, such as the iPhone 7 or the Galaxy S7, which get price drops as the new tech comes out.

If get­ting a re­ally low price is your main ob­jec­tive, the field ac­tu­ally gets a lit­tle more crowded. You can look at some of the more "bud­get" top- or mid-tier phones for un­der $500, which tend to get the job done well, even if they're not likely to rock your world. De­vices such as the Huawei Honor 8 and the Moto G se­ries of­fer pretty-darn good fea­tures and per­for­mance.

The same can be said of the iPhone SE, Ap­ple's smaller and less full-fea­tured smart­phone, which it sells for $350.


Ap­ple’s iPhone X boasts long bat­tery life, ex­plic­itly promis­ing two hours of ex­tra bat­tery life over the iPhone 7.

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