High-end smartphone specs have become exaggerated
The biggest numbers game takes place with SoCs. Taiwanese processor specialist MediaTek has often tried to prove its mettle against its nemesis Qualcomm by touting the number of extra cores it has in its processors. Buyers continue to believe that octa-core is better than quad-core by default, without going into detail and determining the general capability of the SoC. Qualcomm itself followed suit for a while, but has now reverted to a 2+2 core arrangement, its flagship Snapdragon 820, which is one of the most capable SoCs on the market.
(Also see: Octa-core processors: real advantage or marketing myth?)
There’s also the persistent myth that more pixels are better, whether in the camera sensor or on your screen. On a basic level, there’s nothing wrong with the argument that more megapixels will capture better detail, or that a higher resolution screen will look sharper, but there has to be a reasonable limit and within reason.
The 12-megapixel camera in the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge takes some of the best photos we’ve seen on a smartphone, far better than the 21-megapixel cameras in the recent Lenovo Vibe X3 and Motorola Moto X Style. The only sensible use of so many pixels we saw was Nokia’s 41-megapixel PureView camera sensor, which actually produces its best results when shooting in 8-megapixel PureView mode.
Likewise, Sony managed to cram a 4K screen into a smartphone with the Xperia Z5 Premium. There’s no doubt that 806 pixels per inch is absolutely stunning, but you’ll be hard pressed to tell the difference between that and any half-decent 2560 x 1440 pixel display. In reality, most people can’t spot individual pixels even on 5-inch Full HD screens, and anything above that is overkill and just wastes your battery.
This trend continues in other aspects as well, such as RAM (what exactly am I supposed to do with 6GB??) and LTE speeds (450Mbps speeds are a distant dream when Indian mobile service providers struggle to give you a tenth of that speed despite strong 4G coverage). Instead, why not focus on increasing numbers where they matter and lowering prices to stay competitive? Instead, smartphone makers need to offer more internal storage and bigger batteries, and flagship prices could certainly drop a notch.
This is where smartphones such as the Xiaomi Mi 5 (Review) are to be praised. It has a 16-megapixel camera that produces results that most people will be happy with, 3GB of RAM and a Full HD display, all of which are more than enough for any flagship device today. Its price is reasonable and there is nothing in it that even suggests overpowering. The phone is certainly not perfect, but it is among the most sensible options available today.
An honorable mention should also be made here at Apple, one of the few companies to have steered clear of the spec game. Apple is streamlining its spec sheet based on what’s actually needed, instead working on building the overall experience and aspirational value of owning an iPhone. It is one of the few brands whose devices have always been marketed as lifestyle products and have enjoyed considerable success as such.
Unfortunately, it won’t be easy to convince the buying public to stop looking at things quantitatively and start looking at things qualitatively instead. But let’s at least try to make sense of smartphones again, and stop the ridiculous marketing by numbers.
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