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Seven specs that shouldn’t matter when buying a phone

This is the era of spec sheets when it comes to smartphones. Rare indeed is the phone that is not accompanied by a detailed hardware and software sheet that highlights all that is great about it. However, for all the hype around them, the fact is that a number of highlighted spec sheet components do not actually add much to the experience as their manufacturers would want consumers to believe they should. No, this does not mean that we should ignore the spec sheet altogether, but rather tjat we should treat some offerings from it with the requisite pinch of salt of cynicism. And in particular, we would advise never accepting the following specs at face value: 

Pixel density

Ever since Steve Jobs unleashed the Retina display on us with the iPhone, phone manufacturers have gone into overdrive quoting pixel density statistics, showing us how many pixels per inch (PPI), their device has. And while the figures might make for impressive reading, the stark fact is that beyond a certain number (generally 300 PPI), they lose their meaning. In fact, some of the best displays out there might not have the highest pixel density counts – witness the iPhone XR’s display if you do not believe us! 

Megapixels

Oppo F11 Pro dual camera

We have been saying this for almost a decade now – with greater megapixels does not necessarily come better picture quality. Yes, more megapixels should logically let you get more details and therefore get better images, but there is a lot more to the great picture equation than just megapixels. Factors like sensor quality and size, pixel and aperture size and even software algorithms come into play. At the end of the day, more megapixels will let you get a larger resolution picture, but not necessarily a better quality one.

Number of cameras

We now have devices that have two, three, four, and even five cameras out there. And yet the phones that most consider to have the best camera of them all has just one camera – the Google Pixel 3. No matter to what task different sensors are dedicated to, at the end of the day, they do not guarantee better image quality. So, yes, trust your eyes rather than the number of cameras on a device when it comes to image quality!

Aperture size

Yes, yes, you can accuse us of spending a lot of time in cameraland, but to be fair, the subject has been attracting a lot of jargon of late. One term that has been making the rounds is aperture, which is basically the opening through which light comes into the camera. Most manufacturers would have you believe that a large aperture means better photographs as more light comes into the camera, but the rationale is frankly as flaky as the “more megapixels means better images.” A larger aperture can result in better light handling, but it needs to be adequately supported by other imaging components too.  

Processor Cores and Gigahertz

We have been saying this for a while too. More cores do not necessarily mean a better performance. A lot depends on how well those cores are utilised – Apple made do with a dual core processor for quite a while on the iPhone, even while its Android counterparts were going quad, hexa, octa and even deca core. The same broadly applies to processor speed as well. An under clocked processor on a phone is likely to affect benchmark scores more than actual performance in most cases. More gigahertz might indicate a faster processor but by no means a faster phone. As in cameras, there is much more than a single element to the whole element of phone efficiency and speed!

RAM

We have seen the RAM cycle on Android devices spiral into territory that is beyond most PCs right now. There are a number of devices coming with as much as 6GB and  8GB of RAM, and some of these are even in the mid-segment, and 10GB and 12GB are being heard of as well. All of which would be quite amazing, if it actually spelt any real benefit to the user. For, going by most conventional wisdom and what I have learned from my experiences, 3GB 4GB of RAM is more than adequate for most users. Yes, more RAM should help in better multi-tasking but if I am being able to run about a dozen apps without too much trouble on a 4GB RAM mid-segment device, one does tend to wonder how much more one needs. Yes, 10GB RAM will ensure that you can switch between playing Fortnite, editing high defintion video, watching a film in full HD, even while responding to social networking alerts… but heavens, how many people do ALL that?

Micro-USB and USB Type-C ports

This is going to be touchy subject for some (as if the ones above are not) but the USB Type-C and micro-USB port debate has been on for a while and to be brutally honest, I have not noticed a world of difference between the two. There does seem to be some faster charging benefits to USB Type-C port devices in some cases (although Quick Charge supports both micro-USB and USB Type-C standards) but by and large the change in performance between the two does not seem to warrant the level of concern that it does from some people.

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Nimish Dubey

Nimish Dubey has been writing on technology since 1999. He has contributed to a number of publications and websites including The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Mint, Economic Times, Outlook, and India Today. He is currently the Editorial Mentor at TechPP.com and a regular contributor to Indian Express. When not writing, he loves to read and listen to classic rock.