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Differences Between Cheap and Expensive Smartphones

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 4

What is the difference between expensive and cheap smartphones? This is a legitimate question consumers can have about smartphones, knowing their prices are so widely spread, especially for Android phones. Why does this one costs 200 while that one costs 800? The mobile industry  is not the easiest to understand either. "Oh this is because that one supports [enter a meaningless acronym here] while this one does not". So, here is more comprehensive information about this topic.



Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net


1. Better Processing Power

The first argument for a more expensive phone is that it has a better cpu, a more powerful processor or even more ram. But what does this mean to you, the user who don't speak the geek language fluently?

Basically, this means that your phone should handle programs more smoothly and reacts faster. Imagine you are running a game with nice graphics, stops it in the middle of an action, go to your desktop, start the agenda, change your mind and immediately go back to the desktop and call, no wait send a SMS to your friend... Then, a cheap phone may be lost. Too many programs, not stopped nicely enough, etc...

This means that a cheap phone could work nicely in the shop where you test something first, then, gently start testing something else, etc... but may not work as well in an everyday scenario.

However, if you don't intend to play games with nice graphics and just want to call, receive SMS and surf a little on the internet, then a cheap Android phones could be good enough. Or maybe patience is one of your strong point...


Galaxy SIII

Galaxy SIII, an example of an expensive but great phone

2. Better Camera

More expensive phones generally have better cameras. At least, this argument is concrete and easy to understand. However, it is not so easy to decide whether you need or not a better camera.

Cameras in most new phones are pretty good and if you check smartphones tests in magazines, you will discover that to differentiate good and bad cameras, they have to make tests in atypical scenarios: this phone takes better pictures in a dark environment or when exposed to strong light, or that phone has a better digital zoom, etc...

But how often do you take pictures in the dark, while directly facing the sun or of an object that is so far away that you wouldn't spot it with bare eyes?

Also, the number of pixels so much praised in the description of smartphones or digital cameras will not help if people mostly look at your photos on a computer screen (facebook anyone?).

The "ultimate" example is that the iPhone, number 1 smartphone is far from having the best camera on the market... Paradoxical, isn't it?

3. Better User Experience

This is where the phone gets more expensive. Cheap Android phones have a basic, not branded version of Android, while expensive ones have an enhanced user experience version of Android.

What does it mean? It is difficult to describe precisely, but say there has been a team of engineers trying to guess what would be the best for you, what kind of options you would like to have, and what kind of options should be hidden because you would not understand them anyone, what should be and what should not be on your desktop or the initial programs that should be included so that you could use your phone at once and not start downloading every single application you need.

Well, this is what is called enhanced user experience. Android phones are all using Android, but HTC will give you the feeling of a HTC phone, Sony Ericsson the feeling of a Sony Ericsson phone, etc... If there is a brand you have always liked that you have always found more logical or easier to use, then this is what the brand is trying to convey through this and what makes a phone a bit more expensive.

Is it worth the price difference? Difficult to say, you almost need to try both an Android phone from your favorite brand and a plain Android phone and see by yourself how big the difference is. Remember that even a small difference could have a big impact if it is for a task you do several times a day.

4. Support and Accessories

Something else to consider is everything around the phone. Getting a cheap smartphone from an unknown brand may be the cause of troubles when you look for nice covers or if you need to get it fixed.

If the screen of your phone breaks, there is little chance you can get it fixed through the warranty of the phone. You will be on your own trying to get a screen that fits your phone and replace it yourself. You could also try to find a company that does it for you.

But all this would be simpler if you were to do it for an iPhone or the latest Samsung phone. Because then, you would easily find some spare screens on the net and companies that can change them for you (not saying they are cheap). If you start wondering about a phone from an unknown brand, things could get harder to find (both the screen and a company to do it).

5. Old Phones

Old phones are not the same as cheap phones. Some people wonder about buying used phones to get them cheaper, some even buy a used iPhone on Craigslist.

The main issue with old phones is that the standards are evolving quite fast in the Telecommunications world. This means you may experience compatibility issues with a brand new bluetooth headset (using the latest bluetooth standard), or may not be able to download the latest operating system for your phone which could correct security issues etc...

However, some people are still using the iPhone 3 today and are happy with it, so why not?


To conclude, it is up to you to decide whether the price is worth it or not but at least, you will now have a better understanding of the differences between a cheap and an expensive phone.

There are even more articles about smartphones that may interest you:



Sep 23, 2012 8:36pm
I have become an avid iPhone user. I think that the operating system is better all the way around. But I do know that some of the cheaper ones I have seen do not appeal to me. Nice article, thanks.
Mar 22, 2013 9:59am
Thanks for your comment, the iPhone is indeed a great phone, but then the question is when does someone need to update to the new version. For example, would an iPhone 3 still be great by today's standard? Does someone who has an iPhone 4 need the newest model?
Oct 24, 2012 5:23am
I would like to see for myself how a cheap smartphone would perform. The quality of your connection to the network is the main concern, I think.
Mar 22, 2013 9:58am
You may actually be surprised about how well a cheaper phone can perform. Some are great despite their price.
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