Understanding Smartphone specifications and terms for beginners
When shopping for a new smart device and you come across all these different terms used to describe something about the device you are looking for, it can get frustrating to make sense of it all, trust me, I would know, and that's why we are here.
When I started to get interested in smartphones and how they work, my first line of action was to google them and learn more, but then something happened, I got utterly destroyed by the shared amount of terms and specifications, that I had no idea what they meant, and this leads me to put my interest aside for a while till I summoned up the courage to learn it.
To avoid the same thing happening to you, we have put together the important things you need to know and simplified them for maximum understanding.
Let's jump right in
- What is a processor? — Your smartphone processor also known as the Chipset is a component that controls everything going on in your smartphone and ensures it functions correctly, the processors of a device, or in this case, your smartphone can be said to be the brain and heart of your phone.
- How does it work? — Processors are usually classed by speed, which is expressed in gigahertz(GHz). The processor of a smartphone is made up of multi-core for efficient and seamless functionality, the cores are individual processing unit that handles different tasks, which allows for faster output. Processors can also be referred to as System On Chip (SOC) or just chipset since it is made up of different components.
This brings us to this: The faster a processor is and the more core it is the faster your phone will be.
- Companies that make them and types of processors — There are a lot of processors out there of different types and brands made by a handful of companies, Note that the bigger the number of a certain processor the faster it is, for example, Snapdragon 8 gen 1 compared to the snapdragon 400 series, the snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is faster.
Some companies that manufacture these processors include
- Qualcomm — Snapdragon
- MediaTek — Dimensity and Helio series
- Samsung — Exynos
- Huawei — Kirin
- Apple Bionic or A
2. Smartphone GPU
GPU which means the Graphic Processing Unit takes care of the graphic aspect of a smartphone, it takes care of the visual output in the creation of 3-D images. This aspect is usually noticeable when playing video games, and more recently, augmented reality applications.
There are 4 leading players in the smartphone GPU market, they are.
- Qualcomm’s Adreno series
- Apple’s in-house FPU line
- ARM’s Mali GPU series
- and Imagination’s PowerVR line, which targets the lower-end market.
3. Memory and Storage
A smartphone‘s capacity comes in 2 different flavors which are RAM which means Random Access Memory and ROM which means Read Only Memory. More in-depth info on RAM and ROM can be found he…
RAM or Random Access Memory
RAM — is the temporary storage (memory) where your currently used programs are stored, for example, opening an app, closing an app, or opening a game, all get stored in the RAM as temporary memory.
There are different types of smartphone memory ranging from LPDDR3, and LPDDR4 to LPDDR5, which denotes different memory generations, we look to the future for better LPDDR, as it is with SOC, the higher it is, the better, meaning LPDDR5 is better than LPDDR4.
ROM or Read Only Memory
It stores long-term data (storage) like downloaded files, downloaded games, films, etc. This means you would have more gigabytes of ROM compared to RAM.
Smartphone storage (ROM) commonly comes in 2 varieties, NVMe and UFS, as expected, the higher it is the better, meaning UFS 3.1 is better than 3.0, NVMe is typically used by Apple while Android manufacturers use UFS.
Battery capacity is denoted in milli ampere hour or mAh. Smartphone battery comes in different capacities ranging from 2,500mAh to 5000mAh, some smartphones have lower capacity while some have even higher capacity (crazy right?), and to think the first iPhone had a capacity of 1,400mAh battery, way back in 2007.
Higher capacity should translate to more or longer-lasting battery life, right, but that isn’t always the case, because phone display, software operations, and processing power have become more and more demanding over time.
Now we have 2 different available routes to go when it comes to charging your smartphone, you can either go
- Or with wire (cord)
With both getting even better as time passes and. technology improves.
Cameras are quite tricky to explain, so let’s make this as simple as we can 👍👍
Camera resolution is expressed in megapixels, a single MP refers to 1 million pixels, so if a camera captures a 15-megapixel image, you are looking at 15 million pixels.
Aperture refers to the size of the opening that controls the amount of light that reaches the lens. Aperture is expressed as an f-stop value, for example, f/2 or f/1.7, the smaller the number the bigger the opening the more light you’re letting into the shot. So generally, more flagship phones have a lower aperture.
Pixel size is expressed in Microns, each pixel captured in an image refers to a photodetector site on the camera’s image sensor, and when these sites are physically larger, they absorb more light, so larger pixels capture more light and therefore perform better in a situation where light is scarce.
High Dynamic Range (HDR)
High Dynamic Range is a photographic technology that has found its way into modern phone cameras. It basically allows your phone to take multiple shots when you press the shutter button. Typically 3 shots, one darker, one brighter, and the third one will be in between, it then pulls these images together and makes a final image that is well-balanced.
Images may appear to be underexposed, overexposed, washed out, or over-saturated, sometimes.
The dual camera is an ingenious new tech that gives your phone supervision through its optical zoom capabilities and the use of additional software and image processing tech.
Smartphone displays are marketed as pretty big names but the underlying technology is mostly the same, for example, Apple uses Super Retina XDR branding, while Samsung uses Dynamic AMOLED or SUPER AMOLED to refer to the same OLED display technology. Another common display technology is the IPS LCD, which is found on cheaper smartphones.
AMOLED or Super AMOLED is basically the best display tech, with higher brightness, wider color range, better contrast ratio, and better viewing angles.
Apart from AMOLED, companies also use terms like LTPO, especially in flagship phones. LTPO means Low- temperature polycrystalline silicon, it is a back panel technology for OLED panels that enables companies to incorporate a higher refresh rate (90Hz and 120Hz) and even higher resolution on their device, without compromising battery life.
LTPO allows the screen to dynamically change the refresh rate depending on what you are doing, be it playing a game in which case it becomes brighter, or just doing light scrolling in which case, you guessed it, it becomes darker.
If you want to get the best of the best, go for a device with an LTPO OLED or AMOLED display.
USB-C, Lighting, Micro-USB-C
They are the 3 types of connector ports you will find on modern phones, they are primarily used for charging and listening to music.
USB-C is the newest standard appearing on most Android devices, it is reversible, meaning it can be plugged in through either orientation, and it comes with the ability to deliver power and data faster.
Lighting on the other hand is Apple’s in-house connector, only used by the company’s own devices.
Bluetooth is a short-range wireless technology standard that is used for exchanging data between fixed and mobile devices over a short distance. It has a very short range of up to 10 meters.
Data (LTE and Wi-Fi)
LTE or Long Term Evolution is a 4G wireless broadband standard used by mobile carriers to offer data and voice service on your phone. It provides faster internet speed and lower latency compared to 3G, as a result, you can stream videos, play games, and do high-speed data transfer.
Data speeds are measured in Megabits per second (Mbps).
NFC (Near Field Communication)
NFC is a set of communication protocols that enables communication between two electronic devices over a short distance of 4cm or less. It is a popular method for mobile payment. An NFC-enabled smartphone and a digital wallet app like Kuda, Paypal, etc can serve your credit or debit card to your phone and complete a transaction.
Water resistance (IPXX)
More devices come with water resistance or the ability to withstand splashes or submersion, these capabilities are expressed through IP rating(link)
IP rating includes numbers like IP67 or IP68, they denote the strength of the device’s water resistance
IP67 represents protection against dust and dirt, while IP68 is the one that is concerned with water resistance.
We know that smartphone specs can seem impossible to understand, that’s why we’ve done our best to simplify them for better comprehension, which in turn increases your knowledge of it for the next time you want to shop for a new phone or school your friends on it.