Jun 03, 2013

Does the brand of smartphone matter for reliability and performance?

I have only had two different Android phones over my smartphone “career”, one LG and one Motorola. I think that my daughter is old enough to have a smartphone, and I am going to go with a pre-paid plan to prevent her overuse of the phone (set amount of minutes and data per month without risk of overages). With the pre-paid plans, the phones are much more expensive up front, although of course over time the lower monthly charge makes it actually cost less for hardware and service. Of course she wants either an iPhone or Galaxy S3 or S4, but that’s not going to happen. I see a lot of brands that are more affordable, such as Kyocera and Huawei. Is there a big difference in the performance/reliability of phones these days, assuming similar specs?

I can't comment on Android, as I've always used iPhones and they've been very reliable. Read reviews of the ones you are interested, that'll help you figure out which ones are good and which ones aren't.

I would say there is still a significant difference, although not as much as there used to be. Screen resolution will probably be the first thing you notice compared on a second tier brand compared to a top shelf device. I’ve never played around with a Huawei, but I do know someone with a Kyocera, and it immediately felt like a low end device to me. Aside from the rather washed-out, comparatively low-res display, it just felt cheaply made. The plastic felt like that in an old economy car, if that makes any sense. Aside from looking worse than higher end phones, I also found the screen to be less responsive to touch. It was still perfectly usable, but if you were comparing it to a Galaxy or HTC One, you would immediately notice the difference. Now that he has had it for a few months, I’ve also heard him complain of it acting up lately, but I don’t know the specifics. 


There is quite a bit of difference in reliability according to some sources, although my quick search did not turn up a comprehensive list that included all of the brands you mentioned. It’s not always what you expect, though. Samsung devices are prone to microphone issues, for example. For her first phone, I would worry about it too much; unless she is an unusual kid, I would be surprised if she wasn’t the greatest factor in how long the device lasts. 

I always rely on reviews to narrow down my search for smartphones, PCs, etc. There should be plenty of reviews on your carrier's site, plus sites like CNET. Those should tell you if a phone has hardware-related problems and limitations.

After I read the reviews and figure out what to stay away from, then I try to put the devices in my hands to see how they feel and how I like them.

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