What you need to know about your Mobile Phone & before buying a New One
A lot gets attached to this discussion on smartphones as it's not only specification that plays a role in the selection, but also look, the size and thickness and also how you feel with the model in consideration. While the latter is more of a personal preference, here we'll curtail the discussion to the crucial aspects you need to see before deciding on your next mobile phone. You may certainly like the look and feel, but do not miss out to check and compare the key buying considerations.
1. Mobile Processor & Cores
Gone are the days when mobile phones were only used for voice communication. This is the information age and all that you need to know fits in your palm, inside your pocket. Ranging from Voice communication, to high speed internet connection on the go, to HD multimedia content playback on the television, to some serious gaming, the need for faster processing and multi-tasking never subsides. The one small chip mounted on the mobile phone hardware has to take all that load, increasing the need for multi-processors and multi-cores like never before. So how does all that functionality gets added to your mobile phone even when they keep becoming sleeker and slimmer? To a very granular level, it's the nanometer size of the chip electronics that usually keeps on decreasing with every new generation. In layman terms, the processor is made of nanometer functional elements and higher these elements, more the functionality the chip can cater to. With a decrease in nanometer size, it's certain that more of these elements can now be accommodated in a single chip, catering to more functionality and also making it faster. This also leads to an increase in Processor Cores and the frequency of processing. So higher the number of cores and higher the Core frequency, faster is your mobile phone when handling multiple applications. Simple thing that can be differentiated with a faster processor, is the time taken to say open an image file once you tap on the screen or the response time while gaming or any other day today tasks. Multi-Processors adds much fire power under intensive application environment.
2. Mobile Battery.
This is a key consideration when it comes to a mobile phone selection. Faster Processor and Input/Output Ports are good and all this is achievable because of the Power Supply running on your Mobile hardware. There are multiple voltages that the chips inside the Mobile need and all these voltages are down converted from One DC Voltage coming from your charger or the battery. While the Charger down converts AC to a specific DC Voltage, the battery is the store house of current at a specific voltage. The higher the current rating in Ampere-Hour (mAH), the more current the battery can supply for a longer time. For example a 5 Volt 6000mah battery lasts longer than a 5V 4000mah battery with same application environment. This depends on the number of cells the battery has. More cells correspond to more current driving capacity.
Mobile phone these days come with either a removable or a fixed battery both offering different use cases. A removable battery is helpful for a manual power off by battery removal in case the mobile hangs. Another advantage is the replaceable option in case the battery is in it's End of Life.
On the other hand, a fixed battery would make the mobile phone slimmer, sleeker and gives it a Unibody feel while also making it a bit more resistant to dust.
We'll not discuss the scenario when the mobile phone gets drenched in water. It's mainly the overall mobile phone design claimed by the manufacturer that can prevent a short in such scenarios and not only limited to battery itself. I am yet to see a mobile phone that will activate it's sensors detecting water contact and shutting the mobile off thus preventing the short, saving the hardware.
3. Mobile Display.
The principles in selecting the display remains same as mentioned in the Tablet section. Clarity of picture is the key. A 6 inch display with same clarity as a 5 inch Mobile display is better. Clarity depends on the Pixel count and the Resolution that is the proximity of the pixels from each other for a given display size. Pixel Density that is PPI or Pixel per Inch would provide this information. In general a 2048 X 1536 pixels is better resolution than 1920x1080 pixels and 1280 X 800 displays. Color combinations and quality can play their role in selection. Higher color combinations essentially means higher digital RGB combinations a display can support.
Contrast Ratio defines maximum whiteness to maximum blackness. The higher this ratio, the better it is in realizing whites whiter, grey grayer and black blacker.
The Mobile displays these days are usually Capacitive that provides multi-touch capability and can also be used outdoors under the sun. On the contrary, a Resistive Display would be a single touch and cannot be used under the sun.
4. Mobile Connectivity.
Additional support for standards like Mobile High Definition Link (MHL) and USB Type C need to be checked. With MHL you may directly connect your Mobile with HD Television when playing multimedia. USB Type C is very versatile and allows direct charging of the Mobile by televisions or monitors. USB Type C has a reduced connector size and can connect to any host( PC USB Type A connector) supporting any USB standard. Prior to USB C standard, the devices usually had a USB Type B or AB connector.
USB C is one connector that would probably replace all existing USB connectors on your devices while keeping the underlying technology like USB2/USB3/USB3.1 intact.
The wireless connectivity standards viz 802.11 b/g/n and 802.11 ac let you connect to 2.4GHz band and 5GHz band respectively as supported by your home Router.
Then, there are wireless connectivity options for interfacing mobile directly with your television for watching multimedia. Support of 4G LTE would be necessary for a faster data access up to 400Mbps and higher during travel. Decide, based on the availability of Service Provider and the network.
5. Mobile Camera.
The Primary camera is mainly used for Photos and video recording. The FNumber, Sensor type, Image Resolution, Video Resolution, Frames/second specification of the camera are the key specs that forms the Primary Camera.
One of the important considerations in camera selection is the F-Number range supported by the Lens. This number determines how well the camera is able to accumulate Light for a clear bright Picture and how close from the object the camera is able to resolve focus. The smaller the F-Number, the higher the aperture and higher the light entering into the camera for a brighter capture. A smaller F-Number would do really good for Portraits where the clear focus is on the subject. This would mean a good focus on the subject and a blurry background image. The reverse, that is a smaller aperture would leave less light in and would capture good background image like that needed for Landscapes.
Image Resolution specification provide information on the number of pixels available for clicking photos and Video resolution provides the pixels available for videos.
A high resolution camera would provide more detailed Picture but also increasing the overall size of the picture for transfers. Information about the number of Frames per second for taking videos is important along with the Video Resolution. FHD resolution is now common and Mobile with Cameras up to 4K Video recording are also available. Features like Digital Zoom, Scene Mode, Panoramic view and Auto-Focus can be looked at based on personal preference and the amount of Mobile Phone Camera Use.
The secondary camera is for Video conferencing and gesture recognition and is provided with the same specifications as the Primary camera.
6. Mobile Sensors.
The different sensors available in the Mobiles are Gyroscope, Accelerometer, Ambient Light Sensor, Proximity Sensor, Barometer, Temperature Sensor and Finger Print Sensor. Each sensor serves a specific purpose, let's discuss each one in short.
Gyroscope and Accelerometer
Have you noticed how the Mobile responds while gaming or while rotating the screen or taking certain actions when shaken. The responsible sensors for this purpose are Accelerometer and Gyroscope. Accelerometer provides sensing Linear acceleration based on vibration from a constant position and Gyroscope senses orientation based on rotation. While Accelerometer is commonly found in Mobiles, Gyroscope is a must for high end Gaming .
Ambient Light Sensor
Controls the brightness based on different light scenerios, the auto mode for brightness in the Mobile.
Takes certain actions based on the proximity of the tablet from nearby objects.
This sensor helps you when there is a sudden change in the atmospheric pressure in certain scenerios, say when you are trekking to higher altitudes. Mobiles with GPS would just do that, but would keep your battery draining.
Finger Print Sensor
Enhances the security of the Mobile from unwanted accessibility.
7. Mobile Storage
Cell Phones come with internal storage that is inclusive of the space taken by the mobile itself for firmware, and also with expandable SD Card Storage. Mobiles with up to 2 Tera Byte of SD Card options are available now a days providing a good option to store those large Video files taken from the inbuilt high resolution 4K camera.
The RAM in the mobile is permanently mounted on the PCB that is soldered down unlike a Laptop where the RAM is detachable and up-gradable. RAMs with 6GB size are available now a days supporting the Processor for an increased Fire-Power for intensive applications. We'll have a discussion on how the RAM and Cache Size in general would improve the overall performance of the Mobile at the end of this article.
The Ports that matter. Also discussed in our connectivity Post earlier.
USB1 or Low Speed USB.
This is essentially a serial bus for connecting a mouse to the PC and runs at 1.5 Megabits per second that is about 1.5 Million bits/second.
USB1.1 or Full Speed USB.
This bus connects your keyboard to the PC and runs at 12Mbps.
USB2.0Backward compatible with USB1 and USB1.1 runs at 480 Mbps and this bus is rightly termed as High Speed USB.
So what is backward compatibility? In simple terms the same USB2.0 port on your PC can connect to a pen drive running at 480Mbps, a keyboard at 12Mbps and a mouse at 1.5 Mbps.
Backward compatible with USB2.0, USB1.1 and USB1 and running at 5 Gigabits per second, that's about 10 times faster than USB2.0. So a USB3.0 port on your PC also known as a host port can be connected to a USB3.0 pen drive, USB2.0 Pen drive, USB1.1 Keyboard and USB1 Mouse. This backward compatibility is only true for host ports like that on a PC. However, a USB3.0 pen drive that is a device port would not connect with a USB2.0 Host port on the PC at 5Gbps.
Next comes USB3.1
Host Port is backward compatible and can be connected with USB3.0, USB2.0 and USB1.1 devices and has a data rate of 10Gbps. However a USB3.1 device might not connect with a USB3.0 port at 10Gbps.
And the ubiquitous USB C PortThe beauty of USB C is the small sized connector yet with higher number of pins in the connector with multiple serial lanes, resulting in an overall increase in speeds up to 10Gbps while also catering to providing a higher wattage of power up to 100 Watts at 20 Volts to devices. The multiple serial lanes can also carry HDMI and Display Port Signals and USB C is backward compatible with all USB standards with additional adapters making it truly ubiquitous.
Carry all video and audio on serial copper lanes. HDMI does exactly that. But what's evolving the standard? The need of picture clarity and color has increased the pixel quantity and resolution of the display. Higher the Display (usually termed as HDMI Sink) pixels and higher the resolution, higher is the amount of data that need to be transferred from any HDMI Source to that Display sink. And why not? In practical terms, you would clearly see the difference between VGA and HDMI as HDMI carries much more Mbps per second compared to VGA making the picture quality much clear and crisper. Given an option to connect VGA or HDMI, always choose HDMI for a better visual experience.
How does HDMI do it?
HDMI carries three pairs of data lanes each at a specific frequency all adding up to a much higher rate and all synchronized to a single clock pair. So your HDMI connector has multiple serial data pairs and a clock pair along with Power and Ground pins connected to the Printed Circuit Board of the product in discussion.
So let's look at different speeds, HDMI caters to and start with the minimum ones contained in any product now a days.
The clock speed that we discussed above is driven at 340 MHz and 10 bits of data per serial lane is transferred at 340 MHz making the overall speed per lane at 3400Mbps. This multiplied by three pairs make it a total of 10.2 Gbps of data transfer between Source and Sink. This enables to carry 3D data and much deeper color bit per pixel as required by the sink Display. To make it simple, we've left out the 8b/10b encoding overhead applied to 10.2 Gbps, making the overall data at about 8Gbps.
The clock speed now increases to 600 MHz and 10 bits of data per serial lane is transferred at 600 MHz making the overall speed per lane at 6000Mbps that is 6Gbps.
This multiplied by three pairs make it a total of 18 Gbps of data transfer between Source and Sink. This enables to carry 3D data at 60Hz and much deeper color bit per pixel
as required by the sink Display.
Display that is Sink device specs need to be looked into before arriving at any conclusion. 4K X 2K display resolution at 60 Hz usually goes well with HDMI 2.0. It's good to have
HDMI 2.0 on your Source Product, but does the Display device support HDMI 2.0 is what is to be addressed before arriving at a decision. Another key thing is the interface connector itself, that can range from HDMI-A to HDMI-E and can be a Micro or a Mini HDMI form factor.
The new age gamers should look at the coming up standard HDMI2.1 that would enable 4K X 2K, 8K and higher resolution with higher refresh rates up to 120 Hz.
A Note on RAM and Cache Size.
L1,L2,L3 Cache are different chuck of memories accessible to the processor for speedy processing. Consider a scenario where you are sitting on the easy chair in you office cabin
and looking for a specific customer record. There is a small chunk of files lying on the table in front of you, you search but couldn't find the records there. Next,you look into the drawers with relatively bigger chuck of files but the records won't show up. You know that there is bigger chunk of files in the cupboard. So you get up, walk and search the files in the cupboard and still not able to find the records. You seem to be losing patience now and know that more work needs to be done to search the record in the big store room of records. so you walk to the store room, search the huge set of files and finally could locate the relevant record.
In analogy, You are the processor, the smaller chunk of files lying on the table is L1 Cache just very easily accessible to the processor with minimum latency. The drawer of the table is L2 Cache, the cupboard in the cabin is L3 Cache and the Store Room is the RAM (DDR) with maximum Latency. The higher the RAM & cache size, the faster the processing time.
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