Let’s tell you why smartphone specs need to die

by Muyiwa Matuluko

When trying to acquire a new phone, what do you look for first? Good camera? Dependable battery? Sharp display? Or do you, like the average consumer these days, spend the better part of your survey (online or in physical stores) reeling off GSM Arena specsheets you barely understand? Like this Reddit commenter aptly puts it:

They don’t want a fast phone. They want a quad-core phone. They don’t want a good-looking display, they want a 1080p display. They don’t want a battery that lasts X hours, they want a X mAh battery.

Should it matter how much juice my phone battery packs, as long as it can carry me through the whole day? Should it matter how many processing cores it has, as long as all your apps run smoothly and multitasking is fluid? Because in the end, all these specs mean nothing if they don’t produce the desired results.


So why do we care about specs?

You can blame the OEMs. Specifically Android OEMs, Samsung being the biggest culprit. The danger of having one OS ruling as much as 80% of the smartphone market is that there is a general lack of distinguishing features. Sure the manufactures can bundle different flavours of Android on their devices, the bottom-line is that they are still all primarily Android devices. So they take the easy route of differentiation – out-spec the competition. It became inevitable that the consumer would start bothering about specs. What we end up having is tons of poorly designed phones (barely seamless software-hardware integration) proliferating the market, in the long run hurting the ecosystem.

Which is why manufacturers like HTC tried to break out with the innovative ideas like the Ultrapixel, in a bid show that there’s more to phone camera quality than megapixel ratings. It was quite a bold move putting a 4 megapixel camera on the HTC One. Sadly, it was a move that didn’t go too well with the market – customers have already been conditioned to think more megapixels always equals better. Even Apple, one of the biggest abstractor of phone specs, has begun to bulk under pressure. Ignoring Steve Jobs famous quip – “no one is going to buy a big phone” – the company went on to release the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus with humongous displays. It proved an instant success – Apple’s record breaking earnings last quarter are testament to that.

Specs are practically nothing without great design

Thankfully, Apple still continues to lay an example in other areas. The iPhone 6 spots a 1800 mAH battery. And how does it stack up against the competition? Well, according to GSM Arena, at par with the LG G3, which happens to spot a 3000 mAh battery! Of course, the iPhone 6 is missing those bells and whistles of a flagship – quad-core processors, tons of RAM you might never need and a “Quad HD”display (whatever that is). None of that makes it any less of a smartphone than the LG G3. At least for everyday, average consumer use. Even with it’s dual-core processor and 1 GB of RAM, it probably runs as smoothly as the LG G3 – or at least smooth enough – and its 8MP camera takes very comparable shots, with the LG G3’s 13MP camera. And who cares about a Quad HD display? The average consumer wouldn’t even notice the difference. In short, you can’t just easily write-off the possibility that the iPhone 6 is a better designed phone, all round, than the LG G3.

What do you think? Isn’t it just time we buried this fixation on specs? What would be the best approach to recondition the average consumers mind? Which OEM, besides Apple (they have the most loyal customers ever), is best positioned to bell the proverbial cat?

– Featured image via GSM Arena

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