I’ve been using my Motorola RAZR HD (XT925) for almost two years. The main reason why I got this phone at the time was that it was one of the best options I could get for free (on contract). It seemed perfectly adequate and that has largely been the case. Of course, a lot can change in two years. I’m finding that I can run out of RAM sometimes and, more recently, I’ve experienced some incredible battery-draining issues combined with overheating. This might mean I’m due for an upgrade, but how can I decide on my next smartphone?

In the next couple of months, we’re expecting to see several new devices get announced, revealed and launched. There’s the Nexus 6, the Moto X+1, the iPhone 6, the Galaxy Note 4 and more. But as easy as it is to drool over the most expensive flagships, I really have to wonder if I really need all of these higher-end features that only offer an incrementally better experience.

Just a Decent 4.7-Inch 720p Display

I know. I know.

My current XT925 has just a 4.7-inch 720 x 1280 pixel Super AMOLED display. That was more or less the standard at the time of its release, but we have since gotten into the territory of expecting at least 1920 x 1080 and several newer phones are getting into the 4K, QHD and UHD craze. Pixel density is great, but it’s debatable whether the human eye can really perceive the difference between 1080p and QHD on a screen that’s so small.

The trend toward increasingly big phablets is undeniable, but it’s not for me. If I can have the same 4.7-inch screen with a smaller bezel, I think I’d be a happy camper. The recently revealed Samsung Galaxy Alpha almost fits the bill, but it’s somehow still a touch longer (but lighter) than my Moto.

True All-Day Battery Life

This is a really big deal. We love the added performance boost that can come from having quad core or even octa-core processors clocked at 2GHz and above, but this can come at the price of being a wall hugger. Before we got into all of these fancy smartphones with their fancy touchscreens, the typical cell phone could last for days on end without needing a charge.

When you look at the typical smartphone today, at least for the first while that you have it, you can expect the battery to get you through your day as long as you don’t over-burden it too much. However, as soon as you start tacking on a Bluetooth connection or two, as soon as you start streaming just a little too much music or video, you’ll once again go reaching for a wall charger or USB power bank.

I’d sooner sacrifice a little bit of that performance for an extended battery and I don’t mean the stripped down experience of the “Ultra battery saving mode” on the Galaxy S5. And the smaller 1860mAh battery on the Galaxy Alpha doesn’t exactly fill me up with confidence either.

Better than Good Camera Performance


Even though I have a “real” camera that I use when I want to be more serious with my shooting, my smartphone is going to be my primary day-to-day camera. When you look at last year’s HTC One and its four “Ultrapixel” camera, it feels like HTC may have had the right idea if not exactly the right execution.

It’s not about megapixels (though 4MP might not be enough). It’s about actual usable performance, particularly in low-light and when it comes to better white balance. A lot of this can be handled on the software side of things, helping me take better “foodporn” pics for Instagram. I expect something with 8MP on the rear and 2MP on the front as a minimum. I don’t need a 20MP shooter on my phone, at least for now.

At Least 2GB of RAM

One of the bottlenecks that I am encountering on my Motorola RAZR HD is that I can get low on the RAM side of things. I installed one of those RAM cleaner apps, but actually using it caused some apps to crash. Instead, I mostly use it as a monitoring app now and it’s not uncommon to see the available RAM on my smartphone drop below 100MB.

I realize that the more you have, the more you use. At the same time, given the standards of the day, I expect my next smartphone to have 2GB (or 3GB) of RAM under the hood to help me survive the next couple years of use. As compelling as a more budget device like Moto G may be, it may not be good enough as my daily driver.

An Affordable Unlocked Price Point


And finally, unsurprisingly, it comes down to dollars and cents. I haven’t committed myself to how I’m going to do this quite yet. I’m open to signing a new two-year contract if it means I can get a cheap phone that ticks most of the boxes. That said, something like the Galaxy S5 is still $400 on contract with Fido. On the flip side, I’m also open to buying factory unlocked for the right price, as may be the case with a Nexus 6 or a OnePlus One.

Pentaband support would be a bonus, but I’m willing to let that slide. I don’t feel I can slide quite as far down the performance scale as the Sony Xperia M2, however, so my next smartphone still needs to be at least an upper mid-tier device.

The next few months in the smartphone industry will be interesting. I doubt I’ll pick up the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, but stranger things have happened.

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