The Budget Buyer's Guide to Touch Screen Mobiles and Smartphones

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The Budget Buyer's Guide to Touch Screen Mobiles and Smartphones
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The Budget Buyer

Buying Touch Screen Mobiles and Smartphones

As a result of the touch screen mobile phone revolution of the last few years, manufacturers have flooded the market with a variety of devices catering to meet the demand of both high-end and budget buyers. Budget conscious buyers have access to a range of options from leading manufacturers running on different operating systems. Budget devices perform almost as well as their high-end alternatives and are packed with dozens of features. Hence, a number of things must be considered when buying budget friendly touch screen mobiles and smartphones. Some of these can be seen below.

Types of Touch Screen Mobiles and Smartphones

Depending on the kind of hardware employed, touch screen mobiles and smartphones can be broadly divided into two categories:

Touch Screen Phone

A touch screen phone utilizes a touch-sensitive screen and as few hardware buttons as possible. The interface is controlled entirely via fingers and gestures. Touch screen phones are usually classified as smartphones, although a few manufacturers also make touch screen feature phones.

Touch + Type Phone

A touch + type phone utilises both touch screen and standard keypad. This results in better typing capabilities while compromising on screen real estate. Touch + type phones are usually feature phones with only a handful of manufacturers making touch + type smartphones.

Selecting a Budget Friendly Touch Screen Mobile Phone Operating System

The operating system has a huge role to play in the performance of any touch screen mobile phone. Different operating systems have different hardware requirements, application availability, and built-in features. Touch screen phones usually employ either one of these five operating systems:

Operating System

Number of Applications

Hardware Availability

Key Features

Apple iOS

Over 700,000

Only available for Apple iPhone

First modern smartphone OS designed for touch sensitive devices; extremely easy to use; strong aesthetic coherence; large number of quality applications.

Google Android

Over 700,000

Open-source; available for any mobile device

Can run on any mobile device; open-source; large number of free applications; huge developer community; can be customised easily. Meant to work primarily with touch screen phones.

Microsoft Windows Phone

Over 100,000

Available only for Microsoft approved devices

Innovative 'Metro UI' with live tiles for getting data at a glance; fast and user-friendly with growing developer base.

RIM BlackBerry

Under 100,000

Available only for RIM BlackBerry devices

Business oriented smartphone OS; works with both touch screen and touch + type phones. Proprietary 'BlackBerry Flow' UI for easy access to messaging and emails.

Nokia Symbian

Under 100,000

Available only for Nokia devices

Meant primarily for feature phones, including touch + type phones. Easy to use with large number of Nokia branded applications. Can run on phones with poor hardware.

Apple has established itself as a 'premium' smartphone manufacturer. The iPhone running on iOS is priced ahead of the competition and is not recommended for budget friendly buyers (unless purchasing older models is an option). Both Android and Windows Phone are available with dozens of different hardware combinations and make sound choices for budget buyers. Android is especially suited for budget conscious buyers as it is available across hundreds of different devices at varying price points. The large number of free and open-source applications is another plus. RIM makes both budget-friendly and premium phones running on the BlackBerry OS. However, BlackBerry is geared more towards business users and suffers from a lack of quality applications. Nokia Symbian is aimed at budget buyers but works only on phones with limited hardware capabilities. Further, Nokia has limited updates for Symbian OS as it now favours Windows Phone for its smartphones, making the future of Symbian phones uncertain. For this reason, buying Nokia Symbian phones is not recommended.

Touch Screen Mobiles and Smartphones Hardware Options

Choosing the right operating system is the first step in any mobile phone buying decision. The next consideration must be the phone's hardware, specifically, the speed and capabilities of included microprocessor, RAM, storage capacity, screen type, and form factor. Details of the above can be seen as follows:

Mobile Phone Microprocessor and RAM

Mobile phone performance is affected by a combination of RAM and microprocessor speed. All smartphones run on ARM based microprocessors. This architecture employs the 'System on a Chip' (SoC) design that includes the microprocessor, GPU (graphical processing unit) and RAM on a single chip. A crucial factor in microprocessor speed is the number of available cores. The following are the common configurations found in mobile phones:

Single Core

A single core microprocessor has a single computing unit. Since all computing instructions have to be handled by a single core, performance tends to suffer.

Multi-core

Multi-core processors have two or more computing units on a single chip. Consequently, computing instructions can be split across the computing units, increasing performance. Mobile phone processors are available in dual-core and quad-core configurations, although the latter is rarely used in budget phones.

Most smartphones sold today have a minimum of 512MB of RAM. High-end phones may use as much as 2GB of RAM, though 1GB RAM is more common in budget phones. Certain touch screen feature phones have RAM as low as 128MB.

Mobile Phone Screens

The screen is arguably one of the most important parts of any touch-screen mobile phone. Since the UI is controlled entirely by touch, touch screen performance and picture quality can have a dramatic effect on phone usability.

Types of Mobile Phone Touch Screens

There are two types of touch screens commonly used in mobile phones. These are:

Resistive

In resistive touch screens, the touch screen is suspended between two layers of conductive materials. When a finger or stylus touches the screen, the two layers come in contact, producing an electric current. Resistive touch screens perform poorly and require a stylus. They are usually found in low-end feature phones or touch + type phones.

Capacitive

A capacitive touch screen includes a panel of glass coated with a conducting material. When the human finger touches the screen, it causes a change in the capacitance of the coated glass panel, producing a current. Capacitive touch screens are multi-touch sensitive and perform better than resistive screens.

Mobile Phone Touch Screen Display Technologies

Touch screen mobile phones utilise different display technologies. The five common technologies can be seen below:

TFT LCD

A variant of LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) that uses Thin-Film Transistor (TFT) technology. While image quality is better than standard LCD, it suffers from poor visibility in direct sunlight. TFT LCD screens are typically used in budget smartphones and feature phones.

IPS LCD

In-Plane Switching (IPS) LCD screens are more power efficient than TFT and standard LCD displays. This technology is typically used in high-end phones, including iPhone, and supports very high resolutions.

Super LCD (SLCD)

SLCD is an improved version of standard LCD and offers superior picture quality with warmer colour tones. It is typically used in low to mid-range touch screen phones.

OLED

Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) is an ultra-thin, highly efficient display technology that offers extremely fast response times, high picture quality, and optimal brightness even in direct sunlight. OLED screens tend to be expensive, however, and find use in only a few high-end phones.

AMOLED

A variant of OLED, AMOLED is cheaper to produce than OLED and offers equivalent performance. AMOLED screens are found in mid to high-end phones.

Mobile Phone Form Factors

Three form factors dominate the mobile phone market. These can be described as follows:

Slab, slate or brick

This is the most popular type of touch screen mobile phone. It is essentially a slab of glass and metal without a keypad. As few buttons are used as possible.

QWERTY Keypad

A type of touch + type phone, this form factor has a portrait-type touch screen with a QWERTY keypad underneath it.

QWERTY Keypad Slider

Another type of touch + type phone, this has a screen in landscape mode with a sliding QWERTY keypad. The physical keypad adds bulk while improving typing capabilities.

How to Buy Touch Screen Mobiles and Smartphones on eBay

eBay's extensive selection of mobile phones is highly recommended for buying touch screen phones. To buy touch screen phones on eBay, head to the eBay UK homepage and search for 'touch screen mobile phone' in the Mobile Phones & Communication category. For refining the searches even further, the Touch Screen option can be selected under the Features category on the next page. The searches can also be refined according to operating system such as Android,, Windows Phone;; by storage capacity – 16GB,, 8GB,, etc.; and by features such as Camera,, Email,, Internet Browsing..

Conclusion

Touch screen mobile phones outsell standard feature phones in most parts of the world. Loaded with features such as internet browsing capabilities, email, dedicated app stores, high resolution cameras, and advanced operating systems, touch screen mobile phones are the latest trend in mobile technology. Buying touch screen phones requires careful consideration of the phone's software and hardware capabilities. The operating system, microprocessor, RAM, screen type, and form factor are some of the things that must be considered. eBay is one of the best places to buy touch screen mobiles and smartphones as it has a large product selection at attractive prices.

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