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Buyers' guide: The ultimate guide to smartphone specs

What you need to know to buy a smartphone

Ever wonder what 'capacitive touchscreen', 'MicroSD' and 'HSPA+' mean? We provide real definitions for the specifications most commonly used to describe what's under the hood in today's smartphones.

Retailers use various marketing and technical terms to describe the smartphones they sell. Some of those terms represent meaningful phone characteristics, while others are mostly hype.

To help smartphone shoppers understand what they're looking at, we offer definitions of the most commonly used specifications, and explain why they are important.

These definitions can help you choose a phone whose specs meet your needs; they can also come in handy when you're trying to separate the truth from the hype in the sales pitches you encounter in commercials or in stores.

Smartphone specifications explained: Processor

The processor inside a smartphone acts as the device's brain, handling most or all of the device's central processing functions on a single integrated circuit, or chip.

When you're shopping for a smartphone, one key question to ask is whether specific models contain a 1GHz processor - a feature you'll find on most high-end smartphones.

The major makers of 1GHz processors are Samsung (Hummingbird, Apple A4), Qualcomm (Snapdragon) and Texas Instruments (OMAP). 1GHz processors complete system tasks and hardware multimedia acceleration at high clock speeds and with low power consumption. The processors also work with the phone's software to decode high definition video (at 720p or 1080p depending on the chip) and to ensure faster, smoother web browsing.

A smartphone need not contain a 1GHz chip to perform well, however. Earlier this year, the T-Mobile G2 was rumoured to have an 800MHz Qualcomm Scorpion processor. Phone fans were disappointed, reasoning that the chip would compromise the performance of the phone. But when the G2 arrived and went through benchmark tests, its 800MHz processor put it on a par with Snapdragon-powered phones.

When shopping for a smartphone, take time to assess the tasks you want your smartphone to perform. If you expect to consume a lot of multimedia content, browse the web frequently, or run complex apps for extended periods, you might be happier with a 1GHz chip inside your phone.

In any event, it makes sense to find out which company made the chip in the phone, and to locate any available information about how the chip handles graphics and web browsing.


  1. What you need to know
  2. RAM
  3. Touchscreens
  4. 4G and HSPA+ service
  5. Gyroscope vs Accelerometer

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