Ten Things You Should Know About Mobile Specs

Specifications are helpful when you’re trying to compare two different mobile devices, but the devil is in the details — especially when you’re looking at unreleased products. Here are some tips that will help you better evaluate phone and tablet specs.

1. Most Apple rumors are bogus

Real leaks from Apple employees and their suppliers are rare. Go back and read all of the Apple rumors last summer, and you’ll see most of the predictions turned out to be wrong. Sadly, tech blogs print these rumors to increase their page views – even when they don’t have an accurate source.

2. Phone specs vary by carrier

It’s not unusual to see differences in the specs listed by a handset manufacturer and different carriers. Carrier customization is quite common. Expect to see differences in the network type (HSPA, HSPA+, LTE, WiMAX), operating system version, device thickness and weight. Sometimes even screen size and processor speed varies. For example, the official Samsung website says the Galaxy S II has a 4.3” screen, but T-Mobile’s version of the same phone has a 4.52” screen and more powerful battery. It’s also taller, thicker and has a faster processor.

3. LTE devices are thicker

As you can see in the image above, the LTE version of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is thicker than the GSM version of the same phone. The reason for the .57mm difference is the addition of a slightly larger battery, needed to power the juice-hungry LTE radio.

4. Not all specs are standardized

There are different ways to measure brightness, viewing angle and battery life. Because of this lack of standardization, we have to accept what manufacturers tell us. Specs like battery life and brightness are often exaggerated. Screen density (PPI) is another spec which is sometimes suspect. Was it provided by the panel manufacturer, or calculated using a formula?

5. Your phone may not be as thin as you think it is

Speaking of truth in advertising, let’s talk about thickness. Most manufacturers use the thinnest part of a device for this spec. As an example, the 7.1 mm Motorola Droid RAZR is the world’s thinnest 4G device. But the RAZR has a large hump at the top, which is at least 11 mm. Shouldn’t that be mentioned on the spec sheet?

The Droid RAZR has a hump at the top which increases its thickness.

6. Not all 4G phones are created equally

There’s a big difference between the data speeds of HSPA and LTE or WiMAX devices. Just because a manufacturer claims a phone is a 4G, doesn’t mean you’re going to get WiMAX or LTE speeds. 3G Phones like the iPhone 4S, operate at speeds that are 5 to 10 times slower than 4G LTE phones. More info

7. Specs on the Web are often incorrect

The specs listed for unreleased devices on sites like Phone Arena are often incorrect. Not all of them are wrong, but errors are common and some specs aren’t available until after a device has been released.

8. Beware of OS upgrade promises

Don’t assume your phone will get new software updates right after they are available. It took HTC 9 months to release an Android 2.3.4 update for the Droid Incredible. Some devices will never be able to upgrade to Android 4.0.

9. First is not always best

Some handset manufacturers will do anything to release the newest handset technology first – even if it means rushing it to market (e.g. AT&T). Others, like Verizon seem to take forever. For example, the Droid Bionic was announced at the 2011 CES, but wasn’t released until 9 months later.

10. Numbers lie

And last, but certainly not least, processor speed isn’t the only indication of performance. The iPhone 4S only has an 800MHz CPU, but outperforms the Samsung Galaxy S II in some benchmarks – even though it has a 1.2GHz CPU. The OS, mobile chipsets and especially the graphic coprocessor can have a major impact on performance.

– Rick

Copyright 2011 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.

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About Rick E. Schwartz
Rick Schwartz is blogger from San Diego. You can learn more about Rick by clicking on the "About" tab at the top of this page.

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