Buy the latest and greatest smartphones and you'll almost certainly be paying for technology you don't need - whether it's 'Full HD' screens or high-powered processors most apps don't use.
The race to the top in terms of features and functions in smartphones is
never-ending, resulting in handsets with far more options than the
average mobile user will actually need in day to day life.
These bigger and ‘better’ specs often seem as if they have been designed more to keep up with rival manufacturers than they are for the consumer.
Here's a guide to the technologies you might not use in your smartphone - and steering clear can save you hundreds of pounds.
1. Four-inch-plus screens
Roll the clock back just two or three years and a big phone was considered to be anything with a screen 4-inches or larger. The exception being the iPhone - only leaving behind its 3.5-inch screen size with the launch of the iPhone 5.
Nowadays, the line between a smartphone and a tablet is heavily blurred with some of the devices on track to arrive in stores during the first part of this year such as the Sony Xperia Z and ZTE Grand S still calling themselves ‘phones’, despite making use of 5-inch displays or larger.
If you love watching movies (and you’ve got expansive pockets) then maybe a big-screen smartphone is for you, but be aware that if you’re not careful you could wind up looking like Dom Joly on Trigger Happy TV.
2. 'Full HD' phones
At the end of 2012 we saw smartphones emerging with the same resolution as a full HD 1920x1080p television. We’ve already been spoilt with pixels so small that the naked eye couldn’t distinguish between one and the next and now we’ve simply progressed beyond the limits of the human eye. The higher the resolution, the sharper the image, but there is such a thing as ‘sharp enough’, and top smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S3 with its 1280 x 720 screen and iPhone 5 with it’s 1136 x 640 screen were able to deliver it months ago.
3. Super-powerful cameras
Pixels, pixels and more pixels, the latest wave of mobile tech smashes what could be considered useful with Nokia going as far as to make the Nokia 808 PureView with a 41-megapixel camera (albeit aimed at a niche audience) and other phones boasting of 13-megapixel sensors.
More pixels doesn’t mean better photos. The numbers only reference the size of the digital image and size for printing, as a rule opt for a minimum of 5-megapixels, although 3.2-megapixels is fine for Facebook.
Resolution is just one element to consider, there are a ton of other aspects like colour balance, contrast and image stability that can make a lower-resolution phone camera out-class a higher one any day.
We’re all for our mobile phones adding more functions - and in some cases NFC (Near Field Communication) is great. The technology - a chip which you can use to 'bump' phones against cash registers or other gadgets - is available in some top-end phones now.
Tapping your phone to your speaker so it can play music cable free and without fiddling through menus sounds good to us, but turning your smartphone into a digital wallet is a little more unsettling.
You might already have a credit or debit card with tap-to-pay functionality, but what if you used your phone instead? Chances are you’d still need to carry a wallet and losing your phone with all that information would be even more cataclysmic.
DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) is useful for the tech-savvy consumer with lots of AV and
networking kit, but for the majority of people it’s unlikely to see any
More and more smartphones feature DLNA, it’s a standard that lets devices share media like movies, pictures and music over a network to TVs, media players, stereos and routers. To uses DLNA requires compatible devices and it can be tricky to set up - it’s certainly not as simple as Apple's AirPlay technology for example.
The latest mobile network technology to grace the UK is 4G and on paper it’s set to revolutionise how we use mobile data on the move, two problems, you need a 4G-ready phone and you can only get it from one place; EE.
Since late last year, EE has been the only mobile network in the UK offering 4G speeds and despite the added speed benefits, EE’s tariffs are expensive for many people. For now we suggest holding fast until mid-2013 when the likes of Three, Vodafone and O2 are expected to join in on the 4G fun too.
7. Quad-core processor
Unless you’re after one of the big name Android phones of the moment, you won’t need to pick up a quad-core handset. Quad-core smartphones boast fantastic graphical power, but unless you’re planning on doing a lot of 3D gaming, all you’ll find yourself with is an overpowered phone with under performing battery life.
Pick up one of the most recent dual-core handsets instead, for a phone with enough oomph to run the latest apps, without forcing you to trip to the wall socket every five hours.
No matter how great it looks and how tough manufacturers say they’ve made it, a drop onto a hard enough surface WILL make a glass-screened phone shatter.
Apple iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 users should be particularly familiar with the pains of a smashed glass back on their beloved smartphone. For the meantime, as premium as glass may look, if you’ve got butter fingers, it may be better to opt for smartphones with a plastic construction - you’ll be thankful in the long run.
It’s an extremely popular feature in markets like Japan and we’re starting to see it on new smartphones like the Sony Xperia Z, but ask yourself how often you intend to go diving with your smartphone and you might rethink the relevance of waterproofing. In many way it does make sense, it takes the worry out of using your phone in the English weather, but otherwise the times where waterproofing is truly useful, dwindles.
10. Wireless charging
One of the big selling points for some new handsets like the Nokia Lumia 920 are that they support wireless charging, but we’ve already spotted a flaw in the new system. Charging stations use wires to bring power from the plug point to the station, just millimeters from the phone’s normal charging port anyway and what’s more they aren’t cheap. Until wireless charging is embedded into objects such as desktops, tables, arms on chairs and in cars, we don’t fully see this technology changing the face of mobile in its current form.