What do you look for in a smartphone?

I have no idea whatsoever, @Fred!

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Check out Opera or Opera Mini (designed for Smartphone/pads) for your browser it may help you get a better battery life.

Yeah tried those but unfortunately they were missing too much needed functionality for my use.

It doesn’t help when the company that manufactures your smartphone puts out an update that makes it unusable or unreliable. Case in point, Apple recently updated their iPhone range to iOS 10.1.1 which is causing everyone’s phones to have a sudden power drain once they reach 30% charge. Apple knows about this problem but they aren’t fixing it in a hurry with any update patches. I’ve also had android phones that slowed down to a crawl after a major update. They’re all designed so you cant roll the updates back if there are any problems either.

Here’s an updated smartphone review (member content) for those interested. Feel free to keep sharing your experiences to this thread :+1:

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@BrendanMays I must be getting older than I thought, but has whether a phone is suitable to be a phone, eg can make and hold a call appropriately only valued at 10% of the modern criteria ? There is not even text to describe that aspect of the testing. It appears that everything evaluated is “ancillary fluff” as compared to the basic purpose of can it make and hold a call.

I have a Moto Gv2 that does better as a phone than my previous Samsung S4 Mini. My partner has an Oppo R9 (not tested) that anecdotally seems to leave the Moto for dead across the board of features, performance, and tactile goodness – fortunately I get her hand-me-downs when she upgrades :slight_smile: But if we want the best phone, not the best pocket computer, which is it?


I decided that I wont buy a Samsung phone ever because they stop sending security updates after one year. I think they expect people to upgrade their phone to the latest after one year.

I have an old Samsung Galaxy Note 3. It still works fine and has enough hardware capabilities to handle all modern apps and OSs. But Samsung has not sent any updates in about 6 months.

So I’m considering if the phone is using sock android. That way Google is pushing the software vendor does not intervene with the software updates.


Yes, fair to say that smartphones have become a lot more complicated over the years. We divide our scoring to represent the feedback we receive both from comments online and surveys, but we are always honing the process. There’s some info on the ‘how we test smartphones’ page about sound testing, which is the relevant part to read.

The sound quality filter might help you refine it, but even better, you might find this review for phones for seniors, kids and standard use phones may provide some useful info (the test score weighting is much more heavily geared towards phone calls).

I’d be interested to hear whether this is helpful info for you or not. If not, hopefully we can improve things moving forward.

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Not how good a phone sounds @BrendanMays, but how well it can connect and hold a call in marginal conditions. You might note I also linked your test description page and found zip, zero, nada, about a phone’s ability to work in marginal signal conditions. Hence my post.

By the “sound criteria” described I suspect a Bose or Sennheiser headphone could do well, but neither makes phone calls. Is my point becoming more clear?

The “How we test” seniors phones made an effort to rate reception while noting the limits of how the test was done. While I sit here at my computer, my signal varies from 0 to 3 bars from moment to moment. The S4 mini regularly did not ring but I received a missed call SMS moments later; the Moto does it much less frequently. I cannot scientifically tell if it is the phone or a change in the towers or local environment although I could not identify any work done on my local towers in recent times, nor new buildings anywhere in the vicinity. Some posters on related threads put it on data use having precedence over calls, and I have to include that as a possible variable. Just because a phone can make/receive a call under the conditions described with a constant minimal signal does not mean it can also work while the signal is varying from moment to moment from (eg 0.1 bars where it might receive or make a call, to 3 bars and back to 0.1 every few moments.)

Some days I can make a call from “by my computer” but it degrades so quickly I have to move about the house to find a better signal.


Why don’t we publish our reception testing for the main smartphone test? I hear you ask. That’s a good question. Its a bit of a long story so here goes…

It was a question like this in 2006 that led to our first NextG test (in partnership with Kondinin’s Farming Ahead magazine) which became very popular for nearly 10 years.

People wanted to know specifically how their phone performed on the Telstra network because when you left the city confines, that’s all you could depend on for reception. Particularly in the areas that were replacing the networks previously covered by CDMA networks.

While I believe Telstra still has the edge on coverage (that extra 0.05% of population can mean millions of square km) this is less of an issue with an expanded Optus and Vodafone network.Ultimately it became prohibitively expensive to test every year on any more than a dozen or so mobiles and CHOICE made the decision to continue our main batch testing of smartphones in partnership with our other consumer organisation partners Consumer Reports (US) Which (UK) and Consumer (NZ) with the combined research labs called International Consumer Research and Testing (ICRT).

This shared testing means we contribute to a combined test allowing us to test more mobiles, more often. Reception testing for ICRT (smartphone batch testing) is on the 2100MHz 3G band and a selection of GSM bands. The major bands for Australia are 900MHz (Optus, many other OEM carriers such as Amaysim and recently Vodafone moving over to 900MHz) and 850MHz (Telstra and other OEMs such as Aldi) .

The consensus over the past couple of generations of smartphone releases was that the issue of reception performance is more to do with the network chosen, not the actual device. So the real test that should be carried out would be Telstra/Vodafone/Optus rather than the iPhone, Galaxy, Xperia. If we were to test on the 900MHz band and we published the results for a Samsung S7 and you happen to have a Samsung S7 on the Telstra network that you felt didn’t perform well, would that be because of the network or the phone and would it deliver a different result if you ditched your Telstra SIM and put in an Optus SIM.

BTW, Which UK and Consumer Reports (US) hasn’t published the reception results for its smartphones for several years, we only dropped it in the last two years.

Hope this clarifies some of the questions.


It reinforces my original premise that “how well a phone works as a phone” has dropped off the radar, but thanks for explaining why.

Where I live doesn’t have the best mobile coverage, and between home and work has some notable black spots.

Across phones and providers I noted the signal strength at various places, and I believe (from personal/anecdotal observations) that provider (and phone cover) plays at least as much if not more critical a role in signal strength, than phone itself.

E.g. A metal phone case roughly halved my phone’s signal, and from home to work I had 2 small black spots on a Telstra reseller, while on Optus I had no signal for about 60% of the total journey - that’s almost half an hour driving without signal! Near Newcastle!

From memory whether a phone was a “blue tick” phone supposedly spoke to its ability to hold a signal in poor conditions.


I am a very basic user, who wants an (easily) removable battery - which is why I currently own a Samsung; hate bloatware (& am annoyed that after each update, I have to go in & “Force stop” on as much of it as possible because it won’t allow me to “Disable”). I like a clear picture on the screen, and having internet access - and that’s plenty for me.

Yes, Telstra uses a Blue Tick to indicate usage suitable for areas of poorer signal quality eg Rural areas. I am not sure if others use this same indication method.

Have you tried Dolphin Browser? It might suit you better.

Not sure if the Dolphin thing was to me? I tend to stick with Chrome as it handles browser history/tabs/passwords across devices/platforms the best for me. Also given Boost do Telstra I rarely have signal trouble now

Yep Ben was in reply to a post further up. Sorry for any confusion.

Software updates - many manufacturers (I’m looking at you Samsung) effectively abandon their products by not providing software updates. The user cannot gain the benefits of Operating System updates and is forced to buy a new phone.
Cheap Chinese smartphones are notorious for this and the incredible amount of bloatware / spyware which cannot be removed without rooting (it’s a technical term) the phone.

Motorola, with their “nearly pure” Android system is an honourable exception.


But Telstra is still saying “Does the handset have the blue tick?”
And without any evidence (or disclosing any evidence) putting the blame for poor performance with respect to receiving phone calls on this model handset or that make of handset
… so consumers still need unbiased evidence about reception performance


I have examined a lot of phone photos and found that they do not stand up to the result from a real camera and especially when processing from a RAW image, the other matter is that they always look a little flat and therefore even less satisfactory than in the days of film and print where the corrections were made automatically in the processing machine. My thinking is that our visual perception is being dulled down to a common denominator with the proliferation of poor quality images.