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Over the course of four short years, our idea and definition of what a smartphone truly is has greatly changed. In that transformation, phones have become larger, more powerful and have begun touting specs we only dreamed of a few years ago. Manufacturers mix a dual-core processor, large touchscreen display, a large capacity battery and several other components together to conjure up what they hope to be your next phone. But creating a smartphone isn't a cut and dry process, and creating a "perfect" phone is quite impossible. What may appeal to you might not appeal to me, and vice versa.

Three years ago, I wouldn't have even considered buying a phone if it didn't sport one of Research In Motion's world class keyboards, and the battery had to last me at least a solid day and a half through heavy use. That was my criteria in which I chose my phones (though it didn't leave much of a choice). Camera and display technology, storage space and data speeds were more or less negligible.

Much like the phones themselves, we as consumers have evolved. Our expectations are much higher and much more effort must go into the decision making process. Buying your next phone is more like searching for your next car with each passing moment: perpetual release dates and waning shelf life cause severe apprehension in buyers, and sorting through mile-long spec sheets with ever-so-slight variations between devices can make for a rather touch decision – that is, if you aren't loyal to a specific manufacturer.

Unlike the pre-iPhone days, there is now a broad choice in hardware and software. Depending on your personal preference, you might begin your search with a particular operating system or manufacturer. After narrowing down those options, you might then consider display size and technology, processor clock speed and architecture, RAM, internal storage, battery capacity, camera quality, radio connectivity, build materials and quality, and much more.

Something I've noticed more of here recently is how no one phone has it all. HTC is quite possibly the worst for this and the Sensation 4G is a perfect example. Released one month after the Sensation, the EVO 3D shipped with a 4.3-inch qHD disply, a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor, 1GB RAM and a 1,730 mAh battery. The Sensation, on the other hand, came with a 4.3-inch qHD display, 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon, 768MB RAM and a 1,520 mAh battery. Why HTC didn't simply bump the RAM to 1GB and pack in a little extra juice in the battery is beyond me. It was likely per T-Mobile's request, but it's still something HTC should have tried to negotiate and work into the Sensation prior to launch.

Incrementalization such as this only makes things harder on the consumer.  But ... I digress.

Over the past two years, I have owned, used and reviewed a large amount of phones. In doing so, I have discovered several features that I simply cannot go without. I have traded the need for a RIM-made physical QWERTY for a respectable camera and kept decent battery life in the mix, though I've had to drop my expectations pretty drastically. And after using the iPhone for so long, I simply cannot stand to stare at a display with a low ppi or with noticeable grain anymore. A 4.3-inch (or 4.7-inch, in the case of the Sensation XL) at WVGA resolution is nonsensical. Any phone above 4-inches should now have at least a qHD display.

Surprisingly, lack of 4G is not a deal breaker for me, nor is the lack of a dual-core processor – but having one or both is a huge plus, so long as they don't affect the performance of more important features. 4G is currently a battery suck, and I would rather have my phone last all day and take longer to download a file than to be able to watch the battery drain before my eyes. It is also worth noting that I try to avoid Android smartphones without dual-core processors now. But I don't mind the occasional Windows Phone from time to time, and a A5 chipset on the iPhone is overkill for the non-gamer.

If a phone is announced and is missing one of these three things, I won't even consider it as my personal device. All fingers are pointing to the Nexus hitting the mark in all of these three areas, and unfortunately, I can't help but get excited. Here's to hoping Samsung and Google deliver. Otherwise, I may have to give up and build my own phone. (Kidding ... sort of.)

Turns out, I'm not too terribly picky, but I know some of you are. Some of you have a preference for one processor or display technology over another, and I know some of you won't go without your precious 4G. There's nothing wrong with that. Nitpick away. But I am curious. What are your must-have features in a phone? Is there any one feature that will turn you off of a device instantly? Sound off below and tell me what's most important to you in a phone!


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109 Reactions to this post

"What are your must-have features in a cell phone?"


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Aaron Latham Dual-Core Processor, 8 MegaPixel Camera, 1GB RAM, Stock Version Of OS,1080p Video, NO Pentile, 40 GB Memory ( Like HTC ThunderBolt), Flash Player Support, HD Front Facing Camera (DROID RAZR), Micro SD Card Slot, That Is It.
Terry Oakes android 2.2 or above and a 3'' plus screen
Vincent Hung no defective antennas *cough cough*
Jabin George Hand held pc. Which most of them already are!
Kyle Cordiano Just give me a good processor and I will be ok.
Jared Prado Web adobe SGS2 ALLL THE WAYYY
Dave McLellan To much time on people's hands there and also it's the amazing iPhone 4S too why would people do such a horrible thing!?
Nelson Pagan 4g speed on T-Mobile 42mbps and big screen= Samsung galaxy s2 LOL can't wait to get mine soon
Andi Musa Contacts sync, flashlight, must make calls, and a decent camera. My sgs2 does all of these
Alex Romain Dantier Everything the s2
Eddie Northcutt Battery life, desent screen, good camera, wifi/uma calling
Evan Pilkington Kick stand! I thought it was pointless whenever I first got my thunderbolt but it really comes in handy lol
Stuart James Baucum touchscreen, full keyboard, better battery life, front cam + 5 or 7MP rear cam with LED flash, fast processor, iOS style- easy to navigate OS, wi/fi, micro-sd card storage, a huge app store, between 20 - 30GB onboard memory, mp4 player, and fm radio, and lastly 4G LTE. heck I'd take C.B. radio too. ;)
Dee Nazario And a built-in spatula.
Dee Nazario Side facing camera.
Dayan Inclán AMOLED and Android
Tim Fuhrmann BBM style messaging, decent cam, nice display, solid build. As for dream specs, 1.2ghz(dual core preferably) processor or better with more RAM memory than would ever be needed, 4+gb would be nice. 16gb min internal memory for media and apps. Think back to the samsung memoir, enhance the s**t out of it and make a true 12+mp camera phone, eliminating the need of a digital cam. A OS and battery pairing that will last as long(at least) as a BlackBerry. Preferably an OS as secure as BB OS, or a really good anti spyware, walware, virus app to secure the lesser protected OS's a bit more(had too much info stolen while on Android, biggest upset of the OS for me) FFC would be nice(can we hope for 3.2mp min?), but not needed, don't always want to see the people I'm calling. Personally I prefer BlackBerry form factor, so something like the rumored Motorola PAX(a 3.7 inch screen would be nice though) with a Bold 9900/9930 keyboard would be fantastic.
Anthony Peña A longer battery life
Trinity Kolarova Hoodrich Best modem 5g n screen 4 inch touch n qwerty both. Extended dual wifimax antennas dual speaker dual micro sd slots n pen.
Brandon Johnson A hi res screen a good camera, nice build quality, touchscreen, and perhaps the most overlooked feature, the ability to change the sim and sd card without having to take out the battery.
Isaac Dadda Manford High rresolution, good signal, speed, exactly 4 inches, flash, camera flash, apps
Billy Shank Contacts sync (Google contacts or iPhone backup), maps, and email.
Hansel Starley Good signal and great call quality.
Gordon Christie well if galaxy s2 had a battery life like iphone it would be perfect
Lusemaka Alesana All iphone specs but with a larger screen...
Carol Dudley-Bowen Swiss army knife. J/k
Gordon Simon Display 620x1020 4.3 inches 350 ppi pixel density capative touchscreen, memory 10 gb with micro sd, data 4g hsdpa 62 mbps, camera 8mp video 1080p secondary camera yes, features os 3.2 cpu dual core 2ghz processor, battery 1900 mah with a full qwerty keyboard.
Dave Sherman That it works haha
Danny Fleming OLED, and android
Jones Robert ...SUPER AMOLED HD.
Micheal Wray Kennedy Speed, size, screen resolution, colors, company, manufacturer, battery life, camera quality, android
Eric Dunn An Apple logo and a 3.5 screen!!!!!
Rower Veras 1080p screen, voice cammand everythin, dual core, 3d screen, and last but not least ps3/360 gameing and graphics.......(:
Vicente Reyes Right know all ios and android are even though i love android. There cellphones with extra features.
Vicente Reyes Then come out and say its a smart phone
Vicente Reyes Actual voice activation, without having to turn it on, basically voice activation with ai built in.
Deion Bonner I'd just love to have any phone in my cell... ( -_-)
Daniel Rowe Everything the iPhone has..... That is all sir lol
Kash Harris Battery life!
Cory Wilson 4.5"screen with 12mp camera, 1280*900 res, 1080p hd recording, should play videos in slow motion, battery should last up to 9hrs, 1.5 processor, dual core, 2gb of ram, 3mp front facing camera, global phone, 8.5 mm thin, made with aluminum material.
Christopher Amos to cook breakfast and not talk in the mornings!!
Carlos Quinones Decent camera. Good webbrowsing. Customizability. GPS. 4inch screen(and up).
Cal Ruiz Physical camera button dual core processor 8mp cam and a killer display.
Rocko Beko Train Full touch screen, front facing camera and at least a 5 Mega pixel rear camera with flash, and a flash player.
Guillermo De León LED indicator
Ayinde Camp A great antenna although most people don't seem to pay that any attention are htc wouldn't sell as much
Bill Techert Rum CM7
Brook Tadesse oh yeah nice display, too.
Brook Tadesse slide-out keyboard, front facing camera, & designated camera key AKA samsung epic 4G.
Farid Fares nice build quality, good connectivity (wifi, network), smooth UI, and great internet browsing must be there, and ofcourse the ability to make/recieve text and calls :)
Don McCoy Numbers. I NEED numbers. And preferably, a rotary dial feature. But then , I'm old skool.
Brandon Stuart Call, text, and inter webs working flawlessly.
Dennis Atli 1.2 ghz processor Very sensitive touchscreen 480 x 800 screen 768 or 1GB ram 5MP camera with 720p recording A lighting up trackpad With blackberry messenger Blackberry Os7 With a blackberry logo on it I recommend the BLACKBERRY TORCH 9860
Kevin Caslow You guys do a great job with your cell phones already! Can't wait for the Glory to come out! The only wish I have is for a flash with the cameras.
Tony Eddy A pink purse fob. Wait, what?
Syed Majid Bukhari www.cellphonespyreviews.net
Charles Shell Anything Android or iPhone
Brian Blaauwbroek First off it must have exceptional call quality, secondly it should have a battery life that can get you thru the day. Thirdly great social integration and a smooth non choppy OS.
Josh Richardson iOS. That is all.
Curt Popejoy Great screen, great camera and super fast hardware. Battery life is nonsense. That's like bitching about the gas mileage you get in your suv. You want performance and the ability to do a lot of things, you take a trade off. I think of phones like computers and at this point I would kill for a unique design that didn't look like a joke.
Jeramie King Flashlight, wifi, nice camera and load speaker
Jeremy Abad Android OS....that will be all.
Prabhath Jay android 2.3 1Ghz processor at least 512RAM display > 3.5 16mil colors .. above 320x480 res 5mp cam
Trip Hurtado A qwerty keyboard, reliable service, internet acsess, and hard/software that dosent malfunction in a month after yiur purchace. And i have a daughter now...so a camera of 3+ megapixals
Erica Reid I don't know why Samsung doesn't have a LED indicator but there needs to be one!
Nuwan Pradeep It should be able to make phone calls...
Teron Facey Battery and Camera
Didius Gerard Tampusari It has to make a phonecallv
Tavaris Rashaun Johnson Social networking a big must.
Murad Nazi got the tmobile samsung galaxy s2 a week ago and have never used my computer again, this phone is a beast.
Rozie Martinez A great camera with an awesome flash and a slide out keyboard!
David McClellan Runs CyanogenMod.
Jaime Espinoza Has to be reliable And do what a cell is suppose to do "Make Calls" so Good Signal is first priority. Second: Battery Life. Be able to text. Camera and Wifi.
Joseph Alan Richardson Internet, facebook, google +. Fast single or dual core processor. Decent amount of RAM. Mid range phone basicly.
Robert Centennial All of them
Jonese Elnar "5 DAYS OF BATTERY LIFE".. heavy use. 8mp camera, dual core 1.2GHz or above, 2GB of ram. & 16GB of internal storage. & android OS 2.3 or above.
Minister Jimmy L. Bagwell Just got an Iphone4 about a month ago and will not trade for 4S I will wait on the 5 in about 6 months
Taranjeet Singh atleaset 8mp camera hd video recording 1ghz processor android ,capacitive touch screen
Steven Osborne My number one feature is reception.
Tonio Johnson Large screen, good to great battery life, ability to customize if I feel the need ( hello android), and a phone that basically works when I buy it. I can care less about updates but I do start to tinker with my phone after awhile with rom's, rooting, etc.
Eduardo Colon WiFi, At least a 5MP Camera, FFC, HD Video Recording 720p or Up, 1.2Ghz Dual Core Processor 8GB or more of On board storage memory and expandable SDHC slot to be used for music,photos, anything. Android 2.2 (Because this is where Flash Player was included to my knowledge) and up! And as Jesse Moore said "Enough battery life to get through the day on a single charge with moderate use."
Mark Fisher Jr. A good keyboard, fast web browsing, basically good quality all around.
Marcus Ray Dillon Top media capacity
Joseph DiPierno I need speed! Faster is better and anyway I can get that I'm happy! Plus I need a large screen, 4+ inches
Clemente Miklavchich life battery, calling, sms, camera. others things are just crapy pain in the ass for kids whos daddy's have too much money
Doug Dobos How about battery life???
Dylan Vella 1 5mp camera
Basil Mahmud Whatever my Epic TOuch 4G has, I love it. Maybe a higher resolution. but it not that big a deal since SAMOLED + is amazing
Jesse Moore Enough battery life to get through the day on a single charge with moderate use. Good connectivity. Nice display (qHD, retina, SuperAMOLED, etc.). And... apps. That's about it. Most fail at the first requirement.
Francis Singh text, email, web ( I MEAN ACTUAL WEB! one that works lol)
Vashawn L Brown Razor blade
Shannon Steele Flash player..8 Mega pix...ffc
Mke Garcia WiFi, 5MP Camera, HD Video Recording 720p or Up, 1.2Ghz Dual Core Processor(Tri-Core when they become available) 8GB or more of On storage memory to be used for music,photos, anything. Touchscreen or qwerty doesn't really get me on but wouldn't mind the I guess. Lastly, OS either BB or Android 2.3 or above.
Gary Bowling In order of priority. 1. Fast CPU, 2. Good Cam, 3. Good ammount of RAM 4. Big Screen
Albert Tavarez Touchscreen and HTML browser
Codi Carroll Whatever the latest great phone has upgraded, that's the new standard.
James Newman Freedom to do what ever I want with it and a full qwerty keyboard.
David Roberto Carrio Flash adobe!!
John Jenkins To be able to get service, and text.
Vik Dag Nab Desai roller ball and L.E.D. indicator lite
Teng Yu Wei To be able to call and SMS.




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