The ultimate goal of any technology company is to make a profit. Smartphone manufacturers are no exception. Most phone manufacturers want to make as much profit as possible by selling as many units of their products as possible.
While that’s not a bad thing, sometimes phone makers use dishonest marketing tactics to achieve this goal. From using misleading feature names to boosting battery performance, here are some ways smartphone makers are getting economical with the truth.
1. Focus on unnecessary measures
While the smartphone market keeps asking for more exciting features, manufacturers can’t always meet that demand. To fill the void, phone makers try to push the boundaries of unnecessary features and then overstate their importance.
You’ve probably come across 8K video recording and 144Hz refresh rates on smartphone ads. Surely, bigger is better?
While preparing for its launch, one of the most prominent features of the Samsung S20 series was its 8K video recording feature. The company blew on how much extra detail 8K recording could capture. Of course, 8K recording isn’t entirely useless.
However, in the context of a smartphone, you’ll barely notice the difference between 8K and 4K recording, which ultimately makes it unimportant.
Similarly, the OnePlus 7 Pro was launched with a 144Hz refresh rate display while the ZTE Red Magic 7 was shipped with a ridiculous 165Hz refresh rate. 120Hz and 144Hz on your smartphone, increasing the number up to 165Hz is mainly for the spec sheet.
These are just a few examples of overhyped smartphone features that you don’t actually need.
2. Use of higher megapixel cameras
Larger megapixels are the new trend in the smartphone industry. Why use a 12MP camera when you can use a 48MP camera or even a 108MP camera? Much of the smartphone market loves larger megapixels and smartphone makers are taking advantage of that.
However, bigger megapixels don’t necessarily mean better images. Yes, you will get images with better resolution, but when the chips are down, a smaller megapixel could produce significantly better image quality. It’s not just the numbers, it’s the sensors and image processing software that make the difference.
The Google Pixel 5 with its paltry 12MP camera can beat most so-called flagship phones using 48MP and 108MP cameras as a selling point. Don’t trust the numbers, trust the technology that powers the numbers.
3. Misleading Battery Stats
The battery is a key variable people consider when choosing a new phone. As a result, smartphone makers tend to increase their battery specs in many ways. Some ways include:
A fake 100
On the spec sheet, a manufacturer may say that a phone model will fully charge in 30 minutes. While charging, your phone might indeed reach 100% at the advertised time, but it might not be full. A good example is the OnePlus 9 Pro which shows a 100% battery level after 29 minutes but takes about another 20 minutes to fully charge.
Limited charge cycles
Some phone makers offer juicy battery capacity to hide lower charge cycles. You can get up to 6000mAh of battery, but below that there’s a mediocre 400 charge cycles. As a result, your battery can retain juice longer but degrade faster.
A 4000mAh battery that offers 1000 charge cycles will last longer than a 5000mAh battery with 500 long term charge cycles.
Difference Between Power Drawn and Power Used
Many phones claim to charge at a specific power, but actually charge at a much lower power. The charging socket may draw the advertised wattage from the socket, but the device itself charges at a different wattage.
Telephone marketing campaigns frequently use plug wattage rather than actual charging wattage. Before buying a new phone, confirm the advertised power figures with a little online research.
4. Higher power
A few years ago, everyone was cool with 33W charging. However, things have changed quickly. Since higher wattage usually means faster charging, phone users tend to favor higher wattage. Phone makers are feeding this thirst for higher power by pushing the boundaries of power numbers.
Today, phone manufacturers are announcing 125W, 200W and even 240W charging technology. But can we trust the numbers? Most of the time, your phone will charge faster, but some so-called fast charging technologies are limited in some ways.
Some, for example, can only use fast charging for a limited time. That’s why you’ll find labels like “charge from 0 to 60% in 15 minutes”. Those last 40% take much longer.
However, some smartphones can fully charge with impressive speed. You will find Oppo and Xiaomi devices that go from 0 to 100% in less than an hour. However, while you get faster charging speed, you might also get much faster battery degradation.
5. Omit the details that matter
Omitting key product details is a widely used marketing tactic by many phone manufacturers. This usually happens when they want to distract buyers from a not-so-flattering specification.
You might find smartphone makers pointing out that their product uses an 8-core processor and 8GB of RAM. However, whether this specification is impressive depends on its underlying chipset.
A phone maker can keep chipset details under the radar and point out how much RAM their product has to offer. In reality, a 4GB RAM device supported by a good chipset might outperform an 8GB RAM with a poorer chipset. For example, the 8-core, 8GB RAM Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 is outperformed by the 8-core, 8GB RAM Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus.
Moral of the story? When looking for a new device, learn to look beyond the specs you’re supposed to see.
6. Added AI to feature names
You’ve probably seen the “AI-camera” labels on many smartphones. For these phones, AI is likely deployed for smarter object detection and better image processing. Emphasizing the AI aspect of a camera is a proven marketing technique.
Now, phone makers have taken it to a whole new level, putting AI labels on standard features to make them state-of-the-art. The Asus Zenfone 5Z, for example, offered “AI charging and AI ringing”. Although the name sounds cool and is worth paying the extra buck, there isn’t much innovation behind most of these labels.
For example, the Zenfone 5Z’s AI ringtone feature simply adjusted your ringtone volume based on ambient noise. It’s a cool feature, but is it really worth the hype?
7. Fake camera quality
This one is a more open secret. Phone makers have long shown photos taken with professional digital cameras as if they were taken with their product. It’s a cheap marketing strategy that a lot of people are already familiar with, but phone makers are still using it anyway.
Embarrassingly, even big dogs like Huawei and Samsung have been caught in the act.
As Ars Technica reported, Huawei was exposed to using professional SLR cameras for photos that it implicitly passed off as taken by the Huawei Nova 3 camera.
Similarly, in 2018, a Twitter user exposed Samsung’s Brazilian division’s attempt to pass off stock photos as photos taken from the Samsung Galaxy A8.
Don’t trust the spec sheet
Before settling for a new Android smartphone, the spec sheet is usually the first place to start your research. How fast does it charge? What is the megapixel on the cameras? What is the battery capacity?
Remember that higher specs don’t necessarily mean better specs. This is an example of a smartphone myth you need to stop believing. So before settling for a new smartphone, don’t stop at the technical sheet. Invest a little in finding the actual real performance of the smartphone. You will be surprised how different things can be.