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[The Market] What should I consider when buying a new phone?

Key Takeaway: If you want to shop responsibly, there are considerations you should think of in terms of purposeful living and use. In a hyper-connected world where the pace of technology is as fast as the speed of light, I invite you to slow down, take a breather, and consider true purpose in shopping for a phone.


*Disclaimer: I was not paid or contacted by any mobile phone manufacturer to write this post. All opinions here are my own and my own alone unless otherwise indicated.*

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it doesn’t take rocket science to show that we are now living in the mobile age. Whereas decades ago computers were as big as houses, today they’re as small as the palm of your hand – realized in the ever-ubiquitous mobile phone. Or, more accurately, smartphone.

It’s now considered unthinkable for anyone to¬†not have a phone – and this is especially true in the Philippines, considered the world’s texting capital, where even those living at the grassroots level have a mobile phone – or two. They say the Filipinos prioritize among others staying connected, and in an increasingly smaller, globalized, and hyperconnected world, this can be used to your advantage in living a life of purpose.

The reality is that mobile phones today are now more than just devices that send text messages and make phone calls Рand across all walks of life and groups, this has been taken advantage of. Thanks to the mobile world, things have become speedier and more efficient Рand more interesting. Never has the quality of life become so enriched with such a widespread innovation. Opportunities are endless thanks to the digital connection.

However, there also lie many negative opportunities.

“I finally realized it. People are prisoners of their phones. That’s why they are called cell phones.” (Sufyan Rizvi)

People get locked up in hyper-consumerism or hyper-connectivity. Smartphone makers make the pace of the war for market dominancy faster and faster, releasing new flagships in as little as every six months. And the market itself falls for their charms, and goes out of their way to get the new models.

We are so dependent on our mobile phones that now, at the table, you can expect everyone to be on a screen while waiting for the food to arrive. It happens at almost any table I’m at. The number of lit mobile phone screens on the road at night is almost surely the same as that of car’s taillights, if not more. I once read an article that describes how the Filipino everyman who realizes he left his wallet at home would not go back for it, but the one who realizes he left his mobile phone at home would immediately rush back for it.

How I would¬†love to be disconnected for a short while! But of course, because the world around you will not disconnect with you, it is impossible, especially if you’re very busy doing purposeful work. And you need the right tools for the job. Not tools to show off, but tools that are just right. And a decent phone is part of this.

That said, here are a few purpose-oriented considerations in getting a mobile phone.

1. It does its job well.

First and foremost, a mobile phone is, well, a phone. If it can’t send and receive text messages and calls – and if you can’t use said functions in an efficient, user-friendly manner, or if they’re clunky – then walk past it¬†for a better¬†choice. A phone is not a phone without this most rudimentary of features.

After that, you can consider¬†other¬†helpful features oriented towards purposeful productivity and living.¬†I emphasized “helpful” because the said features one looks for may be too novelty or hegemonic to be considered as purposeful. “Helpful” features include the ease of use of the phone’s hardware and software, the quality of Internet connectivity channels namely Wi-Fi and mobile data (we do exist, after all, in the world of the Internet, literally and figuratively), battery longevity (ahh, yes), or¬†model-exclusive applications that can help you in what you do on a day-to-day basis.

One feature I now find is dual-SIM capability, since my family and I all have two numbers on different networks. Many nice phones don’t have this feature, so already my choices are narrowed down.

It doesn’t have to be the¬†*top* performing phone that blows away the competition, just as long as it works¬†well. More importantly, it works well for¬†you.

2. The damage to your pocket isn’t irreversible or too deep.

Our Life Kits – the set of circumstances, abilities, and everything in between that we possess and have been given since birth – would naturally include financial background as well, and it doesn’t take an Einstein-level brain to figure out that¬†the playing field isn’t equal for everyone in this regard. Sad but true.

In short, if you have the money to spare to invest in a rather more extravagantly-priced phone (which¬†does do its job well!), then by all means go for it. But if you’re a little strapped for cash and need to bootstrap yourself through life as of now, well, there are many mid-range offerings (especially right now!) that get things done just as well – if not better! – than their more luxurious cousins.

Remember: tailor it to¬†your current situation. Don’t let the bandwagon or envy sway you.

3. You can sustain it for several years.

Techies may abhor me for this consideration, but if a certain mobile phone looks to me like I’ll be replacing it by the year’s end – for whatever reasons – then I’m not going for it. Part of responsible consumerism is moderation in shopping – be content with what you have and run it to the ground. Well, not really to the ground, but you get my drift.

There are at least two ways of looking at it. First, is the phone prone to breaking easily? (You may want to check reviews, but take them with a grain of salt always, as what applies to one doesn’t necessarily apply to the other.) Fancy tough cases may be beside the point: if the device¬†itself seems like it’s gonna give up on you prematurely, then we’ve got a problem.

Second, given the technical capabilities of the phone, how soon¬†will it seem to be crushed by the opposition’s new offerings? I know the pace of technology is lightning-fast nowadays, but let’s be realistic: 3 GB RAM may surely prove to still be fast or effective after three years. Or a 13 MP camera will always do the job for your casual photos. Will your phone still work well in a few years? Most would – my current phone tells me so! A phone with relatively¬†consistent software updates would also help keep this in check – if it has no hope of upgrading beyond its factory settings, it might not be worth it.

After weighing all these considerations, it’s time to make your choice. For example, the¬†ASUS Zenfone 2, ZE551ML model¬†(4 GB RAM, 64 GB storage) would be an almost-perfect choice for someone in my situation. I say “almost” because there are surely similarly-priced and spiced-up phones out there besides the Zen (I hear the Xiaomi Mi Note 3 is nifty too)¬†– but given my familiarity, I chose this particular model. However, I was given a secondhand¬†Samsung Galaxy Note 3 to use while my Zenfone was in the service center (it’s working perfectly now!), and although it isn’t dual-SIM, its pen computing (read: stylus) features and fierce performance even two years down the road made it my primary phone as of now.

As we begin the new year, and you may want to go “in with the new” with a new phone, I thus leave these considerations for discussion and thought – comment below on what¬†you find in a phone!

Have a purposeful week!

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