The ultimate aim of every tech business is to make profits. Smartphone manufacturers are not an exception. Most phone manufacturer wants to make as much profit as possible by selling as many units of their products as they can.
While this isn’t a bad thing, phone makers sometimes employ dishonest marketing tactics to achieve this goal. From using misleading feature names to inflating battery performance, here are some ways smartphone manufacturers are getting economical with the truth.
1. Emphasizing Pointless Metrics
While the smartphone market keeps clamoring for more exciting features, manufacturers can not always keep up with this demand. To fill the void, phone manufacturers try to push the boundaries of not-that-necessary features and then overemphasize their importance.
You’ve probably come across 8K video recording and 144Hz refresh rates on smartphone ads. Surely, the larger, the better?
In the build-up to its launch, one of the most emphasized features of the Samsung S20 series was its 8K video recording feature. The company blew the horns of how many more details 8K recording could capture. Sure, 8K recording isn’t entirely pointless.
However, in the context of a smartphone, you’ll barely notice the difference between an 8K and a 4K recording which makes it not that important after all.
Similarly, the OnePlus 7 Pro launched with a 144Hz refresh rate display while the ZTE Red Magic 7 shipped with a ridiculous 165Hz refresh rate. Considering you’ll barely notice the difference between 120Hz and 144Hz on your smartphone, bumping up the number to as high as 165Hz is mostly for the specs sheet.
These are just a few examples of overhyped smartphone features you don’t actually need.
2. Using Higher Megapixel Cameras
Larger megapixels are the new trend in the smartphone industry. Why use a 12MP camera when you can use a 48MP or even a 108MP camera? A large portion of the smartphone market loves larger megapixels and smartphone manufacturers take advantage of this.
However, larger megapixels don’t necessarily mean better pictures. Yes, you’ll get pictures with better resolution, but when the chips are down, a smaller megapixel could produce significantly better picture quality. It’s not just about the numbers, it’s the sensors and image processing software that makes the difference.
The Google Pixel 5 with its paltry 12MP camera can beat most of the 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 manufacturers tend to hype up their battery specs in a lot of ways. Some ways include:
A False 100
On the specs sheet, a manufacturer might say a phone model will charge fully in 30 minutes. While charging, your phone could indeed get to 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 around 20 extra minutes to completely charge.
Limited Charging Cycles
Some phone manufacturers offer juicy battery capacity to mask lower charging cycles. You could get as much as 6000mAh of battery but underneath it is a poor 400 charging cycles. As a result, your battery might retain juice for a longer time but degrades more quickly.
A 4000mAh battery that offers 1000 charging cycles will outlast a 5000mAh battery with 500 charging cycles in the long run.
Difference Between Wattage Pulled and the Wattage Used
A lot of phones claim to charge at a specific wattage but actually charge at a much lower one. The charging plug might pull the advertised wattage from the socket but the device itself charges at a different wattage.
Phone marketing campaigns frequently use the plug wattage rather than the actual charging wattage. Before buying a new phone, confirm the advertised wattage numbers with a little online research.
4. Higher Wattage
A few years ago, everyone was cool with 33W charging. However, things have changed rapidly. Since higher wattage typically means faster charging, phone users tend to favor higher wattage. Phone manufacturers feed this higher wattage hunger by pushing the limits of wattage numbers.
Today, phone manufacturers advertise 125W, 200W, and even 240W charging technology. But can you trust the numbers? Most of the time your phone will charge faster, but some so-called fast charging techs are limited in some ways.
Some, for example, can only use fast charging for a limited time. This is why you’ll find labels like “charges from 0 to 60% in 15 minutes.” That final 40% takes a lot longer.
However, some smartphones can charge fully with impressive speed. You’ll find Oppo and Xiaomi devices that go from 0 to 100% in less than an hour. However, while you’re getting faster-charging speed, you could also be getting much faster battery degradation.
5. Omitting the Details That Matter
Omitting key details of a product is a marketing tactic widely used by a lot of phone manufacturers. This typically happens when they want to deflect buyers’ attention from a not-so-flattering spec.
You could find smartphone manufacturers emphasizing that their product uses an 8-core processor and 8GB of RAM. However, whether that spec is impressive depends on its underlying chipset.
A phone manufacturer might keep the details of the chipset under the radar and emphasize how much RAM their product has to offer. In reality, a 4GB RAM device supported by a good chipset could 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 hunting for a new device, learn to look beyond the specs you’re meant to see.
6. Adding AI to Feature Names
You’ve probably seen the “AI-camera” labels on a lot of smartphones. For those phones, AI is probably deployed for smarter object detection and better image processing. Stressing the AI aspect of a camera is a proven marketing technique.
Now, phone manufacturers have taken it to a whole new level, slapping AI labels on standard features to make them look cutting-edge. Asus Zenfone 5Z for instance offered “AI charging and AI ringtone.” While the name looks cool and something worth paying an extra dollar for, there’s no big innovation behind most of these labels.
For instance, the AI ringtone feature on the Zenfone 5Z simply adjusted your ringing volume based on ambient noise. It’s a cool feature, but is it really worth the hype?
7. Camera Quality Fakery
This one is a more open secret. Phone manufacturers have been showing off pictures taken with pro digital cameras as if they were taken with their product for a long time now. It’s a cheap marketing strategy that a lot of people already know about, but phone manufacturers still use it anyway.
Embarrassingly, even big dogs like Huawei and Samsung have been caught in the act.
As reported by Ars Technica, Huawei was exposed to having used pro DSLR cameras for pictures it implicitly passed off as being taken by the Huawei Nova 3 camera.
Similarly, in 2018, a Twitter user exposed Samsung’s Brazilian division’s attempt to pass off stock photo shots as photos taken from the Samsung Galaxy A8.
Don’t Trust the Specs Sheet
Before settling for a new Android smartphone, the specs sheet is usually the first place to start your research. How fast does it charge? What’s the megapixel on the cameras? What’s the battery capacity?
Remember, higher specs don’t necessarily mean better specs. That’s an example of a smartphone myth you need to stop believing. So before settling for a new smartphone, don’t stop at the specs sheet. Invest a little in looking up the actual real-world performance of the smartphone. You’ll be surprised how different things can be.