Do You Really Need a High Powered Phone?

by Dan Forster - , Last Updated on November 5, 2014, Buying Guides

It can be easy to get lured into the tech web and find yourself spending a little more than you might want on a phone. And with those cool looking (and heavily marketed) flagship phones costing at least five hundred pounds, it’s possible that you might end up spending more than a little more and drop a small fortune on a mobile. The question is though, whether you really need a high powered mobile? That’s what we’re taking a look at today, from what high powered means to whether it’s worth you spending more on one, here’s all you need to know.

What Does High Powered Mean?

Let’s start from the very beginning. If you look at the spec sheet for a phone you’ll see a listing under CPU. This CPU is basically the processor that drives your phone (think of it like the engine of your car). The higher the number, the more powerful it is. These days, top end phones are getting a minimum of 2 GHz of power, with the really high fliers getting around 2.5 GHz.

In very basic terms, the higher the number, the faster your phone will be. This, coupled with the fact that most phone processors these days aren’t just single core, they’re dual, quad or even octo core (have 2, 4 or 8 processor engines rather than just one), means that we’re looking at some pretty nifty devices.

What Does More Power Give Me?

In terms of user experience, the more power your phone has, the faster it’s going to act. That means apps open more quickly, when you type the cursor moves faster, and even that web pages can open more speedily. That’s only on a basic level though. The more advanced the apps and processes are that you’re using, the more processing power they’re going to require to run. You’ll need to keep that in mind for later.

The Downside of Too Much Power

We generally consider speed to be a good thing, which it is, however, there’s a caveat here. The problem is that in realistic terms the average user isn’t going to see a whole lot of difference once a certain power level is reached. Think of it this way: you can definitely tell the difference between a car going ten mph and a car going 100 mph, but can you really tell the difference between a car going 100 mph and a car going 120 mph? That difference is negligible at best, and that’s the problem with your high powered phone.

Essentially, unless you’re running some really big apps that need loads of juice, then for those average, every day phone activities, a CPU of, say 1.7 GHz isn’t going to feel or perform a whole lot differently that a CPU of 2.5 GHz. The only difference to you is the cost of the phone, since that 2.5 GHz processor is going to cost you at least a couple of hundred pounds more.

Do You Need It?

That’s not to say that no one needs a high powered mobile. Of course they do. There are certain kinds of users who definitely profit from that extra oomph. Who are they? The list is actually quite extensive. First up, there are gamers. If you’re into high end gaming then to play real top of the line games you’re going to need a ton of power. If you don’t have it, you simply won’t be able to open your game app.

Then there are the creative types. Running editing software, whether that’s video or picture editing, also tends to require a whole bunch of power. So the mobile photographers and movie makers will absolutely profit from a large CPU.

Then there’s a strange one. If you often simultaneously run lots of apps (you like multi tasking, you want to surf the net while you’re chatting on Skype and listening to music) then more power will benefit you. This isn’t necessarily because of the CPU, but because a large CPU tends to come with plenty of RAM (which in turn makes your phone better at running multiple processes).

Other than that though, the average phone user isn’t going to have to pay for all that power, though of course, you might choose a high end phone for other reasons, such as its camera, for example.

What Do You Need?

If you don’t need all that power then, what should you be looking for? These days phone processors tend to be pretty good even in budget smart phone models, but there are still limits. A solid processor spec will be around 1.7 GHz, and at least a dual core model. In addition to that, a minimum of 1 GB of RAM should do you fine. Those are really the limits for a decent phone experience, meaning that your mobile isn’t going to lag or freeze unnecessarily.

Should You Go High Power Anyway?

Having said that, there are some that argue that it’s best to buy the highest powered phone you can afford. Yes, mobile technology changes fast, and yes, that means basic specs for running operating system updates, games and apps also change fast. And for some that justifies buying something powerful on the off chance that you’ll need that power later.

There is some truth behind this, but do keep in mind that the average person changes their phone once every two years, which is the average length of a mobile operator contract. Are you going to need an extra 0.5 GHz of power in two years time? Probably not. If you’re the kind of person who likes hanging on to a phone for longer than a couple of years though, then you might want to consider going for something higher spec, which should prevent your mobile becoming obsolete too fast.

Flagship phones have a lot going for them. If you want a great camera, tons of internal memory, or a big screen, then a high powered phone could well be a good investment for you. Should you buy a phone based on power alone? We say no. The chances of you noticing a huge difference in performance if you’re a regular phone user are so small that power just doesn’t justify the expense any more. Opting for something mid market will give you not only a great user experience, but will also save you a whole bunch of change.