Smartphone Buying Guide (Mid April to Mid May)

Hi guys, welcome to my first set of buying guide for Mid April to Mid May.

Aim of this buying guide = do NOT fall into the traps and marketing hypes of smartphone manufacturers. Find a phone that really suits you. The following analysis is based on the point of view of an ordinary customer like you and me.
I have divided smartphones into 4 categories. Budget, Mid-low, Mid-high, Flagship. Under each category there are 2 sub-categories, namely handy and phablet.

The brackets are explanations (+ perhaps some shortcomings) why they are chosen. Some abbreviations are used e.g. S625 stands for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chipset.

~ Let's begin :D ~

1. Budget (handy)

- Xiaomi Redmi 4 / 3s

Redmi 4
Redmi 3s

[4 uses the better and more power efficient S625 while 3s uses the S430, both have a jaw-dropping huge 4,100 mAh given its size, metal body, camera is okay for its class, yet, limited availability around the world]

2. Budget (phablet)

- Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (no matter Helio X20 or S625 CPU) / 4X / 3

Redmi Note 4
Redmi Note 4
Redmi Note 3

[this 4 generations are in a mixed bag, causing me a little bit headache when analysing -_-
On one hand the 14nm S625 (Note 4/4X) is power efficient (save battery life), its CPU and GPU performance are not really on par with the MTK Helio X20 CPU (Note 4) or the S650 (Note 3), but all these CPU GPU differences should be forgiven given the large battery (4,100 mAh), capable camera and the sufficient ROM and RAM]

- LeEco Le2

LeEco Le 2

[the best CPU in this category (S652), support quick charge 3.0, both cameras are capable to capture better than average photos, fingerprint sensor is fast, yet, the lack of 3.5mm headphone jack may be one of the concerns]

3. Mid-low range (handy)

- Moto G5

Moto G5

[removable battery makes its return, capable camera, quite stylish design, Moto add-on functions are very useful, yet, the ROM and RAM options may be a bit disappointing]

- Moto G5 Plus

Moto G5 Plus

[best camera to mention in its class (12 MP with dual pixel and f/1.7!!, which is the same specs on paper with the flagship Samsung S7!!), very power efficient S625, Moto add-on functions are very useful, stylish metal design, yet, the battery maybe a bit small (3,000 mAh only) if compared to Redmi 4]

- Sony Xperia XA1

Sony Xperia XA1

[both cameras are very surprising (23 MP f/2.0 24mm on the back, 8 MP f/2.0 23mm on the front), the thin bezels look gorgeous, have NFC (many low-priced phones don't have this function!), yet, the CPU may not be a good choice as MTK CPUs are not usually that impressive, also there is no fingerprint reader when the twice as cheap Redmi 4 has (shame on you Sony!)]

- Asus Zenfone 3

Asus Zenfone 3 (5.2" or 5.5" available)

[another great S625 phone, Asus praises the 4-axis OIS with PDAF camera a lot, the 2.5D glass on both sides are stylish and attract much attention if you deliberately put the phone under light, which produces beautiful light reflection, the support is also an advantage over many other S625 phones]

4. Mid-low range (phablet)

- Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime / J7 2016

Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime

Samsung Galaxy J7 2016

[the 14nm process of the Exynos 7870 plays an important role in maintaining the battery life, camera looks good on paper with f/1.9, but the actual performance is not great and the TouchWiz UI may slow down the performance, metal design though (on J7 Prime only), wider global availability compared to Xiaomi]

- Sony Xperia XA Ultra

Sony Xperia XA Ultra

[best SELFIE camera in this class (16 MP with f/2.0 with autofocus with OIS!!!), bright 6" display, typical Sony design with bright colour options available, yet, battery life is no good and 16 GB ROM only, the chipset MTK Helio P10 and the lack of fingerprint reader in this price segment are not that impressive also]

- Xiaomi Max

Xiaomi Mi Max

[the only large phablet (6.44") you can find in the market that offers a well-balanced package, S650/S652 chipset is a great choice that delivers stable mid-high performance, battery (4,850 mAh) is a monster, the ROM RAM options are reasonable, yet, the camera may be a bit on the mark deduction side]

- LG Stylus 2 Plus / 3

LG Stylus 2 Plus  

LG Stylus 3 

[DISCLAIMER: I owned a LG Stylus 2 Plus before] [the inclusion of a 'pen' (aka stylus) is a rare scene in the mid range sector (basically only Samsung will include its S Pen in its Note flagship series), although the pen on LG is not as good as Samsung, it definitely adds some creativity and interesting gimmicks to users, yet, the use of S430 downgrades the phone as we can buy similar prices can already buy a S625]

- LeEco Max 2

LeEco Le Max 2

[this crazily priced phone has a S820 to deal with daily operations and capable of more demanding graphics and games, the camera is not the best in the class but at least it sports a Sony 21 MP sensor with PDAF and OIS, the 2K display, sufficient ROM and RAM (6 GB RAM!!!) and quick charge 3.0 make you feel comfortable even it does not have a 3.5mm headphone jack (and LeEco claims that type c audio can reduce the loss of original authentic sound)]

- Lenovo P2

Lenovo P2

[Lenovo aims to manufacture a smartphone with the longest battery result, and it succeeds, the undefeatable combination of S625 and 5,100 mAh battery works extremely well to deliver a smooth performance without draining the battery, and the phone is not thick at all, yet, the rest of the specs e.g. camera can be called as "acceptable/average" only, with not much surprises]

5. Mid-high range (handy)- Huawei Honor 8

Honor 8

[the 2.5D glass on both sides are stylish and attract much attention if you deliberately put the phone under light, which produces beautiful light reflection, the Kirin 950 chipset is very capable of daily operations (similar to the level of S810 but no over-heating issues), camera is a nice dual camera set-up (monochrome + RGB) without the Leica branding though, top-notch selfie camera, sufficient ROM RAM, good battery life, tick so many boxes e.g. NFC, IR blaster, FM radio, yet, do not expect Kirin 950 to be on par with the flagship chipsets like Kirin 960 or S820 in terms of demanding 3D gaming]

- Huawei P9

Huawei P9

[a nice touch of metal, the Kirin 955 is a good upgrade from 950, the GPU performance is close to flagship standard, camera is a nice and first-of-its-kind dual camera set-up (monochrome + RGB) with the famous Leica branding, top-notch selfie camera, sufficient ROM RAM, good battery life, yet, strangely, no NFC compared with Honor 8, and this flagship phone is already 1 year ago]

- Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)

[for the first time Samsung put IP 68 dust and water resistance in the mid-range A series, battery is huge, front camera has such a high resolution of 16 MP, the placement of speaker is also in an interesting place, colour options are refreshing, yet, the main camera seems to be a step backward from its predecessors (a normal 16 MP without OIS (in which the previous Galaxy A series has)), the Exynos 7880 chipset is built based on the latest 14nm process but the performance is not inspiring, nor does the ROM RAM options, 3 GB RAM seems a bit tedious when other competitors are offering at least 4 GB RAM of LDDR4 as well (e.g. Honor 8)]

- LG G5


[originally launched as a flagship, its price went on a roller coaster and kept going down, with S820 you will have no worries in any kind of tasks, the dual camera allows you to take very wide angle photos, battery is still removable, the pity is that LG gives up the modular design on G6, yet the battery life is slightly below average, the only concern is that the bootloop problem may occur (according to past LG G4 and V10 experience)]

- HTC 10

HTC 10

[the most balanced and stable flagship in 2016, without any major marketing hypes and gimmicks, this phone performs very well in most aspects, camera is class-leading (88 marks in DxOMark) (the use of IMX 377 sensor + OIS + laser autofocus + f/1.8), front camera is the first to add OIS, battery life is good, the UI is very smooth and never lags, HTC is also famous for its excellent quality control, top-notch metal design, yet, the only demerits are that the front panel looks a bit weird, and the front-facing stereo speakers are missing]

- iPhone SE

iPhone SE

[the SE is the compact version of 6s and its long battery life surprises everyone, its design and compactness also makes it a good choice, yet, the selfie camera isn’t upgraded and still stays in the old 1.2 MP era]

- iPhone 6s

iPhone 6s

[on the exterior it looks nearly identical to iPhone 6, but the interior is sort of an upgrade, camera and performance are still competitive even after the introduction of iPhone 7 (and at least there is a 3.5mm headphone jack), yet, the price is still a bit higher than other Android mid-high range phones]

- Blackberry KEYone / Mercury

Blackberry Keyone (aka Mercury)

[this phone is one of the most anticipated phones in the MWC 2017 because it follows the tradition of having a Blackberry-branded physical keyboard, the camera is another surprise (new IMX 378 with large micron size), large battery + S625 means there is no worry on battery life, yet, the phone may seem a bit overpriced as a whole bunch of S625 phones are in the market and are cheaper, 3 GB RAM is also a bit lagging behind the competition]

6. Mid-high range (phablet)- LeEco Le Pro 3

LeEco Le Pro 3

[another aggressively priced S821 phone which the selling price in China should be classified as a mid-low range phone, a worthy upgrade from the Max 2, addition of stereo speakers, better made metal body, monstrous 4,070 mAh battery, yet, the 3.5mm jack is still gone, limited availability, camera performance is average only]

- OnePlus 3 / 3T

OnePlus 3 / 3T

[OnePlus has been shouting slogans claiming itself as a flagship killer, and it actually does the job well in 2016, both variants offer stellar performance, nice metal body, above average camera, 6 GB of RAM, battery is a welcoming upgrade, yet, the overall design does not impress (some Chinese manufacturers have more beautiful phones)]

- Nexus 6P

Nexus 6P

[being the last Nexus to mention (hopefully not), it is still competitive even in today's standard, S810 may not be a good choice of chipset, yet the performance esp GPU is still edging over other S600 series CPUs, the stereo speakers are also an excellent addition, camera is famous for its excellent low-light performance (Sony IMX 377 with 1.55 micron size, f/2.0), battery is sufficient to maintain a day, design is high quality, most importantly this phone will receive timely updates from Google]

- Xiaomi Note 2

Xiaomi Note 2

[this Galaxy Note 7-alike phone ticks nearly all the boxes that a flagship should have, everything is well-balanced and battery life is excellent given the ample 4,070 mAh, design is well-done, yet, the only downside is that the curved display monitor is just for fancy purposes (unlike the Samsung edge phones) and that the camera is not best in this class)]

- Samsung C7 / C9 Pro / A9 Pro / Note 5

Samsung C7
Samsung Note 5

Samsung C9 Pro
Samsung A9 Pro
[the reason why I group them together is because it is tedious and clumpsy to talk about them separately, C7, C7 Pro or C9 Pro are phones tailor-made for the Chinese market as they look decent on the spec paper (e.g. 4/6 GB RAM, 64 ROM, 16 MP main camera, 16 MP front camera, big battery, S625/S653 (C9 Pro) etc), yet the specs are a bit mismatch with the actual experience espcially given Samsung's TouchWiz UI, don't get me wrong, they are still good phones which daily usage will have no problem at all, the Note 5 is more than a year ago and becomes dominating the 'Note' series for 2 years due to the Note 7 crisis, its camera is certainly better than the A and C series but the battery may be insufficient to support the flagship performance, the A9 Pro, on the other contrary, is a battery beast phablet (6", S652, 5,000 mAh)]

- Moto Z [DISCLAIMER: I am owning this phone]

Moto Z
[jaw-droppingly thin, stock Android performance with excellent Moto functions, creative Moto Mods series, fast and accurate fingerprint sensor, all these makes Moto Z go beyond and stand out among all other S820 phones, yet, the battery is a bit small to support the flagship specs (S820, 2K display), and the camera is no good in low-light conditions]

- Huawei Honor V9 (aka Honor 8 Pro)

Honor 8 Pro

[This slightly smaller version of Mate 9 packs most of the things a flagship should have (but cheaper than Mate 9 by a considerable amount), from chipset (Kirin 960), 128 GB ROM, 6 GB LDDR4 RAM, NFC, IR blaster, to nice colour option and premium design and feel, yet, the camera, sadly, is a dual camera but without the Leica branding]

7. Flagship level (handy)- iPhone 7

iPhone 7
[there's a saying that things can't go wrong with the latest generation of iPhone, and this applies to iPhone 7 for sure, handy design, IP68 dust and waterproof, nice and neat iOS system, improved camera, addition of stereo speakers, yet, as usual, the battery is a bit lacking in volume, and this time the 3.5mm headphone jack is gone]

- Sony Xperia XZ / XZs

Sony Xperia XZ

Sony Xperia XZs

[Sony phones are well-known for its great build quality and simple design, although some may think that their phones lack variety in appearance, anyway, S820 brings you through everyday tasks, and Sony are still one of the very few companies which insist on keeping the stereo front-facing speakers, the camera quality esp videos are great, yet, Sony has a long history of producing too much noise in low light photos, this may be due to the relatively low aperture and micron size]

- Huawei P10

Huawei P10

[the P10 is the successor of the stunning P9 which showed the world that Huawei has emerged to be a global smartphone manufacturer and even the renowned German brand Leica is willing to cooperate with them, P10 brings the camera into a new level and in general receives applauding feedback, the colour options remind us that this is an upgraded and much improved version of the P9, yet, it's a bit disappointing that the aperture is still at f/2.2 (while the P10 Plus is at f/1.8!!)]

- Google Pixel

Google Pixel

[abandoning the Nexus line, Google wants to beat Apple with this new Pixel strategy, the camera section attracts much attention as it is universally claimed to take the best photos be it in daylight or night, basically most of the daily tasks are the best to offer in the market, yet, to pick bones from eggs, some will criticize of some issues found by users e.g. Bluetooth or audio and microphone problems, the front design is a bit bland with thick bezels]

8. Flagship level (phablet)- HTC U Ultra

HTC U Ultra

[glass back and revitalized front panel design surprise us, performance is not the best compared with the latest S835, but still one of the best to offer now, camera and audio quality are no worries, second screen are somewhat useful (although this idea is first used by LG), yet, the battery may be a bit embarrassing to supply the top-notch specs, the colour options are good though]

- LG G6 / LG V20


LG V20

[these 2 phones come with similar CPUs, screen size, audio quality and the dual camera (which promote wide angle shots), G6 has water and dust resistance and very thin bezels, V20, on the other hand, has its battery removable (!) and a secondary screen, the only risk is the bootloop problem which is experienced by a substantial owners of the G4 and V10]

- iPhone 7 Plus

iPhone 7 Plus

[being the best iPhone, it packs everything that a flagship should have and its battery life is better than its 4.7" sibling, the second camera on the back is a 56mm lens which allows you to take clearer close shots, you will not regret buying an iPhone for daily usage]

- Xiaomi Mix

Xiaomi Mix

[astonishing real bezeless design with jaw-dropping 91.3% screen to body ratio, elegant ceramic design, this so-called concept phone wows the world when it can actually be purchased, it should also be the most beautiful Xiaomi phone and the most surprising phone in 2016, performance (S821) and ROM RAM options are nearly flawless, yet, both front and back cameras are underwhelming with quite poor low-light performance, especially when the Mi Note 2 is cheaper but has better camera performance]

- Moto Z Force

Moto Z Force

[the shatterproof screen, big battery (3,500 mAh despite 7mm thick only!!!!), good camera performance (21 MP, f/1.8, OIS, laser AF, PDAF etc.), undeniably flagship grade design and performance, yet, limited availability around the world and the quite expensive price tag make this phone to be one of the most underrated phone in 2016]

- Google Pixel XL

Google Pixel (left) VS Pixel XL (right)

[comments are more or less similar to Google Pixel, but the battery life might be better due to the much larger battery capacity, the price is not cheap though]

- Huawei Mate 9 / 9 Pro

Huawei Mate 9
Huawei Mate 9 Pro

[Huawei starts to see its success in the market after the P8 and Mate 8 series and now the Mate 9 series is more mature, notably by the second generation Leica branded dual camera, maintaining the long battery life, and improving on both CPU and GPU performances, the Pro version shirks in size but has a 2K display with edge screens]

- Samsung S8 / S8+

Samsung Galaxy S8 / S8+

[these highly-anticipated phones do not disappoint us, high screen to body ratio, latest processor, new design language, introduction of the Bixby (similar to Siri and Google Assistant), well-improved front camera, iris scanner, facial recognition, all these are made to compensate for the Note 7 scandal]

Anticipation of the month - HTC U / HTC Ocean (successor of HTC 10?)

Many rumour videos have proved that HTC is developing a brand-new edge sense touch which utilities the edges of the phones to perform different functions (something better than what the Samsung Edge phones are doing), S835 processor, flagship specs and camera, it is hoped that HTC can be on the right track and revive.

THANKS for viewing :D !!!! Any comments please feel free to comment below. STAY TUNED!!


  1. Through analysis! I definitely love it. Maybe can you have more phones included in your guide e.g. those from Meizu, Oppo? I'd love to see the competition of those low priced phones.

    1. Thanks for your opinion. This buying guide aims to highlight the best phones available at different price segments. If possible, i will certainly add a more variety of brands there. Thanks and stay tuned!

  2. Awesome analysis! Great guide for people looking for a new phone. I look forward to seeing more of your posts:)


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