4 Big Phone Brands Mislead You: “Big Screen, Dual Speakers, Performance” and More
It’s not just smartphone brands that do this, but here it’s PhoneArena, so we’ll focus on them. You deserve to be aware of all the little things that could mislead you when buying a new smartphone, so that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about today.
Showcasing a smartphone can be extremely exciting and effective in selling you. We recently saw the iPhone 14 event, and Apple managed to sell the world a phone with a screen cutout, which it called “the dynamic island!” Impressive, if there is anything else. This is not an example of a brand misleading you, just a brand that is great at marketing.
But there are other more basic aspects and features of a phone, which you should definitely know are often presented in a slightly misleading way. Let’s start with what I consider one of the most cardinal marketing sins – calling a single-speaker phone a dual-speaker phone…
“Dual speakers” – usually that’s technically true, but…
You know how your smartphone has a headset? That horizontal line above the screen, where do you hear people’s voices from on such rare phone calls?
Once upon a time, the earpiece was just that, but fairly recently many phone brands have decided to start counting it as a second speaker and having it spit out high frequencies in tandem with the “real ” your phone’s speaker. So now every phone suddenly has “dual speakers!”
Here’s the deal, though. A phone’s earpiece is never capable of producing the same kind of rich, deep sound as a “real” speaker. Most often, smartphones have a single bottom-firing speaker, which provides all of the upper bass, mids, and highs, while the earpiece produces only weak highs.
Sure, just having it do something usually helps convey some sort of stereo effect – so it’s better than nothing – but it’s not a true two-speaker experience.
Even Apple’s iPhones, which arguably have the best sound of any mainstream smartphone, do this. They contain just one very good bottom-firing speaker, with the earpiece providing clean sound for a stereo effect. Imagine what a real dual stereo speaker iPhone would sound like! It would be epic.
Either way, if you want to see a true dual-speaker phone, check out the Asus ROG Phone 5 Ultimate, or the Galaxy Z Fold 4, or even some cheap phones like the Redmi Note 11 Pro+.
These phones are among the few to have such powerful and capable dual stereo speakers, which I would say is the only instance where the term “dual speakers” isn’t misleading. The ROG Phone even has two front speakers, which are more powerful, by the way!
So there we have it. When you see “dual speakers” as a selling point, be sure to look around the phone for speaker grilles. If it only has one, usually at the bottom – then it’s just a single speaker that will make the most noise, plus the much weaker sounding earpiece. And… you are being misled (at least if sound quality matters to you).
“Huge screen” – not as huge as you think
The modern Sony Xperia 1 IV (left) and the 2017 Xiaomi Mi Max 2 (right)
It’s not something that phone brands intentionally mislead you, but just a fact that consumers don’t often consider. So you should definitely take this into consideration when looking at phone specs, especially display sizes.
The most common way in the world to measure screen sizes is diagonally, in inches. A phone can have a huge screen of nearly 7 inches, but still feel smaller in your hand than your 6.1-inch iPhone 13. What black magic is this? Well, it all comes down to aspect ratios.
If you buy a very large phone like the Xperia 1 IV, you’ll quickly notice that your videos and movies look quite small on its seemingly huge 6.5-inch screen, and that’s because it has a wide 21:9 aspect ratio. It’s great for scrolling through social media feeds and all that, but when viewing photos and videos you’ll probably feel like they should appear larger. But that’s the downside of measuring screens diagonally.
If you want a phone that looks big, with content that looks big on it, don’t get a big one, let the specs fool you. Get a phone that’s reasonably tall, but also wide, say, one with a 2:3 screen aspect ratio.
Older phones like the Galaxy Note Edge and Xiaomi Mi Max 2 was noticeably wider than modern phones, and personally I don’t like this new trend of tall, narrow phones, but hey – if brands are going in droves, then statistically – you love it most likely.
Still, keep screen aspect ratio in mind the next time you read about a phone’s display specs.
Dummy “additional” cameras
It’s a popular trend with mid-range and low-end smartphones.
Because it’s now common for flagship phones to have two or more cameras, many manufacturers add an absolutely useless and shoddy macro camera to their cheaper phones just so they can call it a triple camera phone.
Rest assured that that third camera on the back of these phones is almost always useless, and just there for show. You’ll never use it, and even if you try, you’ll find that it’s incapable of taking a single good shot.
The good news is that even lower-midrange phones these days have good dual cameras – normally one main and one ultra-wide. But yeah, some brands go out of their way to slap on a laughable macro too, just so they can improve the presentation of the phone by having “three cameras” as a selling point.
Additionally, some brands would go the extra mile to mislead less tech-savvy shoppers into thinking the phone they’re looking at has even more than three cameras.
And I’m not talking about the no-name scam phones you can buy in China, which literally have fake dummy cameras on the back; I’m talking about real brands you’ve probably heard of that use the design of a phone to give the illusion of bigger or more cameras.
For example, the Redmi Note 11 Pro+ I mentioned earlier has the sort of rear camera module design that, at first glance, appears to contain five cameras!
The Redmi Note 11 Pro+
Now, you’re probably tech-savvy; you’ll look at this photo and quickly realize that one is a flash, and the other is a… nothing… Just a ring placed next to the flash for, say, style or uniformity.
Still, I can’t help but consider this misleading. If any of my parents were to look at this phone, they would definitely assume it has at least four cameras on the back, if not five, when in fact it’s just three traditional cameras. On top of all that, the main camera is surrounded by an extra large ring, perhaps to simulate the look of an extra large lens.
And this is just one example. Keep an eye out for other phones that opt for this “style” of design, which proves to be potentially misleading, at least for unsophisticated buyers.
Handling performance benchmarks
This is one of the many reasons why you shouldn’t take performance criteria to heart when choosing a smartphone. Generally speaking, a performance benchmark may not reflect what you will experience with a smartphone during regular daily use.
But more specifically, some phone brands have a habit of manipulating performance benchmarks, configuring their smartphones to outperform when they detect they’re being tested, or underperform in normal use.
Thus, a smartphone that, for example, would perform very well during a benchmark, could perform less well during your normal use. Isn’t that misleading?
We won’t go into all the scandals, but rest assured that whatever your favorite phone brand is, there’s a chance it’s probably been accused or proven to manipulate benchmark results in some way or another, at some point.
For example, recently Samsung has been accused of limiting more than 10,000 apps on its phones, and therefore Geekbench pulled some of its flagship products because of this behavior. Put simply, this suggests that some Samsung phones would perform well on the benchmarks, but when you use them normally, at least with some apps, the performance would be worse than expected.
Also, Xiaomi followed Samsung’s lead in throttling apps, but not Geekbench (allegedly) too, which again creates a believable scenario where its phones can perform much better in benchmarks than in real life.
In my opinion, the best way to find out more about a smartphone you want to buy would be to read reviews, especially long-term ones. Not just by looking at part numbers and specs. A reviewer you trust who has actually used the phone normally would be able to tell clearly if it works well or not.
Stay alert, phone fans!
Do you have any tips phone buyers should know? Things to watch out for and keep in mind? Join the conversation and share them with your fellow phone enthusiasts in the comments section below!