It’s that time of the year for me to buy a new smartphone, am a smartphone junkie and most of my friends know that, in fact I know I have influenced several of them to make that switch. The streets of Kampala are full of Chinese knock off smartphones and even those who can get original ones are still confused on what to get, I thought I would write down some pointers to consider when making that final decision. I always get several question from friends who want to make sure that before they lay down their hard earned dimes to a smartphone dealer, they are making the right choice. Here are 5 things to consider when buying a smartphone in Uganda.
1. The Brand & Operating System
Samsung, Nokia, HTC, LG, Sony ,Tecno, iPhone are some of the several original smartphone brands you will find gazing at you in those shops. But how do you decide which brand to trust? Is it Apple’s critically acclaimed iPhone brand? Or is it Samsung with its bigger than ever growing advertising budget and huge screens. Why not go for the HTC with its extraordinary design DNA? One thing I had to learn the hard way about smartphones is that there will always be a better smartphone tomorrow irrespective of the brand you choose.
All these brands come pre-loaded with different Operating Systems. For a hustle free experience iPhones are always a safe bet, but they come with a hefty price. So going back to reality, I rather you get hold of an Android Phone which also has a significant number of apps. For those who fancy simplicity and not much into the number of apps on their phone, Microsoft’s Windows Phone will be your kind of thing and if you are still stuck in 2007 a Blackberry phone will be a no brainier. My choice is HTC or Samsung running Android. Plus avoid second hand-phones, as they come with issues the previous owner left on them.
2. Look out for Fake Phones
The motto is simple “fake is always cheap”. Always make research before spending your over UGX 500,000 and above on a smartphone. You will be amazed with the things you will find online. You have to know that business people are all about survival and there are many fake phone out there dressed in original clothing. But how do you tell a fake from a genie phone? What you have to know is that these dealers have reached an extent of buying un-branded phones and just put on original stickers of common well-known brands onto them.
One of reasons UCC found it hard to curb counterfeit phones is that mobile operators register several phones with the same IMEI (that unique code that is supposed to distinguish one phone from the other). So it’s better to always buy from recommended phone dealerships (We already have Samsung, HTC, Nokia and LG official agents in Uganda) or reputable online stores (like Kaymu) also phones bought from Mobile networks are safe. That way you can claim your warranty in case anything goes wrong. Avoid impulse purchases from suspicious individuals on Facebook pages.
Chinese knock off phones usually have poor quality screens and build materials. Also look out and avoid brand names such as SQNY instead of SONY or SAMSANG instead of SAMSUNG. Lastly after buying that phone, register it and it’s IMEI with the respective company’s website for final proof of authenticity from the phone maker.
3. Phone Features
This is perhaps one of the most important things you consider before buying a phone may be after seeing your friends phone do things yours can’t do. Or after watching or hearing that Samsung or Nokia commercial on TV or Radio. Year after year smartphones get smarter with more crazy features from higher resolution screens, finger-print scanners and mega pixel loaded cameras or faster processors.
In Uganda or most developing nations, nothing beats a dual-SIM phone or better yet a dual-SIM smartphone. Since most networks have crappy voice and data services, others have better voice or data tariffs. You are better off with a dual SIM phone.
Phones like the latest Samsung Galaxy flagships and iPhone do away with the FM radio, a small feature but useful for a phone that costs over UGX 2m yet cheaper phones have FM radios. So go in for the features you want.
Personally I prefer a good camera phone, great audio capabilities, longer battery life, fast processor and RAM and a great user experience with more practical than gimmicky features.
4. Network Compatibility
Get the most out of your phone, avoid phones that have the following brand names TMOBILE, AT&T, VERIZON, SPRINT all these are American branded phones. Were as it seems prestigious to have a phone with an American network brand, most of these phones are not optimized or cannot work on Ugandan networks since some use different mobile technologies like CDMA or WiMAX that most of the networks in Uganda cannot support at least for mobile phones. The phone you buy must support 2G. 3G or 4G with the frequency bands below.
[signoff predefined=”Movie Review Signoff” icon=”icon-signal”] 2G Network : GSM 900 / 1800, 3G Network: HSDPA 2100 , 4G network: LTE 800 / 2600, All the mentioned frequencies are in MHz and are also supported in all AMEA regions ( LTE is Optional)[/signoff]
Phones from these American networks seem to do away with some of the above bands, that’s why they are not recommended for use here in Uganda. For a phone that does all networks you are better off using it on the Orange or soon Africell network since it’s the only network that supports all 3 network bands on a mobile phone.
This the final deciding factor you will have to consider. Smartphones now days come in 3 different categories, from low-end, mid-range and high-end phones. Obviously the low-end being the more affordable of them all. With a company like Samsung that makes a tonne of new smartphones, you cannot fail to make your pick. Smartphone Price ranges are about:
low-end: UGX 250,000 – UGX 520,000 ($100- $200)
mid-range: UGX 520,000 – UGX 1,050,000 ($200 – $400)
high-end: UGX 1,300,000 and above ($500)
* estimated prices above do not apply to second-hand phones.
You always don’t need to go in the for the latest and greatest for example you could buy last year’s Galaxy s4 instead of the S5 at a cheaper price yet the difference between the two phones in terms of features is a hair-line thick. If you think your phone is in good shape (no cracks or dents). You could consider swapping it for a new smartphone.
Of course a lot goes into consideration before you decide to surrender those dimes. Do you think you have some other tips to share with others? Feel free to leave comment below.