What defines a 'high-end' phone/tablet

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
What defines a 'high-end' phone/tablet
It looks like some users out there aren't really aware of the true meaning of "high-end". We're concerned about this, as voicing wrong opinions can easily mislead other people. We think that's not cool, and wanted to share our view on the matter.

How it all began

Ever since Android phone manufacturers started to equip their handsets with the latest and greatest hardware, customers have been using their specs sheets for bragging rights. Following an overly simple logic, some have concluded that the more GHz, the better; the more RAM, the better; and the more megapixels... the better, even though it has been proven time and time again that it's not really the numbers which dictate real-world performance. Yet, we've once again heard "educated" opinions that the iPhone 5 is not a high-end device, because of its specs.

While comparing specs sheets in the Android world can, to a certain extent, indicate which device is going to have an edge in performance, such kind of comparison when there are other OS's involved is unthinkable.

Love it or hate it, consumer technology is a bit more complex than that. And what makes it complex is the part which gives meaning to all the hardware components - software. Unfortunately, software is a bit more difficult to understand. It isn't something that has any physical form - you can't touch it, for example. The thing is if there wasn't software, there wouldn't be any need for computer hardware. Software can also be written in a good, or in a bad way. The effect of this is that a well-written software can be executed flawlessly on a device with good, but not great hardware specs. However, if you take same poorly-written software and try to run it on the same device, it will lag, it will crash, and overall, the whole experience of using it will be much worse than if you used the well-written software.

What all this means is that it doesn't really matter which is the device with slightly superior specs. Because, let's face it, every costly smartphone has more or less the same hardware, with some small differences of little meaning. But what can substantially affect the performance of a device (read: the way software will be executed), is how well the software for a that device is going to be written. Therefore, this explains why a top Android model with a faster quad-core processor isn't really faster than an iPhone with a slower dual-core processor. Because there are important differences in the way software was written for these handsets.

What defines a high-end device

So what defines if a phone or tablet is high-end or not? Obviously, it isn't the specs. Or at least, it isn't just the specs. To be high-end, means to be of high class. Like software, it isn't something you can measure physically or on paper. One very accurate way of telling which class does a certain device belong to, however, is the price. If you look at the price of current models, things immediately fall into their places. Low-cost models are low-cost for a reason, and the same goes for the devices in the mid range. The high end is where you'll find the iPhone and the top-models of Android manufacturers. Costing about the same amount of money, almost all of them offer very similar quality of user experience. Yes, the iPhone isn't as "technically-advanced" in terms of hardware, when compared to competitive Android phones, but this is only because it doesn't need to be. Again, this is because its software is written incredibly well, allowing it to run flawlessly on a device with lower specs. And as we said above, there is no use in extremely powerful hardware, if you can achieve the same, or even better performance with less powerful hardware.

Of course, the same is valid for tablets as well. Not too long ago, a friend of ours asked us about the amount of RAM in the first-gen iPad. When we said it's 256 MB, they laughed at the seemingly paltry number. What they didn't know, is that the iPad had, and continues to have a better user experience than any other tablet, despite the superior hardware specs of competing products.

In conclusion, it's time to stop throwing false statements around, like the one that "iPhone is not even a high-end phone", as some people do not consider themselves as "educated" and may easily fall for that. As it became clear, hardware specs like processor, RAM or screen size are just one part of the story, and aren't what categorizes a device as high-end or not.

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186 Comments

1. chocolatebear76

Posts: 123; Member since: Mar 03, 2011

Are you mentioning these cause of the fact that Iphone 5 got a lesser or rather abit disppointing spec for a so called high end device?

16. dr_fajardo12

Posts: 134; Member since: Aug 26, 2012

i thougv the same while i was reading

115. aaronkatrini

Posts: 242; Member since: Jun 06, 2012

Nice try RayS. , nice try.... cmmon.. at least change your name when you write these type of articles (of how apple has mid-end specs)!

133. tegradragon

Posts: 68; Member since: May 23, 2012

I was actually wondering how much Apple paid PA for this article.

23. TheLibertine

Posts: 484; Member since: Jan 15, 2012

What is so disappointing? You have a 4 inch screen with 326 ppi, a not known but very capable multicore CPU, the by far greatest GPU on the market, LTE, 1 GB RAM, and aluminium unibody and decent battery life. (All if Apples claims are confirmed.)

25. TheLibertine

Posts: 484; Member since: Jan 15, 2012

Almost forgot: thank you, Phonearena-sensei, for your unbiased lecture.

42. fistigons

Posts: 368; Member since: Feb 11, 2012

What the heck is wrong with you people? Phonearena writes a positive Apple article and you have iFans bashing the writer. I expected the Phandroids and Lumiacs to have a field day with this article. This is the wierdest bunch of commentors I have ever seen.

55. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

Dude I just want to say your avatar is EPIC. Grimlock is my favorite Transformer. I had the original Grimlock Transformer toy from the 80's. That was my favorite toy EVER. +2,000!!!!!

83. fistigons

Posts: 368; Member since: Feb 11, 2012

Thanks. I'm psyched that he's in the new Transformers game.

96. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

Me too. I want to get that game because the first one was pretty good.

105. Jobes

Posts: 364; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

WHAAAAAT... hes in the new one?

114. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

Hell yeah! It's going to be so awesome.

150. The_Innovation

Posts: 648; Member since: Jul 18, 2012

Lumiacs...interesting. *learned a new term today*

85. Berzerk000

Posts: 4275; Member since: Jun 26, 2011

I would agree with you indefinitely, the iPhone 5 does bring some nice specs to the table... Don't forget about the camera as well, that's probably wonderful. However, I don't know everything about it yet, so I can't agree with you. Of course it has a capable CPU Are you sure it has the same GPU in the new iPad? I never read anything about that, link please? LTE is nice (a bit late, but whatever) That 1 GB will allow for more updates, which is nice I love the design, but it's a bit too tall for the screen that it has. There is no idea on battery life. Allegedly, Apple actually decreased the battery size, gave it LTE, a processor of which architecture and clock speed is unknown (to my knowledge), if it does have the GPU of the new iPad that will certainly weigh down on battery, and it also has a bigger display. If it has a higher clocked A-9 processor, LTE, the same GPU in the iPad, and a battery with less capacity; it certainly will not have decent battery life. However, if the CPU uses the A-15 architecture, it might be a bit better. Let's just hope...

107. TheLibertine

Posts: 484; Member since: Jan 15, 2012

Well, all of Apples claims have yet to be proven, but if they will, all that is true. It may not have exact the same GPU as the new iPad, but an equal performing - the A5X is double the graphics performance of the A5, and so is the A6 claimed to be. As the battery life, we only can wait for the first reviews. On paper, the same capacicity with LTE, bigger screen and A6 seem ridiculous, but the A15 architecture and software optimisations may turn out to be the panacea. And there is also the legendary "Apple said it, so it is true"-argument. :)

119. Berzerk000

Posts: 4275; Member since: Jun 26, 2011

Yes, but don't forget that Apple tends to exaggerate some things... like of the "over 200 new features" of iOS 6, maybe a dozen or so are actually notable, and most coincide with one another. That's what I was thinking, but you never know until someone actually gives a full spec rundown instead of Apple's vague mentioning of hardware. No one is exactly sure it is an A-15 processor just yet. Even though Apple said the A6 is twice the power of the A5 in the 4S and uses a 32nm die size, that increase in power can be done in multiple ways. The clock speed on the 4S was at 800 MHz. They could keep the same clock speed and use the A-15 architecture, that would be near 2x performance. Or, they could just shrink the die size (which they did) to 32nm vs. the 45nm in the A5 in the 4S and increase the clock speed to about 1.2 GHz, which would has the same effect as using the A-15 architecture, but cost battery life. This is the most likely option. As for software optimizations, as always, Apple was pretty vague on what they did. It could make a difference, it could not. That argument is more infamous than legendary lol

121. TheLibertine

Posts: 484; Member since: Jan 15, 2012

Nothing but our speculation. Relax and await the first reviews.

152. The_Innovation

Posts: 648; Member since: Jul 18, 2012

Most of those "new" features, aren't features. I've realized this (5 year former iPhone user). You might click on the music app and realize that the design of the buttons is different. That's not a new feature that's just a fresh look.

151. The_Innovation

Posts: 648; Member since: Jul 18, 2012

Double the graphics performance, according to "their" standards. That means if they go from a 512MB ram to a 1G ram, that's double the performance. But they fail to mention that the industry has been running 1GB rams for a year now, and now went into 2GB rams. You're being fooled by their terminology. Snap out of it.

164. TheLibertine

Posts: 484; Member since: Jan 15, 2012

Man... They said double the graphics performance, so it was a strong hint that they doubled the graphics performance, not the RAM, dont you think...? Actually, the doubled both and did never say a single thing about RAM. By the "industry" you mean international Galaxy S3, HTC One X, Xperia Mint/S, Lumia 920...? A not yet launched phone is not the industry.

168. The_Innovation

Posts: 648; Member since: Jul 18, 2012

Don't blame our so beloved carriers for supporting or not supporting certain phones. The iPhone is an international phone too, or did you forget that?

171. TheLibertine

Posts: 484; Member since: Jan 15, 2012

Im European-living so i cannot respond on topics regarding US carriers.

179. The_Innovation

Posts: 648; Member since: Jul 18, 2012

Well then MORE reason why you should be disappointed with your iPhone, since there are so many other better phones in Europe.

28. bobfreking55

Posts: 866; Member since: Jul 15, 2011

they probably remembered it because of our comments. but it is actually true in PA's defense. The iPhone 5 is indeed high-end and many Android phones with high specs aren't high end at all. Actually, I care more on if the phone is the flagship. Samsung released a lot of phones in between the S2 and the S3, but their S series and Note line remains as their high-end flagship phones - and usually it's these phones that get most attention and updates... Anyway, just saying again. :) this is why I don't care on the next phones coming out except the Nexus and Surface. The flagships are out for war already - SGS3, NL920, iP5, Nexus 7 and all.

103. XPERIA-KNIGHT unregistered

its high end because they pricing it that way and telling you it is the most capable and powerful phone........thats why "they" (apple) lable it "high end" when its really jus a pretty phone with basic functions nothing more........

124. gallitoking

Posts: 4721; Member since: May 17, 2011

wow pretty phone wuith basic functions... wow.. the hatred for a company blocks any use of the brain..

174. chaoticrazor

Posts: 2347; Member since: Aug 28, 2012

mate your brain must be dusty from not been used symbian can outperform iOS in many ways and thats a 'dead OS' so your not as advanced as you think you are

41. neutralguy

Posts: 1152; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

Actually, what I just have read have the truest sense of what really defines a high-end phone. It's not only about hardware. To really define a phone's category, you need to consider its price and software integration. Put all this together, then you could now categorize a smartphone. IMO, iPhone 5 is a high-end phone. The software integration on the hardware is on par with the flagship devices from different OEMs. Also, the price point is for a high-end device. Iphone 5's spec is really disappointing when compared to the flagship devices of the android OS. But again, it's not all about numbers.

2. samystic

Posts: 242; Member since: Mar 25, 2012

whoa Ray S. ... caution this is a public blog... no justifications for a over hyped device please... but thanks a lot for allowing us to understand your perspective for 'What defines a high-end device?'... why not write something about an upcoming OS as well? samystic

3. pokharkarsaga

Posts: 547; Member since: Feb 23, 2012

High end phone means high end performance & not high end specs.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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