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The perfect smartphone does not exist

Don't hold out waiting for "the one." It's not coming.

Published onDecember 26, 2021

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, Sony Xperia 1 III, OnePlus 9 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max side by side
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

I’ve always been “the tech guy” amongst my friends and family. Even before I started working at Android Authority, I was the go-to for tech questions. Now that I work here, it’s only gotten more common. With that in mind, one of the questions I get asked all the time is what the “perfect phone” would be for someone.

Whenever I hear it, I always give a sigh and then start my onslaught of questions. “Which phone do you have now? Do you like it? Is it too big? Too small? How much are you using the camera? What’s your budget? Do you appreciate software updates? Do you need a headphone jack?” Eventually, the person I’m talking to raises their hand to stop my blabbering and says, “I don’t know, I just want a fast phone with a great camera that’s not crazy expensive.”

Ah, so they want the perfect smartphone.

The inherent problem with the question of a “perfect smartphone,” though, is the fact that it doesn’t exist. No matter what I recommend to people, there’s always going to be a caveat. It could be as simple as, “This is a great phone, but it costs over $1,000.” Or it could be, “This phone is the size you want, but the camera isn’t great.” In all the years of hearing this question, I’ve never once responded with, “This phone is the one for you. It is perfect.”

In my opinion, there is no perfect phone. It’s not out there right now and it’s never going to be out there. You’re going to need to make some sacrifices each and every time.

Where do you even begin?

Galaxy iPhone and Pixel smartphones with selection of chargers
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

With all the facets of smartphones, it can be tricky for some folks to even know where to start. They know what a phone is and some basics about it, but they don’t know how to confidently choose between one or the other.

As an example of how things can be confusing, a large phone doesn’t necessarily mean it’s very powerful. A phone with four lenses on the back isn’t necessarily a better camera phone than another with three. A $500 phone might be better for some than the $1,300 phone next to it. It’s a lot to wade through.

For some, the smartphone industry is equivalent to what's under the hood of their car: confusing mystery.

With all those choices, you need to figure out what your priorities are. That also sounds fairly straightforward, but for the layperson, this can be an overwhelming task. For example, many (not all!) people over the age of 70 aren’t going to know about processors, RAM count, or software update frequency. They also aren’t likely to have the language necessary for expressing what they want as far as technical features go. This is going to make their choice quite difficult.

Even younger people can be confused by all the options. For example, a young person might know they want a great camera and be able to tell the difference between a good photo and a great one, but not everyone understands what makes camera great. They might not know what OIS is nor grasp why a 108MP sensor isn’t necessarily better than a 12MP sensor. They also might not understand that software makes as much of a difference here as hardware. Even with youth on their side, these are still confusing concepts that not everyone is interested in learning.

Even with the knowledge, there’s always a catch

Google Pixel 6 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

Let’s assume you know as much about smartphones as possible. You know the brands, you know the hardware, you know the software, you know it all. Even with all that knowledge, you’re still not going to find a perfect smartphone. Inevitably, there’s going to be something about the phone that disappoints you.

Take, for example, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. You’d be hard-pressed to find a tech journalist who wouldn’t agree it is one of the best phones of 2021. Objectively, on its technical merits alone, it is Samsung’s best non-foldable phone ever. But is it the perfect smartphone? No, of course it’s not.

Our verdict: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

The Galaxy S21 Ultra doesn’t have a headphone jack, nor does it have expandable storage. It’s incredibly expensive, huge, and heavy. It doesn’t even come in any fun colorways (unless silver is fun). Samsung’s One UI software is bloated compared to something like Pixel UI. Remember, this is one of the best phones of 2021 — how could there be so many things “wrong” with it?

One of my favorite phones ever is the OnePlus 7 Pro. Obviously, that phone is old enough now that it definitely couldn’t be a perfect phone today. But even on day one, it lacked a headphone jack, expandable storage, an industry-leading camera, wireless charging, and an IP rating. Those are a lot of dings against it.

But you know what? I still love the OnePlus 7 Pro. The Galaxy S21 Ultra, likewise, is a fantastic phone. They aren’t perfect smartphones, but they don’t need to be.

Don’t wait for a perfect phone, it’s not coming

power buttons on Android phones top down showing multiple phones
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Here at Android Authority, I often see folks in the comments talking about how they are skipping one device and waiting for another. Maybe this year’s phones lack that integral feature they want, or they think future models will have some next-gen tech they are excited about. They say their aging devices from several years ago are working fine and they’ll just stick with them.

Ironically, I’ll see those same people complaining about how new devices aren’t as good as old ones. The removal of features irritates them, or the designs aren’t as appealing as they used to be. Inevitably, though, they are going to want a new phone. And, when they do, they’re going to need to settle for something that isn’t exactly what they want.

Check out: The best phone deals

Meanwhile, someone else will simply grab the next phone that entices them when they need something new. They’ll be excited to have it and have fun figuring out all the cool things about it. After a month or two, the newness will wear off and they’ll just think of the phone as a daily tool. Months or even years later, they’ll start thinking about getting something new and they’ll repeat the process.

Which of these people is likely to be happier with their purchase? My money is on the second person. They’ve accepted that perfect phones don’t exist and instead just buy the thing that draws them in. They won’t be 100% satisfied, but they know that’s not possible, so they don’t care.

In a lot of ways, buying a phone is like finding a romantic partner. You can sit at home for months scouring online dating sites hunting for the perfect mate. But how will you prevent yourself from ignoring dates that aren’t perfectly in line with what you want but could end up being a good fit? How will you avoid being disappointed when your next date doesn’t end up being the person you’ve imagined to exist? Meanwhile, another person is just going on dates and finding someone who makes them laugh and makes them feel safe. They aren’t looking for “the one” but looking for someone who isn’t totally wrong for them and accepting that.

Likewise, there is no “the one” phone out there. Stop waiting for it and start enjoying what you can.

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