The Mobile Device Market: A buyers Guide

Technology growth has been on a rapid increase. Although better technology is important, it’s often hard to pick the which is the right one for your needs. With many new devices and brands coming out each year, students often feel overwhelmed when spending their hard earned money. Mobile device sales have been increasing and each consecutive year offers us an unimaginable amount of new technological choices. With the increase in sales, and thus market competition, comes and increase in innovation. This means it’s good to keep an eye out for good technology deals, whether it’s a phone, tablet or laptop, and capitalize when there are sales.

student w. laptop
Technology is more important than ever in today’s online learning environment.

However, companies don’t usually make their good sales well known. They will often have loops that one must jump through to get the discounted price. Loops like mail in rebates, which requirethe buyer to mail in a slip of paper called a rebate, which enables the company to award the buyer with a small refund. There are also student discounts and company discounts. Student discounts are an amazing option because we are all students, and should take advantage of our status. However, these deals are usually placed at specific times of year and are not very lengthy.

If you work for a large organization or company, it might be worth looking into your company’s discount policies. Often times, companies are sold technological devices for cheaper than the retail market given that they are more likely to buy in bulk for their business and employees. The mindset is that the better technology will increase the productivity of the worker and thus increase total revenue. Also consider taking advantage of your company upgrading their systems to potentially get last year’s model at a greatly reduced price when they purchase new equipment.

Increasing productivity is the main selling point when looking for a device. One should identify their needs and then look for devices that match those needs. It’s often hard to find a device with every need unless your budget allows for heavy spending. Thus, one should be open to compromise and be willing to exchange some perks for a well-rounded device. Master of all trade devices are available, but they often come with downsides like low battery and higher prices, making them a jack of all trades with a limp.

The first thing one should do when looking to obtain a mobile device is to identify your budget. A few hundred-dollar increase in a budget can open up your opportunities exponentially. However, just because you have an available budget does not mean you should pursue a laptop that absorbs all of that budget. At the same time be aware that the small increase in price of a device can mean many more perks so create a pros and cons list when you see a device that peaks your interests.

Opn Laptop With Work Book, iPhone And Pen On Wooden Desk
A familiar desktop scene on the FRCC Campuses

The next decision one should make is if they prefer a 2-in-1 form factor. 2-in-1 form factor means devices that perform not only as a laptop, but as a touchscreen tablet as well. These devices are often good for casual users, or students who are interested in graphic design. Graphic design students will be able to draw on the tablet and make their visualizations a reality on the go. Casual students will be able to carry around a lightweight design without the need to always be constricted to one form factor, the standard laptop. 2-in-1 form factor laptops increase in price rapidly as you look for higher quality devices because the touchscreen quality requires more battery capacity than the standard laptop form factor, which doesn’t have any touchscreen capabilities. Also the increase in the price of 2-in-1 form factors usually entails a more accurate touchscreen capability which enable a graphic design student to draw increasingly complex creations.

Battery life is the next feature one should look at when picking a laptop. Do you want a laptop that can last you an entire day with no recharges? What about two days? Or would you prefer a laptop with fast capabilities, but lower battery life? The one thing you will notice when buying devices is that battery life is often an inverse of better performance. If the specifications increase, the battery life will decrease because the computer requires more energy to push the powerful processing that occurs, thus draining the battery faster. Device manufacturers are able to mitigate this problem by installing very large batteries, but these batteries cost more money than one that powers a less demanding device.

Typically, a good battery life would be measured around 13 hours of on time. This amount of battery is often more than enough for students unless you plan on doing high demanding processing jobs while using the laptop. Things like rendering video, processing simulations and gaming drain the battery much faster than if the student was writing a paper, watching YouTube or browsing the web. If you are a student who will require a high level of performance for your schooling and life, then be aware that unless you spend more money your battery life will often suffer.

Specifications go hand in hand with the battery life. Things like the processing power of the device, the graphics processing unit (GPU) and the memory type – both random access memory (RAM) and memory allocations like a hard drive – influence the user experience.

Recently manufacturers started implementing a new type of processing unit for Intel processors, called Skylake. These processors are slightly faster than their older counterparts, but more importantly, they are more energy efficient. This means that consumers are able to get a faster device with more power, but also maintain a decent level of battery. These devices are often slightly more expensive, but are becoming the norm in the laptop and mobile device industry because of their large influence on the market. Personally, I would try to obtain a Skylake based processing device to use throughout the remainder of my schooling. However, if battery life isn’t an issue or if you don’t need a high performance gaming or graphics computer, then shoot for non Skylake models and you will be able to save a few bucks.

Graphics processing units are where the price increase really starts to rise. Graphics processing units are needed when students are gaming, connecting their mobile devices to multiple computer screens, and running simulations or labs. For the casual student, graphics processing units aren’t an extreme necessity and many consumers don’t even bother to choose a laptop with a better graphics processing unit. Additionally, each mobile device comes with a graphics processing unit, but they are often integrated units, meaning they are of lower performance quality, but are still often times sufficient for everyday use.


Random access memory (RAM) information is where consumers often get confused. Random access memory is memory that stores your information in a quick go-to manner. This means that if you have multiple webpages or programs open at once the computer will be able to get you back to those programs immediately. For most casual and intensive students 8 gigabytes of random access memory is enough. Random access memory is cheaper than many of the other parts of a mobile device so don’t get fooled when sellers increase their price for a small random access memory increase.

Hard drive memory is sometimes confused with RAM. The difference between the two is that RAM is temporary while hard drive space is permanent. The hard drive stores your data even when you turn your computer off. Your device is constantly storing memory onto the hard drive and consequently, I think it is one of the most important pieces of technology in your device. Students should look for a reliable, fast hard drive with great reviews. The newest, but more expensive option for great hard drives is the solid state drive (SSD). These drives use flash memory rather than the magnetic memory of the typical hard drive. These drives are also magnitudes faster than the physical drives and is the reason why I state it’s worth the price. As someone who has built and upgraded many computers, installing a SSD in a computer increases the total fluidity of the device, oftentimes more than many other specifications.

After analyzing those main components of a mobile device it’s now time to choose a device that fits within your budget and goals. Pick and choose your key components of a great mobile device and then begin to research products that fit within those realms. One great website to analyze laptops that fit within your budget is This website enables consumers to pick and choose each component of their device and the website will spit out laptops that fit within those constraints that were chosen.

There are many other websites that give this type of capabilities so be sure to check website to website for great deals. If you aren’t in need of a laptop immediately, then I would recommend that you halt your device buying until around August when Back-To-School sales start to spring up as they do each year. These sales can often save consumers hundreds of dollars, especially when buying a mobile device. There are a few more specifications that I did not touch on here, but these are the main specifications to look to when buying your next laptop. Good luck in your purchasing endeavors.

Written by: Jacob Hallberg

Photos by: Stock Images and WiseGeek

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