Most smartphone owners are pretty opinionated about their device of choice, which is pretty aptly illustrated by the online comments of Android fans who make fun of iPhone users or Apple devotees who look down on Android owners. But the Android-iOS fanboy rivalry aside, there are a number of other categories of smartphones that lots of people look down, and in some cases, without good reason. There are definitely some smartphones you shouldn’t buy, but they’re probably not the ones that everyone is making fun of. Read on to learn about the most-derided smartphones, and to discover whether or not they deserve all the bad press they get.
1. Large smartphones
Let’s start with an obvious one: perhaps the most-maligned category of smartphones is the unfortunately-named phablet, an extra-large breed of phone with dimensions that edge it close to the territory of a small tablet. Despite people’s propensity for mocking smartphones that are too big to fit in a pocket, or approach the size of the owner’s face, phablet owners are often very happy with their devices — perhaps more so than owners of smaller devices.
According to Mashable, a survey conducted last summer by the American Consumer Satisfaction Index ranked 20 smartphone models based on owner satisfaction, and three of the top five models were phablets. Respondents were most satisfied with the Galaxy Note 4 and Note 3 (and their enormous 5.7-inch screens), followed by the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. One reason why people may be happier with bigger phones is the perennial problem of battery life: bigger smartphones have more space to house larger-capacity batteries.
2. Modular smartphones
For all of the people who have been excited about Google’s Project Ara, there are plenty of detractors who think that a smartphone that you can assemble yourself is a gimmicky idea. We think that modular smartphones have huge potential, and can’t wait to see one that’s designed and implemented well. But we’ll acknowledge that when a modular smartphone isn’t implemented well, it can be true that a modular design is nothing more than a gimmick. Just take a look at the list of problems with this year’s LG G5.
While the modules are an interesting way for users to customize the functionality of the LG G5, they’re implemented in a way that makes them unnecessary and more than a little inconvenient to use, plus unlikely to be compatible with future smartphones in LG’s device lineup — which violates the ideal of a modular system that’s as flexible and widely-compatible as possible. The moral of the story: don’t judge the potential of a well-designed and robustly-supported modular smartphone system based on the shortcomings of early implementations.
3. Prepaid smartphones
Many smartphone owners, particularly those paying hefty smartphone bills each month, poke fun at prepaid phones, which are phones you can purchase by paying the full price upfront, and then pay a lower monthly fee without a contract. As carriers move away from restrictive two-year contracts, more people are considering the option of buying a pricy phone upfront instead of spreading the cost out over the course of months or years. But most people assume that they can’t get the phone that they want on a prepaid plan, and still think that they have to opt for an older or lower-end device in order to save money on your service.
But that simply isn’t true anymore, and prepaid phones are a great alternative to expensive contracts. From the iPhone 6s to the Galaxy S7, you can get just about any current phone as part of a prepaid kit. There’s nothing wrong with paying the full price of a phone upfront — in fact, we’d argue that it’s one of the best ways to buy a new smartphone if you have the cash — and there’s no reason to look down on prepaid plans when they probably offer all of the smartphones that you’d consider as an upgrade. You can find prepaid plans at AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon, as well as many of the best alternative carriers and MVNOs.
4. Cheap smartphones
Some people who own high-end smartphones, whether an expensive iPhone or a pricy Android device, make fun of smartphones that cost just a fraction of what they paid for theirs. While it’s certainly true that there are plenty of cheap smartphones you should avoid, there are just as many that offer great quality and value (not to mention the same software you can get on a much more expensive phone).
In fact, cheap smartphones often defy expectations of low build quality or awful software, and many modern but inexpensive smartphones feel much more like the past year’s like high-end devices than the cheap smartphones of years past, which sometimes suffered from poor build quality, low-end screens and cameras, limited warranties, and nonexistent software support. While most flagship smartphones still carry very high price tags, you don’t have to spend upwards of a thousand dollars to get a great phone.
5. Any smartphone that isn’t theirs
Whether it’s Android versus iOS, Samsung versus LG, or any of the other near-infinite rivalries in the tech world, people love to believe that their choice of operating system or smartphone maker is superior, and everything else is inferior. There are plenty of good reasons to choose one device over another, but picking on the basis of a brand name or believing in persistent myths (like ones about iOS or Android) definitely isn’t one of them.
But people still love to criticize smartphone brands that aren’t theirs — which explains the years’ worth of commercials that smartphone brands have used to advertise their devices. Samsung has made fun of Apple, LG has made fun of Samsung, and Microsoft has made fun of the rivalry between Apple and Samsung.
6. Phones that explode, like the Galaxy Note 7
It’s usually a good thing when smartphones make headlines. (New features or impressive cameras are typically involved.) But the Galaxy Note 7 proves that that’s not always the case. The successor to the Galaxy Note 5 was introduced and launched with great fanfare, and even earned glowing reviews from critics. But the ridicule began when Note 7 units started exploding, thanks to an apparent manufacturing defect related to the battery.
Samsung recalled the phones and exchanged them for replacement units with batteries that were supposed to be safe. But when reports that replacement units were exploding and starting fires began to surface, it was all over. Samsung recalled the replacement units and permanently discontinued the Galaxy Note 7. The sale and distribution of the devices has been banned, and the devices aren’t allowed on planes. Even though some super-fans have decided to keep theirs, the devices aren’t safe to use.
Samsung, the Galaxy Note 7, and the fans that won’t give up their phones have been the subject of nonstop jokes and criticism. A user even modified Grand Theft Auto V to replace a bomb with an exploding Galaxy Note 7 — which demonstrates just how many people were talking — and laughing — about Samsung’s exploding smartphones.