Do your homework before buying a new smartphone this Black Friday


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The clock is ticking down to Black Friday, the official kickoff of the holiday shopping season. Granted, the definition of “Friday” has been blurred as retailers continue to leapfrog each other to be first to offer unbeatable holiday deals, but sometime this week you should be able to find some excellent deals on a new smartphone if you’re in the market.

Some people go into a smartphone purchase knowing what they want. They know up front that they want the new iPhone, or the latest Samsung Galaxy S model. However, most people aren’t that dedicated to one platform and are open to buying whichever device meets their needs and seems like the best deal. For those people, the survey data from FixYa will come in handy as a shopping guide.

Fixya's survey identifies the leading user complaints about popular smartphones.

The FixYa report is not a comprehensive list of available smartphones, but it does compare the relative pros and cons of four of the leading handsets. FixYa, a Q&A site where users can go to help each other identify and troubleshoot issues, compiled data on the iPhone 5s, Motorola Moto X, Samsung Galaxy S4, and HTC One from nearly 14,000 problem impressions submitted on its site to determine the most common problems reported for each device.

The number one issue reported for the Samsung Galaxy S4 is overheating, which makes up a quarter of the problems reported for the smartphone. As vendors cram more processing power and technology into these pocket-sized devices, it's somewhat inevitable that they’re going to get warmer, but the reason it seems to be more of an issue for the Galaxy S4 is probably related to the plastic case. Battery drain and issues reading the display tied as a close second behind the overheating issue.

Screen quality and camera quality are leading complaints about the Motorola Moto X smartphone, but the biggest issue reported is the shortage of storage space. If you’re considering a Moto X, you should be aware up front that it doesn't have a microSD card slot, so the device is not expandable. Google would prefer users rely on its cloud-based services rather than storing data locally on a mobile device that can be easily lost or stolen.

There is a tie for biggest reported issue on the iPhone 5s between battery life and perceived security concerns with the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. As with the Galaxy S4, Apple is cramming a lot of processing power into a thin, slim device. All that computing consumes power, and a device as small as the iPhone 5s doesn’t have room for a very large battery. The result is that the smartphone may struggle to make it through the day on a single charge. The fingerprint sensor security complaint is like the Moto X storage complaint—customers should be aware that a fingerprint scanner is part of the device before purchasing one, and those who believe the fingerprint scanner represents some sort of additional privacy risk can simply choose not to use it. Problem solved.

Finally, there’s the HTC One. Battery life issues are a pervasive complaint that spans platforms and hardware vendors, but the HTC One seems to have more than its fair share. Nearly a third of the issues reported at FixYa for the HTC One are related to battery life. There are also a significant number of reported issues with the audio and camera quality of the HTC One.

None of these problems is a “deal breaker” per se. But, you're likely going to be stuck with your smartphone for a couple of years, so as you head out to find a great deal on a new one this Black Friday, it’s a good idea to do a little homework up front and know what you’re getting yourself into.

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