In any event, it makes sense to find out which company made the chip in the phone, and to locate any available information about how the chip handles graphics and Web browsing.
As is true of computers, a phone's ability to run multiple applications simultaneously depends on the amount of RAM it contains. Vendors rarely advertise the amount of phone RAM a particular model has, so do some research before you buy. When it comes to RAM, you can never have too much.
Older and lower-end smartphones usually have around 256MB of RAM--enough to run a handful of applications with little or no decrease in performance. High-end phones, such as the iPhone 4 and the Samsung Nexus S, have 512MB of RAM and can run more applications without fear of slowing the phone's performance.
256MB will meet the average person's needs for texting, making calls, browsing the Web, and playing a few app games here and there. Heavy app users and multitaskers should aim for 512MB as their minimum RAM figure.
If you intend to send and receive text messages, surf the Web, or watch videos on your phone, you'll want to ensure that the display is large enough and packs a high enough pixel resolution to handle the job. A display size of 2.7 inches (about the size of a BlackBerry Curve's display) or larger will suffice for managing e-mail and basic Web browsing, but if you plan to play games or watch video, you'll want a 3.5-inch or larger screen.
Most smartphones and regular cell phones today use LCD (liquid crystal display) technology, which offers reasonably sharp graphics and is relatively inexpensive to produce.
There are two main types of LCD displays on phones. TFT (thin-film transistor) displays use thin-film transistor technology to improve image quality. Unfortunately, viewing angles and visibility in direct light are poor, and TFT displays are relatively power-hungry. As a result, they tend to appear on lower-end, regular cell phones (sometimes called "feature phones").