Android

How we test smartphones;you could try!

In order for a smartphone to make our best phone list, it needs to excel on several tests that we run on every handset. We perform some of these tests in our labs and some in the real world.

When it comes to performance, we rely on such synthetic benchmarks as Geekbench 5 and GFXBench to measure graphics performance. These tests allow us to compare performance across iPhones and Android devices. We also run a real-world video transcoding test on each phone using the Adobe Premiere Rush app and time the result.

To measure the quality of a phone’s display, we perform lab tests to determine the brightness of the panel (in nits), as well as how colorful each screen is (DCI-P3 color gamut). In these cases, higher numbers are better. We also measure color accuracy of each panel with a Delta-E rating, where lower numbers are better and a score of 0 is perfect.

One of the most important tests we run is the Tom’s Guide battery test. We run a web surfing test over 5G or 4G at 150 nits of screen brightness until the battery gives out. In general, a phone that lasts 10 hours or more is good, and anything above 11 hours makes our list of the best phone battery life.
Last but not least, we take the best phones out in the field to take photos outdoors, indoors and at night in low light to see how they perform versus their closest competitors. We take shots of landscapes, food, portraits and more, and also allow you to be the judge with side-by-side comparisons in our reviews.

TIPS ON HOW TO TEST YOUR SMARTPHONES

Built-in diagnostics tools

Android

Most Android phones have a few simple diagnostics tools hidden in the OS, but they vary between devices. The tools are found by typing codes into your phone app’s dialer—kinda like inputting cheat codes in a video game. Type in the codes below, and the menus should automatically open.

Diagnostic tools are also helpful for when your device becomes less efficient, but you can’t quite pin down why. Instead of using guesswork to troubleshoot the various features on your phone until you stumble on a solution, a diagnostics scan can highlight exactly what’s wrong with your phone, or at least provide enough data to point you in the right direction.

Unfortunately, finding the built-in diagnostics tools on Android smartphones and iPhones can be difficult, and some devices don’t even have very good diagnostic options to begin with (if at all). But you can always turn to third-party apps for help.
Here are the two main codes usable on most Android devices:

#0# hidden diagnostics menu: Some Android phones come with a full diagnostics menu. You’ll be able to run a check-up for at least some of the phone’s hardware. However, this code isn’t available on all phones—nothing happened when I tried the code on a Pixel XL, for example, though the menu appeared on a Samsung Galaxy S9. For those that do have access, it’s a handy trick. The menu offers a number of standalone tests to check the performance of your phone’s various parts, such as your screen (touch recognition, color accuracy), your cameras, sensor, and physical buttons like the power and volume controls.


##4636## usage information menu: This menu will show up on more devices than the hidden diagnostics menu, but the information shared will be different between devices. At the very least, you should be able to see app usage history; real-time wifi and cellular network connection stats; and basic phone information like the current service carrier, phone number, et cetera.

You don’t have to press the call button or anything else to open the hidden menus, they’ll just open automatically. If nothing happens when you type in the code, then your phone doesn’t have the feature. Similarly, some devices don’t provide very helpful information, like the aforementioned Google Pixel (which relies on Google collecting diagnostic information from your phone in the background). If that’s the case, then jump on down to the next section for some recommendations for third-party diagnostics apps.

Apple is notorious for its products being “walled gardens,” which makes it hard for users to perform check-ups and DIY fixes for their devices. Unsurprisingly, you won’t find any built-in diagnostics tests that you can run on an iPhone.

That said, the iPhone settings do include detailed readouts on battery performance and history. To find this data, go to Settings > Battery.

You’ll find a number of different options and categories that contain your device’s battery performance data—but nothing else beyond that, unfortunately.

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