Current Rating System (2010)
Our original rating system tried to keep things simple for people, and not be impacted by the passing of time. As phones have gotten more complicated over the years, though, it became obvious that we had to adjust for that. Besides, you are all very smart (and good looking) people, so we figured the added complexities would be OK.
As such, we have broken down our scoring into 10 sections, and have weighted them differently. For example, good hardware design is, in our opinion, more important than having a good music player. As such, the score we give for Hardware has a larger impact on the final score than does the Music score. On top of that, the weightings for smartphones are slightly different from feature phones, since smartphones have more of an emphasis on data and web browsing than feature phones.
The following scoring categories are used in our phone reviews. We've listed some things we consider in each category as well.
- Hardware - build quality, industrial design, buttons
- Usability - user interface, text input, touchscreen sensitivity
- Calling/Connectivity - reception, voice clarity, data options and speed
- Messaging - support for SMS/MMS, email, IM, and social networks
- Apps/App Store - the built-in apps as well as the platform's app store (if any)
- Browser - overall web browsing experience and technology support (like flash)
- Camera - still and video recording abilities and gallery functions
- Music - how the device performs as a music player, including FM capabilities
- Battery - talk time, standby time
- Reviewer's Spin - the author's chance to nudge the rating up or down
A 1 to 5 star rating is assigned to each category (as seen in the review's table of contents), and the weightings are applied to come up with a total score that ranges from 1 to 5 stars. A 5 star score is only possible if the phone earns a 5 star ranking in every section - something you're unlikely to see. If a device doesn't have a particular feature, such as lacking a camera, the score will be 0 stars and it will not impact the overall score in a negative way.
Any device with a score of 4 or more stars is pretty darn good, and a 4.5 star score would be truly fantastic. 3 stars is a totally acceptable score, but if a device scores much under that, you had best make sure that the phone's low scores are in areas that you find less important.
In the past, we gave one of three ratings to the devices we reviewed. "Not Recommended", "Recommended", or "Highly Recommended." You can infer the following meanings from each of them:
Not Recommended - the device has basic faults in design or function that keep it from performing well. Examples of such would be very distorted audio, constantly dropped calls, a display that can not be read, etc.
Recommended - the device in question adequately covers all of the basics required for a mobile phone, and can be expected by a purchaser to be of sufficient quality to be able to meet their general needs. It might still have one or more shortcomings, but none of them are considered by us to be a "deal breaker".
Highly Recommended - the device does most everything well, and probably does many things exceedingly well. These devices are generally what we consider to be among the best in their class.