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The 6 Best Smartphones for Architects (PLUS 3 super useful accessories )

With the modern advancements of mobile technology, gone are the days when architects are tied to a desktop, laptop, or drafting table to do their job.

From presenting designs or site, to taking pictures, sharing updates on social media, drafting field reports and punch lists, tracking time or sketching out ideas: smartphones are no longer limited to internet browsing, texting and calling.

For architects – who are often on the road – a good smartphone together with the right apps can give your productivity an enormous boost.

So, which are the best phones available today for architects?

There’s a lot of choice out there.

Back in January, my trusty [read: old] little iPhone 5S was no longer up to what I needed it for—it’s photos were ok, but I knew they could be better.

It had a slow processing power, and it would crash regularly.

I had to walk around with an external battery pack most days because it would fall from 100% to 20% in a matter of hours.

Also, I was pretty fed up with the constant updates which seemed to slow it down even more.

It was time to pack it up and purchase something stronger.

But what I didn’t realize going in, is that choosing a new smartphone is hard! It was really confusing to try and figure out exactly which one to buy, there were hundreds of options.

Which was the best?

What did I actually need?

What did I know about measuring pixel sizes and battery life?

I ended up buying an Android, and it’s a phone I am pretty happy with. Switching operating systems was easier than I thought, and I am always impressed by the quality of the photos.

Plus, I think it is more fun to use. (But I wish I had bought a protection case for it! The Huawei I bought does not have as sturdy of a screen as my previous iPhones…BUT you can learn from my mistake—more on which accessories you should consider later.)

At the time when I was trying to choose, I wish there had been a helpful guide to filter out some of the noise and showcase which were the best options and how much they would cost.

So, I set out to write this article, with architects specifically in mind, to help you sort through the options.

Below are the 6 of the best options for architects; from the top manufacturers, for various budgets, including different operating systems Android and iOS options,) to help you decide which one is right for you.

Criteria to consider when choosing a smartphone

Before we outline the 6 top choices, let’s look at some criteria you need to consider.

Criteria for choosing a smartphone presented by Archisnapper1. Screen size and display
Smartphones with large, high-quality displays are better for viewing project designs and photographs. Being able to see each figure and aspect in detail is essential. With a large, high-quality screen, you can maybe forgo buying a separate tablet, as it will provide both function and mobility.

Look for a screen display size of 5.8-inch or larger, with a display of 1080 x 2340 pixels or higher

2. Camera
A given. You need a quality camera to capture the details on the job site. These photos are indispensable for reporting back on the project’s progress. Photos tracking project progress can be shared with the client and team, as well as be added to your online portfolio and company’s social media. Having high-quality photos will positively impact how clients perceive your work and company.

Look for a camera with 12MP or higher

3. Price
High-end smartphones have bigger screens, better displays, smarter chips, more storage, have exceptional cameras, are waterproof, utilize AI technology…and come with higher price tags. By some estimates, the average price of a smartphone rose 10% from 2017 to 2018. That being said, the cost can vary greatly—now that smartphones are everywhere, loads of lower-cost options are now available. Fortunately, the mid-price-range phones are getting more advanced with some cameras paralleling the most expensive models. As an architect, you have to consider that this is a professional tool. And like any tool, make sure you are paying for what will give you the best results.

4. CPU: Processing power
A smartphone with a powerful processor will help you handle the technical load that construction apps and creative software demand. Speedy CPU power will help you navigate quickly and efficiently through apps and tasks. Lastly, you don’t want to cheap out on processing power: a smartphone that crashes often not only is a pain in the a**, but if your construction apps crash, it could lead to time loss or – even worse – the loss of information.

CPUs are measured by clock speed in hertz: either megahertz (MHz) or gigahertz (GHz), the higher the GHz the better. For example, an iPhone 3G has a processing power of 600 MHz, whereas the new iPhone XS Max has a 2.49 GHz, putting it on par with most laptops.

Look for a CPU processing power of 1.5 GHz or higher

5. RAM
The RAM (Random Access Memory) memory is a decisive factor for the speed of your device including how fast your phone will be able to render PDFs. 1 GB of RAM should be enough for most applications. However, for intensive use, you’ll need more than that. If you want a phone that will render floor plans and drawings in split-seconds, look into high-end options with 4 GB RAM or higher.

Look for a RAM of 2 GB or higher

6. Storage space
Look for a minimum internal memory of 64GB. Media files take up a lot of space. With less than 64GB, you will either constantly be deleting files to free up your phone memory, or will have to sacrifice photo quality—and what is the point of buying a smartphone with an exceptional camera, if you are not going to use it to its full potential? While it might not be necessary to get a phone with 1TB of storage, you do want to make sure you have ample room to save documents, pictures, and videos.

Look for a storage space of 64GB or higher

7. Battery
The types of batteries used in smartphones are called lithium-ion batteries, which are measured in Milliamp Hours (mAh). While there’s no real way of knowing how long a battery will last just by looking at its hardware specifications, if a smartphone has a greater mAh, it’ll probably last longer than a smartphone with a smaller mAh. (For example, an iPhone 3G has a 1150 mAh whereas the new iPhone XS Max has a 2716mAh…more than double.)

Look for a battery that is 3000 mAh or higher

What is the difference between storage, CPU, and RAM?

Storage, CPU, RAM…these concepts are a little more difficult to wrap our heads around than battery life or display pixels. Here is an analogy to help.

Imagine that your phone is a desk, with a workspace, drawers, and someone working.

RAM is the actual workspace, if you have a high RAM, this means there is a lot of space. The person working can spread out, there is room for drawings, stacks of paper, and drafting tools. A small RAM means there isn’t a lot of space, and things will be cramped and could potentially fall off the desk.

The drawers are the storage space (that wasn’t a far stretch!) If you only have one small drawer, filing and keeping detailed records, drafts, and photos is going to be a nightmare. If you need to store lots of high-resolution photos, files, and PDFS, you are going to need space to do that, or you will constantly have to reorganize that drawer to fit what you need.

The person working is your CPU processing power. Do you want someone speedy and able to multitask? Or someone sluggish and easily confused? A higher processing power is like a fast, well-organized worker. You could have a huge desk space and massive storage compartments, but if the person working is a dud, that won’t really matter, they still won’t be able to finish tasks efficiently.

The three elements have to work together, and you need ample room for all three. Skimping on one will affect the other two.

The 6 top smartphone options for architects

Smartphones have improved leaps and bounds in recent years, to the point that today’s flagships manufacturers – like the Samsung and Apple, are producing smartphones that can level up or surpass the processing power of many laptops. The cameras are on par with some dedicated cameras.

But there are thousands of models and makes now (take a look at this massive list: between Apple, Motorola, Samsung, and Huawei; there have been just over 2K models of smartphones and tablets created.)

All the models below are have all been fairly recently released, and are top-rated by reviewers, as well as design and tech blogs

I focused on the needs of architects: a great camera, a screen big enough to see finer details on drawings and make notes, speedy capabilities both in the office and on-site—smartphones that will help you do your job on the go.

The 6 top smartphone options for architects

1. Samsung Galaxy Note 9
2. iPhone XS Max
3. Huawei P20 Pro
4. Motorola Moto Z3
5. Google Pixel 3 XL
6. Huawei Honor Play

Let’s jump in.

1. Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 | The 6 best smartphones for Architects (PLUS 3 super useful accessories) presented by Archisnapper

What sets this smartphone apart:

  • Immense screen
  • Added functionality with the S Pen
  • Long-lasting battery

Screen size: 6.4-inch
Display resolution: 2960 x 1440 pixels
Camera: Rear camera is 12MP + 12MP, Front camera is 8MP
Price: $1000 to $1250
CPU: 2.7 GHz
Storage space: 512 GB (up to 1TB with card)
Battery: 4,000 mAh

Additional info:
Manufacturer: Samsung
OS: Android 8.1
Release date: August 2018
Dimensions: 162 x 76.4 x 9mm
Weight: 205g

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is such a powerful machine in so many areas: a tool like this could transform your workflow and processes. While it is not the cheapest option, it is arguably one of the best smartphones in the world for architects (and basically anyone in the creative industry.)

The colours and clarity on the massive high-resolution screen make your designs and drafts ultraclear. The included S Pen stylus offers a lot of unique functionality, ideal for architects who need to make notes on their images.

The battery is a massive 4,000mAh, one of the only smartphones on the market offering such a long life. The state-of-the-art processing power and excessive storage means it will be able to handle just about any task, including virtual and augmented reality.

2. iPhone XS Max

iPhone XS Max | The 6 best smartphones for Architects (PLUS 3 super useful accessories) presented by Archisnapper

What sets this smartphone apart:

  • iOS operating system
  • Large screen
  • Up to 512GB storage

Screen size: 6.5-inch
Display resolution: 2688 x 1242 pixel
Camera: Rear camera is 12MP+12MP, front camera is 7MP
Price: $1000 to $1450
CPU: 2.39 GHz
Storage space: 256GB
Battery: 3,174 mAh

Additional info:
OS: iOS 11
Manufacturer: Apple
Release date: October 2017
Dimensions: 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7mm
Weight: 174g

The iPhone XS Max (pronounced “10-S Max”, just so you know) is the latest and greatest of Apple iPhones. And the price tag reflects this.

But when it comes to iPhones: this is the cream of the crop.

The Bionic A12 chip offers immense processing power, stronger or on par with many laptops, meaning you can render images faster and work without waiting.

The top-quality camera will help you take stunning photos of your projects, the large screen provides you with the scope to work creatively, accurately and professionally on the go.

3. Huawei P20 Pro


What sets this smartphone apart:

  • Exceptional camera
  • Full HD display
  • Long-lasting battery

Screen size: 6.1-inch
Display resolution: 1080 x 2240 pixels
Camera: Rear is 40MP + 20MP + 8MP, front is 24MP
Price: $1100
CPU: 2.36 GHz
Storage space: 128GB
Battery: 4,000mAh

Additional info:
OS: Android 8.1
Manufacturer: Huawei
Release date: April 2018
Dimensions: 155 x 73.9 x 7.8 mm
Weight: 180g

The Huawei P20 Pro (pronounced hu-wah-wey…I looked it up) is the leading forerunner for camera capabilities.

While boasting a Full HD display and all-day battery life; what sets this smartphone apart is it’s camera. The camera is set up: it’s triple Leica with a 40MP sensor, is second to none on this list.

Aside from its incredible camera, the phone’s broad 6.1-inch screen is an asset for seeing the finer details in your designs. The battery life is on par with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, meaning it can keep up with you without the risk of running out of battery before the day is done.

4. Motorola Moto Z3

Motorola Moto Z3 | The 6 best smartphones for Architects (PLUS 3 super useful accessories) presented by Archisnapper.

What sets this smartphone apart:

  • Impressive storage capability
  • Fast and responsive, efficient operation
  • A mid-range budget option (under $500)

Screen size: 6.01-inch
Display resolution: 1080 x 2160 pixels
Camera: Rear 12MP, Front camera: 12MP
Price: $480
CPU: 1.8 GHz
Storage space: 128GB (Expandable up to 2 TB via the MicroSD slot)
Battery: 3000 mAh

Additional info:
OS: Android 9.0
Manufacturer: Motorola
Release date: August 16, 2018
Dimensions: 156.50 x 76.50 x 6.75mm
Weight: 156g

The Moto Z3 is a high-quality smartphone at a reasonably affordable price. With a fast internet connection and ability to handle your designs, it can be a good asset on the job site. It is fast and responsive, so you can be efficient.

It comes with 64 GB internal storage space that is expandable up to 2 TB, which is an impressive amount of memory space, leaving ample room to save your files, photos, and designs.

Utilizing Amazon Alexa AI can also make your job easier. By double-pressing the power button when your phone is unlocked to just ask, and Alexa will respond. Alexa can offer weather and traffic updates, play podcasts, or load maps when you are on the go. (Similar tools are available on Apple and Android, with “Siri” and “Hey Google”.)

5. Google Pixel 3 XL

Google Pixel 3 XL The 6 best smartphones for Architects (PLUS 3 super useful accessories) presented by Archisnapper.

What sets this smartphone apart:

  • An outstanding smartphone for photos and video
  • Sharp OLED display
  • Better night-vision photography

Screen size: 6.3-inch
Display resolution: 1440 x 2960 pixels
Camera: Rear camera: 12.2MP, Front camera: 8MP
Price: $800 to $1000
CPU: 2.8GHz
Storage space: 64GB/128GB
Battery: 3430mAh

Additional info:
OS: Android 9
Manufacturer: Google
Release date: November 2018
Dimensions: 158 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm
Weight: 184g

The Google Pixel 3 XL has aimed to provide outstanding camera functionality without costing an arm and a leg. It is a fantastic option for an architect with a mid-range budget who doesn’t want to sacrifice the ability to take stunning photos.

The camera is one to be contended with.

It has a f/1.8 aperture and 12.2MP sensor on the main camera, with 4K video capture and HDR+ features, and was used by Seven Condé Nast magazines to shoot their most recent November issue covers.

With it’s OLED phone screen, the colors pop and dark details are more clearly defined, which is ideal both for viewing designs and photos.

6. Huawei Honor Play

Huawei Honor Play | The 6 best smartphones for Architects (PLUS 3 super useful accessories) presented by Archisnapper.

What sets this smartphone apart:

  • The best budget smartphone for architects
  • Outstanding display
  • High-powered for the price

Screen size: 6.3-inch
Display resolution: 1080 x 2340 pixels
Camera: Rear camera: Dual 16MP, Front camera: 16MP
Price: $280
CPU: 2.36GHz
Storage space: 64GB
Battery: 3750mAh

Additional info:
OS: Android 8.1
Manufacturer: Huawei
Release date: August 2018
Dimensions: 157.9 x 74.3 x 7.5mm
Weight: 176g

The Honor Play is proof that you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money to get a high-quality smartphone.

Intended for gamers, the massive 6.3-inch screen with a Full HD+ display and HiSilicon Kirin 970 chipset mean that it comes close to matching some of the world’s best smartphones. It moves quickly handling visuals exceptionally well.

You do sacrifice a bit of the camera: the camera struggles in low lighting situations, but the 16Mp dual lens main camera is well up to the job for taking job site photos

While this list is non-exhaustive, it should give you a good idea of what the top options that are available are.

At a glance: The 6 top smartphone options for architects


  Samsung Galaxy Note 9 iPhone XS Max Huawei P20 Pro Motorola Moto Z3 Google Pixel 3 XL Huawei Honor Play
Screen size 6.4-inch 6.5-inch 6.1-inch 6.01-inch 6.3-inch 6.3-inch
Display Resolution 2960 x 1440
2688 x 1242 pixel 1080 x 2240 pixels 1080 x 2160 pixels 1440 x 2960 pixels 1080 x 2340 pixels
Front Camera 8 MP 7 MP 24 MP 12 MP 8 MP 16 MP
Rear Camera 12 MP 12 MP 40 MP 12 MP 12.2 MP 16 MP
Price $1000
$1100 $480 $800
CPU 2.7
RAM 8 GB 3 GB 6 GB 4 GB 4 GB 6 GB
Storage Space 512 GB 256 GB 128 GB 128 GB 128 GB 64 GB
Battery 4,000

3 Super Useful Accessories

While the technology gets better every year, there are still some areas where the smartphones are not enough on their own—a few key accessories can transform your phone into a professional tool, and importantly, protect it.

3 Super Useful Accessories

Read below for suggestions.

1. Measuring Tools

While many smartphones come with some sort of inbuilt measuring tool, when you need exact measurements, such as for measuring walls or window frames, we recommend adding a more accurate digital measuring tool.

There are some excellent measuring tools with corresponding apps that provide measurements of areas using an inbuilt distance laser.

For example, Stanley has a tool called the Smart Measure Pro that can be attached to your phone or tablet to cover the lens and thus scan measurements in real time.

It provides accurate measurements of areas photographed in images taken on your smartphone.

2. Add-on Camera Lens

Add-on camera lenses can offer a wider range of photography options to your smartphone.

From macro lenses for close-ups to telephoto lens for up to 22x optical zoom, these accessories can add a depth of detail to your photos, delivering impressive quality.

As with most tech: you get what you pay for.

You can get a high-quality add-on camera for under $100, check out some of the best accessories on the market. While you can find add-on lenses for $20 that can help you improve the quality of your photos, but not at a pro-level.

3. Protection Cases

There are lots of options for keeping your smartphone protected. From super-slim phone cases that showcase sleek designs, through to hard, rugged shells that can survive any job site.

If you are often on the job site; look for a case which offers serious bump and scratch protection as it’s built with a high-performing impact material.

You know how it is onsite. It gets windy and there’s dust and debris all around. It might start raining.

And s*it happens! One day you’re climbing a ladder, and you lose your grip for a split second, just long enough for your brand new, thousand-dollar smartphone to drop to the floor.

While you can get it fixed—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure—cracked screens are rarely under warranty, and can set you back a few hundred dollars.

Get a good case.

For example, one of the best rugged, waterproof cases for iPhone is the Griffin Survivor case. It’s been tested against conditions for the US Department of Defence and offers great wind, rain, and dust protection.

Wrapping it up

Finding the right new piece of tech can be fun, but not without its challenges. This guide has given you some clear options, but it really depends on exactly what you need, and what your budget can accommodate.

A high-quality camera, an ample amount of storage, and a nice, wide screen where you can see fine details and make notes, are essential, but the extras depend on your preferences.

Oh, and lastly….don’t forget to get a good case!

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