The popularity of mobile journalism does not seem to be slowing down any time soon. It can be the ideal pocket-sized, Swiss Army knife for reporting in a range of different situations. If you are looking to get started, you might be thinking whether your current device is good enough, or whether you need to think about upgrading to a different device or model.
For Android devices, it is important to remember there are many choices and big differences between the models. As Wytse Vellinga, mobile journalism trainer and mobile journalist for Dutch broadcaster Omrop Fryslân, has discovered, both high-end and low-end devices can be very specific over which apps it can run, for example.
"There is a rather big difference between all the Android devices and in the past I have run into problems because of that," he said.
"Nothing is more frustrating than wanting to teach a specific workflow and only then finding out that half of the devices in the room are not capable of running all the apps."
If you are stuck for choice between Android models, Journalism.co.uk asked a handful of Android-using mobile journalists about their devices of choice and how it fuels their reporting.
Vellinga opts for the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus for its strong battery life and the picture and video quality. The device, released earlier this year, is fresh onto the Android market and Vellinga is using the recently-acquired device to produce content for online, radio and TV.
"I feel like Samsung, Huawei and other Android phone builders are more likely to innovate and bring new mobile journalism features to the phones," said Vellinga.
It was the first device to remove the headphone jack from Samsung devices. While that will be a problem for many people, many microphones that you can plug into the device - like the Shure MV88 - will have headphone support so you can listen as you record.
However, not being able to shoot in 50fps for TV footage has proved an ongoing problem. This is an area that he hopes one day to be an option - though no device supports this yet.
"For my broadcast TV reports I am limited to 25 fps which is really bugging me," he said. "50 fps looks a lot better then 25 fps - but if I don’t have to produce for TV, the Note 10 Plus in particular really gives me better pictures and video."
However, many of the lower-end options are still capable devices, like the OnePlus 6 and Samsung S6, suggests Vellinga. Samsung seems a firm favourite, as Kai Rüsberg, mobile Journalist agreed thatthe S7 and S8 are cost-effective options for one the most crucial spec: camera quality.
"Its perfect for all shots, including night. I use it for occasional filming and right now for a lot of photography as I'm touring Britain. The zoom camera is missing, but I don't need it," said Rüsberg.
Mobile journalism trainer Mattias Amigo, said that his S8 Plus does the job for managing as many as 270 apps. It is a few years old by now, but is still a reliable choice.
He added there is no single, best choice, but rather you should tailor your choice to your needs. If you need tonnes of storage and processing power, look to the recent releases, like the S10. If not, it is not necessary to spend that much.
"The high-end models presented by the market are very competitive, and the choice must be very personal, depending on the work you do and the budget you manage," concluded Amigo.
Rüsberg said it is the Chinese smartphones which are the ones to be watching closely.
One of those is Huawei. Multimedia reporter, China Daily, DJ Clark said that he used the Huawei P30 for half of a season for his side-project Drone and Phone, and from time to time, breaking news and live stories.
The P30 is a little ahead of its time, he claimed, remarking how the wide and standard lenses do the job, but the long lens is a clear selling point. While lacking in detail and sharpness when enlarged onto a bigger screen, it is a promising step for smartphones.
"The concept of having an optical zoom that has a long lens is very appealing to a journalist. We need long lenses for our work on a daily basis and this has been the point the mobile phone has been let down," he said.
"The new Chinese phones that have tried to install one is a bold and important step, but it maybe needs a few more years before the quality of that lens can match the wider lenses on the phone."
The other is Xiaomi. Björn Staschen founder and head of NDR NextNewsLab has been using the Mi 9, following the Mi Mix 2s. He said it pairs well with Filmic Pro and Kinemaster pieces for linear TV - plus it will not break the bank compared to its counterparts.
That said, Filmic Pro so far does not support the different camera types the Mi 9 comes with: the close-up lenses and the ultra-wide. Again, the lack of 50 fps support is a constant niggle for mobile journalists.
"I think the Xiaomi phones are among the best Android phones, especially with regard to their great cameras and a low price. I have been using the OnePlus 3t and 5t models beforehand and weren't as impressed with video quality."
For a more budget option, Peter Brinkman, founder, Karakter uses the LG Nexus 5, mostly for training. It does what is said on the tin: it can shoot and edit in HD, but it is noticeably worse than newer models.
Crucially, it is affordable. Compared with other Android brands, it is also easier to adjust settings like exposure, focus and white balance lock. Rüsberg also said that the LG V series - a slightly more recent line of models - provides a better video quality if you are looking to dial up the quality without overspending.
Mobile journalism expert Yusuf Omar delivers a talk on the future of technology, media and people at Newsrewired on the 27 November at Reuters, London. Head to newsrewired.com for the full agenda and tickets
Free daily newsletter
- How CBC Calgary connects with local communities through mobile journalism 'pop-up bureaus'
- App for journalists: PhotoGrid, for creating eye-catching images on Instagram
- New platform launches to support investigative journalists in south-eastern Europe
- Five tips to get started with mobile journalism
- Optimising Tweetdeck and digital doorstepping: dos and don'ts of social media reporting