Mobile Phones buying guide
Whether you’re looking for something simple and user-friendly, or a smartphone loaded with clever features, we’ve got the jargon-free lowdown on the features and techy stuff you need to look out for when buying a new mobile phone.
Pay-as-You-Go or Contract?
Before you begin to consider the handset that’s right for you, you’ll need to decide whether you want to opt for a Pay-as-You-Go phone or a monthly contract. If you’re someone who uses their phone infrequently and wouldn’t take full advantage of the minutes, texts and internet usage a contract gives you, then a Pay-as-You-Go deal is the obvious commitment-free choice. The downside, however, is that you’ll have to pay full price for the handset – which can easily run into the hundreds if you want a top end phone. Standard contracts generally run for 24-months, and offer you the handset for ‘free’ or at a massively reduced cost. During those two years, however, you ultimately pay for the phone, but get better value minutes, texts, and data than you would with a Pay-as-You-Go phone. There’s no shortage of affordable contracts out there, but if you want one of the latest premium smartphones, then you can expect to pay anywhere from £30-£50 a month depending on the model and network provider. In short, if you talk, text, and use the Internet frequently, then a monthly contract is a no-brainer. Another alternative is to buy the phone outright and go on a sim-only contract. Many networks offer much cheaper sim-only deals than their regular plans that include a handset too. What’s more, you can usually commit to them for a shorter time period, such as 12 months instead of 24. While you’ll have to initially stump up the money for the handset, it’s an ideal solution if you want the benefit of the contract, but less of an on-going financial burden. In any case, it’s worth calculating the long-term costs of each option and comparing them.
While brands like Samsung and Nokia are still producing more ‘traditional’ mobile phones, the majority of models today fall into the smartphone category. Put simply, smartphones are like mini-computers. Alongside calling and texting, you’ll be able to surf the internet, send emails, use GPS navigation, as well as watch videos and listen to music. You’ll also be able to download apps – programmes that cater to a variety of lifestyles, hobbies, and interests. You’ll find apps ranging from fitness trackers and food diaries, to games, art software, and literally anything else you can imagine. There are thousands to choose from, and while many are free, some you have to pay for.
Features and specifications
While every smartphone is going to have WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS technology, other features and specifications will vary massively between models.
Here’s what to take into account:
- Screen size: Some smartphones feature compact 3.5 to 4.5 inch screens, allowing them to fit comfortably in one hand. If you primarily use your phone to watch videos and browse the web however, it may be worth considering a model with a larger 5 or 6 inch screen. Bear in mind the added size may make the handset a tad awkward to use when taking and receiving calls or fitting it in a trouser pocket.
- Memory: The more memory a phone has, the more photos, videos, and music you can store on it. More expensive smartphones typically feature more memory (for example the price of an Apple iPhone varies dramatically between the 16GB and 128GB models). Some smartphones though provide a slot for a memory card, allowing you to boost your storage as and when you need to. Beware, however, that some apps (Facebook, for instance) may not be moved to the memory card, meaning your phone can easily get filled up even though you still have tons of space on the micro-SD card. So you really want to consider carefully how much internal memory you need. We recommend getting at least 8 GB of internal memory if you can.
- Processor: As with a computer, a smartphone’s processor determines how quick it’ll perform. Top end models boast a dual or quad-core processor, with impressive speeds of 1GHz and above. If you rely on your phone for business, on-the-go entertainment, or need it to handle multiple tasks at once, then it’s worth opting for something speedier.
- Camera: Many of today’s smartphones boast quality cameras, and the best of the bunch can produce some stunning results. If you’re a budding photographer then consider a higher megapixel model, and if you’re prone to selfies, then make sure you pick something with an additional front-facing camera. Bear in mind that the front-facing cameras are usually lower quality than the main camera, except on some very high-end models.
- 4G: The newest generation of mobile internet, 4G offers a lightning fast connection whilst you’re out and about. Many phones and monthly contracts now cater to this.