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Buying a new smartphone is an investment, not just in terms of the physical product but also in how you use the device. With many phones purchased on 24 month contracts, making sure you’re happy with your purchase over time is almost as important as the desire to get the shiniest new phone.
Whether you’re picking up a top of the line phone or just a cheap prepaid device, there are a number of factors you should consider before you make your purchase:
- Price: While this won’t necessarily stop you from choosing the device you want, it will have an impact on the type of phone you can afford. Many of today’s flagships cost over £700 outright, or are subject to significantly larger monthly payments if you’re picking up the phone on contract. That said, there are plenty of opportunities to pick up cheap phones from retail partners if you shop around, which can help ease the strain on your wallet.
- Operating System: For all intents and purposes, there are two mobile operating systems to choose from, Google’s Android platform or Apple’s iOS. While Windows Phone technically still exists, it accounts for less than 5% of UK market share, and other custom operating systems are also too small to consider as a viable choice. The choice between the two platforms comes down to a matter of preference for hardware, with iOS exclusively on offer for iPhones, while Android is on the vast majority of other UK smartphones.
- Screen size: The trend over the past few years has definitely tended towards the “bigger is better” mantra, with phone screens approaching 6 inches on the diagonal. Having a bigger screen makes reading text and watching videos easier, but drains the battery faster and can be difficult to control one handed.
- Screen resolution: Smartphone screen technology has come a long way in the past few years, with the ability to get devices with 4K capable screens now possible. For the most part those resolutions are wasted on a device smaller than 6 inches, but it’s worth comparing the Pixels Per Inch (PPI) specification to see just how many pixels the manufacturer was able to cram into an inch, with more pixels generally resulting in a crisper image on screen.
- App availability: This is tied to the operating system, but can definitely be a deal breaker. While many popular apps are available for both iOS and Android platforms, there are still plenty of examples of apps and games that are only available on one platform. If those apps are important to you, you should ensure you choose a phone that will offer the app in question.
- Battery life: Battery life is the one feature of smartphones that hasn’t really changed significantly. While manufacturers have managed to offer improvements through both cramming more battery into larger phones, and reducing battery consumption through smarter software, battery technology still remains largely the same as it was when Apple launched the first iPhone. For a full day’s battery life, you should probably focus on phones with 3,000mAh or more.
- Camera: The smartphone camera has all but replaced the compact digital camera market, and the quality of phone photos gets better every year. It’s not all about megapixels though, with sensor size and twin lens technologies helping make smartphone pictures even better.
- Storage: If you’re buying a phone that’s going to house your entire life, from contacts to photos and videos and everything in between, you need to make sure you have enough storage to keep it all. Lower storage devices are cheaper, but look for an expandable memory microSD slot so you can expand the capacity at will. Alternatively, look for a higher capacity device.
- Contract availability: Chances are, not all phones will be available on the contract you’re considering. If you can’t grab a phone on contract, be prepared to pay more for the phone up front. This will likely save you money in the long run, however.