What you should consider when choosing a mobile phone
Android vs iOS
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 1% of market share globally, 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 major smartphones.
The operating system you choose also affects the range of apps available to you. 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, choose the operating system that offers the app you need.
Mobile phone prices
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 thousands outright and are subject to extra monthly payments even 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.
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 contract, making sure you’re happy with your purchase over time is almost as important as the desire to get the shiniest new phone.
How to compare mobile phones
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:
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.
Smartphone screen technology has come a long way in the past few years, with 4K capable screens now accessible. For the most part, those resolutions are wasted on a device smaller than six 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.
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.
Not all carriers use the same network frequencies, so ensuring your phone works on the full spectrum of frequencies for your carrier is essential. It is fairly complicated, but you can compare the networks and their respective frequencies to get a better idea.
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.
If your phone is going to house your entire life, including photos, videos and everything in between, 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. Alternatively, look for a higher capacity device.
Mobile phone contracts
Not all phones are available on a mobile plan. If you can’t grab a phone on contract, be prepared to pay more for the phone up front. However, doing so will likely save you money in the long run.
Nick Broughall is a global group publisher across shopping, travel, tech, streaming and reviews at Finder. An award-winning journalist with over 15 years' experience writing about technology, Nick has edited leading tech publications, including Gizmodo, TechRadar and T3 Magazine, as well as contributing to CNET, the Sydney Morning Herald, Lifehacker, news.com.au and many more. In 2016 he was awarded the Best Reviewer title at the 14th Annual IT Journalism Awards and has been a finalist for Best Reviewer, Best Consumer Technology Journalist and Best News Journalist on multiple occasions. Nick has a Bachelor of Media and finds joy in solving problems with technology.
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