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How to choose a new smartphone that’s right for you

by Leanne Yong on August 20, 2014

The time has come. Your old smartphone has given up the ghost, or perhaps your contract is up for renewal. Time to buy a new one. But the market is saturated with smartphones these days. Phone manufacturers like to throw a lot of terms at you, talking about how their mobile is faster, or quad-core, or has a 20-megapixel camera, and so on and so forth. It can get confusing very quickly!

I’m not going to discuss iPhones here – there’s only so many choices you have when it comes to those!

The most important thing is to assess your priorities. What are you looking for in a smartphone? This will generally fall into one of a few categories. One thing to note is that for all the talk about one phone or another performing better and getting better benchmark results for its processing speed and memory, you will hardly notice those numbers in day-to-day use. Most phones are based off similar processors–it’s the items below that count.

Price

What is your budget? A company’s flagship smartphone with all the bells and whistles will cost anywhere around $600 to $800 dollars. If you’re willing to settle for a last-gen phone (that is, their flagship from the previous year), you can get it down around the $400 to $500 range. To be super-thrifty, there’s also the very basic smartphones you’ll see being sold at Woolworths and Coles (supermarkets in Australia) for anywhere between $40 to $100. They’ll make calls and allow you to do basic internet browsing, but aren’t great for much else.

Then again, price may not be an issue at all, in which case, you can simply pick the phone that best suits your needs from the other categories.

Battery Life

As manufacturers pack more and more technology into their smartphones, it also means this technology requires more power. And this can suck your smartphone dry before you even get home from work! Don’t trust what manufacturers claim the battery life to be. This is normally done under ideal conditions where they can squeeze every last minute out of the battery. Just because a smartphone is newer doesn’t mean it has better battery life, either! Some phones have so many features, the battery actually runs out far quicker than the competition.

GSMArena has a fantastic little tool that compares the battery life of most recent smartphones. You can set how long you normally spend on calls, browsing the web, and watching videos each day, and it will give you an estimate of how long you can expect the phone to last, as well as a comparison to other phones.

This may be an important factor to you if you work (or relax) somewhere with no easy access to a power point. But if you work at a desk and your leisure time is mainly spent around the house, it might not matter much at all.

Screen Size

What kind of screen size are you after? A large one to better browse the web and watch videos with? Or a smaller one where you can easily reach across the screen with your thumb for ease of one-handed typing?

Then again, perhaps it’s all the same to you–just as long as you can check your emails and hold the phone to your ear without looking too stupid, it doesn’t matter.

Camera

Lots of megapixels does not necessarily mean good photos. Most phones will be able to take decent photos in daylight. And if the main purpose of your photos is for social media such as Facebook or Instagramming, almost any mid-range smartphone will do just fine.

You only really need to consider the camera if you intend to take a lot of low-light photos, or use it as your main point-and-click camera. Even then, most phones still can’t stand up to a decent camera once the lights go down. Look for ones with big sensors, and check for reviews that compare photos taken by different phones.

(Protip: Typing “<Phone 1> vs <Phone 2>”  into Google works wonders. As does using the word “shootout”.)

Storage

If you’re someone who loves loading music and videos onto your phone (or maybe you just take a lot of them!) check if the phone has a slot for an external SD card. Without one, most phones only go up to about 32 or 64GB – and you’ll pay for every extra bit of space. Also, some phones can take up to 7GB (!) of space with the operating system and default applications that can’t be removed.

So if you’re a happy snapper or movie fiend, consider carefully if you should find a phone with an SD card slot instead. They’re much cheaper and easily expandable if you find you really need that extra space.

Other Features

Perhaps you love listening to music from your phone’s speakers. Perhaps you want to be able to write accurately on your phone with a stylus. Or perhaps you simply want a gorgeous, super high-definition screen. Weigh all these ‘wishlist’ items up carefully, and determine how important they are to you. It’s very likely you’ll have to sacrifice something else you want–the camera quality, perhaps, or the screen size–to get it. Think about how much you’d really use those features, because while they may seem nifty at first, the shine wears off quickly. Would it be an important part of your daily routine? Or just a nice-to-have?

Once you have your priorities ordered, then go forth and search for the phones most highly ranked in your top two categories. You can then decide what sacrifices you’re willing to make in the other categories, and go from there!

How did you choose your current smartphone? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

photo credit: sinkdd

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Leanne Yong
Leanne Yong is the Leaders in Heels Managing Editor, and a Games Master for an escape room (Next Level Escape). She loves stories and puzzles, and has written four novels.
 
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