When shopping around for a smartphone, first choose an operating system and then prioritize your own feature and price considerations to find the right model. Learn how to make an informed decision when buying a smartphone and be sure to take into consideration the other software you’re currently using!
Picking an Operating System
Learn some basic differences between operating systems.
- iPhone (aka iOS) is known for its ease of use, security, and clean integration with other Apple products.
- Android is associated with its integration of Google services, its ability to be customized, and typically a lower cost.
- Windows Phones are less common, but emphasize integration with Microsoft products and offer high end camera software on certain models.
- If you can, try demoing a device at a store. That will give you a good sense of the interface and feel of each operating system.
Determine your price range. iOS phones (iPhones) are typically more expensive than their Android counterparts. Among phone manufacturers, Apple and Samsung are typically among the most expensive (with models ranging from $400-$700 retail), while HTC, LG, and Motorola tend to produce lower cost options (some low end smartphones can be acquired for under $100).
- Phones are subsidized when purchased along with a phone carrier contract or sometime even “free” upon signing. This usually commits you to a 2-year billing plan for the carrier and includes penalties for early cancellation.
- Some carriers also charge a monthly ‘device fee’ to make up for little or no upfront cost on your smartphone.
Determine which features suit your needs. Each operating system has some proprietary features, while basic features like email, web browsing, and maps will be available on all systems.
- iOS/iPhone has exclusive features like Siri, fingerprint scanning, FaceTime chat, and iCloud support.
- Android has Google Now, homescreen widgets for customization, and allows third party app installation (meaning you can download programs from the internet and install them outside of the Play Store ecosystem). Most Android phones today also have fingerprint sensors, cloud storage for pictures, and support the use of Google Drive for documents and cloud storage.
- Windows Phone uses Cortana for voice activation, has “Live Tiles” homescreen customization, and incorporates Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF options.
- In general, if a popular app is not offered on a competitor’s operating system, there is a strong chance that an alternate app exists which is functionally quite similar.
- iOS and Android historically have much broader app support than Windows.
- Your app purchases are linked with your store account. You will be able to transfer your purchases to any future phones as long as they use the same operating system.
Choosing a Smartphone Model
- Some carriers, like T-Mobile, allow you to forego a contract while paying off the phone as part of your monthly costs. Cancelling your service early will force you to pay the remainder of the phone’s costs at once.
- Unlocked phones are phones purchased outside of a carrier and thus not linked with a phone service contract. They are more expensive but allow you much more flexibility if you ever need to switch phone carriers.
- If buying an unlocked phone, make sure to doublecheck that the model is compatible with your specific carrier’s network. Most carriers have a webpage where you can check compatibility with your phone model’s ID information,
- You may be able to cut monthly costs by not purchasing a data plan at all, but this means you won’t be able to access the internet from your phone if not on wifi.
- iPhone offers the “SE” series for compact phones and the “Plus” series for an extra large screen.
- Android phones come in a wide range of sizes: there are smaller budget models such as Moto G or Galaxy S Mini, higher end models like the Galaxy S or the HTC One series, and oversized models like Galaxy Note or Nexus 6P.
- Nokia offers Windows phone models ranging from 4-6 inch screens.
- For the budget-conscious, a good compromise is to wait for a new model of your desired smartphone to become available and to then take advantage of a drop in price of the other models. When a new phone model premieres interest in older models will immediately go down and the price will often change to reflect that.
- Regardless of your choice, understand that technology moves very quickly and that newer phone models will continue to appear. Eventually every smartphone will seem old or obsolete.
- For example, storage space is the only difference between a 16GB iPhone 6 and 32GB iPhone 6,
- 16GB is estimated to hold about 10,000 pictures or 4000 songs — but keep in mind that your phone storage must also accommodate all your downloaded apps.
- Some Android phones (but not all) support storage expansion with the purchase of a microSD card. iPhones do not support storage expansion after purchase.
Consider camera quality. Although smartphones are known for taking high-quality photos in general, actual picture quality will vary quite a bit between brands and models. The best way to measure camera quality in a phone is to search for sample pictures online taken with that smartphone model or to demo the camera yourself.
- While manufacturers often advertise a camera’s megapixel count, features like ISO, low-light performance, brightness, and noise reduction are equally if not more important to consider.
- Most modern smartphones come equipped with front and rear-facing cameras and flash, and will support third party add-ons (such as lens attachments).
- iPhones are well known for their high quality camera hardware/software.
- The Lumia 1020 Windows Phone is designed specifically for heavy camera use.
Consider phone battery life. Battery technology is improving steadily so newer phones tend to have longer battery life, however your usage habits are what really dictate how long the battery lasts. Talking on the phone, gaming, and using phones outside of wifi range will all drain a battery more quickly.
- Average smartphone battery life can range anywhere from 8-18 hours.
- Most flagship Android models will not support replaceable batteries. iPhones do not support replaceable batteries on any model.