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How to choose a smartphone

01 September 2015

Buying a smartphone is a smart move, but the sheer volume of options can be overwhelming. We explain how they work and how to pick the right one for you.

Smartphone taking food photo
Not all smartphones are the same, find out which one is best for you

Thanks to Apple’s incredible marketing, you could be forgiven for thinking the iPhone is the only smartphone on the market. It’s just one of many, but which smartphone is right for you? 

Apple iPhones run on the iOS operating system. Other brands operate on either the Android or Windows operating system (OS). Experts argue about the merits of each, but what really counts is which smartphone will serve your needs best. 

What’s so smart about a smartphone?

Smartphones are so-called because of their ability to do much more than make phone calls. A fully functional smartphone will operate like a miniature internet-connected computer, so you can:

  • Do your banking and shopping;
  • Make video calls;
  • Browse the internet; and 
  • Interact on social media.

It becomes even smarter when you download applications, better known as apps. There’s an app for just about everything, from games to fitness programs (and many are free).

Related: Essential starter apps for your smartphone

Buying a smartphone

Smartphones can cost anywhere from £140 to £550* or more. It’s easy to spend less or more than you should if you don’t know which features you need and which you can do without. 

By definition, all smartphones have internet connectivity built in. 4G (fourth generation) connectivity is up to 10 times faster than 3G, but more expensive. 

However prices are coming down so if a fast internet connection is your priority, look for a newer model with a 4G connection. 

Other features built into most smartphones include:

  • A still and/or video camera;
  • GPS (Global Positioning Satellite); and
  • One, two or more gigabytes (GB) of storage space.

If you’re a photography buff, you’ll probably want something that takes high-resolution photos. GPS is handy, especially when combined with an app that gives you directions or tracks your movements. 

If you need extra storage space, look for a model that allows you to add it on. 

Related: Top five best budget smartphones 

Hands-on: using a smartphone

Measured in inches, touchscreen display is one of the most important features of a smartphone, giving you easy access to all its functions. 

Smartphones around five inches (measured diagonally) are common, though larger and smaller versions are available. 

Choosing the right size will be one of your most important considerations. Ask yourself:

  • How does it fit in my hand?
  • Can I see the screen?
  • Where will I carry it?
  • Is the touchscreen easy to use?

Larger displays cost more, but if you have large hands or find a smaller screen difficult to see, it’s worth paying for. 

Contract or no contract?

When it comes time to purchase your smartphone, you’ll be given two options: locked or unlocked.

Locked phones are cheaper but come with a contract tying you to a service provider for a set period of time. And monthly payments may be higher to compensate for the low purchase price. 

You can have the phone unlocked, but that will void the warranty. 

If you’re a frequent traveller, buying an unlocked smartphone means you can buy a SIM card in any country and your call charges will be much cheaper. 

You might also want to consider paying full price for your phone if you want the freedom of choosing your service provider based on their price and quality of service. 

Smartphones are no longer the domain of tech-savvy youth. Discover which smartphone is right for you and join the thousands of Britons over 50 doing the same.

Related: How to choose a mobile phone tariff


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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.