How to Choose the Right Cell Phone

Mychelle Blake
cell phone shopping

Buying a new cell phone is more difficult than ever. There are so many new features, innovations, models and operating systems that it's hard to decide which one is the best for you.

Choosing the Right Cell Phone For You

In order to not get overwhelmed by all the cell phone choices available, it helps to narrow down what features are the most important to you. Cell phones today can do much more than they have in the past and everyone uses their phone to accomplish different daily tasks.

Android Or iOS?

The most important choice will be between the Android and iOS operating systems. Some reasons to consider one over the other are:

  • If you choose iOS, you'll be limiting yourself to a much smaller number of phones as iPhone will be your only option. Android, on the other hand, can be found with several phones like Samsung, LG and more.
  • If you are a heavy user of Google products, then you'll enjoy the integration with Android phones, whereas people who love the Apple suite of products will find more productivity using the iPhone.
  • There's a much larger availability of apps on the Google Play store for Android, but iPhone apps tend to be more secure and stable because of Apple's stricter inclusion policies. This leads to problems with security -- in fact, 97% of malware and other harmful software was found on Android phones and 0% on the iPhone.
  • The benefit of Android is that you can buy peripherals and accessories from a variety of vendors, whereas you can only buy Apple products for the iPhone, and these can cost more than similar items for the Android.
  • Because of the variety of Android manufacturers, you can find a wider variance in screen sizes compared to the smaller number of iPhone models.
  • If budget is a consideration, there are many cheaper phones available for Android compared to iPhone, though the quality of these cheaper models may vary.
  • If you're not tech savvy and are intimidated by using a computer, you may find iPhone easier to use compared to the Android system.

Camera

Since everyone these days seems to be using their phone as a camera first and a phone second, camera quality can be an important factor in your phone choice. Look at features with the camera such as zooming lenses and filters rather than megapixels which are no longer an important consideration as it was when phones first started adding cameras. For example, new camera features that you might enjoy include dual cameras and portrait modes for still photos and optical stabilization for video.

Screen Size and Quality

Since there are many more models available for Android, you will have more choices for screen sizes compared to iPhone. Consider how much you'll be holding the phone in one hand related to screen size. A screen of five-and-a-half inches or less can be held comfortably in one hand and easily slipped into an average size pocket. However if viewing the screen is more important, such as for enjoying videos, then you may want something that's larger though less easy to handle and store discreetly.

Screen Quality

The best available screen displays should be at least Full HD or HDR with a minimum of 1920 x 1080 pixels. 4K is also an option, albeit pricier, and may only be useful if you are using the phone for heavy video watching use. You should also look for an AMOLED screen which has better picture quality compared to LED. You also want to find a phone that has a brightness mode that can be adjusted to provide easier viewing for you.

Storage

If you are someone who takes a lot of photos and videos, downloads movies to watch or likes to keep a lot of music files on your phone, you'll want to consider a phone with higher storage limits than base models which tend to have around 16GB. You'll find that the storage fills up quickly so look for at least 32GB or even better, 64GB, assuming you can afford the higher price that comes with larger storage limits. One benefit of Android over iPhone in this regard is that some Android phones allow you to add a MicroSD card for more storage.

Processor

A phone's processor is what helps it to run faster and provide you the apps and information you need without wait times. Processors today across phone manufacturers tend to be fairly fast so this isn't likely to be one of your top concerns with most phones. The fastest processors currently available are the Snapdragon 835 found with Android phones and the A11 Bionic chip found in the iPhone 8 and above.

Memory

You can buy phones with different memory options and the more you purchase the higher the phone price will be. One of the benefits of an Android phone is that you can increase the memory after purchase which is not an option with the iPhone. In general you should look for a phone with at least 4GB of memory.

Battery Life

Battery life is also better than it was for most phones but there are definitely clearly phones higher performance than others. If you use your cell phone a lot during the day, you'll want a phone that has a demonstrated history of staying charged for at least 10 hours with a lot of use. Reading user reviews and looking at the manufacturer provided stats for each model can give you information on how good a battery will be for you. You should also look at the mAh rating which measures battery life. 3,000 mAh or higher is a good rating to look for.

Fast Wireless Charging

In addition to having a quality battery, you may want the option for fast wireless charging. Newer phone models are adding this feature which can save you time if your phone battery is low and you're in a hurry. Look for a phone that is compatible with Qi wireless charging.

Durability

If you're an active person who takes their phone with them everywhere you go, you'll want to consider the durability of the phone you choose. A phone with a glass screen is more at risk if it's going to be with you while you're out jogging or hiking rather than using it mostly at your desk. Of course you can get a case for your phone, but even a case may not protect the glass if it's a lower quality glass that can shatter if dropped. Likewise there are some models that can withstand being dropped in water, which is useful not only if you enjoy water sports but also if you live in an active home where children or your pets might knock the phone into the tub.

Good Reviews

Reviews are another key consideration especially when you've narrowed down your choices. Reading user reviews online can give you input from actual people who have used the features that are important to you. Whether you buy the phone from a cell phone carrier website or a store like Amazon or Best Buy, you should be able to access a wealth of user reviews. If you intend to buy the phone in person at a store, it's worth it to take the time to do online research on reviews before your final purchase.

Price

Price can be a huge factor in your phone decision, especially if your budget is limited and you want a lot of features. Some cell phone carriers will have special deals that help to break down the price of the phone although you may end up paying the difference with the phone plan itself. Depending on your carrier, the cost to put down to get the phone can be zero on up to a few hundred dollars. If you decide to purchase the phone outright regardless of plan, you can pay as little as $19.99 for a simple TracFone or as much as $2,600 for a Huawei Mate X. In general there are three tiers of pricing for cell phones:

  • Budget phones can be under $100 to a few hundred dollars and will have limited features.
  • Mid-segment phones are in the $300 to $600 range and will have more features than budget phones but not as fancy as the next tier up, but provide good quality options if you don't need high-end features.
  • High-end phones are feature-rich with fast processors, high quality screens and the latest innovations. You can pay from $600 up to $1,000 or more for one of these phones.

New Versus Used

Another option related to price is whether you want to buy a used phone rather than one that's brand new. The benefit of buying a used phone is that you can get one for a lower price than a fresh model. However you may not be able to buy the newest models and using a previously owned phone has the potential of a breakdown of the phone sooner than later due to wear and tear. You may also not be able to use an unlocked phone with your current carrier so make sure that's the case before buying a used phone.

Locked Or Unlocked?

A phone that is unlocked is not tied to any one phone carrier plan, which gives you greater flexibility when shopping for service. Another benefit to an unlocked phone is many are cheaper than locked phones bought through a service plan. The downside to an unlocked phone is that you may not be able to get it to work with the carrier of your choice, or get the service plan you want, although more and more this is becoming less of an issue.

Color Choices

While this may not be an issue for many phone users, some people do enjoy showing off a phone with colors that match their style or personality. Some models will come in the standard black and white options whereas others can come in a wider selection such as red, blue, rose gold, silver and more. Color of course does not affect the phone's technical capabilities but it can make the user who enjoys their phone's design happy.

Accessibility

Accessibility isn't an issue for everyone, but if you have a physical disability, it's important to find a phone that can accommodate you. Features like apps that read the text on the phone to you are favored by people with visual disabilities and individuals with hearing loss will appreciate features like vibration settings. Seniors are another population that will have accessibility concerns as they may prefer a phone where they can make the text and icons larger. Some phones, like the Samsung Galaxy, even have an "easy mode" that seniors and others can use that simplifies the apps.

Business or Personal Use?

Is the phone primarily for running your business or your day-to-day job, or just for personal use? This can be important as there are features you may not need if the phone isn't for business. Options like apps for business such as email, calendars, banking, and productivity aren't as much of an issue and you may not need a smartphone at all. On the other hand, personal use might include using the phone for a lot of entertainment and you may place a higher relevance on things like the camera and screen size and quality.

What Cell Phone Should You Choose?

Everyone will have a different list of which features are more important to them than others. Take your time to decide how you want your phone to make your life better, whether that's watching the latest YouTube video or using email and apps to boost your business productivity. There are so many available models today that cater to different people that you're sure to find the phone that suits your needs best with a bit of reflection and consumer research.

How to Choose the Right Cell Phone