A mobile phone is a vital, must have piece of consumer technology in today’s world. It allows you to do everything from checking your bills and bank balance to staying in touch with friends and family on social media, and watching your favourite shows on Netflix. Taking pictures, listening to music, and using any one of the huge library of apps available, a modern phone is increasingly a necessity for all aspects of life.
Given the huge and disarming range of choices out there, it can seem intimidating to even know where to begin to choose the right one for you. Thankfully, we’ve pulled together some of the key points to take into consideration, and terms to know, when picking out a smartphone that can meet your needs.
Operating System: While there are various operating systems on the market, there are two that dominate: Android and Apple’s iOs. Most manufacturers other than Apple use the Android OS. This system gives access to over 2.5 millions apps available in the Google Play store.
Choose carefully. Once you’ve chosen an OS and have become comfortable with using it, and built up a library of apps, it becomes easier to quickly install these onto a new handset, and have it running exactly as you want, within minutes. It also makes it harder to change to another OS, as there is a learning curve, and some apps are not compatible across platforms.
Processor: The processor is the beating heart of your phone, or rather, the brain. It is where all data is computed. The more powerful it is, the faster and more powerful your phone. Getting a powerful, modern processor will ensure it can keep up with the requirements of modern apps and other resource-intensive processes like taking photos and watching video.
Processors often come with multiple “cores”, or operational centres, allowing them to break down the job of processing into parts, so it can be done quicker.
RAM Memory: Phones come with a certain amount of RAM memory, which is used for the operation of the phone rather than storage. This is typically between 4gB and 8Gb. The more memory, the more it can assist in the speedy operation of your phone.
4G, 5G Networks: Cellular / mobile phone networks have been released in generations, each faster than the last. 4G is five to seven times faster than the previous 3G, allowing speeds of up to 150Mbps, or around 37mpbs on average in the UK. In practical terms, this means you can download a HD movie in around 3 and a half minutes.
Meanwhile, 5G is the fifth generation of cellular networks, and will allow up to 1GB download speeds, with 100 to 200 MBps on average. Check your network to see if the offer 5G, and if they offer it in your area, as you may or may not have coverage.
32GB, 64GB, 128GB Memory: All phones come with onboard storage memory, and this is where all your files, from photos and videos to emails and text documents, will be kept. Crucially, it’s also where all apps and their associated files are stored, so if you are intending on downloading lots of apps, and storing a lot of data on your phone, then it’s worth getting a phone with more capacity.
Memory Card: Following on from the previous point, some mobile phones come with expandable memory storage in the form of a microSD slot. This can typically allow for storage of up 512GB or 1TB in addition to the on board storage of the phone itself. That’s great if you’re doing something likely to tax memory, such as recording 4K videos.
Locked Vs Unlocked: when purchased, many mobile phones come linked to a specific network, meaning they can only be used with that network. This is because some networks sometimes subsidize the cost of phones to encourage people to sign up for plans with them. However, for consumers, the best option is to have an unlocked phone, as this will allow them to use it with any network, meaning they can search for the best value deals, and get the best value.
Screen Size: Smartphones have grown larger and larger over the years since the first iPhone and android phones around 2007-8. Modern phone sizes are typically between 6” to 6.5”, with larger models like the Galaxy Note, and smaller models such as the iPhone SE. It’s important to take this into consideration when deciding what size and weight would be most comfortable in your hands, your eyesight and what you are going to use it for. For example people intending to watch lots of video might want to consider a bigger screen.
Screen resolution: Screen resolution is linked to screen size, and is the number of pixels, or electronic dots, that appear on the screen. The higher the resolution, the clearer the picture. For example, the resolution of the Samsung A41 is 1080 x 2400.
The reason high resolutions are important is to be able to see video in its native resolution. For example, full high definition is 1,920 x 1,080, so you can see full HD on the phone mentioned above.
Screen Display Technology: Manufacturers are in a race to create images that deliver more and more realistic The technology used to display images can vary, from LED, to OLED, AMOLED and more. The latter stands for Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diodes, and is amongst the best of the current crop of screen technologies available.
Camera / video quality: Noting the number of pixels, the number of and position of lenses and getting a sense of how good quality the camera’s are will be of use if you intend to take lots of pictures for your Instagram or Facebook accounts.
It’s also worth getting a sense of how good the camera’s video recording facility is. Can it record in 1080 for HD resolution, or, even better 4k for ultra sharp images? Also note the fps – frames per second. The greater the fps, the more realistic, and smooth the quality of your moving images.
Finger Print / Facial Recognition, etc: Modern phones use a variety of security measures to keep your data safe. One method allows you to unlock your phone using your fingerprint, while some phones also offer facial recognition authentication. Look out for these features, make use of them, and know which ones you have a preference for.
Battery Size & Charging: The greater battery capacity for your phone, the longer it is likely to run for, subject to things like screen size, and how much energy the processor uses.
Also bear in mind the method of charging, and the type of socket, as some phones run on Mini USB while others use USB-C sockets.
Some modern phones allow for wireless charging, where you can simply sit your phone on a charging dock or pad. The speed of wireless charging can vary depending on the pad and the phone’s wireless charging capacity, so look out for this feature.