When it comes to buying smartphones, the choice is growing all the time. What were once luxury handsets for the tech elite now come in all shapes and sizes, as well as price tags. So where do you start when you’re looking for your perfect smartphone?
First, you’ll want to make sure you can get good coverage from all the providers in the key areas you’ll be using your mobile. This way you won’t find a great smartphone deal, only to find later that you can’t use it when you need to! Each mobile provider will have a coverage map, so first use these to narrow down your choices.
Contract or prepay?
You’ll also need to decide if you want a contract or a prepay deal. Smartphones can be pretty pricey, so you may want to go for a contract as they tend to cover a large part of the initial cost of the handset. This will mean you pay slightly more per month, and may have to sign up for a long deal. But you will be rewarded with a nicer handset.
Prepay is great if you have the money up front for the handset, as it will give you the flexibility to get credit when you need it and only spend what you pay for. However, you may end up paying more per minute for your lack of loyalty! You may also find short-term monthly contracts, which can act as a nice middle ground.
Price and your allowances
Whichever way you go, think carefully about you’ll be using your smartphone. Make sure you get a deal that gives you enough minutes and texts, but not so many that you’ll have loads left at the end of the month – they won’t roll over to the next one.
Also, think carefully about data. You need to have enough to get you online, but again it’s easy to pay for way more than you need. But at all times balance what you really need versus what you want, as it could make a big difference to the price you pay! You can save a lot by simply reining your usage in a little and remember – you can always up your monthly tariff, but it might not be so easy to lower it if you’ve got a deal with a free phone.
While the latest smartphones are of course the most desirable ones, you need to make sure you’re paying for something you’ll actually be using to its fully potential. There’s no point in getting a smartphone with an eight-megapixel camera with autofocus and dual flash if you’re only going to take a couple of snaps with it each year. Or get a handset with a dual-core processor, massive screen and oodles of internal memory if you’re not going to watch movies or multitask with complex apps.
If you decide on a slightly cheaper option, remember that last year’s hero handsets will now be at a price point comparable to this year’s budget smartphones. Those older phones may well be built with better components and have already proven how good they are (just check out some reviews), so will often be a better bet than this year’s cheap model.
This can be an important decision, with four real contenders right now. But that said all the options out there right now are pretty good. Apple iPhones are very popular, but can be pretty pricey. A BlackBerry is great for business, as well as messaging, but can be a little weak on apps.
Then you have the Android and Windows 7 operating systems, which are available on handsets from a number of big handset manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC, Motorola, LG and Sony Ericsson. Android handsets are hugely popular right now, being user friendly with plenty of apps available.
Finally, when you’ve decided on a handset and tariff range, take a good search around a comparison website to check out who has the best deals for that handset or provider (or both). It’s a really competitive market, with price battles going on all the time that throw up all kinds of bargains. You may find you can get a certain amount of your smartphone tariff for free, or even free gifts such as an MP3 player or high street vouchers.
Chris Marling writes on behalf of Broadband Genie, the comparison website for broadband, tablets and smartphones, such as the the new iPhone 5.