Here is everything you need to know if you’re buying a smartphone for the first time or upgrading an existing smartphone.
9 Quick Tips
- iOS is easier to use; Android gives you more choice. If you’re torn between iOS and Android, opt for an iPhone if you want something that’s easy to use and gets both the hottest apps first and the timeliest software updates. Android is better if you want more hardware choices and more affordable options.
- Don’t pay more than you need to for a phone. While the iPhone 8, Galaxy S8 and premium Android phones start at around £700, and can cost upward of £1,200, there are great cheap unlocked-phone options below £500 and even some solid choices for less than £300.
- Get the right size screen. Buy a phone with a screen smaller than 5.5 inches if one-hand use is important to you or if you have smaller hands. (See Best Small Phones for more.) Get a bigger-screen phone if you like to watch a lot of videos, play games or want to take advantage of the multiwindow mode in Android. Still, phone-makers are now making big-screen phones, such as the 5.8-inch Galaxy S8, that fit comfortably in one hand thanks to larger 18:9 aspect ratios.
- For a phone’s display, colour quality and brightness matter more than resolution. A 4K screen on a phone is nice to have but kind of overkill. Pay more attention to how bright the display is, so it will be easy to see outdoors, and how colourful the panel is (AMOLED panels are better than LCD in this regard). The very latest phones offer high dynamic range (HDR) for displaying even more colours.
- Ignore camera megapixels. Along with battery life, the camera has become the most important smartphone feature. Pay attention to specs such as aperture (lower numbers are better) and special features such as dual lenses and optical image stabilization. Ignore the megapixels. See the Best Camera Phones for our top picks.
- The processor matters less than it used to. Even midrange phones now offer good-enough performance for most users. But if you want the most power for games and augmented reality, buy an Android phone with the latest Snapdragon processor. The Apple Bionic processor in the iPhone is one of the fastest mobile chips yet.
- Don’t settle for a smartphone that lasts less than 10 hours on a charge. See our list of the longest-running phones based on the Tom’s Guide Battery Test (web surfing over 4G LTE) to find out which devices will get you through the day on a single charge. Even budget phones now boast long-lasting batteries.
- Get at least 32GB of storage. Phones with 16GB are a rip-off, even if they’re budget models. Opt for 32GB if you can to store more games, photos and video. 64GB is the new standard for flagship phones. A microSD card slot is nice to have for expanding storage, but it’s only available on certain Android phones.