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Buying Guide: Choosing a Smartphone

Started by: djmarksel
On: 23/04/2012 | 12:39
Replies: 13

by: djmarksel
on: 23/04/2012 | 12:39

Dozens of phones come out every season, and most of them are very closely matched on features. There are a few stand-outs, so if you're in the market, we've got some recommendations.

The Basics

iOS vs. Android vs. Windows Phone
We recommend Apple's iOS if you'd prefer a clean, polished UI and access to the most popular games and apps. We recommend Android as the best alternative, especially if you crave the faster data speeds of 4G networks, if you want more hardware choices, or if you require more customization and control over the inner workings of your handset. Windows Phone is still young and currently only installed on about 5 percent of smartphones, but it's a beautifully designed operating system. We expect big things from it — an OS refresh, better hardware and improved apps — in the coming year.

4G is a loose term for the fourth generation of cellular communications, offering speeds that are about 10 times faster than they are on third-generation, or 3G, networks. These higher data speeds are making smartphones much more comparable to PCs, giving them better multimedia capabilities and faster web browsing. They are also causing strains on phone batteries, since 4G requires more power. The iPhone doesn't connect to 4G networks yet, but all the top Android phones can take advantage of 4G.

Buying Advice

Should I Wait for the New iPhone?
If this is your first iPhone or if you're at the end of a contract, then no, don't wait. If you want an iPhone, just buy one now and start using it and enjoying it today. Most iPhone users skip every other generation — anyone who bought the 3G most likely skipped the 3GS and bought a 4, and is now skipping the 4S and waiting for whatever's next. There's a pretty big jump in performance every two years (the length of your carrier contract) but it's not astronomical, so the phone you buy today will still be awesome in a year when the next one comes out. After two years, you'll be ready for a new iPhone, but you won't be truly hurting.

Choosing Hardware
Though they were rare just 12 months ago, dual-core processors have quickly become commonplace, and will soon be replaced by quad-core processors. But that shift won't happen on a large scale for a while. Don't buy a phone without at least a dual-core chip. Likewise, don't settle for less than 1GB of RAM if you can help it. Corning's Gorilla Glass is the preferable touchscreen material for most smartphones — it's durable, scratchproof and shatterproof.

Android phones typically come with less on-board storage than iPhones, but most non-Apple devices use removable microSD cards for boosting capacity. You can buy the cards separately depending on your needs. Not so with Apple's sealed handset. Don't be afraid to spend extra on storage. Yes, cloud services like iCloud and Google Music that store your data off the phone are all the rage, but you're better off having the extra space and never running out than constantly banging your head against the ceiling.

If you take a lot of photos or shoot video, don't dip below 8MP for your camera. There are plenty of phones with 8MP cameras to choose from (some even come with two cameras, so you can shoot in 3-D).

The physical location of your home and your workplace are probably the biggest deciding factors in choosing a carrier. After that, look at cost — study up on data plans and what your typical monthly bill will look like. There are ways to reduce usage by offloading tasks like voice calls and text messages to third-party apps, but you'll still end up using a lot of data.

Start by asking your friends which plans they have, and what they typically use their phones for — do they mostly talk and text, or are they streaming music and browsing the web? Also, most carriers let you switch to higher or lower pricing tiers mid-contract. Pick what makes sense, then monitor your usage closely to see if there's a different tier that saves you money.


Samsung Galaxy S II


Apple iPhone 4S



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Message 1 of 14
by: stephenmiller
on: 23/04/2012 | 12:49

Great article, I really like Windows phone 7 and 7.5 (even having never owned one) but Windows phone 8 could go either way, I expect a lot of intergration with the Windows 8 operating system which will be a huge selling point provided Windows 8 does well and it will coming standad on new PCs and laptops.


Still no word on 4G yet so don't let that influence you, unless you live in a big city you won't see it this year for certain and maybe not even next year.



Message 2 of 14
by: googleyeyes
on: 23/04/2012 | 13:59

Interesting breakdown!


I've been an iPhone user since that start and your exactly right about the skipping generation thing! I have my iPhone 2G, then I did however by the 3G, then to the 4, now waiting for the heavily anticipated '5'.


I agree with what you say about anyone wanting an iPhone. I held out until the white iPhone 4 came out, as I have the sick need for everything to be colour coded. Every iDevice/Mac (With exception to my current MacBook because it's black and it's rare) has been white so it seemed fitting to make it blend in.


A few things though. Rumours who have opened up the firmware suggest that the summer/octobers release of the '5' will be catering specifically for the 4G data, which I'm excited about, expecially since the UK will be having 4G in 2013. Since I live in an area a million miles away from civilisation or a reliable internet connection this would be super helpful so that I'm excited about.


Benchmark wise the iPhone still has most phones out there quaking in their boots, not all of them though, particularly some of the LG phones and higher end Samsungs. In my opinion they still have nothing on iOS and the iPhone. Thats just me though!


It's not just that, but design plays a massive part of it too! from the first to the last the iphone has always been a thing of total beauty. One of the reasons why I love it so much!


There are tons of universal accesories out there, however, no one has seen the potential for them as they have for the iPhone! You can walk into a shop and you can simply quote "iPhone accesories" and they'll show you a huge shelf covered in anything from IC chargers to cases and controllers and keyboards. Not that the competitors don't have the same but let's be honest, none are as widely thought of as the iPhones.


My most pressing point thought to anyone who wants a good buy in the smatrphone market wants an iPhone, purely on customer service! I'm on my second iP4 now, due to the first hardware fault I had ever experience over the 3 I've owned spanning sice 2007. My iP2G still works a treat  too! It's amazing what technology is doing for us. They replaced the handset, no quibble, gave me a brand new one and there we have it. Didn't cost me anything more than the fuel to get there!


The iPhone really is a spectacular phone. Many people don't like it because they have this horrible arrogance towards apple fans and the company itself, despite apple being the company that handcrafted technology as we see it. People should be more open to it, like I am with everything else! I've use iOS and Android! I've even used Windows phone, but I still pick up my iPhone and say, 'I don't know why I put you down'. Yes, pricey, Yes, new one comes out after you just bought one, No, wories if it goes wrong, No, worries because it's the best looking thing out there.


So yeah iPhone = AWESOME Smiley Very Happy

Message 3 of 14
by: mgb2
on: 23/04/2012 | 14:28

where have you copied one this from??? who are the 'we' referred to??? did you get their permission???

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Message 4 of 14
by: supasnail
on: 23/04/2012 | 14:38
Who's this "we"?
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Message 5 of 14
by: hc_1540
on: 23/04/2012 | 14:54

mgb2 wrote:

where have you copied one this from??? who are the 'we' referred to??? did you get their permission???

Looks like it's a 'Wired' article:


To the OP, at least acknowledge where you're lifting these articles from. The implication here is that you're writing them yourself

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Message 6 of 14
by: teani
on: 23/04/2012 | 22:25
Sounds like an iPhone appreciation thread
Big it up all you like
The galaxy s2 blows it out of the water
Just google the comparisons and tech reviews
Enough said

Message 7 of 14
by: googleyeyes
on: 24/04/2012 | 11:57
Let's just remember this is not a slagging off post, all I'm saying is I prefer the iPhone. I most certainly appreciate and respect android, but I wouldn't use it. I've tried all formats and ended up back with my iPhone.
Message 8 of 14
by: thomasb_94
on: 24/04/2012 | 12:33
I definitely prefer Android. just the choice of handsets would do it for me but I prefer the looks better and has better functionality and you can customise it. I can't deal with the smaller screen on idevices though. I have used both platforms
Click on the link below to order a free sim with £5 credit on it Smiley Very Happy
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Message 9 of 14
by: googleyeyes
on: 24/04/2012 | 12:58
One of the things I haven't got is the huge screens on Android devices, a friend has a HTC HD2 or something and I can fathom how he uses it! It seems like mountain to climb to use the thing! I won't lie, it's an awesome looking phone though.
Message 10 of 14