Smartphones are so-called because, well… they’re smart. They are so much more than a phone; they are essentially small internet-connected computers. They pack a lot of processing punch and are more powerful than laptops of yesteryear.

They’re really useful for:
  • Online banking and shopping
  • Making video calls
  • Browsing the internet; and
  • Checking into social media
  • Sending and receiving emails

And of course you can load them with all sorts of useful apps from games, to currency convertors, language learning apps, fitness trackers and even streaming services like Netflix.

Many apps are also free though you may well be plagued with in-app exhortations to make a purchase of some sorts.

Which vendor?

Apple’s powerful marketing has truly entered the collective consciousness so you might think the iPhone is the one and only smartphone ever. But it’s just one of many.
  • Apple iPhones run on the iOS operating system. Other brands operate on either the Android or Windows operating system.
  • You can get lost in the nitty gritty about the pros and cons of each operating system but really your buying decision should be based on what smartphone is best for you.

Choosing a smartphone

Smartphone prices can range from around £150 to a staggering £1,450 or so for the Apple iPhone XS Max with 512GB and a diamond encrusted SIM. That last point isn’t true but at this price perhaps it ought to be.
Because of the wide pricing range it’s a good idea to know what features you want and which ones you can do without.

It’s a given that smartphones have internet connectivity built in (they wouldn’t be smart phones if they didn’t).
4G connectivity is up to 10 times faster than 3G, but more expensive. In comparison though, 3G feels lumpy and slow.

Most smartphones include:
  • A still and video camera
  • GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) used for map/location apps
  • One, two or more gigabytes of storage space

Points to consider

Size - One of the most important considerations is screen size. The touchscreen display gives you easy access to all the phone’s functions and apps.

Smartphones around five inches (measured diagonally) are a common size. That said larger and smaller screen sizes are available.

The right size will depend whether the touchscreen is easy to use. Larger screen smartphones cost more, but if you have large hands or find a smaller screen difficult it’s probably worth paying that little bit extra.

Resolution – If you like taking photos you might prefer a phone that has a high-resolution camera. The quality of photos can be as good as those produced by a standard camera. But close-ups and selfies produce a slightly rounded goldfish bowl photo.

Storage – you might not think you need extra storage on a smartphone but you’d be surprised just how quickly storage can be gobbled up if you have thousands of photos, videos and a shed load of apps. If you think you may eventually need more storage look for models that allow you to upgrade.

Locked or unlocked?

When you buy a smartphone, you’ll be given the option of locked or unlocked. Locked phones are cheaper but come with a contract tying you to a service provider for a set period of time.

Monthly payments can higher to compensate for the low purchase price. For instance, if you go for high-end phone your contract could cost £50 a month. If you’re not bothered about having the latest and greatest you can get a much lower monthly contract.

If you travel a lot an unlocked smartphone means you can buy a SIM card in any country and your call charges will be much cheaper, though your number will change with each SIM card.

You can also pay full price for a smartphone so you’re not locked in with anyone service provider, rather you can choose which one you want to use based on price and quality of service. Some service providers have a better service than others in terms of download/upload speeds and signal strengths. 

Security – Don’t forget security. It’s absolutely vital. Smartphones are targets for hackers just as much as desktop PCs. Check out BullGuard Mobile Security; dedicated to keeping Android mobile devices safe from viruses. There’s a free version available.