How to choose the best mobile phone
Whether you want to spend £100 or £600, our expert guide will help you find out which mobile phone is best for you.
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The best mobile phones will take the place of your camera, mean your iPod doesn’t leave your desk drawer and allow a full working day of web browsing and calls without the need for a recharge.
The latest apps will run smoothly, and the screen will mean video and pictures look great and text is clear. See below for the key things to look for when choosing a new mobile phone.
Take a look at our mobile phone Best Buys to discover the models we recommend.
How much does a decent mobile phone cost?
Mobile phones vary hugely in cost from around £60 to more than £600.
Spend around the £500 mark and you’ll get a top-of-the-range model with a large, extremely detailed and vibrant screen. It will have all the latest features, including a fingerprint reader, and possibly even a heart-rate monitor.
If you’re looking around the £400 mark, the phone will still have a good screen, long battery life and a decent camera. It won’t have the extras, such as a fingerprint reader, and it’s more likely to have a plastic finish rather than the sleek metal casing found on more expensive models.
And at the £200 mark you’ll get a phone that can handle everyday tasks, such as web browsing, running Google searches and taking phone calls, but it might struggle to smoothly run the latest, most-demanding apps, and will almost certainly be made of plastic.
And for those looking for the cheapest option possible, we recommend you spend at least £100 to avoid ending up with a dud.
iOS, Android or Windows: which OS is best?
The operating system (OS) is the software that powers your phone. It will dictate what the phone menu looks like, what apps it can run and how easy it is to use. There are three main players to choose from: iOS, Android and Windows.
All iPhones use iOS and, unlike Android, the experience of using the operating system is broadly similar whichever iPhone you buy. New updates to iOS are released each year, but some older iPhones may be able to run only older versions. That can mean you miss out on a few of the latest apps, new features and security patches introduced by Apple.
- Pros It’s easy to use and quick to learn, even if you haven’t used a smartphone before. It provides access to the well-stocked Apple app store – where apps are vetted before being released so you can rest assured they’re safe to use.
- Cons It’s expensive – even the cheapest Apple handset comes in at £359. And if you’re after a large-screen iPhone, you’ll need to part with at least £459. Apple iPhones also do not come with a micro-SD card slot, so you’ll need to choose the memory capacity carefully to avoid running out of space for your app, music and photo collection.
Android is designed by Google and is used by many manufacturers, from LG and Samsung to relative-newbie OnePlus. It looks and behaves slightly differently depending on who manufacturers the phone, but the basics are the same.
- Pros It’s generally easy to use and provides access to the wide variety of apps, games and entertainment available from the Google Play store. There’s a wide range of Android phones available to suit all budgets.
- Cons In the past, Android has been slightly more vulnerable to attack than Apple handsets. But that is beginning to change now, with Google putting more emphasis on vetting apps in the app store and patching security holes. Sometimes the manufacturer and network provider can be slow to release Android updates to users.
Windows is not as popular as Android or iOS, but it is a big player at the cheaper end of the market.
- Pros Microsoft offers a range of decent-yet-affordable Windows phones – you can pick one up for around £120. Windows phones are fully compatible with Windows laptops and computers – good for finishing tasks while on the move.
- Cons There aren’t as many apps made for Windows phones as there are for iOS and Android. That said, all the big apps such as Facebook, Google Maps and BBC News are available.
What size of phone is right for me?
Smartphones are getting bigger and bigger, with the latest high-end models measuring 5.7 inches and more. While bigger phones are great for watching films and browsing the web, they won’t suit everyone. Some people find them too large and awkward to hold. The only way to find out which handset size is right for you is to try holding a few in the shop. If you want something that will slip more easily into your pocket or bag, pick a 4 to 5-inch phone.
Do I need a 4G phone?
Smartphones use mobile broadband networks to keep you connected. The fastest mobile internet service is called 4G and is available in parts of the UK. To check whether you can get 4G in your area, use our coverage checker map.
Most mobile phones come with 4G as standard now, but it’s worth checking any new handset is compatible – especially with cheaper models.
Find the perfect mobile phone for you with our mobile phone reviews.