If you’re ready to choose your new mobile phone but feel a little bamboozled by the confusing array of options then this guide is for you.
Mobile phones are increasingly complicated devices. Making calls and sending texts are now seen as a basic function and other features are seen to be more important.
Manufacturers have long promoted a wide range of features including the phone’s camera, music capcabilities, internet browsing and even Sat Nav. Now, it’s all about smartphones with Android, iOS (iPhone), BlackBerry or Windows Mobile operating systems.
However, many of us are more interested in the basics; a long battery life, an easy to use menu system, big buttons and a clear screen.
This guide aims to help you understand the main options and terminology you’re likely to come across, whilst giving you some practical advice that will help you to decide which type of phone you want.
How do you rate your current mobile phone?
One of the first things to consider is how you use the mobile phone you already own. You should also have a think about what you like and dislike about your phone.
Try to identify the best and worst things about your current mobile phone as this will help inform your next choice. Consider things such as:
- Is your phone easy to use? E.g. simple, intuitive menus and easy to press buttons
- Does the phone’s camera work well enough for you? E.g. good quality photos, easy to transfer them onto your PC
- Is the music player or FM radio on your phone good quality and easy to use?
- Is your mobile phone always reliable?
- Does the battery last long enough?
- Is the call quality good on your mobile?
- Is it a good size and did you like the style? E.g. would you prefer a flip phone/clamshell phone or a slider phone next time?
This exercise should help you to focus on what’s important to you in a mobile phone.
What type of mobile phone should I get?
Most new mobile phones fit in one or more of a handful of categories. Below is our advice about which category of mobile phone may suit you, and what you should consider when choosing your phone.
Mobile phones that combine a wide variety of features and an operating system that allow you to install extra software applications, or ‘Apps’, are often called smart phones. They synchronise well with your PC or Mac, have touchscreens and/or a QWERTY keyboard, good cameras, lots of memory for storage and great music players.
The main operating systems include Apple’s iOS operating system, Windows Phone, BlackBerry OS, HP/Palm OS and Google’s Android operating system, now the most popular OS in the world which is used by a range of manufacturer’s including SonyEricsson,Samsung, HTC, Motorola and LG.
If you’re interested in smart phones then make sure it’s compatible with your PC or Mac operating system. If you want to send lots of emails you may want to pick a smart phone with a QWERTY keypad. A big display is crucial for web browsing.
Check out the battery life too, many have notoriously short battery life’s (less than a day with normal usage) so if battery life is crucial it may not be for you.
The majority of phones on the market feature a camera, ranging from very low resolution VGA cameras up to 5 megapixel camera phones that sport auto-focus, image stabilisers and even optical zoom.
If you want to use your mobile phone as a replacement for your standalone digital camera you’ll need to choose a camera phone with at least 3.2 megapixels and auto focus. The best include 5 megapixels and plenty of memory for storing your photos.
If you just want to take occasional photos to capture the moment then a standard camera phone with 2 megapixels will probably suffice. You should try to get one with autofocus though.
Most mobile phones feature a basic music player but several manufacturers are now producing phones that try to rival an iPod. Sony Ericsson’s Walkman range is one example.
If you want to use your mobile phone as an iPod replacement then you should make sure that it has plenty of memory, at least 1GB. It will need long battery life, 400 hours standby as an absolute minimum and headphones must be included in the box.
If you’re only likely to use the music player on rare occasions then you probably don’t need a dedicated music phone, although you’ll probably need to buy a memory card and headphones before you can listen to music.
Easy to use mobile phones
The operators and phone manufacturers are waking up to the need for mobile phones that are more simple and easy to use. These phones tend to include only the basic features, so you can focus on making calls, and sending texts without too many complications.
Basic, inexpensive mobile phones are often marketed as easy to use, but just because a mobile phone is cheap in price doesn’t mean it will deliver on this promise. If you want to buy a phone that’s easy to use then make sure it has big, well-spaced buttons that are easy to press. The display or screen must be big enough to easily read texts - often a manufacturer cost cutting compromise in cheaper phones.
The mobile phone’s user interface or menu system needs to be intuitive and simple too. SonyEricsson and Nokia are often considered to have the most intuitive menu system and text message writing software but you should ask for recommendations and perhaps even try out your friends phones.
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