We’re all inside more than usual these days. Fortunately, the internet is here to keep us connected. A smartphone makes it easy to use mobile apps to stay in touch with friends and family, do video calls, stream movies and classes, and shop online.
Here are 10 things to consider as you shop for a new phone.
- Shop by what you need
The first step is to think about how you’ll use your new phone. If you want a large screen, look for a phone with at least 6 inches of screen size — big enough to watch videos or read e-books comfortably. Remember that the bigger the screen, the bigger the phone will be overall. A smaller screen, on the other hand, will make for an easier-to-manage pocket-sized device.
- Make sure you’re going to like it
You’ll want a phone that looks good and feels comfortable in your hand. Consider how it fits into your life (and pocket). You’ll also want a device that has a long battery life so you can use it all day without having to recharge it multiple times.
- Choose a carrier that covers where you live and work
When you're getting a new phone, you should also choose a carrier that covers where you live and work. Carriers like Verizon offer two lines of service, one with nationwide coverage on the Verizon network and one with coverage only in your home or office area.
A second option is having a single line with no roaming charges for data, calls and text messages but limited call quality and text message volume when you're outside the local area. When you make a call or send a text message outside your home area (metro areas are designated by the letters “M” through “W”), you can hear the other person's voice but not always their words, as well as receive only some of their words. That's called “roaming” or “cellular,” and it can be very expensive
- Consider how often you upgrade your phone
When you're getting a new phone, you'll want to consider two things: how much phone you need and how often you upgrade your phone.
How much phone do you need?
This question is the most important. There's plenty of advice out there about what to look for in a smartphone — camera quality, screen resolution, processor speed — but those are secondary considerations. If a phone doesn't have the basic features you need, then it doesn't matter how good it is at everything else.
Here are the core features that any phone should have:
Decent battery life. You should be able to get through an entire day without needing to recharge. Closely related to this is whether or not the phone has replaceable batteries. It doesn't matter if your battery lasts forever if it's buried under layers of plastic that make it impossible to replace when it eventually dies. A long-lasting battery can also save you money: some newer phones have built-in Qi wireless charging, which makes them compatible with charging pads that can be bought for $20 or less; if your phone doesn't have that feature, then you may want to invest in one of these third-party external batteries instead.
- Get the right accessories
A good case is always a smart purchase, because it can protect your phone from drops, spills and splashes. If you have an iPhone, Apple sells its own cases in a variety of colors and styles that fit perfectly. The Silicone Case is my pick for any iPhone, but if you don't like the feel of silicone against your hand or in your pocket, try the Leather Case — I've had one on my iPhone X since launch day, and it's still going strong.
If you're looking for something thinner and more durable than Apple's cases, try one from Nomad. The company's Rugged Case ($40) is made from 0.8 mm thick Horween leather, which will develop a patina over time without wearing out, plus it offers protection at the corners of the case where drops often cause damage. The Rugged Folio ($60) adds an integrated slot for carrying credit cards or cash inside the flap that covers your iPhone's screen.
- Ensure you'll have enough storage space
There are a number of reasons to buy a new phone. Maybe your contract is up, you want a device that integrates with your fitness tracker or you'd just like something with a better camera.
But when you're getting a new phone, there are a few other things you should also consider — including whether you'll have enough storage space for your photos and data.
All smartphones come with some degree of onboard storage, but most models also feature expandable memory slots that allow you to add storage by plugging in an SD card. If you've ever wondered whether you should use one, the answer is yes.
You can add more storage for cheap
If you're an iPhone user, expandable storage isn't even an option for you, because Apple doesn't offer it on any model. But if you're an Android user and buy from just about any manufacturer besides Samsung or Google (they don't offer external SD cards either), there's no reason not to add more storage to your phone.
SD cards are relatively inexpensive compared to the price of smartphones and tablets (a 32GB microSD card costs less than $15), so adding extra storage is worth the investment.
- Think about screen size and resolution
When you're getting a new phone, the screen is probably the most important element. After all, it's the part of the device that you interact with the most, and it's what you'll be looking at for hours every day (though hopefully not when you're crossing the street).
You want your screen to be sharp, vibrant and bright. You want to be able to see it clearly in many different situations. And if you're buying a larger-screened device like a phablet or tablet, you want to make sure its size isn't awkward or unwieldy.
Fortunately, there's no shortage of great displays available on today's smartphones — but just understanding some basic features can help you select the best one for your needs.
- Check for refurbished phones, which may be cheaper.
A new phone doesn't have to cost you an arm and leg.
There are two ways to get a new phone without paying full price:
Check for refurbished phones, which may be cheaper. Some refurbished phones are legitimately used, but others are “certified pre-owned,” which means they've been returned, may or may not have been used and have been restored to like-new condition.
Look for deals from the carrier that allow you to trade in your old phone in exchange for credits toward a new one. You can also sell your old phone yourself and use those funds for a new device.
- Don't get caught up in the hype
Remember, when you're getting a new phone you should also not get caught up in the hype. A phone is a tool, and it should be the tool that fits your needs, as well as your budget.
When you're looking for a new phone, you can't just look at what's built into each phone and decide which one has more features or which one has better specs. You have to dive deeper and consider how things like software impact the overall experience.
A common and unfortunate mistake many of us make when buying a new smartphone, is treating it in the same way we would a laptop or desktop PC. These products are different, and require different considerations when making a purchase. We hope that the addition of these tips and considerations helps you to buy a new mobile phone with more confidence.