How to Choose and Buy a Smartphone That Fits Your Needs

A collection of smartphones

With dozens of companies and hundreds of models to choose from, buying the right smartphone that fits your needs is a herculean task. There are so many factors and variables to consider when looking for a smartphone. It can become more stressful if the buyer is a bit technically challenged. In this guide, we're going to address this very problem. After going through it, you'll be in a better position to pick or choose the right smartphone for your needs. All of the pointers mentioned here are generic in nature and not targeted toward a specific brand. So, let's get started to learn to select a good smartphone.

A collection of smartphones

The guidelines mentioned below would help you narrow down the number of models you may consider for your purchase. It'll also help you in making the right decision on future purchases.

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As mentioned before, if you're tech-savvy and know a little bit about mobile phone technologies, the selection process becomes much easier. Otherwise, use this guide to ease the entire process.

1. Assess Your Budget Beforehand

Though it sounds trivial, deciding on a budget is not a simple task, especially if you're going to purchase an electronic gadget coming in so many forms and variants.

So, instead of deciding on a specific amount, calculate the upper threshold. Setting an upper limit gives you more flexibility than going with a fixed amount.

To be more precise, choose both the lower and the upper bound you're willing to spend.

But, the question arises, how does one come up with these upper and lower bounds? Well, it can be done by deciding the type of smartphone you want to purchase. Smartphones can be broadly categorized into 3 segments. Let's take a quick look.

  • Entry-level - This segment comprises phones with low-end hardware configuration and roughly range between $100 to $250. You can all the essential features in these phones. They're best for day-to-day calling and regular social media usage.
  • Mid-range - In the mid-range segment, you get more processing power, better cameras, more storage, and loads of other features missing in the lower segment. These phones roughly range between $300 to $600. The majority of users tend to go with this segment.
  • High-end - As the name implies, a high-end phone is equipped with all the power and luxury a smartphone user wants from his device. These smartphones roughly start from $700 onwards. You get flagship processors, powerful cameras, loads of storage space, and much more.

Hopefully, you got a fair idea about the segment you may target. If budget is not an issue, naturally you'll consider a high-end phone. But, I'll suggest to once consider some of the mid-range models too before taking a final decision.

2. Decide the Mobile OS to Go With (Android or iOS)

Let's be honest! Android and iOS together account for over 95% of the mobile OS market share. Therefore, we can safely ignore other mobile operating systems in this guide.

Logos of Android and iOS

Android is open-source and while iOS is a closed-source proprietary operating system. If you're low on budget, you can't even think of getting an iOS-powered smartphone because they're generally high-priced compared to their Android counterparts.

So, a low budget leaves no option except to go with the Android smartphone. Otherwise, you can do a feature comparison to decide on the mobile operating system you want to go with.

3. Evaluate How Much Storage You Need

If you're an avid social media user and extensively create multimedia content through your smartphone, decent storage capacity is a must. The same applies to gamers as it consumes a lot of space.

Generally, an entry-level smartphone has at least 32GB of storage. It's good enough for casual daily usage. But, if you store a lot of bulky files, a minimum of 128GB space should be the starting point.

Smartphone slot for memory card and sim

The storage I've mentioned above is the internal one that comes with your smartphone. It's generally fast and reliable. But, what if the internal storage is not enough for you? That's where external storage comes to the rescue. If you need one, check if the smartphone model you intend to purchase has the option to expand the storage space through memory cards.

Remember, external storage is comparatively slower than internal one. So, use it only to take backups of large media files or for infrequently-used essential data.

4. Check Battery Life and Charging Options

One of the important attributes of a smartphone is its battery. If you're an avid user of a smartphone, battery life matters. Generally, a battery with a capacity of 4000 mAh is a good starting point.

But, if you play a lot of multimedia content or play resource-intensive video games on your smartphone, a battery with a capacity of 5000 mAh is a must.

A smartphone getting charged through a wired connection

The charging options also need to be considered. The most common ways to charge a smartphone battery are either through a wired connection or through wireless charging. The latter option is generally available in high-end phones.

Nowadays, almost all smartphones offer fast charging through specialized chargers supporting this technology. No matter which type of charging option you opt for, do check the charging time to reach 100% of the battery capacity. If you're an avid traveler, consider buying a power bank as well to charge your phone easily—while on the go.

5. Decide on Display Size and Screen Resolution

For me, display size and screen resolution only matter if I'm either doing graphic-intensive work on my smartphone such as photo or video editing, or playing high-end video games.

If not, nowadays, even entry-level smartphones come with decent screen specifications. The most common screen types used in smartphones are LCD, OLED, AMOLED, IPS, and Retina displays. The last one is specific to Apple devices.

Different screen sizes of smartphones

Both AMOLED and Retina displays are broadly considered the best. So, if you're selecting an Android device, look for an AMOLED screen.

Now, as far as the screen size is concerned, it entirely depends on your personal preference. Some like it big, while others prefer a smaller one. An ideal screen size range anywhere between 5.8 to 6.2 inches.

If budget is not a constraint, I'll recommend getting a smartphone—at least—with a screen resolution of 1080 x 2340 pixels (Full HD+). Anything lower than that may not give you the best experience when doing graphic-intensive tasks on your phone.

6. Thoroughly Check Camera Quality and Its Features

The camera is one of the most prominent features buyers check when buying a smartphone. If budget is not an issue for you, select from an iPhone, Google Pixel, or a high-end Samsung phone. All these 3 phones are capable of giving you the best camera performance.

And what about buyers with limited budgets and aiming at the mid-range and entry-level segment? Well, to be honest, entry-level smartphones may not give the best camera performance.

A smartphone's camera

In a midrange phone, make sure the primary rear camera is at least 12 MP. Anything less than that isn't recommended. Similarly, look for the aperture number. It should be at least f/2.0 or lower.

Also, check the low-light image samples of the smartphone you're intending to buy. Most mid-range phones do not perform that well in low light. Also, ensure your phone's camera support optical image stabilization (OIS) technology. It gives you sharper images in every condition.

Savvy users can also look for zoom capabilities, wide-angle lenses, and different modes supported by the primary camera. Night mode is another important feature to look for.

7. Check for Water Resistance and Storage Expansion

True water resistance is only available in high-end phones. Mid-range smartphones are immune to water splashes at a limited scale. And, an entry-level phone may not be water-resistant at all.

So, if you're on a limited budget, forget about getting a fully water-resistant smartphone. For a water-resistant smartphone, check that it has at least a rating of IP67 or IP68.

A smartphone inside water

Now, let's come to storage expansion. In the first place, I'll not advise you to look for a smartphone with expansion slots. The reason is that that hinders the water-resistant capability of a smartphone.

And, secondly, memory cards generally have slower read-write speeds when compared to built-in storage available in a smartphone. So, it's up to you whether you want to expand your smartphone's storage or not.

If you still want to go with one, check the maximum storage capacity of a card it can support. Entry-level smartphones support low-capacity memory cards.

8. Spend Time Reading Reviews and Model Comparision

And last but not least, no purchase can be called a wise one if you're not doing research. In this context, the best way to do it is to read reviews of your selected models and compare their features, one-on-one.

Read reviews published on renowned websites like GSMArena and Android Police.

Give yourself a week or two and read reviews of all the shortlisted smartphones on these websites. Time invested in this research will help you get the best one to meet your requirements.