What to look for in a new phone: We cut through the jargon

A stack of several phones

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Brand new flagship phones like iPhone 13 ProGoogle’s new Pixel 6 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra comes with powerful performance, incredible camera systems and a host of practical features. But they also come with sky-high prices, which means they are not the best option for everyone. But whether you’re looking for the best phone in 2022, or if you’re looking for a more affordable phone like the Pixel 5A 5G, shopping can be difficult.

The large selection from a large selection of phone manufacturers, each with different camera specifications, screen sizes, storage capacity and of course attached price tags means that it has never been more confusing to decide which phone is the perfect one for your needs.

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To help you cut through some of the jargon and help your money go to exactly what you need, I have put together my top tips for buying a phone in 2022.

How to buy a new phone: The best tips for buying phones

  • Know what you like most: Is it screen size? Camera quality? Battery life? This will help narrow down your choices. Phones like the iPhone 13 Pro, for example, pack incredible cameras that almost Compete with the quality you would get from a DSLR. If you are a photographer, then it is a good idea to spend money here. If not, you can probably save yourself a bunch.
  • Do not discount the middle class: Features from last year’s flagships are always leaked down to this year’s mid-range phones. You can get a great phone that does just about everything a premium phone can do for a fraction of the price. Google’s Pixel 6 Pro has a great zoom camera, but the basic Pixel 6 has most of the same key specifications and comes at a more reasonable price.
  • Shop sale: Look for deep discounts and promotions around major holidays, especially Amazon’s Prime Day and Black Friday. And find out what your grace period is if you need a quick return or exchange.
  • Last year’s phones: They can often be quite a lot too. Wait for this year’s launch to make last year’s phone for less when stores and providers may be trying to relieve their existing inventory.
  • First, keep your phone in a store: You can love or hate the way it looks and feels personal.
  • Check if you are already invested: Have you already bought a lot of iPhone apps and iTunes movies? Stick to an iPhone if you still want access to them. Likewise, if you have invested in lots of Android apps, you will want to stay on that side of the fence. Otherwise, it’s easy enough switch platform.
  • Buy a case and screen protector: You protect your phone from costly damage and increase the phone’s resale or exchange value when you’re ready to move on.
Oneplus 9 phone connected to a charger cable

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Smartphone performance vs. budget

In general, performance matches cost. The very latest, best technology usually comes at a premium. Flagship phones pack the best cameras, the most powerful processors and may even have cutting-edge technology such as flexible displays. The high prices mean that these phones are only worth considering for those who want the absolute latest technology in their pocket.

However, not everyone needs such top technology, or they may simply be reluctant to spend the $ 1,000 or more typically required to get it. Fortunately, the midrange sector in the telephone world has been one of the toughest battlegrounds for companies to compete in, resulting in some amazing phones that will not break the bank. Features such as wireless charging and multi-lens cameras that were once the flagship domain are now common on mid-range phones.

Even budget phones will still offer decent camera quality and enough power for you to enjoy all your daily web browsing, WhatsApp’ing and Instagramming.

4G or 5G?

5G is the latest standard that promises lightning-fast mobile data speeds when on the go. Like any new technology, it is mostly reserved for advanced devices, but it is also becoming more and more common to find on much more affordable phones.

Hand holding a smartphone with street and glass buildings in the background.

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Coverage for 5G is not yet ubiquitous, so it’s important to ask yourself if you need 5G speeds at all, and absolutely crucial if they are available where you live. If you plan to keep your phone for at least a few years, you can safely expect 5G to become more of the norm at that time. If you are on the fence around it now, it may be that in nine months you will feel different and perhaps regret that you did not take the leap before.

Screen size

All phones have steadily grown over the last few years, with the iPhone 13 Pro Max measuring a full 6.68 inches and the Galaxy S22 Ultra coming in at 6.8 inches. Small phones are not that common anymore, though there are a few options to consider if you do not want a massive screen that stretches your pockets out.

On the iPhone side, your best option is the iPhone 13 Mini. At 5.4 inches, its screen is much smaller than its bigger brothers, but it still packs the latest processors and offers super-fast 5G speeds. Alternatively can iPhone SE is similar in size but has reduced specifications and comes at a more affordable price.

Two smartphones.

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Camera performance

Camera features have been an important point for bragging rights in recent phones, where manufacturers always want a larger, more exciting number, whether it is the number of megapixels or the amount of actual camera lenses. Three rear cameras are now standard – a standard lens, an ultra-wide-angle lens and a telephoto lens – with even budget-focused multi-camera phones.

This is great as more lenses mean more shooting options when you’re out and about. But that does not mean that every multi-lens camera is as good as another. As with processor performance, the more you spend, the better results you typically get, with the absolute best cameras usually found on the most expensive flagships.

Galaxy S20 phone

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Watch out for features like optical (instead of digital) zoom, night mode for better low-light images, and optical image stabilization. Sometimes these features may not be clear and it is not possible to judge a camera’s performance simply by looking at the specifications. If you’re really worried about your phone’s photography capabilities, take the time to look at the reviews and see how the camera performs before you spend your money.

Battery life

Most phones, from budget to elite flagships, can hold most of a day on a single charge. Larger phones may have larger batteries, but they also have larger screens and often more powerful processors, so they suck the extra juice down quickly. Few phones will give you more than a day of use. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Always plan to give your phone a full charge overnight.
  • Look for features like fast charging that allow your phone to charge a lot of power in a short amount of time. However, check if your phone comes with a compatible faster charger, as an old USB connector may not support it.
  • Your battery lasts longer if you avoid more demanding tasks such as games or video streaming. Keeping the screen brightness down will also help.
iPhone 12 pro max

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Processor performance

Top-end phones pack powerful processors along with typically up to 12 GB of RAM. It’s enough to get these phones to handle any task without sweating, but you do not have to spend money at flagship level to get great performance.

Most decent mid-range phones offer enough power to handle all your daily needs. You will still be able to play almost any game from the Google Play Store and edit your photos in high resolution in apps like Snapseed. There is little you can throw after most mid-range phones that they would not be able to handle.

As you move into the budget end of the spectrum, you will begin to notice a certain slowdown with things like games. More demanding 3D games may look more stuttering and may even stop unexpectedly. However, basic tasks like sending emails, listening to Spotify and browsing Instagram should not be a problem.

How much phone storage space do you need?

Most phones, even the budget ones, come with at least 32 GB of storage space, 10 of which can be occupied by pre-installed apps and the phone’s operating system. If you never plan on recording any video and gaming is not your thing, 32 GB may be enough but otherwise you should consider 64 GB as a minimum.

Oneplus 9 Pro smartphone

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Advanced phones – especially those that can record high-quality 4K video – offer capacities of 256 GB or more. With so much space, you hardly have to think twice about having to clean out old files.

If your phone supports microSD card then that is another matter as you can download 32GB microSD card (or larger) for very little money these days and putting one into your phone will dramatically increase the amount of storage space , you have access to.

Bonus features

Many of these features are now common on phones at different price ranges and are worth keeping in mind when shopping.

  • Fingerprint scanner or face lock: A scanner can be on the back or even invisibly built into the screen. Biometric security, as it is called, is more secure than having to remember a PIN.
  • Waterproof: Do you often receive calls in the rain? Look for a phone with at least an IP67 rating to protect it from water and spilled beverages.
  • Wireless charging: This is available on many phones, some now offering faster wireless charging speeds as long as you use a compatible charging pad.