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  • Writer's pictureMark McCluskey

6 Steps to pick and buy the right phone

Updated: Jul 27, 2020

Picking the right phone is a big investment, and no matter what your preferences there are a series of simple steps everyone should consider when picking the right phone.

No 1. Apple Vs Android

Normally the first question most people ask themselves is what type of phone do I want? Whilst there are other options asides from Apple and Android these account for the majority of choices available to most people and businesses, with modern Huawei phones also now not able to use Android and using their own Harmony operating system instead. Apple comes with the IOS operating system and there are many choices of phones using Googles Android operating system including Samsung, Huawei, Sony and Google Pixel to name a few. This decision largely comes down to preference and also the phone you are switching from, if you move from IOS to Android or vice versa you will be able to take all your contacts and photos/videos etc but any paid for app's won't transfer between the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store which is a consideration if you've paid for a lot of apps in the past.

The main benefit of Android is the ability to customise features within your phone to suit your needs whist the main benefit of IOS is the fact that with so few phones using the operating system most app developers will create a better experience with less variables to consider when creating them. There is also some argument that security is better on IOS but that by no means should imply that Android has weak security or that IOS is users don't need to worry but this fact alone can sway some peoples choice.

No 2. Picking the right Phone

Once you have settled on Apple Vs Android you now need to pick the device you want. The budget you've set for yourself will play a big part in this but there are some other key considerations too

  • The latest model vs last years device - new devices will be released every year from most manufacturers and generally they will fall into one of four categories based on price (Premium, high end, mid range and budget). However its worth noting that last years premium will become this years high end or mid range phone and you are still going to get a lot of phone for your money here so should don't count these out quickly, even for those of you who are looking for the latest tech

  • Refurbished phone vs new - there are so many options now to buy refurbished phones that some great deals can be found. Don't let refurbished put you off, these could be phones that have been purchased and returned within a 14 day period as another customer has changed their mind or even phones that have been upgraded early. In any case if you buy from a reputable brand you can great deals on the latest devices that will have met quality checks to ensure the phones come to you in a high standard

  • Camera - the camera quality is still one of the reasons someone will pick one device over another and its easy to get confused here, but generally speaking you need to look at the megapixels, the zoom features and the video quality to get a sense for how good the camera is

  • Single SIM vs Dual SIM - the option to have more than one SIM in your device at once can be a great feature if you use a phone for business and personal use and you want to use two separate numbers or if you go abroad and want to buy a local SIM card to top up for cheap data whilst roaming

  • 5G compatible - with the launch of 5G (and even if you don't opt for a 5G data package) having a phone that can run 5G at some point in the future will help you future-proof your device so it will last longer and you won't need to update for many years to come

No 3. Which Network

Once you have picked out the phone you want you then need to pick the network you're going to use the device on. Each network will have its own differentiated value that it tries to offer customers, whether that be perks, price or range of other products and services available but the key factors to consider here are the quality of the signal in areas you are likely to use the network and the customer service you will experience should you need it. For the former, most networks will let you check their coverage in your home or work location via their website and by and large most networks have pretty good coverage but there are always going to be areas they have blind spots. Its also important to remember the name of the network you buy from does not necessarily mean the network you will be using. To give an example the term Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) basically means that the company offering the phone package does not run their own network but buys access to a network in a wholesale agreement. For customers this does not really matter, what does matter is the network they are buying the service from as normally in most countries there are only a handful of networks at most and the packages you might get from your Cable or Satellite provider are using other networks to run their devices which is worth considering if you've had a bad experience with that network in the past.

No 4. How much are you willing to pay and when

Its important to set a budget when you are selecting your device and also comparing the various offers available. Here the main things to consider are:

  • Total Contract Value (TCV) - in short this is 'the monthly payment' X 'the total number of months of the contract' + 'the amount you pay up front or at the end of the contract'. Its common for most phone packages to run over a two year period but more options are now available to spread payments over longer or shorter periods of time and should be factored into any purchase decision

  • Package deal vs create your own - it's often cheaper to buy the phone outright directly from a retail outlet such as Amazon then take a sim only contract over a 12 month period which can provide you the best value for money vs buying the phone with a data package where networks will often charge more for the data that they would charge you for a sim only deal

  • Trade in your old phone - most networks and retailers will offer you a price to trade in your old phone which you can save off the cost of your new phone. Its worth noting you might get a better price listing your old device and selling it on eBay but that is much more effort and more often than not your old phone will end up sitting in a drawer reducing in value month after month so you are better to get rid of it as soon as you can

  • Pay Monthly Vs Pay As You Go - if you don't want to be tied to a contract in any way you can opt for a 'Pay As You Go' (PAYG) option which will give you a lot of flexibility. You can take a 30 day sim only 'contract' which will be similar to a PAYG in that you are not tied into a contract for more than a month, alternatively many PAYG options come with a 'reoccurring top up' option whereby you get rewarded for topping up every month with cheaper data or perks. Ultimately you need to weigh up your preference here but if you are willing to sign up to a contract you are more likely to get a better deal as most operators are keen to get as many customers onto a subscription package as possible

  • When you buy - whilst you are almost always going to be able to find some form of deal, during Christmas, January Sale, Summer Sale and Black Friday/Cyber Monday there will almost always be deals to be found that are better than the rest of the year. Also most manufacturers run a similar cycle each year e.g new iPhone in September so if you want a new iPhone in August you might want to wait a month and either get the latest device or last years model at a reduced price.

No 5. The package and added Extra's

When considering the package you go for there are going to be lots of options and extras to choose from but don't let this distract you from what you really need. These might be placed alongside higher value tariffs to encourage you to take a bigger data package that you might actually require or be used as a tool to encourage you to refrain from leaving a network at the end of you contract. As long as you are clear what you need these options can bring you a lot of benefits if you choose the right deal.

  • Data - most phones give you the ability to check your data usage (and most networks will have an app you can install that tells you the same). Its worth checking this to get an idea of how much data you are actually using to determine how much you are going to need going forward. Generally data usage does grow over time but most people won't need much more than 5-10GB each month to give them more than enough for their needs (just don't forget to connect your phone to your home WiFi to keep your mobile data usage down)

  • Minutes and Text - unless you opt for a very low price point per month most packages will come with a high number or unlimited number of minutes and texts to make calls but like data its worth checking on your phone as to what you actually use if you are going for a low monthly price point

  • International Calls - if you call abroad often, the cheapest way is probably to use an app to make a call using data for free (and over WiFi) such a WhatsApp, however if you do need to call landlines or businesses abroad there will be lots of packages that come with international minutes that allow you to do this at a better rate than if you use 'out of bundle' options

  • Roaming - similar to international calls, there will be roaming options for selected destinations included with some packages, if you travel to certain international destinations a lot then this can really help keep costs down. Don't forget if you are travelling within the EU currently EU law no longer allows you to be charged for roaming between EU countries so you don't need to worry about that.

  • 5G - if your phone can run at 5G speeds this could be an option for you, but unless you need the speed for working on the go and tethering your laptop/tablet to your phone or gaming then its probably not worth paying extra for this service. Eventually most networks will probably give you this speed for free at some point in the future

  • Free 'Gifts' - this could be as simple as a free accessory or potentially something like a six month subscription to a service such as a streaming or games package etc. If this is something you value and think you will use then it can be a nice extra and reason to choose one network or device over another but don't let this sway your decision if its not something you are likely to use. Also if you already have the streaming service and this is offered it could be worth factoring this into the TCV as a six month subscription to Amazon Prime or Netflix which you won't have to pay for six months is basically money saved.

No 6. Where to Buy

Lastly you need to consider where to buy your device and package from which there are basically four options:

  1. Direct from the Network/Carrier - networks want nothing more than to sell you a phone on a monthly subscription and will almost always have a number of great deals to choose from at any point in the year

  2. Retail Partners - you can buy contracts and packages from lots of places, often at cheaper prices than you could if you went directly to the networks. Not all networks will open up their products to partners but Amazon will have options for most networks, and pay monthly contracts can be purchased from a number of high street retailers such as Carphone Warehouse

  3. Direct from Manufacturer - Most manufacturers (Apple, Samsung, Sony etc) will sell their own products in their retail / online stores and whilst they won't all have the option to bundle with a contract they should be able to give you a good deal on the phone if you buy outright or even offer financing to spread the payments as well as some form of trade in scheme for your old phone

  4. A combination of the above - you could buy your device from one place and your sim only airtime package from another, if the TCV benefits make sense it could be worth a little extra effort to pull together the best deal for you.

Happy Shopping.


Some Popular Phone Options Direct from Amazon (Apple and Android)


High End



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