Finding the perfect smartphone can be tricky. There are so many on the market, from hugely expensive flagships from companies foreign and domestic, plus mid-range options, budget phones and everything in between. Even if you spend time doing research and getting to know the best options, a few months or years later, everything can have changed! That’s why we’ve written this article, designed to give you up-to-date recommendations plus an easier way to find the smartphone that’s right for you.
1st decision: Price
The most important factor when deciding on a phone is setting a budget. Generally, flagship phones will cost anywhere from £500 to over £1000, depending on who makes them and how many special features they have. Mid-range phones are in the £200 to £500 range, from upgraded budget models to remakes of last year’s flagships. Finally, budget phones are anything at that sub-£200 price point. By setting a price early, you’ll immediately eliminate a ton of phones.
2nd decision: Android or iPhone
Next up is that classic argument - Android or iPhone? Android phones are available in vast numbers across a wide range of prices and features, with the best models offering incredible specifications, unique features that haven’t appeared on an iPhone and some of the best cameras. Android itself is also a draw, thanks to its open nature and customisability. However, the wide range of Android phones means that the experience can be vastly different between models, which might mean there’s a short relearning period before you really get to grips with a new phone.
Meanwhile, iPhones are different: they’re made only by Apple, so they’re tightly integrated with iOS software and everything just works. Apps and games often appear on iPhone before anywhere else, and iPhone cameras are legendary. Apple are rarely first to a specific feature, but their implementation is almost always excellent - like Face ID, the hands-free login system that works better than any Android equivalent. iPhones tend to occupy the premium end of the market, with only older models available at mid-range prices and no real budget models.
3rd decision: How important is the camera?
On modern smartphones at the mid-range and above, cameras range from “fine” to “insanely great”. There are almost no phones nowadays that can’t take a decent photo, particularly in good light, so occasional photo-takers are well accommodated almost everywhere. However, the best cameraphones are still able to set themselves apart through big sensors, excellent processing and special features.
All iPhone models since the iPhone 8 include excellent cameras, so you can’t go too far wrong there - and the more expensive models include multiple rear cameras that allow a nice depth-of-field portrait effect which you may use a few times before forgetting it exists.
On Android, the best cameras belong to the flagship phones from three brands: Google, Huawei and Samsung. The Google Pixel, particularly the new Pixel 3, uses a single camera but manages to do amazing things with Google’s AI-driven software, including amazing low-light photography and automatically stabilised video. The Pixel 3 is lauded as the best smartphone camera, so it’s a strong choice if photography is a big part of using a smartphone for you. Huawei have also made their mark recently, especially with the triple-camera setup on the rear of the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro which allows for telephoto and wide-angle shots. Finally, the dual rear camera setup on the Galaxy S and Note series has been excellent for the last few years, with a good combination of sensor, processing and camera app working together to produce consistently good results.
If having a good camera is important to you, choosing one of these high-end phones makes sense. At the budget and mid-range end of the market, you could also check out phones from Nokia and OnePlus.
4th decision: Going last-gen and/or used
Of course, phones released in 2018 aren’t the only options - you’ll also find that plenty of people have upgraded to new models, leaving their perfectly good 2016 or 2017 phones without a purpose. That can make picking up a used phone a great deal, as you get features and performance that were state-of-the-art just a year or two ago at a price that’s far more reasonable. You can find used and refurbished phones on giffgaff’s used marketplace - or sell your own old phone with giffgaff so you can afford a better new model. If you don’t want to try a used phone, you can also just get an older phone that’s still new from giffgaff; we recommend looking at the iPhone 8, Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung Galaxy Note 8 or the Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact.
Is there a better way?
Of course, that still leaves a lot of potential phones to consider and this blog will go out of date in just a few months - so is there a better way? We reckon there is:
giffgaff phone finder
For another way of finding the phone that’s perfect for you, why not try the giffgaff phone finder? Answer a short series of simple questions - like choosing between a basic phone, an all-singing, all-dancing one or something in the middle - and at the end you’ll be given a customised recommendation from the digital boffins at giffgaff HQ. We update the algorithm frequently, so that we’re always recommending the best phones on the market.
If you don’t like the recommendations that you’ve been given, you can easily go back and change some of your answers to see what other phones you might like. Once you’ve picked a phone, you’ll see exactly how much it is to pay per month or buy outright, and you’ll be also recommended a goodybag from giffgaff that’ll complement it well - if you want it! It’s good fun, and you could well find your next smartphone in just a minute or two!Help me choose
I went through the process myself and the phone finder suggested exactly the phone that I ended up buying just a few weeks ago, the Galaxy S9+, as well as two other likely candidates. Give it a try yourself and see what you think - and if you get a particularly good (or bad!) recommendation, why not let us know? You can reach me on Twitter @wsjudd or send me a private message via my giffgaff profile.
Title image credit: Justin Tse on YouTube