We’re living in the golden age of technology, which means there’s more
choice than ever when it comes to choosing a mobile phone. But that huge amount of choice
can sometimes seem overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. So, here is your ultimate
guide to buying a new phone.
What To Look For When Buying A Mobile Phone
The best way to start is to make a list of your must-haves,
nice-to-haves and budget. Do you need a bigger screen so it’s easier to read or play games?
Or do you want something small so it can fit in the pocket of your jeans?
“Making a shortlist of features that are really important to you is a good idea because that
will help narrow your search,” says John Wong, Mobile Buyer at The Good Guys. “Are you a
tradie or outdoor adventurer who needs a rugged, waterproof phone with an extra durable
screen? Or are you a very careful person or someone who just uses their phone for
emergencies? Do you love capturing video and need a top-notch camera? Answering questions
like these will help you zero in on the models that best deliver for your needs.”
Types Of Mobile Phones
Next, you need to ask yourself: what kind of operating
system do you prefer? There are two main operating systems to choose from, and while they’re
pretty similar in a lot of ways, the way they operate and a lot of the features can be quite
different. Keep in mind that it’s pretty easy to change between the two, so you’re never
locking yourself in, aside from any apps purchased, which might not move over.
Android offers the most choice of handsets and price points, and is a much more open system.
There are a lot of customisation options in the operating system, and if you’re techy and
inclined to code, you can really make it your own. Or, if you’re not very tech-savvy, you
can keep it how it comes. Android users are generally on the cutting edge of technology and
get new features first.
iOS is the Apple iPhone operating system, and is the most popular in Australia. The beauty of
it being a more closed system, with apps only available from the official App Store, is that
it’s much safer and easier to navigate. There are plenty of customisation options still, but
most iPhones generally operate in exactly the same way, which makes it easier to get support
and grasp new features. iPhones get all the latest and greatest features after they’ve been
perfected, so iPhones always “just work”.
What shape would you like your phone to be? For a long time, your
answer to that question didn’t really matter, you were going to get a glass rectangle either
way. But now you can have your traditional smartphone glass rectangle, a more traditional
candy bar feature phone with buttons like it’s 2003, or a phone with a folding glass screen.
“Phones are extremely personal devices, and you want to make sure you get one that matches
your style,” says John Wong.
Thanks to advancements in touch screen technology, most phones have
very little bezel around the screen. A bigger screen is better if you’re going to be using
your phone to watch a lot of videos, or if you find it easier to read larger text. But at
the same time you need to trade off with how much pocket and/or bag space you have. There
are smaller phones with all the power of the big screened behemoths, but in a form that’s
more friendly to smaller hands and pockets. On the other end of the spectrum, there are
phones that boast a large screen, which make them perfect for entertainment. Meanwhile,
folding phones strike the perfect balance of being small enough to fit into a pair of
women’s jeans, yet fold out to have a huge screen when you need it.
When it comes to mobile audio, you need to consider how you’re going
to use the phone. Are you mostly going to be listening to music out and about on Bluetooth
headphones? Are you still rocking wired headphones? Or are you planning on watching a lot of
videos at home without headphones? If you’re sticking with Bluetooth, you can really get
any smartphone that tickles your fancy, because they all have Bluetooth and the quality will
largely be determined by your headphones and audio source. There are more limitations if
you want a 3.5mm headphone jack. Almost all phones will be able to take an adapter to allow
wired headphones, but there are some that still sport a traditional headphone jack. If
you’re listening to videos out loud at home, then a phone that synthesises Dolby Atmos using
psychoacoustics and well-designed speakers is the order of the day. All the big brand
flagship phones have spectacular speakers that have to be heard to be believed.
These days, there are cameras in phones that rival fancy DSLRs. The
adage has always been that the best camera is the one you have with you, and you’ll want to
be prepared to capture the special moments in life. This is a situation where you really get
what you pay for; the more expensive the phone, the more fancy the camera sensors and
lenses, getting you up to 8K footage with wide, ultra-wide and macro lenses. If you know
photography, you’ll know what you want. If you aren’t a photography expert, most phones
will have great auto modes that handle it all for you, so all you have to do is point and
“A bigger screen is better if you’re going to be
your phone to watch a lot of videos, or if you find it easier to read larger text. But at the
same time you need to trade off with how much pocket and/or bag space you have.” - John Wong,
Mobile at The Good Guys.
This feature is key, but there are trade-offs. If you want a
super-long battery life and a bright screen that displays all the bells and whistles, you’re
going to need a phone closer to the top of the range. If you’re ok with carrying around a
small battery pack, or turning down the brightness, then you can get a lot more out of the
battery. John Wong says: “Battery life is important, whether you’re a heavy user trying
to get through the day, or a hiker going a few days between power points. There’s a lot of
factors that go into battery life, so while looking at how much the battery can hold (the
mAh number) is a good place to start, it’s important to look at tests and reviews, or ask
someone in-store.” But, if you find a phone you love, even if the battery life isn’t
perfect, there’s always plenty of battery cases and battery packs out there that can keep
you going for up to a week.
Phones are electrical devices, covered in glass, so while there have
been a lot of advancements in durability, you should still try to keep them dry and
undropped. That said, accidents happen, and the vast majority of us drop our phones at least
once a year. If you’re likely to take your phone to the beach, or get it wet, then look
for the IP rating. A number like IP68 shows the dustproof rating (6) and waterproof rating
(8), and higher numbers are better. But keep in mind that the water rating is only for fresh
water, not chlorinated or salt. If you’re a tradie or hiker, it’s best to get the most
protective screen protector and case available for your model phone. Ask in-store for more
Reception and Coverage
Once you have the perfect phone, you’ll also need the right plan. The
Good Guys has partnered with Telstra to provide the best plans, with the best coverage and
service. Telstra has the best coverage in Australia, covering 99.2 per cent of the
population, and has the most robust 5G network in the country. The difference
between 4G and
5G is about network speed – 5G is much, much faster, probably faster than your home internet
(unless you’re very lucky), so keep that in mind if speed is important to you.
There are so many accessories to suit every lifestyle. “A case and a
screen protector are great accessories to get at the time of purchase, because they protect
your phone from bumps and drops, and allow you to better match the phone to your personal
style,” says John Wong. You might also want to consider getting a smartwatch. Both Apple
and Samsung have their own smartwatches, which complement their phones perfectly, but there
are also dozens of other smart wearables to check out, to find what’s right for you.
There really is a phone out there to suit every budget, from $99 all
the way up to $1999. It just comes down to the features you need, and what you want to pay.
Buying Outright vs Contract
Buying your phone outright gives you peace of mind, knowing that it’s
yours from day one. Opting for a contract allows you to pay it off over 24 or 36 months, and
you’ll pay roughly the same cost. It’s just up to you which method better suits your budget
and lifestyle. You really can’t go wrong with the excellent crop of smartphones currently
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