“Which new phone should I buy?”, is the question I get asked the most by friends and family. The people closest to me aren’t super tech-savvy and get overwhelmed by the number of smartphones available, making it hard to figure out which one is right for them. And it’s not just my family and friends, it’s a legitimate question for many.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. By following the four steps shared in this post, buying a new phone becomes a lot less stressful and time-consuming. However, you still have to put in a little bit of time and effort in order to find the perfect handset for your needs.
Step one: Narrow down your options
Step number one is to narrow down your options from the hundreds of phones available to just a few. Don’t worry, it’s easier than you think. The first thing to do is set a budget and stick to it. This means phones that cost more than what you’re willing to spend are out of the picture. So if your budget is $400, forget about high-end devices like the Galaxy S10 Plus, OnePlus 7 Pro, and others.
The next step is to decide which features are important to you and which ones you’re willing to live without. If you don’t have a $1,000 to spend, you’ll have to make a few compromises. There’s no way around it. So, if you travel a lot, you may want a phone with a great camera and a large battery. If you watch a lot of videos, a phone with a large high-resolution display is the way to go. Other dealbreakers may include a headphone jack, a pop-up camera, and stereo front-facing speaker, just to name a few. The way to go about it is to make a list of the features you want in your new phone, starting with the most important one.
Don't buy a flagship if all you do is make a few calls per day and send a couple of texts every now and then.
Make sure you really think about how you use your phone and what is it that you actually need. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is buying too much phone. If all you do is make a few calls per day, send a couple of texts every now and then, and check Facebook and other social media account on your lunch break, buying an expensive flagship like the Galaxy Note 9 is a waste of money. It’s the equivalent of buying a Ferrari and then driving it a few miles down to the grocery store once or twice per week. It’ll get the job done, but it’s overkill.
Once you’ve set a budget and wrote down the features that matter to you, do some research online and find the phones that fit your needs. We have a lot of great posts on our website that can help you with that, including a number of best lists you can check out here.
Let’s take a look at an example or two. If you have a budget of $400 and your priority is camera quality and a clean software experience, but you don’t care much about raw power, a phone like the Google Pixel 3a is probably what you want. But if you want as much power as possible and perhaps even features like expandable storage, but you don’t as care much about the camera or the software experience, the Pocophone F1 with its Snapdragon 845 chipset could be for you.
These are very simplified examples. In most cases, you’ll come up with five or maybe even 10 phones that will fit your criteria. That’s OK — you’ll eliminate a few more in the steps to come.
Step two: Get an expert’s take
So, you now probably have up to 10 phones on your shortlist. Great stuff. Now it’s time to eliminate a few more.
The best way to do it is to see what experts think about the phones you’re interested in via phone reviews on sites like Android Authority. You want to hear the good as well as the bad qualities of the phones on your shortlist, which will help you make your purchase decision. Knowledge is key here!
For example, you may want to get the LG G8 ThinQ over the Galaxy S10 because of its Z camera, which can map out the veins in your palm, and lets you take a screenshot or open an app with hand gestures, all without touching the screen. I wouldn’t blame you — the technology sounds out of this world on paper. But if you read our review of the LG G8, you’ll learn that these features are extremely slow, inaccurate, and dare we say it, gimmicky.
Reviews will help you separate the wheat from the chaff. Knowledge is key!
Or perhaps you really want last year’s Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro, mainly because of its in-display fingerprint scanner you don’t get with rival phones in the same price range. But again, if you read our review, you’ll learn that the scanner is basically useless, as it only works around 40 percent of the time.
So, again, make sure to read what the experts say and don’t get caught up in all the marketing mumbo jumbo from phone makers. They want you to believe that all their latest features are the best thing since sliced bread, even though some of them are nothing more than gimmicks. And unless you get an expert’s take, you won’t be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Step three: Go hands-on
The next step is to go hands-on, which means popping down to your local electronics store and testing out the few phones that are on your shortlist. You want to check what the phones look like in person, as the images shared by manufacturers are often misleading. You also want to check how sturdy the phones feel in the hand, check the difference between different materials used (glass, metal, and plastic), and so on.
Size is also important. Bigger is better when watching videos, but a large footprint also means it’s harder to use a phone in one hand and carry it around in your pocket. Again, you’ll always have to make a few compromises, no matter how you look at it.
Also, make sure to turn on the device you’re interested in and try out a few features, test how responsive it is, and take a few pictures. Play around with it until you get a good idea of what the overall experience is like.
Going hands-on will let you separate the good from the bad and help decide exactly which phone on your shortlist you should go with. If two or more devices are neck and neck, just go with the cheapest one or listen to your gut.
Step four: Time your purchase and shop around
Once you find the right phone for you, don’t just go ahead and buy it at the first store you walk into. A little bit of research could save you hundreds of dollars, as prices can differ a lot from retailer to retailer.
Go online and check prices on Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, Newegg, the manufacturer’s website, and as many other retailers as possible. You may be surprised by the results. For example, at the time of writing, the unlocked Sony Xperia XZ3 is listed at around $490 on Amazon, while Best Buy selling it for $600. That’s a $110 difference!
Read next — Samsung Galaxy Note 10: What we expect
Also, make sure you time your purchase. If you’re looking at a new phone that hasn’t yet been released, the best thing to do is pre-order it to get a great deal — most manufacturers offer free goodies including microSD cards, headphones, and VR headsets during the pre-order period. The worst time to buy a phone is right after it officially goes on sale, as that’s when the price is the highest. And although some phones are rarely on sale, including those from OnePlus and Google, a few manufacturers offer substantial discounts as early as a few weeks after the launch date. We’re talking about hundreds of dollars here! We’ve seen this happen with LG, Sony, and many other devices.
If you’re looking to get a slightly older phone, do some research and check out when its successor is going to be announced and released. As soon as that happens, that phone could get a big discount.
So to save money, you shouldn’t rush buying a new phone. Take some time, do your research, check out deals, and you just may be rewarded with savings you can then spend on beer, pizza, or accessories for your new handset.
Other tips and tricks you should know
There are a few other tips and tricks you should keep in mind when buying a new phone. First of all, don’t be afraid to get a phone from a different manufacturer than you’re used to. Consider different brands, from well-known ones such as LG, Google, and Samsung, to those you may not be as familiar with including Xiaomi.
Just because you may not know much about a certain company doesn’t mean it makes bad phones. As already mentioned, you can quickly figure out whether a certain phone sucks or not by reading reviews. And don’t assume that just because a device is made by the large tech giant that it’s without faults. For example, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro had issues with the display, various LG phones had bootloop problems, and the Galaxy Note 7 was a fire hazard.
Consider an older, used, or refurbished phone to save money.
Also, don’t just go for the latest phones out there. Sometimes a year-old or even a two-year-old device might give you everything you need and more for half the price of the latest model. A lot of the time the latest versions of phones are only minor upgrades over their predecessors but cost a lot more.
If a good deal is what you want, a refurbished or even a used phone may be for you. But when buying used, you should take your time and follow a few tips, which you can check out in our dedicated post here.
And let’s not forget about software. If you want to get the latest version of Android as soon as possible, you’ll have to go with a Google Pixel phone or perhaps even an Android One device. OnePlus is also great at shipping out updates fast. HTC and LG aren’t the best, as is the case for many lesser-known Chinese manufacturers — learn more here.
There you have it — these are some of the tips and trick you should have in mind when buying a new phone. Do you have any ideas of your own? Share them with us in the comments below! We always love hearing from you guys.