How To Choose The Best Smartphone!

Are you looking for the best smartphone to meet your needs?  Of course you are!  It's amazing how technology and prices have evolved.  When I first created this page, there were only a small number of no contract carriers offering 4G smartphones phones, and even 3G smartphones before that.LTE 4G  So had I actually created a table that listed every phone by carrier, including all of their specifications.  Fast forward to current day, and virtually every phone available is a smartphone!  Thus, maintaining a list of hundreds of phones across every prepaid carrier became no longer practical nor useful for visitors to this site.

As a result, what you'll find in the table below is a list of key features that I believe you should examine while shopping for the best smartphone to fit your needs and lifestyle.  Note that features like WiFi and Bluetooth are considered all standard, so they're not listed here.  

Feature Commentary
Screen Size
  • Screen size largely infers overall phone size.  How big of a physical phone can you tolerate?  If you're going to keep it in your front or back pocket, a massive phablet could become uncomfortable, and even more likely to get damaged compared to storing it in bag/purse.
  • Keep in mind that all screen sizes aren't the same.  Two smartphones can claim the same size screen (measured as the diagonal length), but can be very different shapes, with one being much longer and narrower vs. shorter and wider.  So physically holding these phones will be important to really get a good feel for how easily it fits in your pocket, and how easy it is to hold and operate one-handed.
Screen Quality
  • The screen can be one of the more expensive components of a smartphone.  So lower price phones often have lower resolution.  That said, don't be fooled either.  There are certain high end resolutions that your eye will not be able to discern, or that you wouldn't otherwise notice the difference unless it's sitting next to something better.
  • But be cautious here; many low and even mid-tier phones have pretty poor resolution that you simply won't want to use.  Not only does this impact the visual appearance of text and graphics, but can also affect its responsiveness when tapping or typing/swiping.
Camera Quality
  • This is another area where manufacturers can save money.  You'll want to look at the megapixels (MPs) of both the front and rear cameras.  If you take a lot of videos or pictures, this could be one of the key decision making features!
  • You'll want to think about what you're using the phone for; taking videos and pictures of others, or yourself (i.e. selfies).
  • Also, MPs is not always the most critical number to compare, as lens quality also plays a role.  So one camera may be 15MPs, but take lower overall quality photos than a 10MP camera from another manufacturer.  So research reviews online, ask friends, and compare in person where possible.
  • Another key point to keep in mind is what are you going to do with your pictures and videos?  If you're going to upload HD videos to YouTube, you'll have a different perspective on quality than if you mostly upload to Facebook (which reduces the quality).  Same thing for pictures, with the additional consideration regarding whether you'll be printing out physical pictures.
  • Lastly, if you're not going to make use of the higher quality videos/images, you may not want your media to take up so much space on your phone's memory, your Dropbox/Box/iCloud account to which your media is backing up, or even your computer's hard drive.  All that extra resolution and quality results in larger file sizes that you may not even need!  Of course you can reduce the quality in the camera settings.  The key point is all else being equal, just don't pay extra for a better quality camera that you may not take advantage of.
  • How much storage also impacts the price.  Even more importantly, does the smartphone support removable storage (ex. microSD cards)?  If not, the internal storage will be a much greater consideration.  Also note that even when external storage is supported, many apps can't be installed on external media, so your internal memory will still become a limiting factor.
  • Generally speaking, I always recommend getting the most memory that you can either afford, or that is reasonably priced.  For example, for an extra $50, even getting 50% more internal storage is probably worthwhile, however, for another $100, it may not make sense, because you can likely upgrade to a new smartphone in a year, and get a lot more for that $100.  Keep in mind that you'll always end up wanting more storage over time even if you don't think you need it now!
Removable Battery & Size
  • A lot of people love the sleek metallic designs that Apple pioneered with the iPhone, however, with that you lose the ability to carry a spare battery with you, or replace dying batteries after 2-3 years.  If you upgrade your phones regularly, you may not encounter a dying battery, however, even a defective battery (and after your warranty has expired) can be a massive hassle and expense.
  • The battery rating, usually stated in mAh, will tell you how long the batter will last with one charge.  Obviously the larger the better.  So when comparing two similar phones, you'll want the larger battery rating, particularly if you don't want to purchase a spare battery or external battery pack charger/case.
Operating System (OS)
  • For iPhones this really isn't much of a consideration as Apple will upgrade older phones that span back many generations.  You will want to be cautious, though, as some older hardware will become very slow on a newer OS.  Thus, even though Apple offers an upgrade, you may want to avoid it if your phone is working just fine, and is already a couple of generations old.
  • For Android, it's a different story.  I recommend that you purchase a smartphone that has an operation system that you'll be happy with.  If you're really wanting the latest OS, but the phone you're purchasing comes with the previous version, you'll want to think twice.  Why?  Because it can take literally a year or MORE for the manufacturer (ex. Samsung) to release their version of Google's latest OS.  In addition, they may never release it!
  • Which operating systems (Android vs. iOS vs. Windows) is such a personal decision that I'm not going to get into that here; that's a topic for another page altogether!
  • Processor CPUs are rated in GHz and number of cores (ex. dual core, quad core, octa core).  The higher the number on these, the better.
  • HOWEVER, the software that's running on the phone has a huge impact on performance.  Thus, a lower rated CPU, can perform the same or better if the manufacturer is using an OS that is lean and efficient.
  • That said, the processor won't necessarily be the feature to sway your decision.  Older processors can work perfectly fine, which is why in the PC/laptop world, you can purchase a very inexpensive machine with an older processor and it will work great for normal/common every tasks.  Only graphics intensive applications and gamers may really need the latest technology.  So be savvy here, and don't think that you need to spend more on a smartphone that is otherwise the same in specs, but has a better processor and costs a lot more!
  • There are some amazing off brands that literally have the same features and performance as the mainstream/popular brands, but at a much lower price.  Some of them are simply taking lower profits to try to gain customers, or don't have the brand presence to charge higher prices.  So don't think that you need to have an iPhone or Samsung to have a smartphone that can do everything you need it to do!

Don't believe anyone who presents you with one option as "the best smartphone", as that simply makes no sense at all!  There are clearly a number of variables that play into concluding what is the best option for YOU.  Also, given how many smartphones are available on the market, keep in mind that there is always going to be more than one option that meets all of your needs.

On another note, it has been quite some time since smartphones have largely taken over, though there still are some feature phones still in existence.  As an intellectual exercise, it's interesting to understand what actually defines a smartphone.  You can find that discussion by visiting What is a Smartphone?

Best Smartphone

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