Mobile Phone Buyer's Guide

Mobile Phone Buyer's Guide

Head into any mobile phone shop and it's easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer range of choices. This guide breaks down what you need to look for - and what you can safely overlook.

It's a jungle out there for phone buyers, with 3G, WiFi, touchscreens, GPS, megapixels and music playback to choose from. Here's what to look for.

Phone types

Lightweight Phones If you hate unsightly pocket bulges. You don't even have to skimp on many features, with many models cramming in cameras, music playback and more.

Budget Phones You don't want to put up with multi-year contract, or spending more than on your next PC. May include less features than premium models.

Multimedia Phones You want decent pics, video, and ability to play music on the bus/train. Watch the battery life.

Internet Phones You want faster Web surfing and data for email/IM. Be warned, coverage varies.

GPS Phones You want maps and directions, as you do with in-car GPS.

PDA/"Smart" Phones You want word processing, email, IM and other apps. Big, bulky and powerful.

What to look for

Lightweight Phones
Weight might seem obvious, and no mobile is truly heavy in any real sense, but it pays to have a quick in-shop heft around of any phone. Does it feel light in your hands? Will it fit pockets, purses and pants? Lightweight -- and especially thin -- phones often may omit features to maintain that super-thin look. Does your phone of choice miss out on a camera? External card slots? USB charging? If you’ve got the cash to splash, you don’t have to miss out on features – our example phone, the C902 comes in at a scant 11m thick, but includes HSDPA and a 5.0 megapixel camera.
Example: Sony Ericsson C902

Budget Phones
Any budget phone is a compromise, but not just on features. Most really cheap phones fit in the pre-paid market, and as such many are locked to a single provider. How much will it cost to unlock the phone, and is there a period after which this becomes free? You’re much less likely to find music, decent cameras or any kind of application support on a cheap phone – you may just have to make do with phoning and SMS support, as in our example phone.
Example: Motorola MOTOFONE F3

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