Modern smartphones are less like the home phones we grew up with and more like mini computers you keep in your pocket. You can use them to email, surf the web, shop online, download apps, watch films and TV shows, play games, do your online banking... the list goes on.
But before you do any of that, you need to buy the right smartphone for you. And that’s where we come in.
In this guide we’ll run you through the basics you need to know when buying your first smartphone, from what kind of camera you want, the best operating system for your needs, how much you want to spend and what kind of accessories you might want.
Ready? Then let’s begin.
iPhone or Android?
These two operating systems have divided mobile phone fans all over the world. Which is better, Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android?
In truth, it really depends on which you are used to. They largely work the same, with a series of homepages showing your apps arranged in a colourful, tile-based grid.
When one comes up with a new feature (like dark mode, which makes all your apps easier on the eye when viewed at night, to ease eye strain and help you sleep), the other promptly implements something very similar, so you can rest assured you won’t be left behind.
The main issue is software updates, which bring you the latest features. Google’s Android runs on hundreds of models of phone, which makes sending out software updates a bit of a challenge. So some models might not get the latest features until months after others.
The exception? Google’s Pixel range of Android phones. Because they’re made by Google (who makes Android), they’re the first to get new updates.
There are far fewer models of iPhone than Android phones, and they’re all made by Apple, so updates roll out quicker.
If you want to make sure you’re first to get the latest features, buy an iPhone, or one of Google’s Pixel Android devices.
How many cameras?
Smartphones generally have a minimum of two cameras: one rear camera for general photography and video, and one front-facing for selfies and video calls.
But if you see a phone marketed as ‘dual camera’ or even ‘triple camera’, it means it has two or three cameras respectively on its back.
What’s the point of that? you might ask. Different lenses serve different purposes. A wide-angle lens will be great for panoramic snaps, while a telephoto will let you zoom in from a great distance.
So the more rear lenses a phone has, the more shooting options you will have, and the better your photos will come out.
Smartphones are so versatile you really don’t need many accessories. But you’ll want to know that the ones you do want are available to you.
You’ll want a decent selection of cases, for example, so you can keep your phone safe while helping it look its best.
The most popular models of phone have the most accessories, giving you the best choice. These are Apple iPhones, Samsung Galaxy handsets and Google Pixel phones.
Of course, it could be that your LG, Motorola or Huawei phone of choice has a case that fits the bill perfectly. But do your research before you buy, so you’re not left with a smartphone inside a case that either a) doesn’t protect it well enough, or b) you don’t like the look of.
Now you know what to consider, what are some of the best phones available right now?
Premium performance at cut-price cost: iPhone SE
If you want an iPhone without a hefty price tag, the new iPhone SE is for you. It has the same engine as the much pricier iPhone 11, but in a smaller package.
There are some compromises. The SE’s 4.7-inch screen is much smaller than the iPhone 11’s 6.1-inch, so games and films won’t look quite as stunning. But many will find the smaller size easier to handle.
It also only has one rear camera, so won’t give you quite as much photographic power as its more expensive stablemate. But with a saving of over £300, that’s a sacrifice many will be happy to make.
See the best iPhone SE deals.
Into the midrange: Samsung Galaxy A51
With a super bright 6.5-inch screen, four rear cameras and a gargantuan battery, it’s hard to believe the Galaxy A51 is a mid-range phone. But it is, sitting just below Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S range.
It’ll run all the apps you need, last you all day, and it takes memory cards if you need more space for games and films. What else could you ask for?
See the best Samsung Galaxy A51 deals.
Hitting the high-end: Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus 5G
If you want the best of the best, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus 5G is for you. It has a huge 6.7-inch screen, tons of power and one of the best cameras around. Four of them, in fact.
It also has 5G, which gives you super speedy web browsing and download speeds where available.
It’s not cheap, but then this level of quality rarely is.
See the best Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus 5G deals.
Replace your camera: Honor 20 Pro
The Honor 20 Pro is the phone to replace your camera. It boasts four rear cameras, giving you unbelievable snaps that look like a pro’s.
Image stabilisation makes blur a thing of the past, while its low-light performance is fantastic for after-hours shots.
Away from the camera, it has a speedy processor, all-day battery life, and Android is one of the easiest to use operating systems around.
See the best Honor 20 Pro deals.
Or go retro: Nokia 3310
If that’s all a bit much for you, you could always go old school with a retro-tastic Nokia.
The 3310 is the classic handset we all remember, complete with the iconic Snake game that was the talk of the classroom in the late 90s.
It’s a feature phone, so is less advanced than the other handsets here, but you can still surf the web and send text messages. Just don’t expect the latest apps and games.
But it’s cheap as anything. And with a battery that’ll last a whopping 25 days, there’s a lot more to it than just retro charm.
*Read our Nokia 3310 review.