Making smart choices about mobile phones

Buying a new mobile phone is an exciting time, but it can also be a confusing one.  It’s easy to be swept away with all the hype surrounding the launch of a new smartphone but, as there are so many features on each phone, how do you decide which one to opt for?

In addition, many of us don’t want an all-singing, all-dancing device.  We just want a mobile that is easy to use and, shock, horror, just want to make phone calls rather than stream movies and tweet about our holidays.

Samsung S7

Samsung S7

Others will choose a phone more for its durability than its myriad features.  If you are working on a building site a delicate smartphone is the last thing you need.

All of us then look for something different in a phone.  In this article we will look at the different types of phones, the features they have and the advantages or disadvantages each device enjoys over its rivals.

Hopefully, if you are in the market for a new mobile, we can help you narrow down your search and find your ideal phone.

Basic Mobile Phones

Basic mobiles appeal to those of us who just want a phone rather than all the bells and whistles which come with a smartphone.  They are also ideal for those looking for a secondary device to use on holiday or at work.  These phones can make and receive calls and text messages and that is more or less it.

Doro 5030

Doro 5030

They will have a few basic features such as a calculator, alarm clock and address book but will not be able to access the internet or perform the 1001 other tasks that a smartphone can.

Big Button Mobile Phones

Ideal for elderly, hard of hearing and partially sighted users big button phones are an oversized version of a basic mobile.  Most are compatible with hearing aids (look for those rated M3/T3 or higher) but all feature outsized characters and buttons along with large, clear displays.

Ergonomically designed for maximum comfort the large display can also help prevent eye-strain.  All these features make big button phones very easy to use.

An additional function found on some phones is an emergency SOS button.  When pressed this button alerts pre-chosen contacts to warn them that the user has a problem.

Rugged Phones

Tradesmen, construction workers and outdoor sports enthusiasts will need a phone which can withstand being banged about and is able to endure the harshest conditions.  Rugged phones fit the bill.

rugged mobile phone

They all have different specifications, so read each products description carefully, but typically they will be designed with toughened screens and durable bodies to survive the kind of drops and knocks that would put most smartphones out of action.  Many can also operate normally in extreme temperatures, are immune to dust and are fully waterproof.

All this makes them the ideal phone whether the user is a builder or riding a quadbike through desert terrain.


Ask most people if you could take their smartphone off them for a day and you would be greeted with looks of incredulous horror followed by them making a swift exit screaming at the top of their voice.

trio using smartphones

Smartphones have, undoubtedly, become an indispensable adjunct to modern living.  We use them for everything from updating our social media status, to booking a restaurant and buying train tickets.  Just occasionally they are used for making phone calls!

So, what is a smartphone?

In essence a smartphone is a mobile phone with an operating system and access to the internet.  This allows it to become a pocket sized computer; but one that is able to make phone calls.

The operating system varies on each device but will usually be Android, iOS (Apple), Blackberry or Windows (Microsoft) platforms, but more on this shortly.

A smartphone will also have a much larger and higher quality screen than a basic mobile and it is this screen which enables users to browse the internet and enjoy rich media such as music, movies and photos.

These phones are packed with advanced features including personal organisers, music players and very high-quality cameras.  These features can be extended by downloading any of the, literally, hundreds of thousands of apps.

smartphone app screen

With the incredible variety of apps, both free and paid, which are available it is easy to see why so many people find their smartphone indispensable.

As just a flavour of how apps can expand the capabilities of a phone users can now send text messages abroad for free with WhatsApp, share photos with friends via Snapchat and access work emails with Outlook.

Users can even get Sat Nav style turn-by-turn directions with Waze or pay for goods and services just like a contactless card with Paypal or Samsung Wallet.

Dual-SIM phones

These phones are becoming more popular especially with business users and other professionals.  As the name implies these models have two SIM cards.  This allows the user to have both a personal and business number on the same phone; no more having to walk around with two different mobiles in a pocket.

The best dual-SIM phones allow the user to switch seamlessly between the two SIMs but the more basic ones need the user to physically switch between numbers, effectively turning one of the SIMs off.

Choosing your new phone

Before making a decision on which phone to buy it makes sense to compare their features:

SIM Cards

Not exactly a feature but potential buyers need to be aware of the different sizes of SIM cards.  If you haven’t purchased a new phone recently it is probably an accurate assumption your current SIM card is larger than those found in new models.  SIMs will be either standard, micro or nano.

The phones available from are all SIM free to allow the user to choose their own SIM card which is usually available free of charge from the network provider.


The size of the screen is important depending on how you want to use the phone and possibly your budget.  Certainly the smaller the screen the cheaper the phone tends to be.

The smallest smartphones will have a screen of around 4 inches.  If you want to watch movies and browse the web this size of screen will more than likely be insufficient for your needs.

However, if you won’t be surfing the internet, streaming movies and aren’t worried about playing games; then a four inch screen will be more than adequate.

Phones with larger screens of over five inches are much more suited to watching movies, gaming and surfing the net.  Despite their larger size these phones are still perfectly comfortable for most adults to hold and are practical to use as well as offering the ideal viewing area.

There are some models that have screens of six inches which obviously offer advantages when watching movies but they can be hard to handle as they are effectively small tablets.

smartphone user with coffee cup


Before looking at the technology behind the screen it is important to first consider the resolution.  Many phones now offer a full HD screen of 1280×780 or more which is absolutely ideal for catch-up TV, movies and game playing and is particularly impressive on the larger screens.

There are also some Ultra-HD phones on the market though this does seem a little pointless given the lack of available 4K content.

Smaller phones don’t require high definition and 800×480 or above will produce an excellent picture for a screen of between 4” and 4.7”.

Aside from the size and resolution of the screen the technologies used to create the actual display differs between phones.  Typically the purchaser can choose between LCD, Retina and AMOLED displays.  Although (if we are honest) most of us won’t be able to see much difference between each type of screen it is important to understand the options available to us.


Liquid Crystal Display is used for most small to medium screens, typically up to 4.7”.  LCD is a technology that has been around for some years and we are used to seeing it in televisions and computer monitors.  It produces bright colours and sharp images but generally needs a thicker screen as the images are produced by a backlight.

There are variations of standard LCD screens such as TFT (Thin Film Transistor) and IPS (In Plane Switching).  These improve on the standard LCD technology but, of the two, IPS is the better with improved image quality and wider display angles.


Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode is a bit of a mouthful but AMOLED screens are becoming more popular among smartphone manufacturers.  Because these screens don’t need a backlight (the display is made up from polymers that are lit by an electrical current) they can be very thin.  They provide brighter colours than LCD screens and are also more efficient which will help extend battery life.

apple iphone 7

Apple iPhone 7


The basic premise of a retina display screen is it provides more pixels than a human eye can actually see.  This means the pixels are grouped more closely together producing a crisper and more detailed image along with vivid colours.

Manufacturers vary in the density of the pixels used in their retina displays but phones boasting this technology will typically have between 325 to 470 PPI (pixels per inch).


An important consideration when buying a smartphone, but probably one that many of us don’t consider, is the battery.

With all the apps a typical user has running on their phone, added to web surfing and media streaming, the battery needs to be able to cope with an exceptional workload.  It is no use if it only lasts a few hours so a battery which will deliver an all-day performance is essential.

Battery capacity is measured in mAH – the higher the better.  As a helpful guide to those of us who have no idea what a mAH is, manufacturers will often state expected battery life in their product descriptions.

samsung galaxy s8

Samsung Galaxy S8


The processor, otherwise known as the CPU (Central Processing Unit) provides the resources and computing power necessary to run all the apps and features on the phone.  Essentially the better and more powerful the processor the faster the phone will carry out all the tasks it is asked to perform.

When looking at the processor in your preferred phone the basic rule is; the more tasks you want the phone to perform the better the processor needs to be.

Most smartphone users who want to make the most of their devices potential will need a quad core processor.  For less sophisticated use a dual core processor will suffice.

Operating system

As previously mentioned most mobile phones will use either Android, iOS (Apple), Blackberry or Windows (Microsoft) platforms.  To some extend the choice of OS is made for us.

If you want an Apple device than their proprietary iOS system will be included and likewise with Blackberry.  However, other manufacturers will tend to offer ranges of smartphones with either Android or Windows software.

Android is a Google open source product and is by far the more popular of the two.  Constant updates has seen the operating system evolve into a powerful and flexible system which can be found across many devices including phones and tablets.

Windows is, of course, a Microsoft product but its take-up lags far behind that of Android.  However, if you are used to using Windows on your PC or tablet, and most of us will be, the familiarity of a Windows phone may well appeal.

When it comes to apps there is a massive choice on all four platforms.  At the time of writing estimates indicate Android has over 2.8 million apps; Apple 2.2 million, Windows 669,000 and Blackberry 234,000.


There is no doubt the mobile phone has been responsible for a revolution in photography.  More photos are being taken now than ever before and, when we want a photographic memo of an event, we tend to reach for our phone rather than a digital camera.

Because we take so many photos on our photos it is important that we choose one with a good quality camera.  This isn’t difficult.

Many smartphones now are comparable with standalone digital cameras and, as a general rule, anything over 8 megapixels will indicate a good quality camera.

couple taking selfie with smartphone

Of course, another photo phenomenon associated with the mobile phone is the rise of the selfie. If you are a keen selfie taker a front facing camera is essential and most top end phones are now equipped with two cameras though the front-facing one will usually be of a lower specification (less megapixels).


With our reliance on apps and with the amount of time we spend online, reliable and fast connectivity is an absolute must when thinking about a new phone.  All smartphones will have Wi-Fi to connect to the web via a router but 3G allows the phone to wirelessly access a service provider’s network.

It is 3G that enables the phone to not only access the net but also to send texts and make calls and speeds can vary between providers.

smartphone user looking at website

The default technology is now 4G though 3G won’t be switched off any time soon.  When a 4G network is available it provides super-fast connectivity which is ideal for gamers and those who enjoy streaming large media files such as movies.

Other smartphone features to look out for

Micro SD

The storage on a phone isn’t massively important, though 8GB is a good benchmark, as long as the device is able to accept a micro SD card.  These cards can store music, movies and other media and are available from in capacities of up to 128GB.

Bluetooth & NFC

With many of us storing huge libraries of music on our phones, additional wireless connectivity to speakers, headphones and entertainment centres is a must.  Check out each phones product description to ensure it has the latest version of Bluetooth and can connect to wireless speakers and other devices.

Some smartphones will also be equipped with NFC (Near Field Communication) which makes pairing with other gadgets quicker and easier by simply tapping.  NFC can also be used in conjunction with apps to make instant payments at supermarket checkouts.

Wireless charging

Charging our phone is a necessary evil but anything which can make it less of a hassle is to be welcomed.  Wireless charging is a technology being adopted by more manufacturers and is a convenient and easy way to charge a mobile.

No more hunting around for the charging unit and cable, which will be a relief to most of us.  But how does wireless charging work?

Instead of having to plug the phone into a charger it can be simply placed onto a charging pad, which could be the users own or one in a coffee shop or bar, and the phone will automatically begin charging.  This ‘inductive’ process has two industry standards; either QI or PMA.

If a phone is QI or PMA compatible it can be wirelessly charged.  This doesn’t mean it is self-charging but that it can be used in conjunction with a compatible charging pad.

As the technology evolves it is likely these pads will become commonplace with car manufacturers putting them in their vehicles, hotels will have them in each room and they will probably be in most public buildings too.  The days of forgetting the charger and a phone running out of power could be over very soon.


To see the huge range of smartphones available at low prices from Ebuyer, including the latest Samsung and Apple models, click here

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