How to choose a phone: 5 things you need to consider

How to choose a phone

With so many great phones from which to choose, deciding how to choose a phone requires asking yourself a few key questions upfront to help narrow down your options.

Before the rise of smartphones, it wasn’t too difficult to decide which mobile phone was the best fit for your needs. These days, modern phones have so many bells and whistles that it’s easy to become overwhelmed.

Establish a rough price range to start narrowing down your options. Even if your needs are basic, $300 to $400 is a good starting point for a brand-new smartphone – below which you risk wandering into cheap and nasty territory.

As you work your way up, there are so many great mid-range smartphones around that it’s difficult to justify spending more than $1,000 unless you really want or need a top-of-the-line model with all the bells and whistles.

Of course, that’s outright pricing, which means you’ll also need to consider the cost of a pre-paid or post-paid phone service. Alternatively, you’ll need to crunch the numbers if you’re looking to pay off a phone on a plan.

Once you know how much you want to spend, here are five main things to consider to help you choose the perfect phone.

Operating system

As competitors like Windows Mobile, Blackberry and Nokia have fallen by the wayside, these days it’s a choice between Apple’s iOS which runs on iPhones and Google’s Android which runs on a wide range of other handsets.

When thinking about how to choose a phone, little separates iOS and Android in terms of usability and advanced features. If you’re simply shopping on price, then you’ll find a wider range of options and more bang for your buck in the Android world. iOS has the upper hand when it comes to security, but Android has improved in recent years.

Apple iPhone iOS17 standby mode
Features are fairly similar across iOS and Android, so the decision largely comes down to your personal preference.

If you’re upgrading from an existing smartphone that you’ve been happy with, it’s usually best to stick with what you know. Especially if you’ve already spent money on apps and accessories which you can transfer across to your new phone.

If you’re buying your first smartphone and you already own an Apple iPad or MacBook then an iPhone is probably a good fit. Alternatively, if you have no allegiances and you’re not overly confident with new technology, consider recommendations from family and friends. If you rely on them for tech support, it might help to have the same operating system. 

Screen size

A big screen lets you see more at once, or bump up the size of the text without sacrificing too much. Big screens are also more immersive when watching videos. The trade-off is that you end up with a big phone, unless you want to spend top dollar on a folding Android phone.

Motorola Razr 40 lilac
Foldable phones, like the Motorola Razr, have big displays that fold in half to more easily fit in your pocket.

If you’ve got small hands, then you probably don’t want to go beyond a 6.1-inch screen (remembering that screen sizes are measured diagonally). The same goes if you’ve got small pockets, unless the phone will live in your bag. Then you can get away with something larger, although you’ll want to protect that screen with a wallet-style case.

Some people opt for a very large screen so they can use it like a smartphone and a tablet, rather than needing to own two devices.


Many smartphones come with a choice of onboard storage, with higher capacities significantly driving up the price. Some phones let you expand the storage with a tiny micro-SD memory card, but this is becoming less common.

If your needs are basic, then you can probably make do with 64 gigabytes (GB) of storage – not to be confused with RAM memory, which is also measured in GB. That 64GB might start to get tight if you download a lot of large applications, take a lot of videos or store a lot of music and movies on your device rather than streaming them from the internet.

The alternative to paying for more onboard storage is taking advantage of cloud storage to offload things when your phone gets full. Services like iCloud and Google Drive let you store a modest amount of data online for free before you need to start paying for additional storage.


Grunt under the bonnet is one of the key differentiators between budget, mid-range and flagship smartphones. It’s dictated by the CPU processor, GPU graphics and RAM memory (not to be confused with storage), but it can be hard to decipher a phone’s spec sheet to understand exactly what you’re getting. 

Thankfully, when you’re thinking about how to choose a phone, performance tends to go hand in hand with the amount of RAM and the price tag. Be wary of spending less than $300, or opting for a phone with only 4GB of RAM, lest it be sluggish for even basic tasks. 

These days, 6 or 8GB of RAM is the sweet spot for a mid-range phone. Stepping up to 16GB of RAM could be overkill unless you tend to push your devices to the limit, such as playing demanding games.


Even if your smartphone needs are simple, if you will rely on it as your primary shooter then you’ll want to give some thought to the quality of the camera.

Once again, it can be hard to decipher a phone’s spec sheet, although a higher price tag generally means better photos. The sharpness of the picture is measured in megapixels (MP), but a higher number isn’t always better because it also comes down to the quality of the pixels and the quality of the lenses.

Samsung Galaxy S23 phones
Devices like the Samsung Galaxy and Google Pixel range are highly regarded for their camera quality.

This is where it pays to create a shortlist of smartphone candidates and then read a few detailed reviews which discuss the picture quality. Pay particular attention to low light to ensure you can take decent photos indoors and at night.

How to choose a phone: summary

These are just some of the factors to consider when buying a phone. We regularly review the latest phones to help you decide what’s worth your hard-earned money. While there’s no singular best phone for everyone, there are plenty of options regardless of whether you want to buy from Apple, Samsung, Google, Motorola, or any other brand.

Read more phone news and guides on GadgetGuy