Phone & Mobile Phone Buying Guide

For many people, it is hard to imagine life without a mobile phone. Not only do mobile phones make our lives simpler and more enjoyable with their ever-increasing range of functions, but they also provide a vital source of communication in emergencies. If you've ever been stranded somewhere with no money or access to a landline, then you'll understand just how important mobile phones can be. In the past, mobile phones served simply to let us make phone calls and send text messages. However, with the invention of the SmartPhone, we are now able to surf the web, check emails, capture images, record videos, play games and view maps on our phones. It could be said that the mobile phone is a necessity for modern living.

Types of Handset

Basic

Basic handsets have limited functions and are incredibly easy to use. They allow you to send and receive calls and text messages and usually include a couple of extra features, such as a built-in FM radio and alarm clock. This limited functionality makes them the ideal handset for young children as they do not permit Internet access and are very cheap to replace should they get lost, stolen or broken. Basic handsets are also perfect for elderly people that are likely to struggle getting to grips with modern functions or touch screen technology. Many people use basic handsets as back-up phones to take on holiday or to festivals, where they are more likely to be damaged or stolen. One of the best examples of a basic handset is the Nokia 100.

Camera-Based Phones

If you're a fan of photography, or simply desire a portable device to take snaps when out and about, then you might want to consider a camera-based mobile phone. This variety of handset offers many of the same features as other mobile phones, but puts extra focus on the camera. The picture quality on these phones can be as good, or even better than many compact digital cameras. The average number of megapixels found on camera-based phones is around 3 or 4, with iPhones currently offering an 8 megapixel camera. For holidays and days out, camera-based phones are incredibly convenient as they combine the features of a phone and a camera, meaning you don't have to carry around 2 separate devices.

SmartPhones

SmartPhones have revolutionised the mobile phone market and changed the way we connect with each other and the world. Over a third of adults in the UK now own a SmartPhone and this figure is increasing.

Like every other type of handset, SmartPhones offer you all the basic functions that a phone should offer, such as the ability to send and receive phone calls and text messages. However, SmartPhones also come with a wealth of extra features, designed to turn your device from just a phone into a phone with a built-in computer. For example, the vast majority of SmartPhones come with a browser which allows you to surf the Internet either via a Wi-Fi connection or 3G. This gives you the option to look at your favourite websites when you're on the move. This Internet connectivity also provides a whole host of other benefits; you can check your emails, turn your phone into a Sat-Nav (should you ever get lost) and download music and films. Most SmartPhones come equipped with a full QWERTY keyboard, be it physical or on a virtual touch screen, making searching the web and sending messages incredibly quick and simple. Dictation technology, such as Siri, has recently become available, meaning you don't even have to use a keypad. You can simply speak commands into your phone to carry out certain functions. The most common SmartPhones are iPhones, the Samsung Galaxy and Blackberrys.


Operating Systems

An operating system manages a SmartPhone's programmes and tasks and defines what functions it carries out. They also provide a platform for developers to create new apps. Below is a table highlighting the key features of the most common operating systems and the mobile phones they are compatible with.

Operating SystemFeaturesCompatible with
Android
  • Highly customisable
  • Advanced security
  • 4G compatible
  • Over 500,000 aps
  • HTC
  • Samsung
  • LG
  • Sony
  • Motorola
Blackberry OS
  • Wireless calendar synchronisation
  • Variety of themes
  • Integrate with Symbian devices
  • Blackberry
  • Some Nokia
  • Some Sony Ericsson
iPhone
  • Fast
  • regular updates
  • Thousands of apps
  • More efficient and relevant
  • iPhone
Symbian
  • Easy to navigate
  • High quality games
  • PDF reader
  • Most Nokia
  • Some Samsung

Tariffs

Pay-As-You-Go

With a Pay-As-You-Go tariff, you purchase top-ups, which give you a certain credit limit to use for calls, texts and Internet use. For example, if you buy a £10 top-up, you get £10 worth of credit and when this has been used up, you will have to buy another top-up. There are no contracts with Pay-As-You-Go tariffs, meaning you can choose to sell your phone and purchase a new one if you're not happy with it. However, you will have to pay for your handset up-front, which can be quite expensive, especially with SmartPhones. Pay-As-You-Go tariffs are ideal for people who don't use mobile phones that often and are looking for a cheaper, more basic handset.

Pay Monthly

If you're looking for a more advanced, SmartPhone then a pay monthly contract will probably be the best way to fund it. With this kind of tariff, you pay the same amount every month for a set amount of minutes, text messages and Internet data to use throughout the following month. You usually pay nothing up-front for a handset with a pay monthly contract, instead, you pay for it every month as part of your set fee. Most contracts last either 12, 18 or 24 months depending on the phone and the network provider. Generally, it is better to look for shorter contracts as you won't have to stick with the phone for as long if it doesn't meet your requirements. When searching for a monthly contract, you need to take into account a number of factors. Firstly, you need to work out how many minutes and texts you're likely to use in a month. There's no point paying for a large package if you're not going to use all the minutes and texts as you can't take them forward into the next month. Secondly, you must take into account how much you can afford to spend. Monthly tariffs can range between £10 a month and over £60 a month. If you fail to make one of your monthly payments, there will be some sort of charge or fine imposed upon you. Pay monthly tariffs are ideal for people that frequently use a mobile phone and require a larger amount of texts, minutes and Internet data.

Network Providers

There are a number of factors to take into consideration when deciding which network provider to go with. First of all, you need to factor in price. Price plans for different phones will vary between providers. It's worth looking around and doing some research to find the best deal. Don't go for the first plan you see, as a similar plan may be available for a lesser cost with a different provider. Secondly, you need to look at network coverage. This is the area in which a network provider can offer a service. While most providers offer coverage for the majority of the country, there are 'blackspots' where certain providers cannot offer a service. These spots tend to crop up in sparsely populated areas such as the Scottish Highlands and rural areas in Northern England and Wales. The best way to find out whether the area you live in has coverage for a specific provider is to ask people in your local area and see what they say. You can also go on the provider's website as they generally have a map displaying the areas they cover. The most common network providers in the UK are Orange, O2, Vodafone, T-Mobile, 3 and Virgin.

Other Features to Consider

  • Screen Size - All modern mobile phones come with clear, colour screens. However, the size of these screens can vary greatly between models. When looking at screen size, you need to think about how you're going to use your phone. If you're a casual phone user, who only texts and makes calls, then a smaller screen will be suitable for you. However, if you're planning on using your phone for surfing the web, satellite navigation, video calls or other more advanced features, then a larger screen will be more beneficial to you. A larger screen will provide a clearer display and usually a better resolution, which is ideal for images.
  • 3G - If you want to use your phone to surf the Internet and check emails when you're out and about, then you'll need a 3G enabled phone. 3G allows you to connect to the Internet when you're out of a Wi-Fi zone, making it a useful feature for people who do a lot of travelling and are regularly away from a computer.
  • 4G - The 4th generation of mobile phone communications. It is roughly 5 times faster than 3G and offers a more efficient and reliable service. Currently, 4G is only available on 4G enabled phones such as the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S3. However, it will become more readily available in the near future as more devices adopt 4G technology.
  • HSDPA - Stands for High Speed Downlink Packet Access and is more commonly known as 3.5G. It seeks to optimise a 3G data card to deliver broadband like speeds. Using 3.5G on your phone will vastly improve download and upload speeds and removes any limitations that arise when using a slower connection.
  • Bluetooth - A Bluetooth enabled phone will offer a number of benefits. Firstly, you'll be able to connect a wireless headset to your phone, which you can use when walking around or driving your car. You can also use Bluetooth to wirelessly connect with other devices to exchange information. For example, sharing a photo from your phone with a friend who also has a Bluetooth enabled phone.
  • GPS - Global Positioning System. A set of satellites which orbit the Earth twice a day and can triangulate a user's position and subsequently track them. Many SmartPhones are GPS enabled, meaning you can transform your mobile into a satellite navigation system to plan a route for you when you're in the car or on foot.
  • Battery Life - This is an important feature to take into consideration if you use your mobile phone when travelling. If spend extended periods of time away from a power source to charge your phone, then a longer battery life is a must. It's also important to remember that regular Internet use on your phone will eat up more battery, so if you know that you're going surfing the web a lot, get a phone with a better battery. SmartPhones have the shortest battery life as they carry out more processes and therefore use more power.

Accessories

Cases

With modern phones rising in price due to their more advanced functions, it has become increasingly more important to give your phone extra protection. There's a wide selection of phone cases available on the market, some come in softer, leather style materials, and some come in plastic. Either way, the aim of phone cases is to prevent your phone from picking up scratches and reduce the risk of your phone being broken should it be dropped on the floor. Many cases are available in fun and colourful designs, which inject a sense of personality and uniqueness into your phone. We offer a great range of mobile phone cases, from standard black cases to novelty Star Wars cases.

Universal Mains Charger

This handy charger plugs into any main power supply and contains 5 separate connections, making it compatible with the vast majority of modern mobile phones. The universal mains charger is a great accessory for households with multiple mobile phones. Potentially, everybody in the house could use the charger to charge the phone and not to have to worry about not being able to charge their phone should they lose or break their original charger. The universal mains charger also acts as a great back-up charger to take on holidays or business trips.

Universal Car Charger

Like the mains charger, the car charger contains 5 separate connections, so it's compatible with a wide variety of mobile phones. It connects to your car's cigarette lighter, meaning you don't have to worry about your phone losing power on long journeys. You can even carry on using your phone whist it's charging.

Memory Cards

If you want to increase the storage capacity of your mobile phone then you should consider purchasing a removable memory card. They are available in a range of storage capacities, from 1GB all the way up to 64GB. The size you get depends on how much information you want to store. If you're thinking of using your mobile phone to replace your MP3 player, then you'll need a card with more storage. The same applies if you frequently use your phone as a camera as high resolution images can take up a lot of storage space. The most common types of memory cards used with mobile phones are SD, micro SD and M2. It is important to note that iPhones do not accept removable memory cards, so you must ensure that you purchase an iPhone with adequate built-in memory to suit your needs should you decide to get one.

Screen Protectors

All mobile phone succumb to some sort of damage over time through keys in pockets, grit on finger and coins etc. Screen protectors aim to minimise the effects of this prolonged wear and tear and help keep your mobile phone looking fresh and new for a longer period of time.

Headphones

If you're planning on using your mobile phone in public to watch movies and TV shows or to listen to music, then headphones are a must. There's a variety of styles on the market to suit different needs. If you're looking for something cheap and cheerful for everyday use on the move, then some wired, in-ear headphones would certainly do the job. However, if you want to be immersed in high quality sound and want to cancel out as much background noise as possible, then some on-ear headphones might be more appropriate. There's even a large range of wireless headphones available, which are compatible with Bluetooth enabled mobile phones. These are fantastic for situations when you don't want to become tangled up in wires. E.g. at the gym or when out running. We have an extensive range of headphones available, from basic in-ear headphones to advanced Beats Audio headphones, which offer the ultimate audio experience.

Wireless Headset

Wireless headsets fit comfortably and securely on your ear and allow you to take calls without using your hands. This makes them particularly useful for driving as it is illegal to drive without having your hands free. They are also ideal for making business calls when you might need your hands free to make notes or use a computer. Wireless headsets can only be used with Bluetooth compatible phones.


Glossary

  • 3G - The third generation of wireless Internet. The relationship between 2G and 3G is similar to that of analogue and digital TV. I.e. 3G is much faster and more information can be transmitted.
  • 4G - The 4th generation of mobile phone communications. It is roughly 5 times faster than 3G and offers a more reliable and efficient service.
  • Accelerometer - Measures the force of acceleration either by gravity or movement. Many SmartPhones have a built-in accelerometer. The sensors measure the movement and tilt of a phone and adjust the visual output accordingly, meaning you can view lists vertically and watch videos horizontally.
  • GB - A measure of computer data storage capacity.
  • Gyroscope - Used in conjunction with an accelerometer to provide a six-axis interpretation of movement through space. It filters the unintended movement and vibrations from a user's hand to provide a more accurate measurement of intentional movements.
  • GPRS - General Packet Radio Services. Extends GSM data capabilities for Internet access and other services.
  • GSM - Global System for Mobile Communications. The standard mobile phone network that covers over 99% of the UK.
  • LTE - Long Term Evolution. A wireless 4G broadband technology. LTE is faster and more advanced than any other network available.
  • M2 - Flash memory data storage device for storing data on a portable media device.
  • Megapixels - One million pixels. A pixel is a tiny square on a display that appears as a dot. Images are made up of megapixels.
  • MMS - Multi-Media Message Service. Similar to SMS as it allows you to send text messages over a mobile network. However, MMS also allows you to send images/photos.
  • MP3 - A format for compressing sound into a very small file. Extremely common for downloading music from the Internet and playing music on mobile phones.
  • Quad-Band - Allows a mobile phone to make and receive calls worldwide.
  • Resolution - The best indicator of screen quality. It is measured in pixels. The more pixels, the better the quality of screen.
  • Sat Nav - Satellite Navigation System. A system of satellites that can locate your position on the Earth's surface and track you as you move.
  • SD/Micro SD - Secure Digital. A memory card format used for portable media devices such as mobile phones, tablet computers and digital cameras.
  • Sim-Free - A phone that allows you to use a Sim card from any network.
  • Siri - A personal assistant used on iPhones. It responds to spoken commands and talks back to you in a human-like voice. Great for posting updates to social media sites, composing text messages and reading emails.
  • SMS - Short Message Service. Simple method of sending short text messages between phones.
  • Top-Up - The method of adding credit to your Pay As You Go mobile phone. You can top-up at corner shops, ATMs and over the Internet.
  • VGA Camera - Video Graphics Array. The lowest standard of mobile phone camera.
  • Wi-Fi - A high-speed Internet and Network connection that doesn't require any wires. Many public places such as pubs and restaurants offer Wi-Fi zones, allowing you to connect to the Internet via portable media device.