How To Buy An Android Phone? (Part 1)

10/15/2012 5:42:46 PM

Android offers consumers a huge choice of handsets for all needs. We show you how to pick a winner

Big screens, super small, colorful Amoded display, great cameras, 4G, NFC and on any budget, Android smartphones are packed with the latest technology in every shape and size imaginable, but you can’t have it all ways. Getting the right mix of features is essential, but walking into your local high-street store is bound to cause confusion.

Description: How To Buy An Android Phone?

Everything from screen size and the quality of the camera, right down to the speed of the processor changes with every handset. And the manufacturers such as Samsung are intent on releasing in excess of 10 different handsets at any given time, you can be forgiven for being confused.

We’ve listed all of the major buying decisions, in a bid to break down the barriers to getting the right handset for you. What’s more, we’ve even explained which carriers and operators are right for you, so you can sign up to a contract safe in the knowledge that you’re making the right decision.

Description: you need to choose the network and deal that suits you best

It’s not just about picking the perfect phone – you need to choose the network and deal that suits you best, too

Once you’ve decided on the phone that ticks all your boxes, it’s time to wade through the quagmire of finding the best deals and offers. The first step is to absolutely, unconditionally set your heart on a particular model and not accept any alternatives – that way you’ll be able to compare prices fairy and directly.

From here there are three options: contract, sim-free or pay-as-you-go. Contract offers the very latest shiny new handsets for free, but you have to sign up to pay monthly payments over a fixed period – usually 18 or 24 months. Sim-free and pay-as-you-go options both require upfront payment for the handset itself, and these can often be ridiculously pricey for the latest models, but the advantage is that you’re not tied into an expensive contract.

Sim - free and easy

Sim-free phones aren’t tied to any particular operator, so you can swap sim cards without having to unlock the phone. Pay-as-you-go phones are locked to a specific operator, but these phones are generally a little cheaper than their sim-free equivalents.

It’s definitely worth looking at what you’re going to be using the phone for and totting up how much you think you’ll be spending per month before you enter a contract or pick up a pay as you-go phone. A $240 pay-as-you-go handset may look like a good deal, for example, but if you’re topping up $15 a month over two years, you’re pretty much spending the same in total as you would on an $27-a-month 24-month contract, but you would be getting a much better smartphone in the case of the latter.

Contractual obligations

Contract customers are entitled to a phone upgrade when their contract period expires – in the case of O2, you can upgrade a month before the contract’s over, but Orange will give you up to three months. Even if you’re on a pay-as-you-go or sim-only contract, you might still be able to get an upgrade or discount on a new phone with the same provider – an additional benefit here is that you don’t have to go through the rigmarole of moving your mobile number to a new provider.

Before you upgrade, though, it’s worth doing a search for the handset you’d like on a site such as Here you’ll be able to find the phone’s model and filter contracts based on the number of texts or minutes you get for free. Once you’ve found your ideal mobile on any network, give your provider a call and see whether they’ll match it. You’ll often find that they’ll accommodate your requests – and maybe chuck something extra in – to keep you on as a customer.

We’d recommend using the internet to find the best deals, and then haggling over the phone if necessary. High street shops can seem more tempting because you’re able to walk out with the phone right there and then, but steer clear of contracts offering free games consoles or TV’s – often you’ll be getting a lower-spec mobile phone at a high cost that would cover the cost of the freebie anyway.

Description: Android is the world’s most popular mobile OS

Running on both tablets and smartphones, Android is the world’s most popular mobile OS

What is Android?

First released in 2008, Google’s Android operating system has gone on to become the most popular in the world, and it’s not hard to see why. From its inception, it’s been intended to be a truly open platform, modifiable by users and free for handset manufacturers to install on their phones. It’s moved on from mobile phones, too, and it’s so versatile that you’ll now find it powering everything from smart televisions to digital cameras.

Android’s latest incarnation, dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich, is the best yet. It powers both smartphones and tablets, and it brings with it innovative features such as Face Unlock, which recognizes the user’s face and unlock the phone, and mobile data monitoring so you never exceed your allocated megabytes.

Another of Android’s advantages is its extreme levels of customization. As well as numerous apps which improve the way your phone operates, you can also root the phone and install completely new – and often improved – versions of the Android operating system on it. It’s a fairly painless process, and there’s a huge internet community to hold your hand as you delve into the world of custom ROMs.



Price: $23/ month

Three touts itself as the UK’s fastest growing mobile network, and its sim-only deal packs 600 free minutes and 3,000 free texts a month for $23. But the real boon here is its all-you-can-eat data, which means that you can browse the web, watch YouTube videos and stream music while you’re on the go.



Price: $15/ month

Piggybacking the O2 network, GiffGaff is a sim-only provider, which means it doesn’t have the overheads associated with stocking and distributing handsets. The result is that its cheapest deal includes 250 minutes and unlimited internet for just $15 a month – and you can call other GiffGaff mobiles completely free.



Price: $11/ month

Orange’s sim-only deal is the cheapest available at the time of writing. For your mere $11 a month, you get 150 minutes, 500 texts and 250MB of data, which makes it ideal for light to medium mobile users, or perhaps as a smartphone for the kids, when you don’t want them costing you a fortune every month.

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