Tuesday Tip: How to choose a cell phone

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Tips for Choosing the Right Cell Phone

Your phone is just about the most useful thing you own. So when you’re buying a new one, it’s essential that you choose the right one  – and the right plan to go with it. Here’s our advice.


You can spend a lot on a phone. The new iPhone X, due on November 3, will start at $999. But you don’t have to spend that much. There are a lot of very good Android phones and older-model iPhones on the market for as little as $300.


Don’t focus on megapixels. Why? For three good reasons:

  1. Unless you’re looking at your photos on a screen with very high resolution, you won’t be able to see all the detail delivered by many megapixels anyway.
  2. If you’re like most people, you’re taking photos mainly to share on social media sites, and all those sites compress your images and squeeze out the extra detail.
  3. Those extra-sharp photos use more phone storage space.

Instead of megapixels, pay attention to specs like the image sensor (bigger is better) and features like dual lenses, as offered by the iPhone 7 and 8 and the Samsung Galaxy 8 and 8+.

Operating system

When it comes to the user interface and app selection, iPhones are the better choice. The iPhone experience is consistent and that is a key factor. Most Android phones don’t run the exact same operating system. Each manufacturer has its own version, which can lead to a wide variety in user experience.

However, that variety makes Android phones a better bet when it comes to price and options. They’re more affordable and offer more options – in size, weight, features and quality – because they’re made by so many different manufacturers.

Display size

Phone screens keep getting bigger. There are limits, however. A large display is great for watching videos and playing games, but phones at the high end (over 6 inches) are tough to use with one hand or fit in your pocket. Consider how you use your phone, how you carry it around with you and whether you want to use a headset when making calls to help you choose the screen size that’s right for you.

Display quality

You hear all about resolution, but brightness and color quality are more important. A high-res 4K display is overkill. Your eyes likely won’t discern that level of detail. Get full HD at a minimum, quad-HD at the most. From there, look for a screen with brightness, so you can see it outdoors, and more color – here, AMOLED is better than LCD. New phones with HDR can render even more colors.

Battery life

Factors like screen size, processor power and display type all play a role in battery life but, in general, the higher a phone’s mAh value, the longer the battery will last. Don’t settle for a phone with less than 3,000 mAh.


The processor determines whether your phone feels fast or slow. Most phones now come with adequate processors. But if you’re a gamer or virtual reality enthusiast, get a new iPhone or an Android phone with a Snapdragon 821 or Snapdragon 835 chip. These should be plenty fast.


Also known as RAM (but different from storage), memory is your phone’s muscle. The more you have, the more apps you can run at once. Nowadays, 2GB of RAM is standard, and 4GB should be plenty.


Considering all you do with your phone, 16GB just isn’t enough anymore– which is why a lot of manufacturers now have 32GB of storage in their flagship phones. If you download a lot of games or shoot a lot of photos and video, get a phone with 64GB or more.