Buying a new phone? Here are some tips and tricks you should know

Samsung galaxy s21 ultra green background

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Buying a new smartphone can be a daunting process, especially if you don’t know a lot about technology. There are a bunch of phones available from various brands at different price points, each one aimed at a specific demographic. So, which handset to choose?

We’re here to help with this guide on how to choose your first — or next — smartphone. We’ll go through all the main features you need to know about and guide you through a step-by-step process that will narrow down your options to just a handful, which will make your purchase decision a lot easier. Let’s dive in.


Choosing software: Android vs. iOS

Google pixel 6 pro vs apple iphone 13 pro max rear panel

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

First, let’s get the big fundamental decision out of the way, which is choosing which operating system you want to opt into. The two most popular mobile operating systems are Android and iOS, and this decision will largely influence which phone you’ll get.

When comparing iOS and Android, it comes down to personal preference, security, ease of use, and the update cycle by the manufacturer. Here at Android Authority we obviously prefer Google’s OS, although we admit iOS has its perks. Generally speaking, iOS is the best operating system for ease of use, while Android is the best if you’re looking for more customizability as well as variety in your buying options.

Apple’s iOS offers a simple, minimal, and easy-to-use experience that has the perk of fast and timely updates, as well as the best integration with Apple’s other devices such as Macs and iPads. iOS devices are also generally supported for major software updates for up to six years, which is far better than what most Android manufacturers offer.

Apple iphone 13 pro max ios 15 quick settings

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

That being said, you’ll be limited to the look and feel of the operating system from day one. Even with iOS’ additions of widgets and custom icons, the customizability of iOS is still far behind that of Android. You’re also limited in terms of hardware choices. iOS is only available on the iPhone, which means you can only choose from what Apple offers at the given moment.

When it comes to Android, things get a lot more interesting. With Android, you’ll be able to select from a wide range of devices from a larger range of prices. This means you can pick up a device that fits your needs without having to spend extra on something that won’t really be useful for your use case.

Read more: The best Android phones to get

You can buy the latest flagship Samsung phone with all the bells and whistles, or you can get a $450 Google Pixel 5a that offers all the fundamentals at a reasonable price. You can also get a cheap $100 phone that will still allow you to surf the web and check social media. The point is that you’re in control of how much you want to spend on a smartphone, and within each price category, there are some great options to choose from.

Android also lets you customize your device with more emphasis — this is especially true with Android 12’s Material You. Additionally, Google’s OS lets you can change everything from icons to the color palette of the entire system, and choose from a variety of widgets that have a level of customizability of their own. The possibilities of making your phone, your phone are endless.

Android weather widgets android 12 material you google apps beta

Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

That said, because of how diverse the hardware selection of Android is, software support and updates are still a point of weakness. Depending on your manufacturer and device, you’ll get a maximum of up to four years of software and five years of security updates, although most manufacturers offer less than that. Furthermore, many Android OEMs bloat the device with unnecessary apps and features that take away from a focused experience.

Our favorite iOS devices right now are the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro, while our favorite Android devices are the Pixel 6 and Samsung Galaxy S22 series. These handsets offer some of the best hardware for their respective operating systems and have a bunch of unique software features to make them stand out.

Choosing the right hardware

Oppo find n vs samsung galaxy z fold 3 camera bumps

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Now that we have software out of the way, let’s get into the elements that make up a good smartphone experience. Aside from software, the five other pillars of a great smartphone are the design, cameras, display, performance, and battery. In this section, we’ll highlight what to look for in each of these categories when picking up your new phone.

Design

Google pixel 6 pro winter

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

By far, design is the most subjective aspect of choosing a new smartphone. The way a device looks and feels has a big effect on consumers’ buying decisions, and for some, choosing the right device can come down to design alone. Buying a phone based on looks alone isn’t the smartest thing you could do, though, so make sure you take other things like specs and features into consideration as well.

First, let’s talk about form vs. function. This age-old dilemma is found in everything from cars to fashion, and even smartphones. Picking the right device means finding one that offers you the right balance between the two.

Many smartphones today have prominent design characteristics as their main selling point. This can range from a massive camera bump that houses a secondary screen like on Xiaomi’s Mi 11 Ultra, or it could mean the device itself is designed to house a folding display like on Samsung’s Galaxy Z lineup. Either way, you have to consider whether these devices meet the fundamentals.

Design isn’t just about how a phone looks, but also how it feels in the hand.

When rating the design of a phone, don’t just consider how it looks, but also how it feels in the hand. Does it feel comfortable to hold, can you easily use it with one hand, and does it feel sturdy enough are just a few questions you need to ask yourself.

Also think about the phone’s materials. Most high-end handsets are made of glass these days with the addition of a metal frame, which looks and feels great. But glass can crack easily on impact and is quite slippery. Plastic, on the other hand, looks and feel less premium but is more durable and cheaper.

Before making a purchasing decision, we highly recommend that you try and see the devices you’re considering in person. This will allow you to see the color options as they appear in real life, and it will also give you a better understanding of which device fits into your lifestyle better.

For reference, our favorite phones in terms of design are currently the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, which have a great-looking camera bar at the back. Then there are the Galaxy S22 phones that offer a minimalistic design with a camera housing that stands out, and the eccentric-looking ROG Phone 5 that will mostly appeal to gamers.

Camera

Best smartphone cameras 2021 - apple iphone 13 pro max, google pixel 6 pro, oneplus 9 pro, samsung galaxy s21 ultra, sony xperia 1 iii, xiaomi mi 11 ultra

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Arguably, the camera system is one of the most important elements of a great smartphone, and in today’s atmosphere, it’s moderately difficult to find a device that delivers a poor camera experience — especially in the premium market. That being said, there are a couple of tips you should consider when looking into the camera features of a smartphone.

First, don’t let the specifications fool you, as those don’t necessarily equate to good camera quality. Many companies have devices that deliver high megapixel count sensors on their cheaper devices, but they don’t corollate to better image quality — the software that’s behind the camera is arguably as important as the hardware, if not more.

Take Apple’s iPhone 13 series as an example. The iPhone 13 Pro has a trio of 12MP sensors and compared to the likes of Google’s Pixel 6 phones, which have a 50MP main sensor, the iPhone still manages to keep up in terms of quality and sharpness. So a high megapixel count doesn’t translate to better images, but it does capture more detail, so you can zoom into a photo more without it becoming grainy.

As already mentioned, software is where a lot of the magic is. Google’s Night Sight and Apple’s Night Mode, for example, utilize computational capabilities very well to deliver photos that look great when taken in low-light situations. When considering a device for more specific features like low-light performance, it’s always a smart idea to look at photo samples online to gauge if the device meets your requirements. More expensive phones usually win over more price-conscious models in this area, but certain devices like the mid-range Google’s Pixel 5a offer tremendous low-light performance considering its launch price of $450.

Read more: The best camera phones you can get

One hardware aspect of the camera system you should consider is whether you require a telephoto lens. Many devices like the Pixel 6 or the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini have regular wide and ultrawide sensors, while the Pro variants of these phones add an additional telephoto lens. A telephoto lens allows you to get closer to your subject without having to physically move — you also benefit from more compression that makes your subject more prominent against the background.

In day-to-day usage, you might not find yourself needing the telephoto lens, but for the sake of versatility, it is handy to have it around. It really depends on whether you require an optically-superior image; most phones today have excellent main sensors that let you digitally zoom in and get decent images.

Just keep in mind that more cameras don’t translate to better images. You can find a few cheap phones on the market that come with as many as four cameras, while a number of mid-range and premium phones may only have two or three. So just like with megapixels, more isn’t always better. It makes more sense to get a phone with two great cameras than one that offers four bad ones.

Oneplus 9 pro vs samsung galaxy s21 ultra camera 3 of 3

Luke Pollack / Android Authority

Evaluating a phone camera’s software is a hard thing to do, especially since the look of the final results is highly subjective. Different phones have a certain look to their photos and videos. Samsung devices, for example, have punchier colors, while Pixel phones have a more contrasty-HDR look to them. Which is better often comes down to personal preference.

We recommend you check out camera breakdowns and comparisons to get a better grasp of what you require out of your phone’s camera. For example, the iPhone 13 shoots some of the best videos on a smartphone, while the Pixel 6 and Samsung’s Galaxy S22 series offer superior photo capabilities and features. Figure out which camera features are important to your needs and look into which devices offer the best experience within that requirement.

Display

Oppo find n open front screen

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

The display is the most crucial aspect of the phone experience because it’s the component that lets you interact with and use the device.

The resolution of the screen determines how clear and sharp the quality of text and images appear, and with higher resolutions, you get superior image quality as a result. Most devices today either have a resolution of Full HD+ or QHD+. Some devices, like the Sony Xperia 1 III, offer displays that go all the way up to 4K, but for most people, this is overkill.

On cheaper devices, you’ll likely see a device with an HD display. This is largely to keep the price down. Just keep in kind that when comparing a 720p panel to a Full HD+ panel, you’ll definitely notice there’s a disparity in terms of quality. But the lower screen resolution can potentially benefit the device in providing better battery life.

A phone with a Full HD+ display is best for most people.

We certainly recommend getting something with at least a Full HD+ resolution, especially if you plan on watching a lot of videos on your device. If you only use your phone for calls, texts, and some light web browsing, an HD screen will be enough for you. For those who want the best, QHD+ or 4K is the way to go, although the difference between these two compared to a Full HD+ display is not nearly as big as the difference between a 720p and a Full HD+ panel.

Another aspect of the display is its refresh rate. This refers to the number of times per second a display can output a new image. A higher refresh rate translates to a more fluid and responsive display. This is quantified into the metric of hertz (Hz). Many devices have screens that are 60Hz, but more recently, smartphone screens are adopting faster refresh rates of 90 and 120Hz. In day-to-day usage, a faster refresh rate gives you the perception that your device is faster because it’s able to respond quicker. Scrolling through social media or general phone tasks will feel much more fluid. You will also see the benefits of a faster refresh rate if you plan on gaming, as you’re able to push more framerates.

A faster refresh rate can enable you to perform better in fast-paced games where quicker response times are necessary. Gaming phones like Asus ROG 5 have variants that support up to 144Hz.

Things like camera, battery, and resolution are more important than the refresh rate for most people, so it’s not the end of the world if you go with a phone that has a 60Hz display. However, 90, 120, and 144Hz panels do offer a smoother experience and may be worth it for some people.

Asus rog phone 5 product shot of the home screen clock close up

Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority

The display technology of the screen also matters. Many devices today either have an LCD or an OLED display. LCD displays have a backlight that lights up the whole screen, while an OLED screen doesn’t require a backlight. This means OLED displays will give you deeper blacks and higher contrast compared to LCD displays. While OLED displays are great, keep in mind that they are usually found on more expensive devices and can be prone to long-term issues like burn-in. Burn-in occurs when a screen is displaying the same image or set of stationary pixels for a prolonged period of time causing the screen to discolor and make a ghost image in the process. LCD screens are susceptible to burn-in as well but are much less likely compared to an OLED panel.

Learn more: Display types and technologies explained

Of course, it’s hard to talk about smartphone displays without talking about the wacky different types, most notably waterfall displays that curve around the side of the device or foldables that have a flexible display. Curved displays are mostly for aesthetic purposes, but do note that these panels are notorious for accidental touches. If you like how they look, go for it, although we think that flat displays offer a better experience overall.

Flexible display panels found on foldable phones like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 or Flip 3 are the defining form factors of these devices, and they enable you to get tablet-like screen real estate in a relatively small device. For most people, foldables are still quite expensive, although they are getting more affordable.

The problem with foldable displays is the crease in the middle, which is quite visible, especially in a well-lit environment. They also feel quite cheap due to the materials used — they aren’t made of glass since glass can’t fold. We’d advise you to try out a foldable phone in a store before purchasing it, just to get a feel for it and its display.

Performance

Asus rog phone 5 product shot of game genie within real racing 3

Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority

The performance of a smartphone determines the capabilities and longevity of the given device, and in today’s market, you’ll find a wide range of phones that can vary in terms of their chipset choice, storage capacity, and RAM.

Synthetic benchmarks let us quantitively compare performance, however, these benchmarks don’t necessarily show us how a device functions in day-to-day use. Apple’s iPhones are a great example of this. You’ll regularly notice iPhones having less RAM than their Android competitors, but because of how well-integrated iOS is with Apple’s own silicon, the devices perform on par or better without the extra RAM. Choosing a smartphone solely on arbitrary specifications is generally a bad idea if you plan on saving money. Instead, focus on what you require out of your device and use that assessment to gauge how much performance you need.

If you’re a heavy multitasker, choosing a device that has more RAM capacity is a good idea, especially since Android devices generally run better on more RAM. We recommend devices that have at least 8GB. If you’re more of a casual user, 6GB of RAM should be sufficient for your needs. For power users, 12GB is the most you’ll need in 2022. Phones with 16GB of RAM are overkill right now, so unless you plan on keeping your devices for years to come, it’s not necessary.

Related: How much RAM do I need in 2022?

With storage capacity, most devices today ship with 64 or 128GB of base storage. If you’re someone who takes a lot of photos and videos or just has a large app library, a minimum of 128GB of base storage is what we recommend. The best way of figuring out how much you need is to look at the amount of data you have on your phone right now. Some may have to opt for 256GB, 512GB, or even more. It depends on the person.

But choose carefully because the vast majority of phones today don’t support expandable storage. However, you can also use cloud storage such as Google Drive and Photos for your images, documents, and other data. But keep in mind that Google only offers 15GB of space for free.

Qualcomm is the king of SoCs, especially in the premium market.

Onto the SoC, which is what will determine how well your device will run. Mid-range SoCs such as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G are excellent in providing a smooth experience while keeping costs down. These chipsets deliver reliable performance that will let you run most apps and games quite well.

A flagship SoC like The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 will let you expand the capabilities of your smartphone, such as letting you record 8K video and view HDR content. It can also handle advanced computational photography and the most demanding Android games. In general, getting a flagship chip on a smartphone makes the day-to-day tasks feel much smoother and give you headroom for more intensive tasks down the line.

Read more: Snapdragon SoC guide

Many flagship phones have flagship chipsets. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 and its new Gen 1 series power mostly all the flagship smartphones you see, but recently there’s been a trend amongst companies to go out and create their own silicon to better integrate their hardware and software experiences. Samsung’s expanded its Exynos chips to have better graphical performance, and Google came in last year with their custom-made Tensor chip powering the Pixel 6 series. Both Samsung’s and Google’s chips get the job done, but Snapdragon is still the king when it comes to SoCs.

If you’re a casual smartphone user, chances are that mid-range options will lend you plenty of power for your needs, and in the process will let you save money. Qualcomm’s 600 and 700 series and MediaTek’s Helio chips can be found in many mid-range and budget-oriented devices. These chips are well optimized for day-to-day usage, but you’ll miss out on more fancy features such as higher resolution video recording or faster gaming. MediaTek also has a few high-end chipsets under its Dimensity brand, although Qualcomm is still king when it comes to the premium market.

Battery

Google pixel 6 pro vs samsung galaxy s21 ultra vs apple iphone 13 pro max

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Choosing a device with a good battery experience means you’ll be able to rely on your smartphone even when you’re far away from a wall outlet. A device that delivers on a good battery experience means the phone consistently lasts close to or over an entire day of usage but is also is able to charge reliably and quickly.

When looking at battery capacities, bigger phones will lend you bigger batteries, but battery optimization is also an important factor to consider. Apple’s iPhone 13, for example, has incredibly reliable battery performance while having smaller cells than rival phones. This comes down to the device’s power-efficient A15 Bionic chipset that enables the device to last as long as it does. Other factors like having a power-efficient OLED display with a 60Hz refresh rate also account for the iPhone’s long battery life. In general, bigger batteries are better (obviously), but take note of other factors such as display resolution, refresh rate, and processor optimization if battery life is an important factor in your buying decision.

Read more: Android phones with the best battery life

Aside from battery capacity, it’s hard to really gauge a device’s battery performance in real life. We recommend reading reviews or comparison guides on the devices you’re interested in to get a better feel for which device delivers the best battery performance for your use.

Charging speeds and charging-related features are also something to consider when looking at the battery experience. Many of the popular phones like Apple iPhone 13 phones, Samsung’s Galaxy S22 lineup, and Google’s Pixel 6 series all charge around the 20-30W range, which is decently fast for charging. However, other companies like Oppo and OnePlus support devices that can go upwards of 60 and 80W, which can get a device to full charge in less than half an hour. For reference, the charging time on a Pixel 6 Pro is around 111 minutes or almost two hours.

Lower-end devices typically have slower charging speeds, but it really depends on the brand. OnePlus’ Nord 2 supports the company’s Warp Charge 65 platform, which lets the device get to a full charge in less than an hour. Depending on your usage, having a device that can top up quickly might be an advantage worth looking into, though keep in mind that faster charging may degrade your battery over time.

Google pixel 6 in pixel stand

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Wireless charging is another thing you may consider. Wireless charging, while not as efficient as standard wired charging, still has the benefit of letting you forget about wires and effortlessly charge your device more intentionally. Features such as reverse wireless charging on some devices are a great convenience if you have a smartwatch or a pair of wireless earbuds. Reverse wireless charging is typically found on flagship devices like Samsung’s Galaxy S22 series. However, the charging speed is usually nothing to brag about.

If you’re a heavy user that spends upwards of five to six hours on your device, getting a bigger phone with a bigger battery might be the best way you can meet your needs without having to tug around a power brick with you all the time. If you are a lighter user, this may not be as big of an issue for you. Regardless, we recommend looking into things such as charging speeds and battery features so you can take better advantage of your phone’s battery capabilities.


Pricing

Galaxy z flip 3 tent fold

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Arguably, the most important factor when choosing a smartphone is the price. This is what determines which device or devices you will consider buying. As with any product category, smartphones have a couple of distinct price brackets that differentiate the device’s quality of design, performance, and novelty.

Here are the most prominent price brackets for smartphones:

  • Budget (~$100-$300)
  • Midrange (~$300-$650)
  • Entry-level flagship (~$650-$850)
  • Flagship (starting at around~$850 and going well above $1,000)

With budget phones, you’re getting the absolute bare minimum. This typically means lower-end specifications and unreliable software longevity. This bracket of smartphones is great if you’re looking for a device that is mostly meant for texts and phone calls. You won’t get the best camera, the best performance, or the best screen, but you’ll be able to get by with the core fundamentals of what makes a smartphone. This price range is a good place to start if you’re picking up a device for younger children who may need a way to communicate with their guardians without having to burden them with the responsibility of owning a device that can get lost or scuffed up.

Read next: The best budget phones available

The mid-range sector is for those who want to experience a well-balanced device without having to spend extra on features they don’t need. In this price range, the best devices offer competitive performance across the board in terms of specifications, camera quality, and battery life. For most people picking up their first smartphone, this is the price category we recommend looking into, as you’ll be able to find a device that checks you’re requirements without breaking the bank.

When it comes to entry-level flagships, they operate as a hybrid between the offerings of a mid-range and flagship device; this means you’ll likely get the benefits of a top-of-the-line processor, camera system, and software experience, without a few features of more expensive phones like an IP rating and wireless charging, for example.

The most premium phones cost well over a $1,000.

Finally, we arrive at flagships. These are the devices that will give you the most feature-rich experience out of a mobile device. This can mean they have a crazy periscope zoom lens or a ridiculously fast charging speed, but essentially, this is the price category you’ll find yourself in if you’re simply looking for the best smartphones on the market. Paying at this price point means you’re going to get the most reliable devices.  This can mean consistent software support, a fluid high-resolution display, and a professional camera system.

Overall, the price is an important factor to consider when picking up your first or next device. Our ultimate consensus on this aspect of the buying process is to simply pay for what you need. You may get a better experience going for something more expensive, but it may not benefit you as much as you hoped it would. That being said, make sure to always be on the lookout for deals. Smartphones are on sale year-round, and in the case of many companies like Samsung, you can benefit from pre-order savings, gifts, and much more if you wait for the right time to buy — more on this later.


So, what’s next?

If you’ve made it this far, you now know about the specs, features as well as other bells and whistles you have to keep in mind when buying a new phone. But just to make your purchase decision a little bit easier, we’ve written up a four-step guide on how to go about buying a new phone.

Step one: Narrow down your options

Best smartphones 4 end of year 2021

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Step number one is to narrow down your options from the hundreds of phones available to just a few. Don’t worry, it’s easier than you think. The first thing to do is set a budget and stick to it. This means phones that cost more than what you’re willing to spend are out of the picture. So if your budget is $400, forget about high-end devices like the Galaxy S22 Ultra, Pixel 6 Pro, and others.

The next step is to decide which features are important to you and which ones you’re willing to live without. We wrote about specs and features extensively in the sections above, so you should already know about the things to look out for.

Just to give you a few examples, if you travel a lot, you may want a phone with a great camera and a large battery. If you watch a lot of videos, a phone with a large Full HD+ or QHD+ display is the way to go. Other dealbreakers may include a headphone jack, expandable storage, an IP rating, or wireless charging, just to name a few. The way to go about it is to make a list of the features you want in your new phone, starting with the most important one.

Don’t buy a flagship if all you do is make a few calls per day and send a couple of texts every now and then.

Make sure you really think about how you use your phone and what is it that you actually need. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is buying too much phone. If all you do is make a few calls per day, send a couple of texts every now and then, and check Facebook and other social media accounts on your lunch break, buying an expensive flagship like the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a waste of money. It’s the equivalent of buying a Ferrari and then driving it a few miles down to the grocery store once or twice per week. It’ll get the job done, but it’s overkill.

Once you’ve set a budget and written down the features that matter to you, do some research online and find the phones that fit your needs. We have a lot of great posts on our website that can help you with that, including a number of best lists you can check out here.

Let’s take a look at an example or two. If you have a budget of $450 and your priority is camera quality and a clean software experience, but you don’t care much about raw power, a phone like the Google Pixel 5a is probably what you want. But if you want as much power as possible on a budget and a design that stands out, but you don’t as care much about the camera or the software experience, the affordable Red Magic 7 with its Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset could be for you.

These are very simplified examples. In most cases, you’ll come up with five or maybe even 10 phones that will fit your criteria. That’s OK — you’ll eliminate a few more in the steps to come.

Step two: Get an expert’s take

Wallpaper wednesday 2022 03 30

C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

So, you now probably have up to 10 phones on your shortlist. Great stuff. Now it’s time to eliminate a few more.

The best way to do it is to see what experts think about the phones you’re interested in via phone reviews on sites like Android Authority. You want to hear the good as well as the bad qualities of the phones on your shortlist, which will help you make your purchase decision. Knowledge is key here!

For example, you may want to get the Galaxy Z Fold 3 because of its large screen, but if you read our review, you’ll learn that the screen has a crease in the middle — like all foldable phones — and glares a lot as you move around light sources. The screen also feels cheaper to the touch, as it’s not made of glass. These things may or may not bother you, but since Samsung doesn’t point them out, reading unbiased reviews will help you get the right information.

Reviews will help you separate the wheat from the chaff. Knowledge is key!

So, again, make sure to read what the experts say and don’t get caught up in all the marketing mumbo jumbo from phone makers. They want you to believe that all their latest features are the best thing since sliced bread, even though some of them are nothing more than gimmicks. And unless you get an expert’s take, you won’t be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Step three: Go hands-on

Google pixel 6 pro front homescreen with cherry blossoms in the background

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

The next step is to go hands-on, which means popping down to your local electronics store and testing out the few phones that are on your shortlist. You want to check what the phones look like in person, as the images shared by manufacturers are often misleading. You also want to check how sturdy the phones feel in the hand, check the difference between different materials used (glass, metal, and plastic), and so on.

Size is also important. Bigger is better when watching videos, but a large footprint also means it’s harder to use a phone in one hand and carry it around in your pocket. You’ll always have to make a few compromises, no matter how you look at it.

Also read: Got a new phone? Here’s how to switch like a pro

Also, make sure to turn on the device you’re interested in and try out a few features, test how responsive it is, and take a few pictures. Play around with it until you get a good idea of what the overall experience is like.

Going hands-on will let you separate the good from the bad and help decide exactly which phone on your shortlist you should go with. If two or more devices are neck and neck, just go with the cheapest one or listen to your gut.

Step four: Time your purchase and shop around

Huawei p50 pocket white clamshell closed with clock on outer display next to galaxy watch 4 with clock

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Once you find the right phone for you, don’t just go ahead and buy it at the first store you walk into. A little bit of research could save you hundreds of dollars, as prices can differ a lot from retailer to retailer.

Go online and check prices on Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, Newegg, the manufacturer’s website, and as many other retailers as possible. You may be surprised by the results. For example, at the time of writing, the unlocked Galaxy S22 is listed at $700 on Amazon, while Samsung is selling it for $800. That’s a $100 difference!

Timing your purchase could save you a lot of money.

Also, make sure you time your purchase. If you’re looking at a new phone that hasn’t yet been released, the best thing to do is pre-order it to get a great deal — most manufacturers offer free goodies including microSD cards, headphones, and other accessories during the pre-order period. The worst time to buy a phone is right after it officially goes on sale, as that’s when the price is the highest. And although some phones are rarely on sale, including those from OnePlus and Google, a few manufacturers offer substantial discounts as early as a few weeks after the launch date. We’re talking about hundreds of dollars here! We’ve seen this happen with Sony and many other devices.

If you’re looking to get a slightly older phone, do some research and check out when its successor is going to be announced and released. As soon as that happens, that phone could get a big discount.

So to save money, you shouldn’t rush buying a new phone. Take some time, do your research, check out deals, and you just may be rewarded with savings you can then spend on beer, pizza, or accessories for your new handset.

Other tips and tricks you should know

Oneplus 10 pro vs iphone 13 pro showing the back of the phones

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

There are a few other tips and tricks you should keep in mind when buying a new phone. First of all, don’t be afraid to get a phone from a different manufacturer than you’re used to. Consider different brands, from well-known ones such as Google and Samsung, to those you may not be as familiar with including Xiaomi.

Just because you may not know much about a certain company doesn’t mean it makes bad phones. As already mentioned, you can quickly figure out whether a certain phone sucks or not by reading reviews. And don’t assume that just because a device is made by a large tech giant that it’s without faults.

Consider an older, used, or refurbished phone to save money.

Also, don’t just go for the latest phones out there. Sometimes a year-old or even a two-year-old device might give you everything you need and more for half the price of the latest model. A lot of the time the latest versions of phones are only minor upgrades over their predecessors but cost a lot more.

If a good deal is what you want, a refurbished or even a used phone may be for you. But when buying used, you should take your time and follow a few tips, which you can check out in our dedicated post here.

And let’s not forget about software. If you want to get the latest version of Android as soon as possible, you’ll have to go with a Google Pixel phone. OnePlus is also great at shipping out updates fast, and so is Samsung. On the other hand, Asus isn’t the best in this area, as is the case for many lesser-known Chinese manufacturers.

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