Mobile phone buying guide

Whether you're buying an iPhone or a BlackBerry, Samsung, Nokia, LG, Motorola, or Sony Ericsson phone, we show you what to look for

Shoppers checklist: Mobile phones

Accessories Ask what accessories come in the package. Some phones may include an extra battery, USB cable, case, headset, or a memory card for extra storage.

Pre-paid or plan A pre-paid account is ideal if you don't want to make a lot of calls or want to easily keep track of your expenditure. If you intend to use your phone extensively, then a monthly, post-paid billing system might be better, as these usually offer cheaper call rates than a pre-paid account.

Form factor Do you prefer a candy bar, flip/clamshell or slider phone? Do you travel a lot and require something small and lightweight? Be sure to hold the phone in your hand before purchasing, to make sure it feels comfortable.

Touchscreen or dedicated keypad Many mobile phones use touchscreen technology to access standard phone functions as opposed to dedicated buttons and keys. Make sure you try the phone before you purchase it to make sure you can easily use it to answer and end calls, send SMS messages and other standard tasks.

Battery Check the talk time and standby time of the battery. Generally, you should be able to get at least a full day of use out of your phone before needing a recharge. Some phones with a lot of features skimp on the battery life to compensate, so be wary.

Connection Check how the unit connects to your computer. Most connect to a PC via a USB connection (using a USB cable) or wirelessly via Bluetooth. Connection to a PC is often required for synchronising data including contacts and e-mails, as well as transferring files to and from your phone.

Camera Cameras with 5-megapixels or more generally produce better pictures. A phone with a Xenon flash will also be best for night-time photography, though these are quite rare. Keep in mind that no mobile phone camera will be good enough to replace a standalone digital camera.

Bluetooth Bluetooth is a standard feature on almost all mobiles. It enables you to use a wireless hands-free headset or speakerphone, as well as transfer files without the need for cables.

Additional features You can send and receive e-mail, browse the Internet, make VoIP (Voice over IP) calls, play MP3 files and watch/record video clips on a wide range of mobile phones. Be sure to check the full list of features.

Memory Most phones have a combination of a small amount of internal memory, and a memory card slot, though some may not have the latter. For phones with card slots, be sure to check if a flash memory card is included in the sales package because if it isn't it will need to be factored into your purchasing decision. Extra memory may be needed should you wish to use your phone as an MP3 player or camera.

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

PC World
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