Two hands holding smartphone with one finger scrolling on screen

Are you getting a mobile phone for Christmas? Here’s what to think about

In the era of the smartphone, there are more and more things to compare before you buy.

Christmas is quickly creeping up, and the shops are starting to get really busy with Christmas shoppers.

Traditionally, mobile phones have been a popular Christmas gift, but with the massive increase in the popularity of smartphones, it’s become more difficult to decide on which one to go for.

To help you, we’ve pulled together a list of all the things you should consider if you’re buying a new phone for yourself or a loved one this Christmas.

Which operating system - iOS, Android or Windows?

This may seem like a technical question, but actually it’s one of the first things you should ask yourself when you’re shopping for a phone - the operating system determines how the phone works, which apps you can get, and which models you can go for.

There are pros and cons to each, but currently Android is ruling the roost in terms of smartphone sales. It offers users lots of choice in terms of design, and its apps are available through Google Play, which is really user-friendly.

However, if you are - or the person you’re buying for is - an Apple fan, the only one to realistically go for is iOS. Anyone with other Apple products will love the look and feel of the iPhone, and will be able to sync their new phone with all of their other devices seamlessly.

Windows is generally considered to be less user-friendly for phone users than the other two systems - however, anyone who has used a Surface and likes the interface will likely also be a fan of a Windows phone.

What screen size do you need?

Screen size is another really important decision - and will help you narrow down which make and model to go for, too.

The trend towards really big screens (or ‘phablets’) has bucked slightly, but many phone manufacturers still offer screens up to 5.5 inches - for example the iPhone 7 Plus, and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge both have this screen size.

However, standard models from the main phone brands now tend to have screen sizes from 4.5 to 5.1 inches.

When you’re deciding what screen size to go for, you should consider what you’ll be using the phone for, for example:

  • Will you be reading books on your phone? and
  • Do you watch TV or movies on the move?

If the answer to these questions is yes, you’ll want to go for a large screen - and you should consider the phone’s resolution and colour quality as well.

If, however, you mainly use your phone for calls and texts, the screen size won’t matter so much - and remember that smaller phones can fit better in pockets or handbags, too!

Which make and model should you go for?

Once you’ve decided your operating system, and the screen size you want to go for, the choice of which handset to go for becomes a little easier.

Obviously, if you go for iOS you’ll be looking at an iPhone, while anyone opting for Windows will be going for Microsoft’s phone, the Lumia.

Meanwhile, Android users will have a choice of devices from HTC, Huawei, Samsung, and Sony, among others.

Carphone Warehouse has a really handy comparison tool on its site, in which you can select up to 5 phones to compare side-by-side across features like display, dimensions, camera, and storage.

Compare phones now

Do you need your phone to have a decent camera?

The majority of people now use their phone as their primary camera, so if you’re someone who takes a lot of photos - and even gets them printed - the quality of the camera will be important.

Many smartphones now come with 12 megapixel cameras, but in the era of the selfie, it’s important to also look out for the resolution of the front-facing camera - these tend to be a lot lower.

Several reviews online rate the camera on the new Samsung models very highly, so it may be worth opting for one of these if the camera performance is important to you.

Price, plan and network

Once you’ve decided on your handset, you should take some time to compare plans across all networks - the main ones in Ireland are eir Mobile, iD, Lyca Mobile, Meteor, Tesco Mobile, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone.

Most mobile phone contracts have a minimum term of between 12 and 24 months in length, so make sure you’re getting the deal you want before you sign up. Things you need to consider are:

  • Whether you need an unlimited data allowance;
  • If you’re happy with a set amount of calls and texts, and what amount you need of each;
  • If the provider offers free calls to other people on the same network; and
  • Whether you want to add-on extras, like international calls.

As you know, most phone providers will offer you certain handsets for free as part of some contracts. Although this represents a saving at the outset, it’s important to note that the monthly costs will be higher if you don’t pay for some, or all, of your handset up front.

It’s also likely that if you opt for a free handset, you’ll be required to sign a 24-month contract. It can be really costly to break these contracts early, so make sure you’re happy with everything before you sign on the dotted line.

Happy shopping!