Black guy with blond hair and brown jacket holding a cell phone with blurred forest in background

Cell phones have become essential to daily life, but the variety of products can be overwhelming. This guide to buying a cell phone will help you find the phone that best fits your needs.

Finding the right cell phone has become an art in recent years. There are so many brands and models with varying features, and that can feel overwhelming. Apple, Samsung, Blackberry, Huawei and other brands all have their own take on the cell phone. To help you understand what’s important when buying a cell phone, I’ve put together this comprehensive buying guide.

Types of Cell Phones

Types of Cell Phones

Probably the most widely-known smartphone on the market, the iPhone’s most distinguishing feature is the responsive high-resolution touchscreen: it lets you navigate the phone’s functions and the web just like the mouse or touchpad on your home computer.

Other unique features include the Siri personal assistant, which responds to your voice, and FaceTime for video chatting. Wi-Fi, GPS, a camera for shooting stills or video, and integrated audio and video players are standard on all iPhones.

iPhone X models and up have face-scanning technology where simply looking at the cell phone will unlock the device. The Super Retina HD display also provides you with vibrant colours that make the action on-screen even more immersive and engaging.

Apple has also taken steps to create an ecosystem for its products, where the iPhone can fit in and interact perfectly with tech such as the Bluetooth headphone-inspired AirPods. Likewise, through Apple TV your iPhone can be used as a television remote.

The king of the QWERTY keyboard is still favoured by many business people. These keyboards provide excellent tactile feedback, great for typing emails or text messages.

Keeping with the latest trends, Blackberry also offers touchscreen models too. While Blackberry phones have traditionally used the company’s own operating system, recent models like the Blackberry Key are powered by the Android operating system by Google.


LG phones stay on top of the latest trends, like employing a 5G chip in anticipation of the upcoming shift to that technology, as well as placing the camera entirely under glass for both protection and better image quality.

Speaking of cameras, the V40 uses a total of five of them—three on the back and two on the front—to offer different perspectives and fields of view.

If that isn’t enough, check out the V50. It has three pins (two for power, one for communication) on the rear of the phone that allow you to pop open a foldable attachment that contains a built-in display, essentially creating two phone screens to double the smartphone enjoyment.

Samsung delivers some of the best mobile phones on the market. Their Galaxy line features advanced tech like the Infinity Display that gives you end-to-end screen real estate.

The latest Samsung Galaxy phones use Dolby Atmos, which creates an immersive virtual 360-degree surround sound.

Their latest smartphone technology includes the new Smart Stay feature: the front-facing camera recognizes when you’re looking at your phone — and keeps the display brightly lit.

Feel free to leave your camera at home because you’re well equipped with a Huawei. The Pro S model from Huawei has a revolutionary AI Powered Triple Camera which is comprised of a 40MP RGB sensor, a 20MP Monochrome sensor and an 8MP sensor with a Telephoto lens.

It’s one of the most powerful mobile phone cameras on the market and a big reason for choosing a Huawei smartphone.

Cell Phone Buying Tips

Cell Phone Buying Tips

Cell Phone Features

Cell Phone Features

Network compatibility

LTE is the new gold standard for 4G networks. LTE networks are faster than the older 3G systems, which means you can send and receive more data more quickly. They’re also more reliable, so even if data isn’t a consideration you’ll get fewer dropped calls on the LTE network.

Canada’s major wireless carriers now have LTE network coverage in most urban centres, and it’s expanding every month. If you’re shopping for a smartphone in the near future, then you should check for LTE compatibility.

Camera

Most cell phones today come equipped with a camera. Some have both front-facing and back-facing cameras for self-portraits. It’s a handy feature for capturing special moments and sharing them with friends — without the extra cost and burden of a separate camera.

Some phones have flashes, and resolutions average from two to eight megapixels. More advanced smartphones offer even better features, including focus, zoom and image correction.

Video

Most cell phones and smartphones with a video player can also record video, whether short video capture or longer movies. Some smartphones can record in HD. Check to see if the video can also be transferred from your phone to computer—some require a cable connection, while others can transfer wirelessly.

Storage

The amount of storage smartphones require is not necessarily increasing despite all the features and functions. The prevalence of cloud storage services such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and DropBox means an average user can likely get by with 128 gigabytes or less of storage.

That said, many cell phones do have a memory card slot that enables you to save more photos, music or other files.

Music Player

Most cell phones have a built-in music player so you can take your favourite music with you in the car, during your morning jog or on your commute to work.

Check to see if an earpiece or headphones are included with the phone, or if you have to purchase them separately.

If you love music, make sure the phone has sufficient storage to hold all your favourite songs. Smartphones offer more music functions and storage space than basic cell phones or feature phones.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is a technology that allows for the wireless transfer of data between devices, two cell phones, or a cell phone and computer. It makes it easy for you to transfer your music, photos or other files to your computer or friends. It also enables wireless headsets for hands-free use of your phone in the car.

Voice dialling

Voice-enabled dialling is an important feature if you use your cell phone with a headset while driving, or if you’re working with your hands, carrying groceries or cradling a baby.

Once you’ve programmed in your contacts, the phone recognizes the person or place you want to call and does the dialling while you keep your hands on the wheel.

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi-enabled cell phones can connect wirelessly to the internet through your home network or through the ever-increasing availability of Wi-Fi hotspots in public spaces such as restaurants or your favourite coffee shop.

If you are unsure of your mobile carrier’s roaming policy, turn roaming off and just use the internet when Wi-Fi is available.

Games

Some cell phones allow you to download game apps, which is a desirable feature for long commutes, spending time in waiting rooms and for keeping younger family members occupied during trips.

Whether you’re looking for brain games to help you stay sharp or games simply for fun, there is a wide variety of free and paid games available for download.

Battery

Cell phones come with a rechargeable battery and charger. The life of your battery depends on how many hours you are using your phone and what you are using it for. Apps that demand a lot of screen activity will drain your battery faster than ones that function in the background.

As well, running apps continously in the background can drain the battery faster, so close the ones you’re not using to extend battery life.

Graphic of a yellow question mark on a blue circle backgroundDid you know?

Lithium-ion batteries (the kind most often used in cell phones) do better if you don’t complete a full charging cycle because it’s more efficient at retaining a long-term charge capacity. Charge the battery before it issues a low power warning (usually around 20%) and unplug it before it reaches 100%.

Most phones have built-in protection chips to avoid overloading the battery, but it’s best not to charge it overnight. This avoids a full charging cycle when it reaches 100% and not using up more of the battery’s life as the phone trickles to 99% and back up to 100%.

There are a lot of brands and features to know when buying a cell phone. We hope our cell phone buying will help you along your journey of picking the best device for you!

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Riley has written about video games across several publications for almost a decade now. In his eyes, there’s really no better field to work and grow in. Outside of games, he’s also a fan of hockey, wrestling, and most Canadian things. You can find Riley over on Twitter @TheRileyLittle.