The iPhone 4s
The iPhone 4s Eric Risberg

Which phone is the smartest buy?

SMARTPHONES are the ultimate communication device but with a smorgasbord of choices, constant new releases and technology upgrades how do consumers decide which phone is the smartest buy?

WhistleOut director Cameron Craig said smartphones were "extremely powerful little pocket computers" spoiling owners with an abundance of functions including internet access, quality video and camera capabilities on the go.

In the past five or six years the definition of smartphone has changed. The old definition of a smartphone was "whatever the manufacturer had created on that phone". Now with access to an ever-growing range of apps the new definition of a smartphone is "a mobile computer that can run whatever the world can dream up," Mr Craig explained.

When buying a smartphone, Mr Craig said his "first tip would be to always go for one of the latest models".

Because new models are being released at an accelerating rate, you don't want to start a new contract, which usually commits customers for 12-18 months, with an old phone.

"If you choose a model that's been on the market for 12 months instead of a more recent model, in 18 months time it's going to be 2.5 years out of date," Mr Craig explained.

Shoppers should then consider "what functionality will make you happy?" and the base your decision on phone specifications.

For example, if you really want a phone that can take high quality videos and photos that you can share easily with friends and family then don't pick the phone that is best priced, go for the the phone with the best camera specifications.

"Size and durability are other factors shoppers need to consider. Think about how and where you want to use the phone," Mr Craig said.

"Smartphones range in size and can be quite large. There are some smartphones that are 4.5-5 inches and others that are over 5.5 inches which can really fill the pocket and prove impractical if you are constantly on the go," Mr Craig explained.

It is important to assess your everyday activities and how durable you will need the phone to be. Some screens are made of glass and are more susceptible to breaking if dropped, where as some phones have a more heavy-duty design. The touch screen is also "a big area of vulnerability", Mr Craig advised.

Users also need to think about what else they want their phones to do and the types and amount of apps they intend to use.

The type of phone you buy will determine what apps you have access to.

If you want to download "everything possible" an Apple or Android phone is your best bet, Mr Craig said. Apple's App store has the widest range of apps available on it, closely followed by the Android marketplace.

For anyone currently in the market for a smartphone, Mr Craig listed the following as his top five picks:

1. iPhone 4S
2. Samsung Galaxy SII
3. Galaxy Nexsus
4. HTC Sensation XL
5. HTC Velocity 4G


WhistleOut director Cameron Craig's top six forecasts in the mobile phone market:

1. Nokia rises again: With Nokia set to release the first of their new Windows phone products this year, this is the brand's big shot at a comeback in Australia's smartphone market where their leadership position has been overtaken in just a few short years. These new phones in 2012 see Microsoft now running the operating system of phones like the Nokia Lumia 800. Microsoft is rumoured to be offering big incentives this year to try and get these devices sold to consumers."

2. SMS volumes fall: The rollout of the iPhone 4S and the iOS5 operating system on existing iPhones where messaging is free via iMessage, plus the increasing take up applications like WhatsApp and Viber, will mean that consumers are increasingly able to communicate in SMS format for free over data networks and WiFi without paying the traditionally expensive SMS rates of around 25c per message.

3. Pay for goods by tapping your phone: The technology required for transferring money between phones by tapping phones together or tapping a store's terminal is rolling out now. NFC is a massive upgrade from Bluetooth. In 2012 we will see the technology further refined. Soon we could be tapping phones to transfer music, money and make payments everywhere.

4. Carriers increase their online push: We've seen online retail shopping boom in Australia last year and your mobile carrier has taken note. They're all offering better details than retail stores and they're all investing heavily to improve their websites to allow for self-management of billing and multiple products.

5. Networks improve & Vodafone offers money-back guarantee: Carriers have all spent big on their networks in 2011 and consumers will see improved faster networks in 2012.

6. Networks offer exclusive content: Vodafone has exclusive rights on the cricket for mobile phones; Telstra has the rights for the AFL, V8 Supercars and NRL; and Optus has the Tennis and a catch-up TV offer that is in the courts. As network speeds increase and your mobile phone really becomes the 'third screen', exclusive content will be a key weapon to attract and retain customers.

WhistleOut is a leading comparison websites

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