Every time a tech writer claims that a device is the best in its class, the writer has to furiously defend his or her point, because there are always other devices out there that deliver a different experience to the user.
In the last two years, I have owned over 25 smartphones. I can quite easily tell with each new smartphone release whether it will be a good product for my needs. But that trait is not so easy for someone who has only used one device in the past two years.
For anyone who is looking to get the absolute best smartphone for themselves, I have a few recommendations:
- Find a reviewer or website that you trust. Reviewing smartphones is now one of the most popular things to do on YouTube, and there are hundreds of websites dedicated to the endeavor. I personally prefer YouTube reviewers that have a site where they post written reviews to go along with the video review (see AndroidCentral.com or iMore.com). In order to determine if the reviewer or website has the same qualifications as you, watch or read their reviews of the current device you own.
- Decide how you are going to pay, and how much you want to spend. While top manufacturers still price their flagships in the $700+ range, you shouldn’t be paying that much for a smartphone unless it is absolutely what you want. I’ll write a separate buying guide for you to reference, but bottom line, there are many compelling phones you can get for under $400.
- Make a list of what matters to you in a smartphone. Manufacturers have become pretty good at making good all-around devices that cover all of the bases, but there are still some smartphones that are better in some categories than others. You should have an idea of what matters the most, and what you’re willing to sacrifice. Here’s a quick list of examples:
- Screen – Samsung does it best. Without a doubt. Bigger screens are better for watching YouTube and Netflix, but will make the phone unwieldy when trying to hold coffee and text your friends at the same time
- Battery – For Android users, trading down to a Snapdragon 625 or 626 processor is the best way to get amazing battery life (2 or more days). For iPhone users, you will have to go with the Plus (iPhone 7+ or 8+)
- Photos – Most modern flagship phones have decent cameras, but these are the top manufacturers when it comes to still photos: Samsung, LG, Google, Apple, and HTC
- Video – If you plan on taking a lot of videos, the LG V30 is designed to do so. If you want something a bit more simple or good all-around, the Pixel and the iPhone both take great video.
- Don’t let one bad experience keep you from a company / phone. It’s really easy to trim down your options by casting out companies you have had bad experiences with in the past. But don’t let it keep you from finding a phone you love. Two things that I have learned from owning so many phones is that any manufacturer can make a great phone, and any manufacturer can make a terrible phone.
- Remember, this isn’t the end. Many people believe that once you buy a phone, you’re stuck with it for two years. This isn’t the case. Switching from phone to phone actually becomes very easy if you keep everything backed up (see this post for more details) and most phones will retain their value for some time afterwards. If you can’t return a phone within the return window, there are many options for selling phones online.