How to choose your cell phone?

Picture of Alexis Le Marec
Alexis Le Marec
As an avid user of social media and online applications, Alexis shares her expertise on how technology influences our social interactions and our daily lives. His practical advice will help you navigate the connected world with ease.

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Shopping for a new cell phone is often quite a dilemma. Buy a new device or finance one with a carrier? iOS or Android? How do you know if the camera is good or if it’s powerful enough to play a particular game? There are many questions to consider before choosing the right cell phone for your needs.

The previous points are essential. However, other questions and aspects must sometimes be taken into account, such as the presence of a dual SIM, while some users will prefer to turn to construction phones because of their job.

Finally, it is also important to think about people who do not necessarily need advanced features and want a phone just to be able to call at all times.

Here is a summary of the steps.

Step 1: Determine your needs

Step 2: Determine your budget

Step 3: Choose your cell phone

If you already have a cell phone and are looking for a plan, refer to our guide on how to choose a cell phone plan or proceed directly to a plan search by entering your personal preferences.

Step 1: Determine your needs

Which screen is right for you?

In 2023, the average screen size varies between 6.1 and 6.8 inches (15.5 x 17.25 cm). Depending on the model, they offer a higher or lower resolution and rely on pixel density in dpi (dots per inch), but be aware that 300 dpi is the limit of the human eye. Unless you have a superhuman visual capacity, you will not see the difference between two screens offering 300 dpi and 1000 dpi.

Also keep in mind that phones larger than 6.1 inches are a little harder to handle or to put in a pocket, which increases the chances of a fall. On the other hand, they are more pleasant if you have to work and write on your phone.

What battery life do you need?

Current phones offer a battery life of one to two days. Manufacturer’s data sheets on battery size can give an indication, for example, a good current battery will offer at least 4500mAh.

However, there are other factors to consider such as a high resolution which leads to an overall increase in power consumption.

Referring to tests is otherwise a good solution to compare the autonomy of different models.

Top 3 phones with the best batteries in 2023

  • Asus Rogue Phone 6: Designed for gamers, this phone has a 6000 mAh battery that can last through long gaming sessions. Without gaming and applying some options, it can last up to 3 days.
  • The iPhone 14 Pro Max: The largest Apple phone has a battery capacity of “only” 4323 mAh. Thanks to the mastery of its components and iOS, Apple still offers a day and a half of autonomy to its flagship cell phone.
  • Galaxy S23 Ultra: Without surprise, the Galaxy S23 and its 5000 mAh battery join this top 3 of the best autonomies. It must be said that it is capable of holding a big day and a half with sustained use.

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Memory: 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, what to choose?

The SD card is, unfortunately, disappearing, which makes the choice of storage capacity a crucial element to consider.

Are you going to store music and videos to listen to on the go? Will you be filming and using your phone as a camera? If so, a minimum of 256GB of storage capacity is essential. Also, keep in mind that filming in high resolutions necessarily requires more data and takes up more storage space. On the other hand, uses like GPS may also require space to store maps of different states or even the United States.

If you’re going to listen to a little music, take a few pictures and watch a few rare videos, 128GB is enough, but for higher usage, you’re better off with a minimum of 256GB if you’re looking at a high-end phone.

If you’re shopping for a mid-range phone, 128GB is sufficient even for heavy usage. However, if you need a lot of memory, you’ll want to look for phones with 512 GB.

Want more? The Galaxy S23 Ultra and iPhone Pro Max and their 1TB of storage should satisfy you.

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The camera, which one do you need?

Several optical and electronic manufacturers are competing across phones to offer the best camera. On the other hand, some phone manufacturers will also focus their efforts on other points as Google did on the night shots of the Pixel 7. So you can have a phone that will perform better than another depending on the condition of the day or night. Finally, regarding resolution, this is still subject to digital processing. For example, the Galaxy S23 Ultra and its 200 Megapixel (MP) sensor remain slightly inferior to the iPhone 14 and its 43 MP, while the Pixel 7 remains better than the Galaxy S23 for natural rendering and night shots. The advantage of the 200 MP camera of the Galaxy S23 Ultra can be seen when zooming in on the image, the elements are better detailed and more readable.

You can refer to existing tests to compare the photos taken by each device in person, and if optics are really important to you, choose a phone that fills the most boxes for the conditions in which you’ll be shooting.

Top 3 phones that take the best photos:

Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro: While its daytime photos ooze quality, its night-time photos manage to catch even the slightest ray of light to amplify it and offer a great rendering.

iPhone 14 Pro Max: An excellent sensor combined with advanced image processing gives you natural colours that instantly flatter your eyes.

One Plus 11: Compared to the Galaxy S23 Ultra and its 200 MP, the One Plus 11 offers more precise and less soft image processing. This results in videos or photos, seeming more natural and better detailed than Samsung.

3G, 4G, 5G, what type of cellular network to choose?

Currently, many phones are 5G compatible, but we can still find 4G models. 4G is here to stay for a few more years and it will not be disconnected before the 2030s. So you can turn to a 4G-only phone without fear.  As for 3G on the other hand, its days are numbered, considering the network has to be disconnected by December 2025 in Canada.

The 3G network can be interesting for someone who owns a compatible phone. These devices sold under 50$ have the advantage of being extremely affordable, but the 3G infrastructure will be disconnected in less than two years.

As for 4G, it allows you to use the many phones that are still compatible. If your goal is to save money by cutting back on every aspect, we advise you to avoid the soon-to-be-discontinued 3G and at least look into 4G.

Here are some packages available on the 3G network

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Which processor for which use?

A powerful processor allows access to the latest generation of games in high resolutions. It also allows for encoding when capturing in 4K or even 8K. It is in these conditions that you can really distinguish the difference between the two processors. Otherwise, they offer a slight improvement from one generation of the phone to the next in the feeling of speed when handling the interface.

A mid-range processor allows you to play games in medium resolutions and film in 1080p or 4K. You can film and play with an entry-level phone, but don’t venture into the latest 3D games and don’t expect to insert complicated special effects into your videos.

Cell phones that stand out for their microprocessor:

iPhone 14: Apple’s excellent a15 Bionic appeared in 2021 on the iPhone 13. The iPhone 14, its performance has been upgraded, allowing it to compete with the Galaxy S23.

Galaxy S23: Gone is Samsung’s Exynos, all Galaxy S23s now contain a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. If this processor is already available on other Android phones, Qualcomm delivers to Samsung a slightly more powerful overclocked version.

Google Pixel 7: The Tensor G2 that equips the Pixel 7 is a processor designed by Google and contains processing units dedicated to artificial intelligence. This AI monitors various parameters such as brightness and adapts the screen much better than conventional sensors do.

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What are dual SIM and eSIM phones?

Whether you want to use your personal and work number, or still have a phone subscription in a foreign country, a phone with two SIM card slots that can handle eSIM cards is a must.

This feature has only recently started to become widespread, and only at the top of the range. Only iPhones from the 11th generation, the Galaxy S22 and S23, and the Pixel 7 offers dual SIM and eSIM.

Galaxy: Starting with the Galaxy S21

Pixel: Starting with the Pixel 6

iPhone: From iPhone 12

Step 2: Determine your budget

PlanHub Piggybank Cell Phone

How much money should you spend on a cell phone?

PlanHub estimates that a maximum of 1% of your gross annual income should be spent on a cell phone. For a person with a gross annual income of $50,000, $500 per year should be spent on a cell phone, i.e. a $1,500 phone that will be used for 3 years or a $1,000 phone that will be changed after 2 years of use. Note that for practical purposes, this calculation does not take into account the resale price of a used device, which can greatly alter the data.

This estimate was obtained by following the many budgeting guides of 2023. Please consult a professional in the field to validate if this budget applies to your financial situation.

Step 3: Choose your cell phone

What’s the difference between iOS and Android?

Android Vs iOS PlanHub

Both operating systems offer similar handling in terms of icons and usability, making it difficult to tell them apart. Android, however, offers skins that allow you to display a different interface, which comes in handy if you want to customize your phone. On the settings side, they may differ on some specific points depending on the operating system, but again they are broadly similar.

The real difference is on the security side, where Apple has paid special attention by including permanent encryption of your data. iOS also offers some features specific to Apple software such as Airdrop and iMessage.

Best Android Cell Phones to Watch:

  • Galaxy S23 Ultra: An XXL size, a stylus, power to spare, and excellent battery life, the Galaxy S23 Ultra offers premium features, but at an equally premium price
  • Pixel 7: The best value among Android phones. With excellent battery life, a beautiful screen and great photography, the Pixel 7 lacks nothing.
  • Galaxy A53: Samsung’s mid-range phone offers excellent performance at a contained price. Hurry up and buy it, its successor should be more expensive!

Is the iPhone the peace of mind option?

You don’t need a Mac to use an iPhone, it connects very well to a PC and can be managed via the iTunes software. The iPhone comes in three ranges, the top of the range Pro. Next are the traditional iPhones, which benefit from the previous improvements of the iPhone Pro. Finally, the SE range represents the entry-level into the Apple world and offers features from previous iPhones.

The iPhones to watch:

  • iPhone 14: Apple’s latest offering still offers top-notch performance and a great screen.
  • iPhone 12: Released two years ago, the iPhone 12 still offers great performance, while its camera still provides superb images, all at a contained price, what more could you ask for?
  • iPhone SE 3: The entry-level Apple device is accessible and benefits from the presence of iOS. It offers performances comparable to an iPhone 8, but faster!

Galaxy, is it the best Android option?

The Galaxy Fold, S and A are taking over most of the Android phone market. The Fold and its foldable screen currently represent Samsung’s high-end phones. As for the Galaxy S, they come in several ranges, from high-end (Galaxy S23) to very high-end (Galaxy S23 Ultra). The Galaxy A is available in three ranges from $330 to $600. These phones take advantage of technologies from the previous Galaxy S, hence their success in this segment. At the entry level, we find the new Galaxy A14.

Is the Google Pixel the best value for money?

Over the years, Google and its Pixel range have carved out an enviable place for itself in a market dominated by Apple and Samsung. The Pixel offers features sometimes reserved for the top range while making up for it on elements such as the screen, which does not offer as much resolution as the Galaxy S or the iPhone. Its success is also due to its camera, which receives special attention from Google.

Other Android phones, what to know?

One Plus, Motorola, HTC … Several manufacturers know how to design quality phones. Some manage to stand out from the crowd, such as One Plus, which has had several successes, notably with the recent 10+. In contrast to these manufacturers, we find affordable phones, but which sometimes do not offer the comfort or durability expected.

However, the lack of information to the public does not help the serious manufacturers. Samsung, which was able to communicate and offer phones capable of competing with the iPhone very early on, was able to sell itself and associate its name with an image of quality, hence its success at the expense of the competition.

Are keyboard phones still relevant in 2023?

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Still useful for troubleshooting or if you don’t need to use data, touch-tone cell phones are becoming increasingly rare. Often sold for a few dozen dollars, you can even find recent phones that support 4G. Be careful though, many models sold in the days of 3G are still available but are incompatible with 4G. Be sure to check the phone’s compatibility with the 4G network when you buy it. If 3G is still in use, it is currently being disconnected in countries such as the United States and France, while it is expected to be discontinued in Canada by the end of 2025.

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Is it a good idea to store around for an old high-end phone?

Older high-end phones can offer some advantages for a sometimes contained price, but you have to be cautious. As an argument, they were designed to last and have technologies that are often more powerful than recent entry-level and mid-range phones in terms of power, camera, or screen. In terms of comfort, they are still fast when it comes to surfing the Internet or playing videos.

Among the disadvantages, the price difference between a generation and the new one that replaces it is often small in the first year of its discontinuation. For example, the price difference between the Galaxy S22 and the Galaxy S23 is only $100.

On the other hand, manufacturers sometimes only support them for a short time after they are replaced, so they can’t always take advantage of new operating system version upgrades, while the lack of security will eventually make them obsolete. Among the good students is Samsung, which provides security updates for its older phones for 5 years.

  • Pixel 6: The Pixel 6 marked the return of Google with a serious phone. Over time, it still offers very good performance and does not suffer from durability issues.
  • Galaxy S22: If the S22 remains an excellent phone, it is somewhat handicapped by its price which is $100 below the S23 which succeeds it. A little effort on the price from Samsung would greatly help it.
  • iPhone 12 and iPhone 13: Apple’s high-end phones stand the test of time with flying colours. Get them the right protection, and you’ll keep them for years.

How to take advantage of carrier discounts?

Shopping around for your phone with your carrier is a great way to save big, especially if you’re looking to buy the latest phone.

For example, here is the discount you can get on the 256GB iPhone 14 Pro:

Sold for $1549 new, if you store it from Apple by paying 24 monthly installments of $64.54, it will come to $1548.96.

On the other hand, if you decide to buy it through an operator, for example, Videotron, you will have to pay monthly instalments of 45.25$, which will make a total of 1086$ or 463$ in savings.

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To achieve such a reduction, operators store large stocks of phones and sell them to you at cost, thus waiving the margins made by the stores. These phones are ultimately used as call products towards a two-year commitment that binds you to your operator. It is therefore in their interest to provide you with a phone at a preferential rate in order to keep you among their customers.

Phones for construction, are they really solid?

Cell phones for construction

Do you work in construction or a high-risk environment? There are military-grade phones that are tough as nails. And don’t think they’re clamshell or rustic looking! We’re talking about smartphones with touch screens. Except that they can be handled with gloves, are resistant to serious drops and immersion, and generally offer up to three days of autonomy.

However, you won’t find Apple and even less Samsung in this field. The manufacturers of these phones are called Caterpillar, Blackview and Gigaset.

Should you store for protection for your cell phone?

Cracked Screen Cell Phone PlanHub

The treated glass in phones is incredibly impact resistant, but all it takes is a drop at the wrong angle in the wrong place to see your glass shatter. Even if they are solidly built, phones expose materials like glass and metal to all of life’s accidents. And sometimes all it takes is a little thing like a jostle on the subway.

Investing in protection is therefore recommended, especially since you can find affordable covers that are already effective against scratches and small drops. Otherwise, full protections often do a good job, while the application of a resistant film on the screen will prevent some breakage.

With the disappearance of the sound output, can we continue to use wired headphones or do we have to buy new ones?

Music lovers, there’s no need to store new wireless headphones with your phone, especially if you already have quality wired headphones worth several hundred dollars. There are Bluetooth receivers that connect to your cell phone, and some models even convert the sound to High-Resolution Audio.

Selling for about a hundred dollars for a good High-Resolution Audio model, they will save you the trouble of buying a new headset, and you can invest the money earned on protection for your phone.

Cell phones with 1.5mm audio input

  • Galaxy a14 5G: Samsung’s smallest phone still offers an audio output, so it can be used as an Mp3 player when you change phones.
  • Asus Zenphone 9: More high-end than the A13 5G, the Zenphone 9 also offers first-class performance in gaming and autonomy.
  • Nokia XR20 5G: Back to the roots for Nokia which wanted its phone built to be durable and shock resistant, and we appreciate of course its integrated sound output.

Refurbished phones, what to know?

Refurbished phones can be a good alternative at a good price if they come from an authorized dealer and have a warranty. Keep in mind, however, that manufacturers eventually stop updating Android phones after only a few years. For its part, Apple supports the last three generations of its operating systems, but it is possible to upgrade an iPhone to an operating system when it is compatible.

Once the updates are stopped. New vulnerabilities are no longer patched and your phone will be vulnerable to attacks.

So consider that if you are shopping for a refurbished phone you will have to look for a recent model so that it is not made obsolete too quickly.

Once you’ve chosen your cell phone, store around for available plans with our custom search tool.

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