3aIT Blog

Mobile PhoneWe thought it might be useful to provide a brief overview of the mobile world this month. With the lines between the various devices we use becoming increasingly blurred, many people spend at least as much time looking at their mobile as they do their "main" device. Indeed, mobile internet traffic overtook desktop traffic a couple of years ago.

Do I need a new phone?

The first question to ask yourself is whether you actually need a new phone. When smartphone technology was in its infancy a decade ago, there were big leaps in what phones were capable of from between one release of a phone and the next. It made sense to have a rolling monthly mobile contract with the cost of the phone included, as it was worth getting a new phone frequently.

However, this is no longer the case, despite what the marketing departments of the various mobile manufacturers will have you believe. The smartphone market is now very mature, and there is very little innovation from one year to the next. Improvements are now very much incremental. Beyond the odd gimmick, annual refreshes of a phone range now tend to amount to a slightly faster processor and a marginally better camera. It's not worth maintaining a very expensive contract with the phone included for these sorts of incremental improvements. These days, assuming you can afford the initial outlay, it would prove much more cost effective to buy a phone outright and swap a costly mobile plan for a much cheaper SIM only deal. It is highly unlikely you'll be missing out on some "must have" feature a couple of years down the line now, so you'll be able to stick with that phone for some time.

No phone lasts forever, of course, so you will be in the market for a new one every few years.

Mobile PhoneSo I just buy the latest version of the phone I've already got, right?

Yes and no... Certainly, if you've invested a lot of money on apps and games that you still use in either Apple's app store or Google's Play store, then you're probably best off sticking with that platform, as it would cost a lot to rebuy these on the other. However, if you haven't, then it's pretty simple these days to swap between Apple and Android and back again. Despite what some may claim, there isn't a massive difference between them. The process of taking a call, sending a text or opening Twitter is pretty much the same regardless of the phone you use these days.

The other thing to consider here is that there is no longer a massive gulf between the most expensive phones and the cheaper ones. While it used to be the case that spending less than £200 on a smartphone would be an entirely false economy, it's now absolutely possible to get a decent phone in this price range. As a very general rule, at this price point, you're now getting a phone that would have been cutting edge a couple of year ago for about a quarter of the price that it would have cost then. Certainly, if you're not a heavy phone user and only use your phone for the basics (calls / texts / emails / light browsing), then there really is no need to consider a top end phone any more.

That said, if you are buying a phone as a longer term investment, you may get an extra year or two out of it before it seems unbearably slow if you spend more on it in the first place - much the same as any computer.

Any recommendations?

Well that depends on your budget! While we're not in a position to provide detailed reviews of handsets, we can provide some advice here to point you in the right direction.

High End

iPhone (9? 8S? XS?)

Mobile Phone

Most of 3aIT use iPhones, so we obviously rate them! It is certainly true that you can't go wrong with an iPhone. A lot of people probably find that they buy them by default for exactly this reason. Of course, the flip side to this is that iPhones are very expensive, even relative to their direct competitors. The most recent variant (the iPhone X) was the first £1000+ mobile. Apple may well have found that the market for a phone at this price range isn't quite there yet. Indeed, it has been outsold by the more run-of-the-mill iPhone 8 that was released at the same time.

Just a note here that if you are looking to buy a new iPhone, don't jump just yet. The annual refresh will be upon us in a few weeks (as we write this article), so it will pay to wait until then before upgrading.

Samsung Galaxy S9

Samsung is the largest mobile company in the world, and the Samsung Galaxy is the main reason for this. If you're after a high-end Android phone, this is the natural choice. As with the iPhone above, you can't go wrong with this phone. While the Galaxy is based on Google's Android, Samsung have heavily customised it with its own features. As we have covered in the past, this makes it harder to update, and can lead to only limited updates being made available. Therefore, if were were in the market for a high end Android mobile, we would probably err towards...

Google Pixel 2

The Pixel is Google's entry in the flagship Android market. However, unlike many other Android handsets, as this phone is manufactured by Google themselves, they are guaranteed updates for years to come. It's easy to dismiss security concerns on mobile, as there haven't been many high profile cases of mobile phones being compromised en masse yet. However, this will no doubt change soon as more important work is possible via mobile phones, and therefore it becomes worth trying to get at this data. In anticipation of this inevitability, all other things being equal (which, hardware-wise, they are to a large extent at this end of the market), it makes sense to pick the phone with regular security updates.

Mid Range

OnePlus 6

There's only really one phone worth considering at the £500(ish) price point, and that's the OnePlus 6. You're getting about 95% of the power of the phones above for about £300 less. Can't argue with that!

Low End

Moto G6

Motorola's "G" range has been hugely successful, and the 6th version is still amongst the best phones you can buy at the £200 - £250 price range. Most of the time, you would barely know you're using a phone that is a quarter of the price of a high end alternative. Unless you're the sort of person that pushes their phone to the limit, it may be that you actually never would see the difference. Add to that the fact that unlike many high end phones, you're able to add your own MicroSD cards to the device to massively increase the storage space available for a fraction of the price that you would pay for the same amount of space in a phone that doesn't allow this. If we were to buy a phone in this price range, this is absolutely the one we'd buy.

Nokia 6 (2018)

Sometimes referred to as the "Nokia 6.1", this is the other phone we'd consider at this price point. As it's part of Google's "Android One" intiative, this phone is guaranteed security and feature updates for at least 2 years, which is a big selling point. The only "downside" is that this phone uses the stubbier and wider 16:9 screen as opposed to the narrower and longer 18:9 screens that most new phones have now adopted. This will mean it looks "old" from day one (if you're the sort of person who cares about how their phone actually looks). Of course, some may prefer a phone this size anyway. Easier to fit in a pocket!