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Mobile phones

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Find the perfect mobile phone for your needs.

Finding the best mobile phone for your needs will be easy with our test results and buying advice. We look at what you need to know about selecting a good model, finding the right plan and choosing a provider.

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From our test

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Get instant access to 108 mobile phone test results.

Finding the best mobile phone for your needs will be easy with our test results and buying advice. We look at what you need to know about selecting a good model, finding the right plan and choosing a provider. Join Consumer and use our expert test results and recommendations to find the model that's right for you.

Features to consider

If you're in the market for a mobile phone, here are some points to consider.

  • Battery: Smart phones are known for using a lot of battery power and will require charging much more often than non-smart phones. Battery life can be extended by turning off certain features like GPS and WiFi when not needed.
  • Ease of use: If you can, try out the phone in a store first to see how easy and intuitive it is to do what you want. Many new phones have touch-screens and changeable "virtual" keyboard - although physical keyboards haven't disappeared completely yet. The smaller the phone and bigger your fingers, the harder the touch screen is to use.
  • Reception: If you are going to use the phone in an area where there are weak signals, look closely at reception ratings (these are included in our test results). Some stores may lend you a test phone to try. You could also ask friends or business colleagues with phones on various networks to see if they can get a signal at your house or work. The reception of phones with internal aerials is affected by which way the phone is facing (towards a cell site), and whether the user's hand is covering the aerial. So if you're struggling to get a clear signal in a rural location, try turning the phone to face different directions, and make sure your hand doesn't cover the top of the back of the phone.
  • Portability: Bigger screens give you more usable real estate and make images look amazing, but the larger phones don’t fit comfortably in your pocket or in your bra. They’re also harder to use with one hand. We strongly recommend trying out these big phones before you buy one.
  • Cameras: Resolution and general lens/processing quality are improving, but are generally several steps behind dedicated digital cameras. Image quality is usually high enough for posting on the web or making small prints. (Remember the best camera is the one you have with you - which is usually your phone. And the newer smart phones can take some remarkable shots.)
  • Text input options: Predictive text is useful and worth taking the time to learn if your phone only has a small numeric keyboard. Nearly all smart phones offer full QWERTY touch screen keyboards. While the buttons are tiny, it can be faster for punching out texts and emails although large fingers can be a problem. Android and Apple phones can download different keyboard layouts, such as Swype on certain phones, that can be useful.
  • 4G and LTE: 4G (fourth generation) or LTE (Long Term Evolution) is technology that allows for much faster data transmission than older 3G networks. All the big telcos have 4G networks across the country, though some areas are still only served by 3G. To access it you will need a 4G compatible phone. While the speeds can be much faster the data charges remain the same, so be aware of how much you are using.
  • Browsing/email: Most phones allow internet browsing and sending or receiving email. Keep in mind that the user experience isn’t always pleasant – while some phones have enough processing power to quickly render web pages, others will struggle. If you find this to be the case, try checking to see if your favourite sites have mobile-optimised versions.
  • Games: The higher connection speeds, large screens and improved memory of modern phones are all the things you need to play increasingly impressive-looking games. However, game quality varies from title to title. If you’re interested in playing games on your phone, try searching the internet for the ones you’re interested in first – it could save you some money.
  • Connectivity: Many phones can connect to other devices, such as a PC or other phones, either by wire or wireless (using bluetooth or over a WiFi network). With the right software the phone can share content (music files, photos, text documents) as well as automatically synchronise calendars and address books. Such operations are free: it's the same as copying material from your camera or a CD. But you'll have to pay if you send this information across the mobile network.
  • Memory: Internal memory (also called dynamic, built-in, or onboard memory) varies widely between handsets. Extra storage capability comes in the form of external memory cards. Memory cards come in many sizes, usually between 512MB and 2GB. Usually phones that can take memory cards are supplied with one. Additional cards can be bought from most electronics retailers.

Best-rating providers

Over 9000 members rated their mobile-phone service provider for overall performance, customer service and reliability.

Our survey found a clear winner. Find out more.

Operating systems, plans and networks

Reliable brands

We asked members about the reliability of their mobile phones in our 2015 survey.

Become a paying member to find out which brands rated best.

Photography tips

As good as phone cameras are (and some of them are very good), it’ll be a long while before they match real cameras. You’ll need to know your stuff to get good photos.

Light is your friend. Most phones’ cameras don’t work well in low light so make sure you have enough light to work with. The built-in flash can help – but it often makes your subjects look like startled possums. Instead try using another phone’s flash (or even a bright screen) as a torch to illuminate the scene. This is the simplest way of creating a great shot in low light.

Most of the high-end phones have a number of settings to play with. This makes taking macro shots or action shots possible. The HTC One X boasts a mode where you can take an HD video and take a snapshot at the same time or during playback. Don’t be afraid to change these settings and figure out how to use them.

Get to know your camera
Even if you commonly use the camera in your smartphone, find out what it can and can’t do. Learn about its advanced features and software settings, what sort of lighting it can cope with and so on. Many smartphone cameras will have several camera modes including panorama and HDR (High Dynamic Range), along with video.

Tap to focus
You know better than your smartphone what area of your shot you want to show clearly. Focus manually on an area by tapping the screen with your finger.

Get the light right
Are you shooting under indoor lighting or outdoors? There are many kinds of lighting, and even digital SLRs can struggle with getting correct exposure. That’s why professionals shoot in raw mode, to capture the most image data to allow for later exposure adjustment. Using HDR on a smartphone is the closest equivalent, but no replacement. Avoid backlit scenes, look for even lighting across your shot and use HDR for still scenes only to avoid blurring. Experiment with flash settings rather than just keeping it on auto.

Compose your shot
Frame your subject carefully and don’t crop too tightly while shooting. Allow a little room – you can crop later in software if needed. Fixed-lens smartphone cameras don’t offer depth of field adjustment. Don’t always put your subject in centre-screen – being slightly off-centre can often be more interesting or dramatic.

Move around
Don’t take every shot from the same standing position. Vary your height, distance and angle to make things interesting. Keep moving and shooting to increase your chances of getting the best shot.

Add effects later
Whether on your smartphone camera or on your computer, there are plenty of programs that can add special effects to your shots to give them a special look, from mild to wild.

Keep it clean
Regardless of your camera, features or skills, you need to keep the lens clean. It’s easy for any camera to develop a dirty lens, but smartphones in particular are subject to lens smearing, dust and lint due to handling and pocket/purse storage. Keep a lens cloth handy to give it a good wipe before use.

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