Smartphone Buying Guide – Everything Explained

Dinosaur explaining smartphones

Don’t Let Buying That New Smartphone Be A Confusing Process, Follow Our Simple Step-by-step Buyers Guide

When it comes to buying a new smartphone us tech geeks can sometimes forget that not everybody knows there bits from the bytes. Or for smartphones, their PPI from their IPS.

So with this in mind, I’ve broken down everything you need to know about buying a phone into a simple jargon-free sections.

An important question that I get asked a lot is “where should I buy my new smartphone from to get the best deal?‘. I’ll also answer this question at the end, with some tops tips and how to find the best offers.]

Xiaomi Mi 14 Pro
Xiaomi Mi 14 Pro
Xiaomi Mi 14 Pro
Xiaomi Mi 14 Pro

Don’t forget to check out our best of articles where we’ve done all research for you!

As always, comment with your questions a the end. We answer every single one.

Smartphone Display Resolution

What phone resolution should I choose?

Your phone’s screen resolution is essentially how many dots (or pixels) are squeezed into your phone screen. You can think of pixels as tiny bricks, similar to building a wall.

The more bricks (pixels) squeezed into the display, the crisper the resolution is when looking at the phone. But there is a limit to what your eyes can perceive.

A common resolution in smartphones is 1920 x 1080. This means you have 1920 pixels on top of each other in a vertical tower. The 1080 part is the width. So you have 1080 of these vertical towers lines up next to each other.

So you might have heard us tech-boffins throw around the acronym PPI. This stands for Pixels Per Inch. The higher the PPI, the more pixels you have in your phones display.

Don’t worry about calculating this yourself, just remember that higher PPI is better.

But what PPI should you be looking for in your next smartphone?

Less Than 200 PPI

  • This is low PPI, you can do better!
  • At this pixel density you’ll be able to see the jagged lined on text.


  • This PPI is okay for general use and can help to save battery.


  • We’ve now reached the point where you eyes can longer see individual pixels.
  • This is what Apple coined Retina.
  • This is great for all uses.


  • We’re now in the territory of Ultra High Definition Displays.
  • Unless you want to use a VR Headset, then you don’t need a PPI this high.


  • Now we’re talking future tech that is only useful for VR & AR applications.

Xiaomi Mi 9 AMOLED Display

OLED Vs Super AMOLED Vs LED – What’s the difference?

Organic LED or OLED is a type of display technology that turns on each pixel individually rather than lighting all the pixels at once. Super AMOLED is Samsung’s branded version of OLED technology.

Since you’re only turning on the screen pixels when needed, you get the power-saving benefits.

But is OLED right for you?

It all comes down to price. Super AMOLED & OLED Displays are reserved for mid-range and flagships smartphones.

If the idea of having a display that where colours pop vibrantly, contrast levels are insane and black levels are so dark you can’t tell where the display ends… sounds very exciting? Then by all means add OLED to your wishlist.

However, most people are perfectly happy with LED display and would prefer the cost savings.

Do you need a Super AMOLED or OLED Display? The simple answer is no, but it sure does look pretty!

Smartphone RAM chip

How much RAM does my phone need?

You can think of the RAM inside your phone as the smartphones muscle. The more muscle you have the more shopping bags you can carry at once before putting one down. Saving you time when switching between multiple apps.


  • Don’t buy this phone, you can do better!


  • This is fine for light users, but will struggle switching between many web browsing tabs and mobile apps.


  • Switching between apps and multitasking performance is improved.
  • This is the standard that you should look for in 2019.


  • More Apps and Games are benefiting from the extra RAM in 2019.
  • This has become a standard amount now.
  • You need to ask yourself whether you play games or use any demanding apps like video and photo editing?


  • Again, 99% of people won’t be utilising this amount of RAM in Android.
  • Gaming enthusiasts only.

How much storage does my phone need?

The easy solution to this problem is to make sure that your phone has a micro-SD card slot. If it does, then you don’t have to worry about storage as you can always buy an inexpensive SD from Amazon at any point.

This card will also be easily transferred to your new phone taking all the pictures, videos and other data with it.

8GB Storage

  • You can do better.

16GB Storage

  • This is fine for a lot of people and will be enough to store plenty of apps.
  • You might have to purchase an SD Card if you plan to take a lot of photos or videos.


  • Great, this amount is perfect for most.


  • Unless you have a large music collection this might be too much.
  • Often it costs more to purchase a phone with more storage
    • Much more than it costs to buy an SD Card and expand your storage yourself.


  • No you’re just being greedy. Get an SD Card instead.
  • Back your photos up for free.

Mobile CPU Chip

What is a mobile CPU Chipset? How to choose a fast phone?

This can be the confusing area of buying a new smartphone. More CPU cores doesn’t always mean better performance!

As a rule of thumb, the newer a mobile CPU is, the more power efficient it will be. You can use sites such as the Geekbench benchmarking results to look up a smartphone and see how it performs.

I’ve written a full article of the best free benchmarking applications / tools for Android if you want to dive a little deeper.


Smartphone Camera Lens

What to look for in a phones camera?

This is where looks really can be deceiving with manufacturers trying to fool us into thinking that the more MegaPixels (MP) that a camera has, the better it is. Well unfortunately for us, this is definitely not the case.

The only way you can tell if a smartphone camera is good enough for you is by actually seeing photo samples.

Another big reason to see photo samples is because one of the most difficult tasks a smartphone camera can come across is low-light scenes. You might be thinking all the outdoor camera samples looks great but then when you try and get that indoor photo of a birthday party you end up with a washed-out blur of photo.

So I’ll say it one last time, if you can, always view some camera samples from an honest source!

What is a SIM Free or Factory Unlocked phone?

Most phones that you’ll buy online will be called factory unlocked. But what does this mean? It means you can insert a SIM card belonging to all the popular Mobile Networks in the world and you will receive signal.

A network locked SIM card will only be able to make 2G, 3G or 4G calls or texts on the Network it is locked to.

Will my phones work anywhere in the world?

The answer to this is, No. Luckily, I’ve already created a handy guide for people living in the UK explaining the ins and outs of ‘Will an imported / overseas smartphone work in the UK?‘.

Rounding it up…

All this information will give you a head start when looking to get your next smartphone. Put the research in and you will be rewarded! Plus you really get to enjoy the Christmas effect! Don’t know what that is? Ask me in the comments below!

Where should you buy your Smartphone from?

This can be one of the most difficult questions someone looking to buy a new smartphone faces. Traditionally you would head to the high-street and buy your new phone in person but with online superstores having offers too good to resist we’re seeing more people head online.

That only makes the rest of this article more important, as it’ll help you to become a smartphone buying pro.

So which online shops do I recommend?

Our Number 1 is Amazon.

Their customer service is excellent and they have some of the best offers around. If you already have a Amazon Prime Membership then you can also take advantage of super fast free delivery.

If you’re in the UK, then Amazon terms & conditions let you open and test a smartphone or gadget within your rights to return. You can speak to them via live chat to confirm.

Our Number 2 is eBay

eBay will often carry stock that Amazon doesn’t have as well as having the best prices. You’re also covered by PayPal’s protection scheme should you have any issues. The customer service isn’t as good as Amazon but it’s still a good option.

View eBay Smartphone Deals.

Number 3. Another growing online shop that stocks all the latest gadget is GearBest.

GearBest has expanded recently to include warehouses in Europe, US & UK. This means that you can get smartphones and tablets delivered with risking any import charges.

if you’re happy to purchase from their Asian warehouse you can get some excellent deals but remember to add on possible duty if it’s stopped by customs.

Shopping Tips

Buying from a local warehouse or local shop means you can avoid any unnecessary duty charges. It also means that should you need to return a device within warranty it’ll be a much quicker process.

Have I missed out something important? Let me know in the comments.


  1. This Smartphone Article is a work in progress. I’d love to hear your feedback on how I can improve it. What aspects of choosing a smartphone or tablet do you find most challenging? Or anything else you think would be helpful : )

    Looking forward to hearing from you

    James @ Review Hub

  2. Thanks a lot for all these precious information James ! Nobody’s perfect (I’m French), am based in Bali Indonesia but from time to time dare to come back to France. Do you know if the Xiaomi would work in France, and Europe in general as well as in Indonesia, obviously … Thank you very much indeed. Best, Karine

    • Hey Karine,

      Yeah, you can check whether the Xiaomi phone will work by comparing the Bands it uses. You can use a site like Kimovil to check where the phone will work, you can select the countries from a dropdown list.

      Choose a Global version if you can. : )


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