Leave a comment

Buying a smartphone

Buying a smartphone

Smartphones have come a long way since the first iPhone launched in 2007. The latest models are essentially portable computers, and they're only going to get more powerful.

With so many options on the market, making a decision can be tough. We're going to run through the top manufacturers and models available to help you pick the right one for you.


Want a quick overview of how the big-name smartphones stack up? See a comparison of the best smartphones here.

Don't forget, like a computer, smartphones aren't just about hardware. You also have to think of the software, which in this case means apps. We'll give you information on that as well, so be sure to note it.


The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are the latest and greatest smartphone from Apple. They’re upgrades of the 2014 iPhone 6 series, and look about the same on the outside. 

Both the iPhone 6 and the 6s have 4.7-inch screens, while the 6 Plus and 6s Plus’s screens clock in at 5.5-inches. They keep the iPhone 5s' dual-band Wi-Fi, 4G cellular and Lightning connector. But let’s talk about the differences between the 6 series and the 6s series.

The 6s models have a new “7000 series” aluminum alloy case and a proprietary Ion-X screen that’s stronger than the glass in the 6 series. In theory, that should make them tougher than past iPhones, and tougher than their competitors. The upgrades on the insider are even bigger.

Both the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus have a brand new 12-megapixel iSight camera, which replaces the aging 8-megapixel camera in the last few iPhones. It uses fancy technology like "deep trench isolation" to improve image quality, and can shoot 4K video (in case you really want to fill up your phone's storage). Don't forget - with a few additions, you can turn your current iPhone into a high-end camera.

The big new feature for the 6s series, however, is 3D Touch and the Taptic Engine. With 3D Touch, how hard you press on the screen determines what happens. So, if you press lightly on an icon it will open the app, but if you press hard it will bring up a menu that lets you perform common tasks for that app right away, like taking a photo or calling a frequent contact. The Taptic Engine creates different length buzzes depending on how hard you press, so you get more feedback on what you're doing. 

Inside, the 6s phones also have an upgraded processor. The A9 chip replaces the A8 from the iPhone 6, and it’s supposed to be 70% faster with 90% faster graphics.

The prices haven't changed, and you should expect to pay $199 (16GB), $299 (64GB) or $399 (128GB) depending on what device you want. Tack on another $100 if you want the larger iPhone 6s Plus.

The cases come in silver, space gray, gold and rose gold (the latter is suspiciously pink looking). If you’re looking to use the 6s’ new features like 4K video, avoid the 16GB option – you won’t have enough space on your phone.

Buy more storage if you think you're going to buy a lot of videos, music, games and other apps. Keep in mind that you get 5GB of online iCloud storage for free.

If you're looking for a less-expensive smartphone, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have dropped in price, and the iPhone 5s is still available. A 16GB 5s is free with a two-year contract, and the 32GB version is just $49.

With the iPhone 6s series came the new operating system for iPhones, iOS 9. iOS 9 has improved multitasking features, and has upped the intelligence of its virtual assistant Siri. It’s also enhanced battery life and security. 

The iPhone's other major software feature is the connection to Apple's ecosystem. You have access to more than a million apps, along with movies, music and books. Content is easy to find and buy. Apple regulates everything, so you know it's safe.

For first-time smartphone buyers, or those who want an easy-to-use system, our first recommendation will always be the iPhone. However, we know the iPhone isn't for everyone. Read on to learn about your other options.

Next page: These are the droids you're looking for
Buying a Mac laptop
Previous Buying Guides

Buying a Mac laptop

Buying a new computer
Next Buying Guides

Buying a new computer

View Comments ()