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The best smartphones of 2024, tried and tested – but are they worth the upgrade?


Your smartphone questions answered, by Jack Rear

How do I know if the camera is good?

Most current smartphones will take great pictures and high-end models compete to offer the best cameras. Camera resolution is measured in megapixels (MP). Pixels are the tiny dots on your screen which make up images. There are a million of them in a megapixel. A camera with more megapixels can take bigger and higher quality photos and show more detail. 

Resolutions these days range from around 12MP to 50MP. However, megapixels aren’t everything. Increasingly, phones use AI to enhance and improve the images. Many people would choose a phone with superior AI (such as the Google Pixel) over one with a superior camera.

What is a good amount of storage?

Expect a minimum of 128GB (gigabytes) of storage; 256GB is becoming the standard. 1TB (one terabyte) is available on some phones, but you will only need that much storage if you want a lot of music, games or videos available on your phone at all times (rather than stored in the cloud).

What is the best screen size?

Measured diagonally from the top corner to the bottom corner, current screen sizes range from just under five inches to close to seven inches. Larger screens can be uncomfortable to hold in the hand or fit in the pocket, but are better for reading and watching video.

How long should the battery life be?

Any phone with significantly more than 24 hours is considered very good. Many manufacturers will judge battery on “talk time”, but the phones will actually last days if left on standby.

What is mAh?

A phone’s battery capacity is measured in milli-Ampere hours: the higher the mAh rating, the more charge the battery can hold. There is no direct way to calculate from this how long the phone will last between charges, however, because it depends on the phone’s processor (more powerful processors use more power) and your usage. Playing games will drain the battery far faster than reading texts, for example. Variables like screen brightness and refresh-rate also affect battery life, as do Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections.

In our reviews we give estimates for moderate usage, where the phone is on standby through the night and actively used for about four hours a day (the global average) for calls, social media, playing music, watching videos and gaming.

What is the processor?

Sometimes known as the Central Processing Unit or CPU, this is the bit of the phone which decides how fast the phone will load. That’s everything from loading apps to loading video. It’s also about how many apps the phone can have running at once. A better processor means a faster phone, basically.

What is refresh rate?

Measured in Hertz (Hz), this is how many times per second the image on your screen changes, as you scroll or watch content. A 60Hz refresh rate was once the standard, but we’ve started to see phones with 90Hz or even 120Hz refresh rates coming out. In short, it just makes the things you watch smoother, and scrolling through long articles glide more easily. You’d probably notice the difference going from a 60Hz screen to a 120Hz screen or vice versa, but it’s shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for most people. 

What is a good amount of RAM?

RAM (Random Access Memory) is the space in which your phone will store all the information it needs right now. Essentially, this is how many apps you can have running at once before they slow their phone down. Most phones come with 6GB or 8GB of RAM.

Is Android better than iOS?

iOS is Apple’s operating system, used on all iPhones. Android OS is Google’s operating system, now used on almost all non-Apple devices including phones from Samsung, Sony and OnePlus. Android can be customised by the manufacturer so that a Samsung Android will likely work a bit differently to a OnePlus Android.

Android has the benefit of Google’s immense algorithmic brain power and seamless interaction with the overarching Google suite of products. On the downside, most Android phones effectively double-up on apps, so you might have a Samsung music player and Google Play Music, or a standard gallery and Google Photos. This can cause Android devices to feel somewhat cluttered. In addition, Android updates have to be rolled out across dozens of different devices from different manufacturers, meaning that they take a long time to prepare. 

Some users prefer the choice you get with Android, and there has probably never been a better time to buy an Android phone due to the choice and variety available. That said, the more reliable security updates from Apple have kept it popular, despite some battery troubles on older devices.

How to protect your smartphone data

It’s worth reading our guide to the best anti-virus software to protect your smartphone from cybercrime and the best VPNs to keep your details safe from prying eyes when using a smartphone on public Wi-Fi. 

Or you could go the safe route and avoid the ‘smart’ part of smartphone altogether. Read our guides to the best dumbphones and the best cordless home phones to find the best one for you.) 

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