Share this post on:


This document offers some guidance for purchasing a smartphone. The goal is not to tell you what to buy, but to present questions that will help you decide.

Phone Operating System: Apple iOS or Android

The first fork in the road regarding what phone to purchase will be to decide between the Apple iPhone or an Android system such as Samsung, Motorola, or Google device.

Once you decide on what operating system you want, then within that choice, there will be a large number of phone models to choose from.

  • ANDROID. Some people feel the Android phones are more customizable. That could be an advantage, but it also means it can get messed up more easily. Android phones are available in a wide range of prices. Generally speaking, it’s possible to get a very competent Android phone for about $200 to $300. Even at the $100 to $200 price range there are options that could serve most people’s needs. Android phones also come in budget model below $100, but those models may be slower, have limited storage capacity, and lack other features. High-end Android phones can cost over $1,000.
  • APPLE. An advantage of the iPhone is that it is relatively simple to use and stable. Apple devices are typically built well. Pricing for new iPhones starts at around $400. A person could probably purchase a usable older model for less money. So, price isn’t necessarily a deciding factor for most people. Something people mention as appealing about Apple devices is that the iCloud service provides a fast and efficient way to manage photos, contacts, files, and other data. For example, photos on the phone can be easily viewed on your computer by using the iCloud website. You can also see contacts, notes, and other items on your phone from the computer through the iCloud service. Other Apple devices will seamlessly synchronize. Windows computers can easily use the iCloud website. These Apple cloud services are sometimes referred to as the “Apple ecosystem.” The user experience continuity and overall esthetic are what draw people to iPhones.

Phone Purchase Price

Generally speaking, phones go up in price with larger screens, more storage, faster processors, and better cameras. For example, the iPhone SE (2nd Edition) is about $400. The iPhone 11 is about $500. The iPhone 12 mini is about $600 and the iPhone 12 is $700. With each of these steps up, one generally gets a faster, newer, more capable phone. The same is typically true for Android phones.

Service Coverage Area

Verizon and AT&T are considered to have very good national coverage, but their monthly rates are generally higher than the lesser known companies. If planned travels will take you into areas that don’t have good coverage with Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and other carriers, you may want to get something with Verizon or AT&T.

Monthly Service Cost

Services exist now that can cost as little as $15 per month. Mint mobile is an example. You may have seen actor Ryan Reynolds as the spokesperson for that company.

Google offers a service called Google Fi that is $20 per mont for unlimited phone calls and text messages. If you use the Internet features, that is an extra $10 per GB used. The Google Fi service uses cell phone towers available from T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular. [Google Fi Referral Link] If you decide that you want to use the Google Fi service, it can work with Apple devices, but has more features with Android devices.

Other standard phone services from Verizon or AT&T would probably be $60 per month. Some of that is for the name brand, but there may be better coverage with Verizon or AT&T as mentioned above.


If your purpose is to simply have a phone to make and receive calls, then that would be served by a simple less expensive device. Either a simple smartphone or a flip phone.

If you would also like to check emails, brows the Internet, and use specialized apps, then a nicer smartphone would be helpful.


There are primarily two considerations for size: the screen size for easy visibility, and the overall device size for portability. These two characteristics are slightly opposing of each other.

Some people like a phone with an overall small size that fits in the pocket well. Some people are willing to carry a larger device to have the larger screen. Smaller phones may be easier to operate with one hand.

A few newer smart phones have large folding displays, but that technology is new and they are expensive. So, it’s probably best to avoid a folding phone at this point.


To get more storage capacity in an iPhone will cost usually about $100 with every step up in storage. So, going from 64GB to 128GB or 128GB to 256GB, with each increase you’ll pay a little more at the time of purchase.

If you plan on taking lots of photos and videos while traveling, then having more storage is helpful. There are external storage devices you can get to move large files to, but those can be tedious.

The Apple iCloud service can store your high-resolution full-size images in the cloud and then your phone can require less storage capacity if you don’t mind having the smaller versions on the phone. Larger images would be available on-demand as needed.

Questions or Comments

If you have any questions or comments about this document, please use our contact page to let us know. Feedback helps shape and improve this information. Thanks.