According to market research, about 95% of the U.S. population owns a cell phone. About half of those people are currently using a smartphone. These devices allow you to access the world at your fingertips from wherever you are, and they can be a lot of fun, too. With that being said, there are a few smartphone features you should probably consider before you lay out hundreds of dollars for a new device.

10 Smartphone Features to Keep in Mind:

What You’ll Be Using It For

Sure, it seems like everyone has a smartphone now, but before you jump on the bandwagon, or upgrade your existing phone, consider what you’ll actually be using your phone for. If you scroll through hundreds of e-mails a day, you’ll want to look for a phone with a solid e-mail client. If you fancy yourself a bit of a gamer, you’ll need to look for a phone with enough power to launch the most powerful of applications. Before you even start your search for the perfect smartphone, ask yourself this question. It will help you narrow down what other smartphone features you will need.

the Shape

smartphone features shapeBefore you sign a contract, or shell out big bucks for a phone, hold a few phones in your hand in the store. The shape is actually an important smartphone feature, because not all phones will be comfortable for all users. Yes, the phablet is a cool trend, but for someone with small hands, larger phones become somewhat unwieldy. Hold the phone, feel it in your hand, and hold it up to your ear if possible. You’ll have this device for a while, and you’ll be using it regularly, so make sure it’s a comfortable fit.

Screen Resolution

Screen resolution is one of those smartphone features that people who aren’t in the know might quickly dismiss, but it matters. Not all screens are created equal, and there are some phones on the market, even today, that have a poor screen resolution. Before you purchase a particular handset, check out some online reviews for screen concerns. Some screens will be nearly unreadable in the sunlight, while some will have a dimly lit screen and professional reviewers are sure to mention it.

Memory

One of the smartphone features that many overlook is memory. It’s an important feature for people who plan to store a lot of pictures, music and applications on their phone. If you are one of these people, you’ll want a device that has ample memory or, at the very least, an expandable memory slot. Experts suggest looking for a phone that has at least 16GB of memory on board, if the phone is expandable. A phone with 32GB that isn’t expandable is perfectly acceptable for most users.

What about Apps?

smartphone features appsSome smartphones have better app stores than others. Android and Apple are pretty comparable when it comes to the current apps available; however, Blackberry and Windows are decades behind in that arena. If applications are an important smartphone feature to you, you’ll want to look for an Apple or an Android phone. If you currently own a phone with one of these two operating systems, remember that you’ll lose your purchased apps if you switch operating systems. If this is a big deal for you, you’ll want to stick it out with your current OS provider.

the Brand’s Image

Yes, there are some brands that come out of nowhere and create great phones, but the cell phone market is saturated with some great handsets and some not-so-great ones. You can buy an off-brand cereal and not notice a difference, but that isn’t the case with cell phones. Experts suggest sticking with well-known brands that have a track record of successful handsets. Budget brands generally produce budget handsets, and those come with a plethora of bugs and problems you don’t want to deal with in a device you use daily.

The Carrier Matters

Yes, the carrier you work with does matter. Even though it’s not strictly a feature of the phone itself, we’ve lumped it in with smartphone features because most people typically buy the phone from their carrier. Some carriers have better coverage in certain areas. That is just a fact. You’ll want to find a carrier that is popular in your area, because that means they’ll have better tower coverage, which equals better coverage. You can take a look at coverage maps for all of the major cell phone service providers online. Pick a carrier that is well-lit in your area, or you will suffer from spotty service and sub-par coverage.

It’s All about Battery Life

Remember when you were told to think about your daily needs when it comes to your phone? Well, think about them again before you pick a phone with a sub-par battery life. Yes, as people use their phones more, batteries will drain more quickly, but there are some companies that provide better batteries than others. Look at reviews regarding battery life, and read them carefully. You’ll want to know how much standby time a battery averages, and what the “talk time” looks like. You’ll also want to check out battery stats for video playback and data usage.

The Camera Probably Won’t Matter

smartphone featuresUnless you are a professional photographer, or someone who hopes to be a professional photographer, the camera on your phone probably won’t be one of the most important smartphone features to you. To be honest, most phones on the market take similar-quality pictures now, regardless of their megapixel count. Simply look for a phone with a decent camera and image stabilization and you’ll be fine. Don’t be suckered into buying the highest-megapixel camera phone simply because it has a “great” camera in it. That’s what real cameras are for.

Time Your Purchase

In the world of cell phones, it is all about timing your purchase right. Remember, many companies will drop new handsets around the same time each year. If a company is due to deliver a new handset, you might not want to jump the gun and buy the previous year’s model. For example, Apple generally releases a new iPhone within a few weeks of the previous device’s 1st birthday. If you are a week or so shy of that date, you might want to hold off.

What smartphone features matter most to you?

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