How to be a smartphone Santa
Providers, operating software and price: buying a smartphone as a gift requires a bit of homework, writes Blayne Slabbert.
Smartphones are the most popular gadget and can make a great gift at Christmas. But deciding what phone to buy a friend or loved one can be tricky and potentially expensive.
You could just ask which model they want and then purchase it but if you’re planning a surprise, you’ll need to do to a bit of research before buying.
You’ll also need to set your budget, as prices can range from $100 to more than $2000.
Here are some tips on how to choose a smartphone as a gift and some models to consider.
Android or iOS
The most important thing to consider is what operating software to get.
Android, which is made by Google, is the most popular system. It’s used by manufacturers including Samsung, Sony, LG, Huawei and Nokia.
Your other option is iOS, which is found only on iPhones.
While it’s easy to switch between the two systems, most people prefer one or the other. It’s best to stick with the one they’re using now, so look at their current handset to find out.
The other thing to check before buying is if the new phone will be compatible with their provider.
Check if they are tied to Vodafone, Spark or 2degrees because of a plan or their location (not every part of New Zealand can get a signal from all providers).
The safest bet is to get an unlocked phone that can be used with any provider.
These are easy to find but not always the cheapest. Sometimes providers will offer deals but do your homework first.
Also, check if their current SIM card is compatible with the new phone. Most devices now use nanoSIMs but you want to get it right so they can use this gift on Christmas morning.
Check with the mobile provider if you are not sure and compare it to their current device.
If you’re buying a teenager’s first phone or for someone who only needs the basics, then this section is for you.
If you want to go real basic, then look at the Nokia 3310 3g ($69). This is the modern version of the old brick phone, which is great for texting and making calls – though it only works on the Spark network.
Android users have plenty of options. Try to avoid the really cheap smartphones as they are too slow and offer a poor user experience.
The Nokia 3.1 ($249) runs Android One, a simple, uncluttered version of the Android operating system that has no duplicate apps loaded on by the phone manufacturer.
The phone also has a nice durable design and the camera takes acceptable pictures.
Another Android option is the Moto G6 ($329) which is a good allround phone.
It has a nice 5.7-inch, highdefinition display and it can take good-quality images.
There aren’t any iPhones that fit into the budget range.
Mid-range phones are often the best value for most users. It means you get many of the latest features, although you do miss out on the best camera tech and design elements.
For Android users, one of the best options is the Nokia 6.1 ($499). It features Android One which gets software updates sooner than most other devices and has great security features, too. Its camera is good and it has a fingerprint scanner and aluminium case.
The Oppo R15 ($599) is one of the few mid-range phones that looks like a high-end model as it has a ‘‘notch’’ around the lens.
If you want a mid-range Apple device, then look at the iPhone 7 ($829). While it may look small and dated compared to the latest iPhones, it’s still a great device.
You could also consider the iPhone 6 ($479) which, while getting old, is still a reliable handset.
Buying a high-end smartphone is in some ways easier because every model in this price range is excellent. But if you’re looking at this category for a gift, that often means the person is a power-user and will be more discerning about what they want.
The best buy for an Android phone is the Samsung S9 ($1399). It has all the latest tech, has a great design and can take excellent photos.
A more affordable option is the Huawei P20 ($899), which has many of the same features as the S9 and a similar look, including an edge-toedge screen and a taller design.
Unfortunately, the Google Pixel 3, one of this year’s best-reviewed phones, is not available here.
For Apple, the best buy is the iPhone XR (from $1399). It’s not the top-end iPhone but it features a similar design and performance to the iPhone XS, which costs $500 more.
Surprising your loved one with a smartphone isn’t hard if you follow these simple rules.
Apple’s iPhone Xr, above, (from $1399) is a good highend option and $500 cheaper than the iPhone X; far left, the Nokia 3.1 has a nice durable design and the camera takes acceptable pictures; left, the Oppo R15 is one of the few mid-range phones that looks like a high-end model.