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.

Waikato Times - - Weekend | Technology -

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

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.

High end

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.

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