Phone buying guide: which phone should I buy?

Getting the most from your next phone

How much will I need to spend?

You can walk away with a brand new smartphone for no money down if you sign up to a two-year contract, but make sure that you do your sums first.

These deals are not always particularly good and it's easy to forget that £35 per month for 24 months is £840. Check the price of the smartphone as an unlocked standalone purchase and look at the level of service you need.

If you're going for a smartphone then the 16GB Moto G at £160 is really great value for money.

You can also get near cutting edge power with the Nexus 5 at just £299. The majority of flagships, like the iPhone 5S, the Galaxy S5, and the Xperia Z2 are going to cost you at least £550.

If you're willing to go for last year's top smartphone then £400 should be enough, and prices just keep on dropping the further you go back.

Smartphones have improved so rapidly that the Galaxy S3 will still cater for most people's needs in style and it can be snapped up for as little as £200.

What phone does TechRadar recommend?

HTC One M8
We think the HTC One M8 is great

If you want something beautiful and slick then we recommend the brand new HTC One (M8). It's the kind of phone that anyone could fall in love with. For people with limited cash the Moto G is a truly unbeatable option.

But if you're struggling with so many phones to choose from check out our top 20 best mobile phones for a detailed look at all of your best options right now.

Moto G
A small budget doesn't mean you can't have a good smartphone

And even if money's tight, you don't have to forgo having a smartphone. You'll find some irresistible options at low, low prices as we delve into the realm of the best cheap smartphones on the market.

What other things should I consider?

You should definitely choose your carrier carefully and think about the contract you sign up to. There's a lot of excitement about 4G speeds, but if you live outside the coverage area, your phone doesn't support 4G, or you've only got 250MB of data to burn through each month, then it's an added expense that you simply don't need.

Battery life is always important, but there are some major differences between the top phones. Don't just look at the mAh (milliampere hour) rating.

You should consider other power-saving features too. If you like to carry a spare, make sure that your prospective new phone has a removable battery. It's worth remembering that some of the latest phones support wireless charging as well.

There are lots of connectivity features that might prove important. The latest Bluetooth 4.0 LE (low energy) is required by a lot of the new fitness tracking devices, and it's good for streaming music too, so that's something to watch out for if you intend on using a lot of accessories.

Smart watch
If you want to use your new smartphone with accessories like smartwatches you need to look at the connectivity features

If you want to be able to pay for things with your phone then you might want NFC (near field communication) support.

The best way to make sure that the phone you're considering ticks all the boxes is to make a list of those features that you can't do without.

Phone jargon explained

Operating System, OS, or Platform: refers to the software running on your phone, so either Android, iOS, or Windows 8.

3G or 4G: 3G is the third-generation of mobile phone technology, 4G is the fourth-generation. Each generation is faster than the last.

Coverage: this is the area where you can get a mobile signal.

Resolution and PPI: resolution dictates how sharp the screen is as a measure of the pixels. Full high definition (HD) is 1920 x 1080 pixels, but size factors in too, so you'll often see PPI, which stands for pixels per inch. The higher it is, the sharper the screen will appear.

Processor, GPU or CPU: dictates the hardware that runs the system. The more powerful it is, the faster your phone will be able to run.

Apps: software programs that run on your phone, they can be anything from Facebook to Flappy Bird.

RAM: Random Access Memory enables you to switch in and out of apps more quickly. The higher it is the better your phone will handle multitasking.

Internal storage: how much room you have for files, apps and movies. It's always measured in GB and the higher the number is, the more room you'll have.

Enough! Show me the reviews!

Okay we hear you, it's time to move along and start reading up on individual devices. You can get some really in-depth insight into the options with our smartphone reviews.