I got a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 back in 2014, replacing the larger, mid-range Galaxy Mega I was using. At that time, the Note 3 was Samsung’s flagship model for phablets and had all the finery required for such an honor.

Two years later, my Note 3 is a grizzled, DGAF grandparent compared to the latest smartphone models. It has already gone through two OS upgrades (Jelly Bean to KitKat, and then Lollipop); taken several heart-stopping high dives to the floor; been jostled around in bags and poked with by keys and hairbrush bristles; unintentionally dropped hard onto tables and thrown onto beds and sofas; and survived drooly kids, grimy playground hands, and liquor spills. Save for rare overheating, speed, and battery life issues, and random restarts when updating apps, it still works fine. I think it has another year of life left—and in today’s faster product cycles, a three-year life span is good enough.

I lucked out with a phone that met my criteria and can withstand my pang-harabas ways for things I own; others may not have the same experience with theirs. Keep the following five tips in mind when you’re hunting for your next smartphone and you may just meet the one who will be there for you (well, at least for a few years).

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Know what you truly need
Admit it: the myriad features in newer smartphones sound real cool (and come with awesome bragging rights), but you don’t really need all of them. Start your search with a list of all the features you need (and will definitely use) in your phone, and disregard the ones you can live without. It would be a waste of money to have too many features you don’t care for or a phone that doesn’t quite meet your expectations.

Some things you’ll need to take into consideration:

  • Purpose. What do you generally use your smartphone for? Are you old-school and need it only for calls and texts? Do you post on social media all day, every day? Do you need it for e-mails and basic word/image editing? Watch shows and movies on it? Games and VR? Listen to music and podcasts? Shoot photos, clips, and full videos? Selfie addict or anti-selfie? Outdoors(wo)man or indoors(wo)man?
  • Size and display. Want a phone small enough to fit into pockets, a slightly bigger and wider one for basic use, or a phablet? Standard or high-resolution display? Traditional or curved screen? Resistive or capacitive display?
  • Storage. How much will you need for all your files? Can you use a microSD card for extra space or will you rely on cloud storage services?
  • Processing power and RAM. How fast is the CPU? How many cores? And how long before the phone starts to get hot from prolonged use?
  • Build. Would you be fine with a bit of bulk and heft or do you want it super-slim.
  • Cameras. What type of lens and image sensor do the front and back cameras use? Are you planning to print out your smartphone photos or just post them online? Does the phone have optical image stabilization (OIS)?
  • Battery. Does it have a high capacity or will you need to bring a power bank with you every day? Is it removable or built in? Are you okay with charging with a power cord or is wireless charging non-negotiable?
  • Connectivity. Are you fine with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth or is it essential to have HSPA and LTE? NFC or no NFC?
  • OS. Which operating system are you most comfortable with—iOS, Android, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone?

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Always investigate
Do extensive research on the smartphones available now! We at 2.O regularly test the latest phones (so do check out our website and back issues!), and there are many reputable websites and blogs that do bias-free reviews and comparisons.

Android, Apple, BlackBerry, and Microsoft all provide helpful pages on their website that compare their different smartphone models. Check out android.com/phones/whichphone/, apple.com/ph/iphone/compare/, us.blackberry.com/smartphones/compare.html and microsoft.com/en-us/windows/view-all?type=phones and see what these manufacturers recommend. Productchart.com also has a nifty comparison tool for all mobile devices, but remember that not all displayed brands are available locally.

Ask plenty of questions. You may have family members, friends, and colleagues who own or have tried out the smartphones you’re interested in and they might have observations that manufacturers and marketers don’t address.

If you’re scoping smartphones out in retail stores, don’t rely on the brochure or the sales pitch. It may be the latest or uso model, but that doesn’t mean it’s automatically a good buy. Stand your ground!

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Only go for legit
All your hard-earned money, research, and time spent on comparisons will be for nothing if you deal with dubious sellers (online or offline). Transact only with authorized and reputable retailers—and know you’ll get what you pay for.

Tip: Go to the official websites of smartphone manufacturers and look at their lists of retail store locations or their authorized dealers in the Philippines. But if you really want to buy your smartphone online, make sure you’re talking to a seller or company with a positive track record and who you can easily reach for any additional concerns. And don’t forget about their return/exchange policies.

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Remember your limits
Some shoppers may be willing to overspend on a product, thinking it’ll be worth the expense later on. We say stick to your budget, no exceptions—even for smartphones. We agree with CNET: get the best phone you can afford. But again, the latest and the flashiest isn’t always the best.

After the sale…
You know what we love? Excellent after-sales service. Any product will need repairs at some point, warranty or not. Check if the brand or store you bought from has your back and get things done the way they’re supposed to.

About The Author

KC Calpo is a writer and editor covering the technology, business, and lifestyle beats. She is also an MFA-Creative Writing student at De La Salle University, and an occasional book blogger at The Reading Spree (thereadingspree.com). In between assignments, she likes to read, travel, and binge-watch fantasy/sci-fi/psychological horror shows and movies.