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Do not choose a phone without considering these essential features

It’s 2012 and it seems like a new mobile phone is released every week. With all of the options out there, it’s tough to keep track of what features will suit you the best, so here’s a list of what to look for when you buy your next phone:

1. Size – while not technically a feature, the variety of phone sizes is definitely worth considering and determining how you will use your phone the most will help you pick the size that’s right for you. If you are a gamer or enjoy watching lots of movies, pick one of the larger models like the Samsung Galaxy S3 or HTC One X. If portability is important, look for a phone that will fit easily in your hand or pocket. There is also the option of getting a flip phone, which while less popular than their candy bar shaped brothers, are significantly more compact when closed.

battery android2. Battery saving options – how long a battery lasts is determined by how often you use your phone and for what purposes. A phone can last for days with minimal use or need a recharge at lunch if used constantly. A good way to extend your battery life is to look for a phone that has power saving options, like the ability to disable Wi-Fi and dim the screen – options like these will help your battery last throughout the day. Another option is to carry a backup charger; many can plug into a car lighter or even a USB computer port to maximize convenience.

3. NFC (near field technology) – NFC is an emerging technology that allows devices to communicate with each other when they are in close proximity. While not widely adopted currently, NFC is predicted to become increasingly popular in the coming years with the main focus being on simplifying how people pay for things. The goal is to be able to swipe your phone over a scanner and make a payment wirelessly. Backed by Google, NFC is becoming available in more and more phones and is worth checking out if you are looking to stay ahead of the curve and minimize what you have to carry in your wallet.

facetime4. Quality optics – the iPhone is the world’s most popular camera these days and more and more people are turning to their cell phones to capture photos. Because of this, phone manufacturers are teaming with camera companies to pack as much camera technology into each phone as possible. New phones now offer as much detail as a regular camera and can even capture HD video. One thing to look out for is a front facing camera, meaning the phone has a camera on the front and back. This allows you to take self-shots with ease and video chat if applicable. Even if you don’t typically use a camera, you will likely find yourself reaching for your phone to capture photos, so make sure the camera takes quality pictures and videos.

capacity5. Storage capacity – in addition to being your new go-to camera, phones have also become the most popular way of carrying around music. With all of the digital media, you want to make sure your phone has the capacity to handle everything you need. Phones typically handle this demand in two ways – expandable or build in storage. With expandable, you get a bit of built in storage, but the phone also accommodates interchangeable memory cards that you can load with anything you want. With built in storage, all of the storage space is built into the handset and cannot be increased. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages and picking one will largely depend on how you anticipate using your device.

6. RAM – just like a computer, smart phones are capable of handling lots of tasks at the same time, or multitasking. This can include checking your email while listening to music or pausing a game to watch a video clip. What allows these processes to run smoothly is called RAM, or random access memory; it saves what you are doing so you can return to it quickly. New phones come with upwards of 1GB of RAM, which is great if you plan on running a lot of apps at the same time or switching back and forth between tasks, otherwise less RAM will do you just fine.

7. Speed dial and polyphonic ring tones – two classics and both still very necessary in new phones. Speed dial allows you to program your phone to call a number with the push of a button and polyphonic ring tones allow you to have a song play when someone calls. Instead of having to remember or look up a number, you can simply hold down a button and dial it with ease. Also, you will never mistake your phone ringing again once you set up your favourite song as your ringtone.

bluetooth8. Bluetooth connectivity – Bluetooth technology is a well-accepted means of sending and receiving information wirelessly. Unlike NFC, the devices in contact do not need to be in close proximity, meaning you can send music across the room to some speakers or even use an ear piece to talk while your phone is in your pocket. Bluetooth is almost guaranteed to come on all but the lowest models of phones and the number of accessories it can be paired with is vast.

voice recog9. Face or voice recognition – rather new to the cell phone game are voice and face recognition, which can both serve a myriad of uses. Voice recognition allows a person to interact with the phone without using any hands and users can dial a number, send a text or even have a text read to them by simply telling the phone what to do. Face recognition, on the other hand, allows the user to interact with their phone simply by making eye contact. The most common use is the ability to unlock your phone simply by looking at it, but it can also track your eye movements and keep the screen illuminated while you read. Like NFC, these technologies are just making their way into handsets, but will certainly become more popular as companies find ways to put them to use.

10. 4G or LTE – in broad terms, having a 4G or LTE enabled phone means it can send and receive data at speeds similar to those attained by home modems. With connectivity this fast, you can download songs or videos in a short amount of time or even upload your own. This is a major perk to people who love to watch videos on the go, upload photos or engage in a video chat. Keep in mind that there are plenty of devices out there boasting this technology, but whether or not your phone actually utilises it is dependent on your carrier and the technology available in your area.

So that’s it, now you have a better sense of what to look for when shopping for your next phone. One more thing to keep in mind is that technology is growing exponentially, so if you don’t see something you absolutely love, there are guaranteed to be more options in the coming months.