Your cell phone is a constant companion, a pocket-sized link to the news, entertainment and social circles that color your world. That's why it's so important to find the mobile device that best fits your needs. From smartphones to feature phones, from Android to Windows, let us be your guide.
Postpaid, No-Contract and Unlocked
The first decision you'll need to make is whether you want a no-contract (also known as prepaid or pay-as-you-go) or postpaid plan. There are advantages to each.
When you buy a cell phone tied to a postpaid mobile plan, you'll sign a contract with a carrier to use their service until the end of a specified term of use (usually two years). Terminating or ending service early usually carries a penalty.
One key benefit is that postpaid phones are generally subsidized by the carrier, which gives you a considerable price break compared to buying the same phone without a contract. What this really means is that the same phone could be $50 postpaid but easily $300 to $600 otherwise. Popular postpaid carriers include Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint.
When you buy a no-contract cell phone, you pay for the service in advance and don't have to sign a contract for any specific length of time. Prepaying for your minutes, texting and data makes it easy to keep track of your phone budget. And because you aren't locked into a long-term contract, you have the freedom to change phones and carriers without penalty. This is a good option if you like keeping up with the newest technology as soon as it's available.
Keep in mind that unsubsidized cell phones are considerably pricier upfront. Popular pay-as-you-go carriers include AT&T GoPhone, Boost Mobile, Verizon Wireless Prepaid and Virgin Mobile, while no-contract phones are available from a wide range of manufacturers such as Samsung, Motorola, HTC, LG, BlackBerry and Nokia.
Unlocked cell phones are another option if you don't want a contract. Unlocked phones are not bound to a specific cellular service provider and can be used throughout the United States and internationally on a number of different cellular service providers. This makes unlocked phones especially useful for and popular with people who frequently travel overseas.
Unlocked phones are produced by many manufacturers, including Apple, Samsung, HTC, Motorola among others, and are available with a variety of operating systems, such as Android, Windows Phone, iOS and BlackBerry.
Cell Phone Carriers
Once you've decided on a no-contract or postpaid phone, you'll need to choose your carrier. There are three key factors to consider here: coverage area, your planned monthly phone budget, and the phone selection for that carrier.
It's important to choose a carrier with strong coverage in the areas where you'll use it most. Carriers generally provide coverage maps displaying their service areas, but you'll also want to ask friends, family and co-workers about their own experiences.
Planning a mobile budget can be tricky. We'll go into data and calling plans in the next section, but a couple of things to keep in mind are how many devices you'll be using, how many people will be on your plan and how often you'd like to upgrade to a new phone. Each carrier's options vary based on your specific situation.
Phone selection can make a big difference in choosing a carrier. Certain devices are tied to a specific carrier, while others are available on multiple carriers. If you have your eye on a certain phone, make sure it's available with a carrier that has good coverage in your area.
Cell Phone Plans
The right plan for your needs is closely tied to the type of phone or phones you're purchasing. A basic talk-and-text cell phone, for instance, requires only a talk plan based around your usage minutes, while a smartphone requires a data plan. A data plan is a monthly rate you pay to access the Internet, use apps, stream videos, upload and download content and more.
Tiered data plans
AT&T and Verizon Wireless have shifted to tiered data plans. With a tiered plan, you pay a set rate depending on how much data you expect to use each month, with modest overage fees if you exceed your limit.
Unlimited data plans
Many no-contract carriers offer unlimited monthly data plans. Sprint offers unlimited postpaid data plans with a 2-year agreement. These plans essentially allow you as much data as you want to use at no extra charge. See the carrier?s terms and conditions for details.
Individual and Family plans
Your next consideration is the number of phones/devices on your plan. Most carriers offer different plans for individuals, families and businesses, usually with price breaks for additional lines of service. Family plans generally include options for parental controls, allowing parents to set time limits, monitor kids' phone usage and more.
Monthly Installment Plans
If you're someone who loves having the latest smartphone as soon as it's available, explore monthly installment plan options like Verizon Device Payment, AT&T Next or Sprint Easy Pay. An installment plan lets you pay for your phone with low monthly payments and makes it easy to upgrade to a new phone sooner; you don't have to wait until your contract is over.
Payments are usually divided over a predetermined number of months, and you can upgrade to a new phone after a certain number of months, after a percentage of the phone has been paid, or by paying off the remaining balance, depending on the plan.
Cell Phone Operating Systems
If you're buying a smartphone, the operating system can make a big difference in how you use your device. At the moment there are four major operating systems vying for your attention. Here's a brief overview of what each one has to offer.
- Open source platform that allows third-party developers to create apps and tools
- Designed as a consumer- and social network-centric platform
- Easy to customize to match your needs and tastes
- Thousands of apps available via the Google Play store
- Access to one of the widest app selections in the mobile industry
- Integrates iTunes app and Safari mobile Web browser
- The same technology powers all Apple devices for seamless communication between Apple devices
- Thousands of officially approved apps available via the App Store
- See iPhone comparison chart ›
- Created for business users for easy access to e-mail and text messaging
- Updated BlackBerry 10 operating system creates a more interactive, user-friendly experience
- Ideal for international use
- Personalized, user-friendly experience that communicates seamlessly with Microsoft computers and other devices
- Easily customizable touch-screen interface
- SkyDrive app allows easy management of documents, photos and videos
|FEATURES||iOS||ANDROID||WINDOWS||WHY IT MATTERS|
|Associated Devices||iPhone||Samsung Galaxy, Google Nexus, HTC One||Nokia Lumia||Smartphones offer advanced computing capability and Internet connectivity.|
|Current Version||iOS 7||KitKat 4.4||Windows Phone 8.1||Operating systems manage software and hardware resources.|
|Customizable Home Screen||Limited||Extensive||Moderate||Customizable home screens allow greater flexibility in creating a personalized user experience.|
|Text Messaging||iMessage||Yes||Yes||iMessage allows free messaging over Wi-Fi with other Apple device users.
Android works with Gmail accounts to allow messaging across a wide range of devices.
|Intelligent Assistance||Siri||Google Now||No||Intelligent assistance allows voice command control for hands-free operation.|
|App Store||Apple Store||Google Play||Windows Phone Apps+Game Store||App stores allow access to thousands of applications and games across a broad range of categories.|
|Multitasking||Yes||Yes||Yes||Users are able to quickly toggle between multiple applications.|
|Music Player||iTunes||Play Music||Xbox Music||Music players make it easy to enjoy your favorite songs and create custom playlists on the go.|
|Cloud Syncing||iCloud||Google Drive||SkyDrive||Cloud storage provides backup capability and an easy way to share and access pictures and videos from multiple devices.|
|Browser||Safari||Chrome||Internet Explorer||Preloaded Internet browser allows users to surf the Web.|
Choosing the Right Cell Phone
Your options are essentially endless. That may sound daunting, but think of it this way: You have the luxury of picking out a phone that meets your exact needs and wants. Smartphones, in particular, are capable of so many things that your choices of features seem limitless.
Of course, if you want just the basics, we carry plenty of basic talk-and-text phones with no data plan necessary, as well as top-up cards to make sure you never run out of minutes.
- Powerful processors — Important for mobile web-browsing, gaming and streaming video
- Sharp images — Most smartphones feature high-definition touch screens, some as large as 5-plus inches
- Quality cameras — Some smartphone cameras now offer resolution and megapixel counts that rival traditional point-and-shoot cameras
- Video chat — Front-facing cameras on smartphones let you have face-to-face conversations via Skype, FaceTime, Hangouts and other services
- Size and weight — Thinner bodies and smaller screens take up less space in pockets and purses
- Voice controls — Virtual assistants like Apple's Siri and Android's Google Now help you access information using just the sound of your voice
- Battery life — Certain smartphones are built to maximize battery hours, ideal if you frequently find it hard to get to an outlet
|FEATURES||APPLE (iPhone 5s)||SAMSUNG (Galaxy S4)||HTC
|BLACKBERRY (Z10)||MOTOROLA (DROID)||LG
|WHY IT MATTERS|
|App Store Compatibility||Apple Store||Google Play||Google Play||BlackBerry App World||Google Play||Google Play||App stores allow access to thousands of applications and games across a broad range of categories.|
|Operating System||iOS||Android||Android||Blackberry 10||Android||Android||Operating systems manage software and hardware resources.|
|Display Size (Diagonal)||Up to 4"||Up to 5"||Up to 5.9"||4.2"||Up to 5"||Up to 5.2"||Larger displays offer better viewing but tend to make for a larger phone.|
|Display Resolution||Up to 1136 x 640||Up to 1920 x 1080||Up to 1920 x 1080||1280 x 720||Up to 1920 x 1080||Up to 1920 x 1080||Higher screen resolution adds higher definition and clarity to pictures, text and video.|
|Processor||1.3GHz dual core||1.9GHz quad core||1.7GHz quad core||1.5GHz dual core||Up to 1.7GHz dual core||Up to 2.26GHz quad core||Multicore processors offer greater power to run more apps simultaneously with less slowdown.|
|RAM||Up to 1GB||Up to 2GB||Up to 2GB||Up to 2GB||Up to 2GB||Up to 2GB||Higher RAM allows for seamless multitasking.|
|Built-in Memory||Up to 64GB||Up to 16GB||Up to 64GB||16GB||Up to 16GB||32GB||Larger storage provides more room to store pictures, videos, and apps.|
|Expandable Storage||No||Up to 64GB||Up to 64GB||Up to 64GB||Yes||Up to 64GB||Expandable storage devices like microSD cards add even more storage for pictures, videos, and games.|
|Front Camera Resolution||1.2MP||2MP||2.1MP||2MP||2MP||2.1MP||Front cameras are ideal for video chatting and self-portraits.|
|Rear Camera Resolution||Up to 8MP||Up to 13MP||4MP||8MP||Up to 10MP||Up to 13MP||Higher megapixel rear cameras are great for taking detailed, quality photos and videos.|
|Mobile Data||4G/LTE||4G/LTE||4G/LTE||4G/LTE||4G/LTE||4G/LTE||4G LTE offers high-speed performance (service contract required).|
|Wi-Fi Enabled||802.11 b/g/n||802.11 b/g/n/ac||802.11 b/g/n/ac||802.11 b/g/n||802.11 b/g/n||802.11 b/g/n/ac||Wi-Fi-enabled phones can connect to the Internet over any Wi-Fi connection or hotspot without using up bandwidth from a cellular data plan.|
|Battery Life (talk time, 3G)||Up to 10 hours||Up to 17 hours||Up to 18 hours||10 hours||Up to 13 hours||Up to 18 hours||Certain smartphones are built to maximize battery hours, ideal if you frequently find it hard to get to an outlet.|
|Keyboard||Touch-screen QWERTY||Touch-screen QWERTY||Touch-screen QWERTY||Touch-screen QWERTY||Touch-screen QWERTY||Touch-screen QWERTY||Intuitive touch-sensitive QWERTY keyboards mimic the familiar layout of a computer keyboard.|
|Bluetooth||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Bluetooth allows easy connection to wireless headsets and other Bluetooth devices.|
|Carrier Compatibility||Sprint, Verizon Wireless, AT&T||Sprint, Verizon Wireless, AT&T||Sprint, Verizon Wireless, AT&T||N/A (only available unlocked)||Sprint, Verizon Wireless, AT&T||Sprint, Verizon Wireless, AT&T||Users have a choice of various carriers and cell phone plans.|
|Weight||3.95 ounces||4.59 ounces||5.04 ounces||4.85 ounces||4.59 ounces||5.04 ounces|
|SIM Card Type||Available unlocked or with nano SIM||Available unlocked or with micro SIM||Available unlocked or with nano SIM||Available unlocked or with micro SIM||Available unlocked or with nano SIM||Available unlocked or with micro SIM||SIM cards can be placed into an unlocked phone to assume the number and info. associated with that SIM card, which is great for travelers and those who like to switch between carriers.|
Cell Phone Activation
Before you start using your phone, you'll need to activate it. This involves connecting with your carrier and getting your service officially started. If you're buying your phone in store, our team will gladly get you all set up. If you're buying online you can bring your phone into your nearest Best Buy for activation guidelines. If you're transferring data and contacts from an old phone to a new one, we can do that for you too.
Protection and Personalization
Your phone is a valuable, expensive piece of equipment and it deserves to be protected as such. Phone protection takes several forms.
Consider picking up:
- Screen protector
- Geek Squad Protection
- Geek Squad cell phone services
- App-enabled accessories
As preventative measures go, Best Buy carries heavy-duty screen shields from ZAGG, 3M, BodyGuard and more. A sturdy case is another sound investment against drops and dings. Best Buy carries cases for most of the phones in our array from trusted manufacturers like Otterbox, Case-Mate, LifeProof and more.
In the longer view, we also offer Geek Squad Protection plans for cell phones. This coverage includes repair costs due to normal wear and tear, one-time accessory replacement, a 24-hour help line and more. Advanced Plan members even get coverage against accidents like drops and spills.
You can also have your phone set up right in the store, so you'll be ready to use it immediately. Walk Out Working is a free Geek Squad cell phone service that includes transferring your contacts and data, setting up your e-mail and much more. Other cell phone services we offer include product support, setting up hands-free access and mobile broadband service. Plus, you can bring in your old cell phone to get a free gift card for your trade-in, or if it has no value, we provide free cell phone recycling.
Shop Online or In Store
Find a wide variety of cell phones on BestBuy.com. Your local Best Buy store also has a wide selection of the latest cell phones, many of which are available to compare. Plus, our friendly Mobile Phone Specialists are available to answer questions, provide advice on data plans and help with trading in your old smartphone for Best Buy gift cards.