8 Mistakes People Make When Buying a Phone

Sooner or later, we all have to buy new phones. For some of us, that means upgrading yearly to the hottest new device on the market. Others only pull the trigger when their carrier offers them a deal so good they can’t refuse. Then there are those who wait until their phone gets lost, broken, or so old that it’s too slow to do just about anything.

Buying new phones is a part of life, which makes it all the more important that we do it right. Just like buying a computer, there are lots of mistakes you can make. Here are some of the biggest mistakes people make when buying a new phone, and how to avoid them.

1. Getting the wrong size

iPhone 6 Plus

Your phone size matters more than you think | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It won’t come as news to anyone, but our smartphones have been growing in recent years. The first iPhone had a dainty 3.5-inch screen and was small enough for just about anyone to use one-handed. Then along came an array of Android phones that proved there was a sizable market for bigger phones. Now you can get phones that range from about four to six inches, with every size in between.

The problem with having so many size choices is that it’s hard to pick the one that’s best for you. Some people prefer smaller phones because they fit better in their pockets. Other people toss their phone in a purse when they’re not using it, so a big phone isn’t a problem. In any case, zeroing in on the ideal phone size takes time, and the only way to do it is by trying them out. So, before you hop online and order a phone in an unfamiliar size, head to the nearest mobile phone store and play around with a variety of models that range in size. See which size suits you best before buying.

2. Not getting enough storage

Businesswoman using mobile phone

It’s important that your new phone has enough storage space | iStock.com/diego_cervo

It can be so tempting to spend the minimal amount of money on a new phone. Since phones are typically priced based on their size and storage, that means you’re getting somewhere in the ballpark of 16 or 32GB of memory. But with all the data-hogging apps, games, music, and video we cram onto our phones, that storage can get eaten up quickly.

If you find yourself bumping up against the storage limit regularly, do yourself a favor next time you buy a phone, and get one with more space or a MicroSD card slot. That way, you won’t have to wrestle with which apps and what songs to delete whenever you want to add something new to the device. It may cost more, but as long as you can afford it, a little extra storage is well worth the money.

3. Buying at the wrong time

Apple CEO Tim Cook (L) shows dancer Maddie Ziegler (R) a new iPhone during a product demonstration at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, California on September 07, 2016.

Plan your smartphone purchase so you can get the best deal | Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Thanks to a constant stream of new smartphones hitting the market, even the newest phone isn’t going to stay best-in-class for long. That said, buying a new phone as close to its release date as possible is the only kind of future-proofing there is in the world of smartphones.

If you do a little research, you’ll notice Apple almost always brings out a new iPhone every October, so buying one in the late summer or early fall means your phone will drop in value right when the new ones come out. Android phones operate on more varied timelines, so try not to buy the new Samsung Galaxy when the next Google Pixel phone is right around the corner. In general, if the phone you’re looking at is almost a year old, check the news to see if a new model is expected soon — if it is, you can probably get the new one for the same price or the old one for cheaper.

4. Not getting a case

Broken iPhone

Don’t risk your phone’s safety — get a case | iStock.com

You can be as careful as you want, but sooner or later, the law of gravity will prevail, and you’re going to drop your phone. When that happens, you’d better hope it’s in a case that’s strong enough to protect your phone from a reasonable fall. If it’s not, there’s a good chance you’re going to be dealing with a broken screen in the very near future. Unless you enjoy dealing with scuffed metal and shards of glass, there’s no excuse for using your phone without a case. Seriously, buy a case.

5. Buying pricy insurance

Dollar bills burning in fire

Phone insurance sounds like a better deal than it actually is | iStock.com

Since we’re all using cases now (see above), we probably don’t need to pay for pricy insurance for our phones, either. Your case is insurance enough.

It’s not that insurance is categorically bad, but you’re likely to put more money into it than you’re going to get out of it. Unless you lose your phone often, you probably don’t need insurance. You’re better off socking away a bit of money each month for a general emergency fund. That way, if something happens to your phone, you can cover it by spending exactly as much as it costs to repair or replace.

6. Choosing the wrong carrier

The AT&T logo

Make sure to choose the best carrier for your phone | Etienne Franchi/Getty Images

Switching carriers can be a dangerous game. Though companies like Verizon and AT&T boast about how great their coverage is, you never really now how well they’ll cover the places you spend the most time until you try for yourself. Things like your elevation and the placement of brick walls can affect your coverage. Your phone might work fine in the kitchen, but lose connection whenever you wander into the bedroom.

The only way to know for sure when switching carriers is to put them through their paces. Look at your reception bars or talk on the phone as you wander from room to room and place to place. If you lose service, you’re almost certainly better off trying another carrier.

7. Assuming your new phone will work on your carrier

Sprint sign | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Make sure your carrier supports your new phone | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Unless you buy your phone directly from your carrier, you’d better make sure the phone is compatible with your carrier before buying. It’s no sure thing, because not all carriers operate on the same technology.

The big divide is between CDMA and GSM. In the U.S., Verizon and Sprint are CDMA networks, while AT&T and T-Mobile are GSM networks. Phones made for one technology won’t always work with the other. Also some phones only connect to certain bands that a given carrier may or may not use. So, read the fine print before buying a third-party phone. That way, you’ll know that it works before making the purchase.

8. Buying an old phone

iPhone | Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

An old phone is not as secure or up to date as a new phone | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Keeping your phone’s operating system current is a big deal. If you buy an older phone, there’s a good chance it will be running out-of-date software that you won’t be able to update. Not only does old software lack the fancy features of newer versions, but it’s also less secure. Apple and Google are constantly updating their software to close security gaps and to run smoother. That’s why buying a newer phone is always preferable to buying an old one. If the phone you’re looking at is already two software generations behind the latest OS, steer clear.