THE cellphone is your best friend. Am I right? Come on, admit it, you take it everywhere you go.

You’ve got the urge to whip it out every so often just to check if you have any new messages and Facebook status updates. In a scant decade (and maybe less), the cellphone has gone from a device only rich businessmen could afford, to a gadget every youth owns.

A 2011 survey done by MobileYouth found that 1.8 billion youth around the world owned cellphones. If you put that number to last year’s 3.5 billion phones around the world (study by GSMA), you’ll see that roughly 50% of people who use cellphones are youth.

With the amount of time youth are spending on phones and money they are willing to spend increasing, one of the most common questions is “which phone should I buy?” After all, if you’re going to be choosing your new best friend, you’d want to be careful to choose the very best.

Here is my guide to choosing a cellphone:

iPhone, Android, BlackBerry or Nokia?

This is probably the most common question of all. The questions centred on whether or not Android is a good phone platform to try simply because it’s still relatively new in our market, and most people looking for new phones have only had experience with the tried-and-tested Nokia Symbian devices.

Well, it is really subjective. I like iPhone for its simplicity and stability. Yes, I’ve experienced iPhone crashes but they are few and far between.
My problem with iPhone is the incredibly locked down file-system – for example, you need to use iTunes to transfer files to your iPhone and then again, only certain files.



Android, on the other hand, is almost on-par with iPhone in terms of apps, and speed, but you trade some stability for openness. I’d make that trade if only so I could connect my Android phone to my computer and load files onto it like a USB drive.

As for BlackBerry or Nokia, I still think both phone platforms are worth a look. BlackBerry is all about the BlackBerry Internet Service and if you’re not keen to subscribe to an Internet plan, then forget it.

Nokia’s Symbian 3 operating system is a great refresh, but still feels a step behind Android and iOS. Still, the phones are great value for the prices they come in.

Lights, camera, action!

Most phones today have a camera, and there are a few features that I always check for. Ignore megapixels; basically, anything that’s five megapixels and above will serve you well enough.

You need to look for features like “mechanical shutter” and autofocus lenses. These will make your image sharper. Check out the size of the camera lens – generally, bigger is better.

Another thing to look out for is good camera apps that will supplement your camera taking skills. has proved to be popular on iOS and PicPlz does the same for Android. Native photo and video editing on the Nokia N8 is pretty decent too, so if you’re testing that phone you want to buy, look at what the built in camera and editing software can do.

One last tip on looking for a good camera phone is to look for one that has a physical camera button.


It’s really tough cam-whoring if you’re trying to touch the camera trigger on a touch screen. There’s just no tactile feedback!

Apps, apps, apps

It’s easy to get carried away by numbers for apps. Maybe 300,000 iOS apps sound like a lot, but at best it’s the same 100-200 apps that everyone uses and the rest are just boring games and single function apps.

Instead, I look for apps that I will most likely use and ensure it’s on the platform. For me, if there’s a decent Twitter app, an Evernote client, a Foursquare client, a Facebook client and an Office Document editing app, it’s good enough.

One more thing – stay away from accumulating too many games. Yes, I know US$0.99 (RM3.20) seems to be cheap for a game, but what’s the point of collecting so many games that you’ll never end up playing?

Contract or no contract?

The idea of subsidised phones in exchange for being tied to a one or two year contract has recently proliferated our market.

Such contracts are usually a good deal if the package is to your liking and you are willing to spend the amount stipulated by the contract (including cellphone charges).

You are essentially trading your flexibility in changing phone packages for a subsidy on your phone (which varies greatly).

You also have to weigh your decision on how fast moving technology is.
You also need to evaluate how you use your phone, and sign up for the services you know you’ll use. One hundred free MMSes? When are you ever going to use those?

With so many choices in the market, your choice of cellphone depends on how you intend to use it.

* David Lian is happy to take more questions. Tweet him at or e-mail

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