As the days begin to get shorter, and the air starts turning crisp, it’s clear that it won’t be long before Christmas is upon us once again. That means parties, sweet treats and, of course, lots of presents around the tree. Parents across the country are no doubt already getting some not so subtle hints about what their kids want for Christmas this year, and it’s fairly certain a shiny new smartphone is on most of those lists. Now, where you stand on the debate surrounding children and smartphones is a personal matter, and it’s understandable if some parents feel that they simply don’t make appropriate gifts, particularly for younger kids. But if you feel that your children are old enough to use a smartphone responsibly, and if they’ve been good this year, you might want to slip a new mobile in their stocking or under the tree.
Budget Shopping Advice
Of course, cost is always a consideration, and if you’re going to give the gift of a new smartphone you’ll probably want to focus on a more budget friendly model. But what should parents (or anyone for that matter) look for in a budget smartphone? First, you’ll have to accept a few compromises. A budget handset is simply not going to be a match for a top of the line iPhone. Having said that, there are an increasing number of budget priced smartphones that do deliver most, if not all, of the goods. Specs won’t be up to the highest standards, but they’re perfectly satisfactory, especially for younger users.
When it comes to budget handsets there are two operating systems to choose from, Google’s Android and Windows Phone 8. Both allow users to download popular apps like Facebook and Twitter, though the selection for Windows might be considered a bit limited. You’ll find a wider range of apps available for Android devices, so if you’re looking for YouTube, Google Maps, or even BBC iPlayer you’ll probably want to choose Google over Windows.
Once you’ve settled on which basic operating system you prefer, it’s time to think about the hardware itself. Again, some compromises will have to be made here. Budget handsets won’t have the strongest builds as their more expensive counterparts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make some informed choices.
- Processors – Surprisingly, processors are pretty much standard across most smartphone models with Snapdragon 410 being the industry standard. While processing power is important, a handset’s performance is largely dictated by how much is demanded of it at any given time. So if you choose a budget smartphone and overload it with apps its performance is going to drag.
- Battery – Battery life is an important consideration when buying a smartphone, particularly for kids who may be prone to forget to charge their handsets regularly. Smartphone batteries generally range in size from 1600 mAh to 3500 mAh. Again, performance will depend upon the number apps and functions loaded onto the handset, and how often they are employed. Ideally, you should look for a phone with a battery size of either 1750 mAh or 2000 mAh.
- Display Screen – This is one of the most important parts of the smartphone to consider, and there are a couple of key things to look for when making a purchase. The first is resolution. The larger the screen size the higher the resolution needs to be, or images will appear blocky and indistinct. For a 5 inch screen, you’ll want a minimum resolution of 1280X720. Smaller screen have a bit more leeway, but you’ll still want a resolution of at least 960X540.
- Cameras – For most of us, our phones have become our primary cameras so this is another important piece of hardware to consider. Unfortunately, cameras are the first casualty of price, and most budget phones will suffer on this front. Specs can be misleading here, so it is not always enough to simple choose the handset with the largest camera. The software that supports the camera is just as important. That being said, at the very least you want a 1.2 or 2 Megapixel camera with a resolution above 640X480. Keep in mind that low end phones are sometimes limited to a single camera, so if selfies are a consideration you’ll have to scout out a few different models until you find one with both front and rear facing cameras.
We’ve already talked a little about operating systems, and the major differences between Windows and Android. Still, there are a couple of added points to consider. Android is, by far, the most popular operating system for budget smartphones. However, it’s worth noting that not all Android devices are the same. Some manufacturers will overlay their own user interface on top of the basic Android installation. That can lead to bloatware and sluggish performance. Ideally, you want a device with a clean Android install, and this can be found in budget priced Nexus and Motorola models. A smartphone with a plain version of Android will also allow you to receive important software updates quicker, keeping the device operating at peak efficiency.
Finally, it is important to consider the customer support that will come with your purchase. This is particularly important if the smartphone you are buying is a gift for a younger user. As a general rule, always make your purchase from a reputable dealer that offers a well defined warranty, and when reviewing that warranty pay close attention to replacement and repair options. Buying a phone second hand can be tempting, and can offer a way to save some money on your purchase. However, it can also lead to big problems down the line, ultimately turning an exciting Christmas gift into a major disappointment. So consider any second hand purchases carefully.
A smartphone makes a great Christmas gift at any age. However, if it’s for a child or teenager you’ll probably want to set some boundaries before activating the phone. Talk with your kids about the responsibilities of owning their own smartphone, set some hard and fast rules about accessing the internet and downloading apps, and teach them about online safety. For younger children, it might be smart to install some parental control software before you wrap up the phone and pop it under the tree.
If you find a smartphone on your kid’s Christmas list this season, a budget model is a smart choice. Children can be hard on their toys, and splashing out on a top of the line handset can be a big mistake. If you take your time and do a bit of research you can find a smartphone that will make their eyes go wide on Christmas morning content in the knowledge that you didn’t break the bank.