Ask Adrian: Our tech editor tackles your trickiest technology problems
Q: I've had an Android smartphone for three years but the battery is starting to go and the screen is cracked. I want to upgrade to a newer model anyway, but I heard the new iPhone costs €1,000 and I honestly can't afford that, or one of the top Samsungs. My maximum budget is €500. Any recommendations?
A: Yes. You should get either a OnePlus 5, an Huawei P10 or a new iPhone SE.
If you want to stay with Android, the OnePlus 5 is the best technical smartphone you can get for under €500, with one important caveat: you have to order it online from OnePlus.net as it's not for sale in any shop here, nor is it available on an upgrade from any mobile operator.
But what a handset. It has almost all the specifications of the top flagship smartphones at a price way below that of the big marques.
The 5.5-inch screen is gorgeous and it has the dual-camera setup (16-megapixel wide angle and 20-megapixel telephoto, with a 16-megapixel selfie camera) that we now see in elite phones such as the iPhone 8 Plus or Samsung's Galaxy Note 8.
It comes with a roomy 64GB of storage (which is more than the iPhone or Samsung S8 start with) and a whopping 6GB of Ram under the hood, making the device among the most powerful you can get. Because its battery is bigger than most other phones, you easily get a day's use, even if you use it non-stop. But you do have to order it online, paying in one fell swoop. That may not suit.
If not, Huawei's P10 is an excellent option at a similar price but which is offered by several Irish operators [Vodafone, Three and Meteor (now called Eir)] with no upfront price.
Like the OnePlus 5, the P10 has two rear cameras (12-megapixel wide angle and 20-megapixel telephoto) which perform very well.
It has a nice 5.1-inch screen, decent battery life and 64GB of storage, which is more than most smartphones at any price. I've used it and can recommend it as a good performing upper-mid tier smartphone.
But the last model I'd urge you to think about isn't an Android handset at all, it's an Apple's iPhone SE. This was upgraded a couple of months ago and may be one of the best-equipped smartphones you can get for your money right now. The iPhone SE has a pretty excellent 12-megapixel camera, powerful processor (the same as on the iPhone 6S) and can run iOS 11, which is Apple's upgraded operating system that is being released about now. It's also a beautifully designed phone, drawing on the (less powerful) iPhone S physical shape. Unlike the newest iPhones, it also retains a headphone jack.
But the element that will either turn you off it or attract you to it is its 4-inch screen.
By today's standards, that's quite small and means that it's not as good for watching long videos or TV episodes.
On the other hand, it's much easier to handle and operate with one hand, which is one of the biggest drawbacks of the larger smartphones.
There's one other bonus: you can get the 128GB storage version for €519, which means you'll never really face messages saying that you're running out of space.
But the 32GB version, which is still enough storage for many people, costs just €419, easily the cheapest iPhone ever released. And this phone is also available on almost all Irish operators, meaning easy payments.
Either way, you've more choice than you might have thought.
RECOMMENDATION: Huawei P10 (left, free with contract from most operators)
Two to try
Apple iPhone 8
(€829 or from free on operator contract)
This may not be the one with the facial recognition (that’s the iPhone X, which is released in six weeks) but it’s a solid upgrade nonetheless. The main difference between this and the iPhone 7 is that it can be wirelessly charged due to its glass rear casing. Using the Qi wireless charging standard, that means you can place it on your car’s arm rest or Ikea furniture, some of which have the wireless charging feature built in. There’s also an improved camera and a much beefier chip under the hood.
Apple Watch Series 3
Apple is doubling down on health and fitness in its latest upgrade to the Watch. The Series 3 model gives you extra data on your heart rate, including warnings if there’s anything abnormal. It also features a barometric altimeter that tracks activity, flights climbed and outdoor workouts.
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