Once upon a time, metrics such as bandwidth and file size acted as the guidelines for smartphone (and home internet) service and contracts. Music files were 3mb; a five minute clip was 300mb. Using these sort-of golden rules and your ideas of personal usage, the right plan was found for you.

Roll forward a decade or two, and those numbers just aren’t important. Mobile and smartphones are at the forefront of consumer technology, trailblazing new processor technology and increasing functionality. With this comes nigh-on constant connection to the web, products like the Blackphone aside. What, then, makes 2018’s phone contract a good one?

Understanding the technology

The latest smartphone updates will often come accompanied with a dazzling range of new, fantastic-sounding tech. For 2018, AI is one of the big words on developer’s lips. Applications for AI specialised for mobile phone usage have blossomed, with New Scientist reporting that AI could diagnose cardiac arrest through speech patterns over calls. A key focus for many consumers looking at a new smartphone contract is ensuring that your tariff will support that technology. Take the now ubiquitous 4G network; for example. Despite blanket advertising as being super high speed, mobile network surveyor OpenSignal found that actual speeds varied wildly, with 83% availability across Middlesbrough, but just 73.6% in London

On the flipside, whether you need or will be able to employ the technology. Mobile payments are another example of tech that has exploded over the past couple of years and many phone companies co-opt the technology in advertising. However, many handsets are still produced without NFC, rendering this technology redundant.

Data usage and costs

Your smartphone – or mobile phone – was once a secondary device for internet use, more for casual usage and as an ad-hoc tool as opposed to an all encompassing technology hub. Today, the ever-present nature of the internet means that, according to the ONS, the average British adult spend 4 hours online per day. This is largely down to the ever-portable smartphone and its demand for online services; from location, to cloud drives, to notifications and updates and more. Taking note that these services work in both the background and actively, from helping you find hiking locations to reviewing your next restaurant, consider what your actual usage is, and what for. Many tariffs offer specific deals, such as providing access to music or streaming services, data-free, for an added cost per month – or on promotional terms.

Consider upgrade flexibility

Smartphone iterations now typically move in yearly cycles. What is fresh in 2018 will be great quality but inevitably superseded by 2019. With these new iterations come new features that are variably must-have or meh. The Samsung Galaxy S9’s new features, for example, feature a very social media-savvy AR custom emoji. What does this mean for those searching for a new contract? If you’re enjoy being able to get your hands on the latest technology, be prepared to pay up front or negotiate shorter contract lengths. That way, your upgrade will never be too far around the corner.

Smartphones are a transformative tool and worlds away from the devices in our hands a decade ago. Make sure you know what your contract entails and what you need and you’ll have the perfect setup for your needs.