Whether you are purchasing your very first smartphone or upgrading to a newer version, the choices can be daunting. There are many areas to think about to ensure you get a phone you will enjoy until the next upgrade.

How to Choose the Right Smartphone

Carrier

Obviously, the first decision is which carrier you want to go with. Besides finding one that works in your area, you will want to look at plans. Since T-Mobile is doing away with its contract next year, that may change things for other carriers in the future. Until then, you will look at the cost of a plan and contract requirements.

How to Choose the Right Smartphone

Hardware

When choosing hardware, think about how you will use the phone. Do you like to watch movies? Then you should look for a phone with a large screen like the Samsung Focus or HTC HD7.

If texting is your thing, you will have to decide if you want a physical keyboard in addition to the touchscreen. Some great options include the Samsung Epic 4G with Sprint or the Motorola Droid 2 Global with Verizon.

A camera is another area of importance for many cell phone owners. You want a camera that takes great pictures and possibly even video. The iPhone 4 or 5 is the best known for having an awesome camera but you can find decent options with other carriers, too. The HTC EVO 4G is a great choice for Sprint customers with 8 megapixels. The myTouch 4G by T-Mobile is another winner.

Software

Once you know what is important to you in the hardware department, you will also want to consider the operating system and software. Apple has the best selection of apps with Android coming in second. Many business users favor the BlackBerry as the best choice.

If you surf the web, you want something that has decent speed so think about the processor and OS. Apple and Android both are good choices here.

How to Choose the Right Smartphone

Mobile Operating System by Market Share

Price

If price is a strong factor, you will probably want to avoid any of the latest releases for the smarphones. Pick the last version once a new release has just been issued and you will get a quality phone not too far out of date that still can compete with the latest models.

[Images via whichlifehacker & acclaro]