Choosing an iPhone is easy -- do you want black or white? Buying an Android phone is more challenging, but potentially also more rewarding. Google's operating system can now be found on dozens of mobile phones, not to mention tablets, ebook readers, TVs and even cameras.
Whether you're looking for a palm-spanning multimedia powerhouse or just a compact, competent smart phone, there's an Android device for you.
Android comes in various different versions, the most recent of which is 4.2 Jelly Bean. Updates can be slow to appear on older phones though, so you'll still find plenty in people's pockets running the older Ice Cream Sandwich or even the now ancient Gingerbread.
New phones will hopefully run Jelly Bean -- or Key Lime Pie that's due for launch in the coming weeks -- but if you find ICS on a budget model, that's not a bad option either.
Android 4.1 Jelly Bean introduced a bunch of nifty new features -- see this story for a breakdown of some of the key additions. Google Now uses your location and previous search habits to bring you information regarding weather, transport and various other bits and bobs without you needing to search for it.
If you're shelling out for a really expensive smart phone, you'll certainly want the most recent version of the operating system that money can buy to maximise your chances of getting future updates. Older phones tend not to receive the latest updates, often because the hardware is not up to the task of running demanding new software.
Google's Nexus partner phones like the Nexus 4 and Samsung Galaxy Nexus are used to showcase the latest updates to the software so receive new software generally earlier than other devices.
Most mobile makers put their own software skin on top of Android, such as HTC Sense. When this works, it can give Android a welcome dash of style. When it doesn't, it can be a high-tech car crash, so try before you buy.
Spare a thought for the processor at the heart of the phone. The speedier the chip, the faster everything will work, from flicking through photos to surfing the Web. The top phones have quad-core -- and, technically, 8-core -- processors to help make them total powerhouses for multimedia, but dual-core processors can still provide a lot of juice, without being as heavy on the battery.
Phones with quad-core chips aren't automatically a better buy -- it depends what you want to use the device for. Those extra cores will help with very demanding activities such as high-end 3D gaming or loads of multi-tasking -- having scores of tabs open on your browser, for example.
If you just want a really capable all-rounder then a fast dual-core device should be more than adequate. A dual-core chip with a fast (above 1.4GHz) clock speed will be able to cope with the vast majority of apps from the Google Play store, but might not be as smooth with multi-tasking.
Once again, the best advice is to try before you buy if possible. The diversity of Android phones means performance varies wildly from device to device from hyper-slick to downright sluggish.
If your mobile needs are modest then slower, single-core processors can work well. An 800MHz or 1GHz chip will do the trick for the essentials of calling, texting, social networking and email, but if you want to edit photos and videos and play lots of games, you're unlikely to be satisfied.
The next step is to take a tape measure to your pocket to see how much space you've got for today's super-sized screens. Rampant display inflation seen over the last year means the 4.3 inches of the Galaxy S2 is nothing special anymore. Now 4.8 inches is pretty standard and there are even trouser-bulging 6.5-inch screens out there. Bigger displays are easier to navigate, great for viewing websites and superb for perusing videos, but they'll also munch through battery power quicker. Obviously, you'll also have a larger lump to lug around with you.
The screen's resolution and touch responsiveness is key. Think twice before buying any phone with less than a 320x480-pixel resolution, even on a really budget phone. Squinting at the screen eliminates virtually all of Android's cool factor and makes Web browsing a depressing chore.
Mid-range phones will typically offer resolutions in the region of 480x800 pixels, though there can be a lot of variation at this price range. The very sharpest high-end phones max out at 1,920x1,080 pixels -- that's Full HD.
The high resolutions mean that more pixels are packed into the screen -- what's known as pixel density or ppi. The higher the ppi, the sharper the screen will be. Apple's retina display was once the top dog in that category, but many of the new top-end Android blowers have it beaten.
Next, think about the camera. Just because you're buying a phone, it doesn't mean it has to have a terrible snapper. Some high-end Android phones can take stunningly good snaps these days. Even some mid-range handsets can turn out reasonable results, so don't assume you have to make do with a sub-par lens.
One assumption you definitely shouldn't make is more megapixels equals better photos. The quality of the lens, optics, image processing chip and software are all very important. Here at CNET UK, we include test snaps in our phone reviews so be sure to check you're happy with the quality of your chosen 'droid's photography by eyeballing our photos before buying.
Finally, think about extra features. Do you want high-definition video recording or are you happy with a standard 480x640-pixel resolution? What about near field communication (NFC) -- are you excited by the thought of paying for stuff with your phone or are you not bothered? Do you want a really slick robotic voice assistant in your pocket or are you more interested in impressive audio?
Now check out the best Android phones reviewed here on CNET UK. You'll never look enviously at a boring old iPhone again.
Additional reporting by Natasha Lomas.