Life in North America is rapidly evolving to the point where it’s getting difficult to get around without the convenience of a smartphone. Even if you’ve managed to survive up until now without one, you probably get wide-eyed stares from people when you mention that you don’t carry an iPhone or a Blackberry. You may as well tell people that you like to go outside without pants.
Hooking yourself up may seem like an intimidating venture, but adhering to five simple tips found in our smartphone buying guide can make the process much easier. Ask yourself: What will I use this phone for? What do I want out of it, specifically? Will I let my kids handle it, or will I keep them far, far away from it? Here are five tips on how to buy a smartphone:
Consider a feature phone – Sure, everybody in the world and several parallel universes owns a smartphone, but you don’t necessarily have to conform! Granted, having a phone on your hip isn’t a bad idea: it comes in very handy when you’re running late, and it’s great insurance in case an emergency happens. But if making phone calls on the go is all that interests you, you might want to sign up for a feature phone, which is basically a cell phone in its simplest form. No apps, few features (despite its name), and limited Internet connectivity—just good old fashioned phone calls whenever necessary. Unsurprisingly, feature phones are considerably cheaper than smartphones, and make a great “first cellular phone” for kids.
Weigh the virtual keyboard versus the real thing – The iPhone popularized the “virtual keyboard,” which operates via phones’ touch screens. Virtual keyboards are easy to get used to, but some people despise them, as well as the very idea of using them. If you believe you’re simply incapable of getting used to tapping out messages on a screen, keep in mind that many smartphones still offer real keyboards. A BlackBerry might be what you’re looking for instead.
Evaluate the camera/video chat functions on each phone – Cameras and video cameras are as common on smartphones as number pads, but the quality of these built-in digicams vary from phone to phone. Are you a big fan of snapping photos on the fly? You might want to research which cameras fire up quickest so you can grab those Kodak moments before they disappear. Quality should cross your mind, too, if you eventually want to print your photos and immortalize them in an album – many phones now offer up to 8MP digital stills. Similarly, research video capabilities: Does the phone offer dual cameras for videoconferencing? Shoot in 720p or 1080p high-definition? How easy is it to upload to the Web?
Consider wireless broadband and loading speeds – Most current phones operate on 3G high-speed connections, enough for Web surfing, and downloading music, movies and games on-demand. But some now offer 4G LTE downloads, which move considerably quicker – features which may come in handy if you enjoy lots of multimedia to go. Likewise, other phones come with dual- and quad-core processors, which make for faster number crunching, and can load your apps and programs more quickly.
Ponder screen size and what features make sense to you – Some phones emphasize form and fashion, and offer screens upwards of 4 inches with lots of high-quality touchscreen real estate. (The Samsung Galaxy Note’s is so big, it puts tablet PCs in mind.) Others focus on power and practicality, like the Droid RAZR Maxx, which offers over 20 hours of talk time. Consider what’s right for you based on your specific needs, and buy accordingly.
Think about how often will your kids be using the phone, and for what purpose – Android and Apple iOS smartphones are designed for ease of use, and each platform’s myriad apps and digital diversions provide colorful distractions galore when fussing seems imminent. Just make sure the kids understand that dropping, kicking, or otherwise abusing your new $300 investment (yours courtesy of manufacturers like Motorola, Samsung, Sony or HTC and carriers such as AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon) is a very bad idea.
Think about games. Are you interested in them? – One of the biggest pulls for a smartphone is the ability to download and fiddle with games and applications (apps), but when it comes to app purchases, not all smartphones are created equal. While the game market for Apple’s iPhone is huge, Android phones and the Windows Phone 7 bear a much smaller and more scattered game library.
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[Picture Source: Smartphone Resource]