Smartphone Buying Guide: How to Buy a Smart Phone

Smartphone Buying Guide: How to Buy a Smart Phone

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.     

For more great tips on buying smartphones, visit:

Smartphone Buyer’s Guide at Geek.com

How to Buy a Smartphone at PCMag.com

Smartphone Buying Guide at TechSpot.com

[Picture Source: Smartphone Resource]

Best Free Email and Webmail Programs

Best Free Email and Webmail Programs

These days, not having an email address for your smartphone, computer and mobile communications is as unthinkable as lacking a phone number. If you want to communicate with the modern world at even a basic level, being able to send messages to others’ inboxes is necessary, which, in turn, requires an email client/program. Unfortunately, Microsoft has opted out of building an email client into Windows 7, which has left some PC users in the lurch. It’s not a huge deal, though, as many of the best free email programs are now available all over the Web, simple to download, and even simpler to use.

One thing to note before beginning: First, you should consider if you want to use an actual email client, or if you’d rather opt for a webmail service. The former is a bit more customizable and lighter, whereas the latter tends to offer a useful solution that’s accessible from nearly anywhere you have an Internet connection, at the expense of potential advertisements—though said ads are usually non-intrusive. You can also access your webmail from any device which has a Web browser, which makes it highly convenient.

Either way, if you’re in the market for a new client or service, here are five online email solutions you ought to consider.

GmailAs far as web-based email goes, there’s little reason to look far beyond Google’s Gmail. It’s free, it provides you with loads of space, it supports POP and IMAP, its spam filter is superb, you can label emails, and much, much more. As for downsides, Gmail is extremely popular, so if you want an address as simple as, say, JohnSmith@gmail.com, you’re looking at something closer to JohnSmith6754@gmail.com, or something else that looks unprofessional and is hard to remember. Likewise, emails sent from a Gmail address may not be taking as seriously as those with a dedicated URL (e.g. nadia@techsavvymag.com), though thanks to the service’s growing prevalence, attitudes are rapidly changing.

Opera MailIf Gmail’s multiple features don’t do a thing for you, consider Opera Mail. It’s slick, it’s light, and it lets you access multiple POP and IMAP accounts in addition to RSS news feeds. There’s also a low bandwidth mode that only downloads part of a message unless it’s requested to retrieve more of the email.

ThunderbirdMozilla’s Thuderbird has been a popular free client for a long time. It handles spam well thanks to a self-learning spam filter, and you can add multiple features via a set of extensions. The extensions in particular make Thunderbird a customizable and enjoyable experience. The program can be easily altered to fit your needs without unwanted features bogging you down.  

Pegasus MailTalk about a name that conjures up an image of quick and sure email delivery: After all, what moves faster than the winged horse of legend? Pegasus is another popular Windows email client that’s among the best free email programs available, and it has a host of features to back up its popularity. Its message editor allows for rich text, HTML, and plain text formatting, and flexible message templates allow you to make canned responses a little warmer and friendlier.

Postbox ExpressThe interface for Postbox Express should be familiar for Outlook Express users, but it has some additional and compelling features. There is, for instance, an advanced search function that makes it easy to sift through your stack of messages and pinpoint letters from days of olde. You can also post contents of your email to Twitter and Facebook—if that’s what you want to do, of course.

In the end, there’s no such thing as a perfect email client: It’s all about what works for you, and why. For more information on the best free email programs and clients, visit:

Top 11 Free Email Clients for Windows at About.com

Best Free 7 Email Clients at MakeUseOf.com

Best Free Email Client at TechSupportAlert.com

How to Control Facebook Privacy Settings

How to Control Facebook Privacy Settings

With the rise of online shopping and user-generated content, online privacy issues have been thrust to the forefront of any discussion about social media and information sharing available on the Internet. Naturally, Facebook lies squarely at the center of controversy of the way social networks treat users’ personal information, even though it’s the actual users themselves who have decided to share it. Happily, as Facebook usage begins to feel more and more like a right and not a privilege for many, the company has taken many steps to allow users at least some semblance of control over the information they are sharing, even though that very information is the lifeblood of the company’s astronomical value.

The trouble: Many don’t realize how to control their Facebook privacy settings. So while you may choose to share daily status updates and a constant stream of photos and check-ins to your Facebook timeline every day, it’s important to remember: There are steps you can take to keep that information as private as you’d like it.  Here’s a look at the different ways you can control your personal privacy details, and which data you’re sharing with strangers.  Some of these tools are pretty straightforward, but others contain Inception-like layers of settings within settings that can make it difficult to find the precise on/off switch you’re seeking unless you know exactly what it is you’re looking for.

To begin, access the “Privacy Settings” menu from the top right of your Timeline.

Facebook Privacy Settings: Controlling When You Post

You may not realize it, but you can control who can see your status updates, photos, check-ins and other information when you post.  There’s an option within every post to allow you to control this flow, unless you’re using certain apps like Facebook for Blackberry devices. Within the Privacy Settings menu, you can set your default settings for each of the different updates to be seen by friends, the public, or only me.  This is the most basic level of Privacy Setting available, and one to which most are already attuned to.

 Connections With Others

In the “How You Connect” section, you can control your settings for how you can be found, who is allowed to send you friend requests and who can send you messages.  Decide if you want everyone to do these actions, or just limit them to friends of friends.  In the case of receiving messages, many also limit that to just friends and direct connections as well. 

Being Tagged

In the “Profile and Tagging” section of Facebook’s privacy settings, you control information that others can post using your profile.  The first basic selection controls whether you will allow others to post on your wall or not.  Most of the time, unless you’re a public figure, it’s fine to let others post on your wall, as the friends in your network are not likely to post something inappropriate.  But if you’re nervous about that happening, simply don’t allow others to post on your wall, and the only time anyone might complain about unwanted posts is on your birthday.

Privacy Settings also provide another layer of protection against those worried about posting material to their profile that they can’t control. If you still want to allow this activity, you can select to let no one see information others post except you, or you can make it visible to friends, friends of friends or everyone. You can also do the same for photos and check-ins you’re tagged in.

In this section, you also have a couple more options when it comes to how Facebook will treat and notify you when you’re tagged.  You can choose to approve any tags featuring you inserted by others, and also control whether Facebook’s facial recognition software can suggest you as a potential tag to your friends who are posting pictures.

Third Party Access – Ads, Apps and Websites

This section is at the crux of many of the privacy concerns when it comes to Facebook.  According to the company’s Privacy Settings page, “On Facebook, your name, profile picture, gender, networks, username and user id are always publicly available, including to apps.”  The reason for this, the company says, is to make this information more social.

Beyond that, you can control how all of your other information is shared with these third-party software programs, which is extremely important because they are made by separate entities that have different privacy policies than Facebook, and because it’s going to happen – these apps get access to information on users as well as information on THEIR FRIENDS whenever someone uses an app.  So it’s important you regulate what information can be shared, such as your bio, birthday, photos, status updates – pretty much anything you’ve updated on Facebook.  If you don’t want apps and websites to access these, you can uncheck them all, or even better turn of all games and apps.  The only drawback then is you can’t use any yourself, but surprisingly that is not that difficult for most.

In this section, you also control whether you carry your Facebook info with you when you visit other websites, and if you can see if your friends have done the same. Facebook calls this Instant Personalization.

It’s also within here that you can find a preview of your page as someone who is not friends with you who can see it.  It’s a good idea to check this out from time to time, especially if you’re trying to restrict the information you’re making publicly available.  Sometimes a tagged picture from a friend who has different privacy settings than you may make it through.

Past Posts

In this section, Facebook has made it really easy to change the privacy settings on all previous posts in one fell swoop.  If a change of heart or life event has made you suddenly become more private, this is a simple way to “lock down” everything instead of having to change the settings post by post.

Blocking

If someone is harassing you or you don’t want to be connected to them for some other reason, you can add them to your “Block” list, which prevents them from sending you Friend Requests or  app and event invites.  You can also block specific apps here, although it’s also easy to do these straight from your timeline so you know longer see invites from the latest ‘Ville game or SocialCam spam.