Thinking of a smartphone for the holiday?

With all of the capabilities a smartphone can provide, even to someone who feels that technology doesn’t like them, many people are thinking or putting an iPhone, Windows Mobile Phone, or Android based smartphone on their christmas list.  However, how do you choose the one that could be right for you or someone you love? This article from MacWorld will help to provide information one what all of those “specs” mean.  Unfortunately, when someone heads to the store, those are the things that sales people typically throw at customers. Well… that and price…

To help smartphone shoppers understand what theyre looking at, we offer definitions of the most commonly used specifications, and explain why they are important. These definitions can help you choose a phone whose specs meet your needs; they can also come in handy when you’re trying to separate the truth from the hype in the sales pitches you encounter in commercials or in stores.

via Smartphone specs demystified | Phones | iOS Central | Macworld.

Don’t get me wrong, price is a HUGE appeal.  When my son’s get older and I am supporting 4 smartphones instead of just 2, will I have 4 iPhones (as opposed to the 2 I currently have)… I don’t know. $199 X 4 = $796 + the associated data costs… Compare that to the Android-based (and soon Windows Mobile-based) phones that are going for buy one get 2-4 free. My (and your costs) could drop to $199 or even $50 to get 3-4 phones. But, are all smartphones created equal? At this point in my life, I personally believe that I would be staying with buying 4 iPhones as opposed to other platforms.  It is NOT that cost does not matter. It does.  In comparing the different platforms I see more limitations and frustrations in Android and believe that will also be mirrored in Windows mobile 7.

But, as I am recommending to look past the hype of sales people, I suggest looking past my hype too. Here is a list of thing that I suggest thinking about or doing / looking at BEFORE a purchase:

  • Cost SHOULD always be considered, but don’t let that be the sole determinant on your choice.  Remember you very often get what you par for…
  • Look past gimmicks or “features” that you will not use more than once or twice…
  • Play with the devices.  Use them in the stores to get a good feel for how they are going to behave when you actually own one.
  • Read a few articles on each of the devices you are possibly interested in…
  • Take some time to learn a bit about the operating systems that the device uses… There are 3 main smartphone OS’s currently iOS (Apple), Windows Mobile 7 (Microsoft), and Android (Google)
  • ASK ABOUT THE OS VERSION ON THE PHONE YOU ARE CONSIDERING BUYING! This is crucial!  iPhones will only ship with the latest version of iOS (currently 4.2). Since Windows mobile 7 is no new devices also carry the latest version.  However, MANY manufacturers on Android-based phones are shipping “NEW” phones with older versions of Android and NOT all carriers allow updates to the Android OS.

That last point is key in my mind.  I have a friend who purchased the Droid Eris when it came out.  It was running Android 1.7 (even though v1.8) had been released by Google. 4 months later Google shipped Android v2.0 to the carriers. His carrier put out a press release that they would NOT be updating the Eris line to the new version of Android.  So, within 4 months of owning his “brand new” smartphone, it was in essence obsolete, three versions behind in the OS and now beginning to be limited in what apps would install and run on his “new” phone…

Last couple of suggestions:

  • Ask about how easy it is to get “safe” applications… the Android market is NOT policed like the iOS AppStore is… malware IS prevalent and growing
  • Ask about setting up the things that are important to you? Music, email, internet, contacts… etc. Don’t let the sales person or your children or a friend do this for you… learn how.
  • Play with the browser and troll around for a while.

Finally, for many, this may be your first foray into the smartphone world. Even tho this might be the case, write down a list of your expectations! Do not just go in with an “I don’t know” attitude or an “I don’t know what to expect” mindset.  Think about why you actually want a smartphone. Then DREAM a bit and write down some outrageous ideas and see if the device can actually live up to those expectations… However, If you don’t have any expectations, you may get a great phone, but you may still be unhappy with it as being too complicated, or not just living up to your moving expectations… Overall, be really happy about your choice because while there may be a $200 or $400 up front cost… that is NOTHING compares to the costs you will be paying (regardless of whether you use it or not) for the phone and data charges over the life of your phone.

One last thought… remember, you ALWAYS have 30 days to return or exchange ANY phone / smartphone you purchase.  So ,maximize the use of your device during that time and be SURE you like it enough to keep it around for the next 2 years…

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