Sunday, October 16, 2011

What is the perfect smartphone for me?

This is a guest post by Alvina Lopez from

Photo by Phil Roeder
With many carriers hedging out flip phones and feature phones, many consumers are finding that, whether they even need one or not, they are going to buy a smartphone. Since it appears
that a new smartphone is released into the mobile phone market about every week, choosing the right phone for you can be a bit intimidating, tedious, or even frustrating. There are a lot of factors to consider in terms of hardware features, operating systems, and also how much you’re willing to spend on a phone.

Where to start looking

Many people have trouble simply getting the ball rolling in their search for a new phone. If you are on a specific mobile carrier now and would like to continue, then you should obviously start looking at phones on their website. This will show you all the possible phones you can buy for this carrier. Of course you can purchase them from other vendors, but it helps to have a solid list of what’s available.

Finding what your needs are

Far too many people get stuck buying a phone that someone else tells them is good. While recommendations of friends and family can be helpful, it’s much better to take your own needs and priorities into consideration. That being said, if you know someone with technology tastes similar to you who also enjoys their phone, you should definitely ask to play around with it. Mess with other people’s phones for hours if you have the time (and if they’ll let you).

It’s also a great idea to make a list of the uses you will want from your phone. You could also include preferences and all sorts of criteria. You may want to use your phone mostly for emails, texting, and calling, then you would probably be happy with some of the lower-spec smartphones. Perhaps you want a bigger screen for reading or videos? Then you’ll probably want to pay more. Plan to do a lot of surfing and streaming? Then a 4G phone would be a better call than a 3G phone. While bigger screens typically make it easier to use a touch-screen keyboard, some people still have trouble with them. Consider getting a phone with a sliding keyboard if you think this may be an issue, particularly if you think you will write a lot of messages, emails, or notes.

This may seem like a lot of information to consider all at once, so let’s break this up into a nice list of preferences and options. Not all of these may be a high priority for you, but you should decide that for yourself and determine which factors are most important for your future smartphone:
  • Input method
    • Large display touchscreen.
    • Slide out or front-facing keyboard.
  •  Phone performance
    • Processor speed in GHz. 1 GHz is current standard with Dual Core being best of the high-end. 1.5 GHz will likely hit the market very soon at the highest price range.
    • Amount of memory (RAM). At the moment 1 GB of memory is on most high-end phones, although that number is starting to increase with newer spec phones.
    • Compare in store and compare opinions on forums.
  • Network data speed
    • 3G or 4G?
    • Good coverage in your city?
  • Screen size and quality
    • Large screen, large phone.
    • Small screen, small phone.
    • Screen resolution
  • Phone storage space
    • Large internal storage.
    • Expandable memory card slot.
  •  Device connection
    • Micro- or mini-USB.
    • Proprietary connection (e.g. Apple)
  • Battery
    • Unfortunately, this is the hardest criteria to judge as the battery time they give you in specs will never match the realistic battery time of the phone on your carrier’s network.
    • Do, however, consider battery size and search for complaints and reviews about battery performance.
  •  Media capabilities
    • Compatible music and video files.
    • Camera resolution and shot modes.
    • Video recording quality and shot modes.
 Operating System
Different operating systems on phones (Android, Windows Phone 7, iOS, and the like) all have their own set of apps. Take into consideration any diehard apps that you know you will need on your phone. For instance, a lot of people use Microsoft’s OneNote as a project management or one-the-fly note-taking tool; unfortunately the OneNote app is only available for the iPhone and Windows Phone 7 at the moment, so you won’t have access to it with an Android Phone (sure, there may be some third party work-around apps that might manage to do the trick, but I’m sure the native Microsoft App would work much better).

Also note that some operating systems have certain built-in interfaces (iOS and Windows Phone 7) while others allow you to customize home-screens and app drawers quite a bit (Android). If customization is something that you absolutely must have, then Android may be better for you.

Go to your carrier's phone store
If you aren’t sure which would be best for you, I highly recommend going to a local phone store of your provider and fiddling with the different operating systems to see which suits you best. This will also allow you to judge screen resolutions and screen definition between phones. It may also give you a good feel for the fluidity of app transitions, screen shuffling, and the input keyboard (which can sometimes lag on certain phones).

My Personal Opinion
I spend a lot of time researching the smartphone industry, and based on the rising and falling of certain operating systems, I highly recommend that you get an Android or iPhone. Both have an extremely strong developer community (it’s all about the apps), and they both have (potentially) incredible phones. If you want a sure thing and not have to research anything, I would say the most recent or second most recent iPhone would be best. If you want a highly customizable, high-spec Android, you will have to do a little research and see what your carrier is offering. Current high-end Android phones include the Motorola Droid Bionic (Verizon), Samsung Galaxy S2 (known as the Epic 4G Touch on AT&T in the US), the Motorola Photon 4G (Sprint), and the Samsung Nexus Prime (not yet launched anywhere nut anticipated).

Bottom Line

With the variety of phones out there, you are bound to find one that will fit your needs perfectly. Just be sure to research the limitations of each operating system, and I also find it extremely helpful to scour the various smartphone forums out there for any known bugs and common glitches on any phone you are considering purchasing.

About the Author
Alvina Lopez is a freelance writer and blog junkie, who blogs about accredited online colleges. She welcomes your comments via email: