By Robert Sanborn
Looking for a smart phone is even more difficult as looking for a new digital camera as not only do you decide on what phone to purchase, you have to decide what service provider you want to be committed with over the next two years. Making matters worse is the fact that you have four different phone operating systems to deal with and like most everything else in the technology world, they don’t like to play nice with each other and it is an entirely new technology you have to learn. For those of you that still use Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) you will find that the new world of Smartphones is nothing like what Palm or Windows had in mind. You might as well as toss them out and start over.
The first thing to think about when shopping for a new phone is your contract and whether you are stuck with a particular company. I have been using a cell phone since the mid 80s and have gone through a number of companies but when it came time for a new phone, the first thing I did was to think about where I make most of my calls from and how much trouble it was to make that call. I used to travel around the country a bit with some friends from NY and as we hit all the remote locations we would see who had the best cell phone coverage. Today, it is a whole lot easier both thanks to the spread of cell phone towers around the world as well as the websites that the companies offer to check coverage in a particular area. Seven years ago when I had to give up Sprint, it was because I got tired of either not having a signal at my parent’s house or when I went to visit my cousin having to leave her house, and stand on the other side of the street to get enough of a signal to make a call. So let coverage and customer service of the cell phone company be your first decision when getting a new phone.
Once you do that and if all you want to do is to make calls and have fun with your phone, than anything you pick will probably be ok. Just remember you will have to live with it for two years, and unless you already have a smartphone you are upgrading, you will end up paying more per month for those data and internet minutes. I know people that pay over $200 per month for their smartphone minutes and think nothing of it. Me, I thought anything more than $50 was excessive and unfortunately, I see that it will cost me more.
The next thing to think about is what you are going to do with the smartphone and the good news is that while these phones are quite a bit different from each other, the basic functions on all of them are pretty similar. They make calls, have digital cameras, built in GPS location and route planning, will do WiFi if you don’t want to use your data plan minutes for surfing the web, have Blue Tooth for connecting a head set and can connect to read your email. What is even better is that they now nearly all use a standard Micro-USB charging connector so you don’t have to buy a new charger when getting a new phone.
Where the big difference is will be how they do it and what operating system you go with. Google makes Android, Microsoft makes Windows, Apple makes IOS, and Research in Motion makes Blackberry OS. One thing you need to watch for is that as transitions are made with operating systems, not all phones will keep up with the upgrades. For example, Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7.5 is a major upgrade from Phone 7 and so it has a ton of new features. And you can spend hours listening to the sales people telling you why each one is better than the other. What you have to do is to think a bit harder about what you want to do with your phone when it relates to email, contacts, notes, and the internet. Make sure the phone you are looking at will actually work with your files, your documents, and your address book.
As to phones, the Apple iPhone 4S is still the top of the heap when it comes to features, reliability, and outright coolness. It has so many things going for it that it has been the target of choice for not only consumers, but for other vendors to see what they need to do with their phones. If I was going to go with Android, then the Samsung Galaxy S would have been my first choice. The displays on these Samsung phones with their AMOLED glass screens is awesome. For a Windows Phone, the choice is the Samsung Focus S but it is not available yet. You might want a Windows phone for a couple of reasons; one being that it will integrate better with Microsoft Office if you use that and second, this gives you a sneak peak at what Windows on your desktop is going to look like going forward. And if you are going to keep your emails, address book and notes on your phone, then turn on the security features and keep your life your own. I am leaning toward the Windows phone but then again, need to get one in my hands to see how well it works. Happy shopping.