You may be asking yourself, “why buy a smartphone?” But the more pertinent question is, “why not?”
This past year has seen the cost of entry-level smartphones drop to double digit figures, making them almost as cheap to buy as regular mobiles. And, thanks to smartphone conveniences like downloadable apps, advanced web browsers and high-speed wireless connections, these pocket devices open up a world of possibilities beyond the bare calls and text messaging.
The explosion of downloadable apps has seen smartphones become as versatile as PCs, with the ability to do almost anything provided you have the right app installed. But this comparison doesn’t even do a smartphone justice; while computers tend to be limited to particular spaces due to their large size, smartphones can be - and are - used anywhere. The addition of built-in 3G, GPS and high-quality cameras also allow them to be used in many more ways and situations than a traditional PC.A million and one uses.
It used to be really easy to tell a smartphone from ordinary phones; they were larger, pricier, and tended to be segregated from other devices in a special section. Now, with smartphones typically accounting for around half of the phones on sale in a store, they tend to be mixed in with the rest of the herd. To make it even more confusing, a lot of the latest ‘regular phones’ have started to copy many of the hardware characteristics of a smartphone, such as touchscreens and lots of preloaded apps, and entry-level to mid-range smartphones have gone in the opposite direction by offering smaller screens and form factors, as well as a variety of colour options.
The main way to tell a smartphone from a regular mobile is by checking whether it runs a smartphone operating system. iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Symbian and MeeGo are the six platform names you should look for when shopping for a smartphone - any other mobile may support downloadable apps as well, but these will be far more limited in terms of quantity and capability. Each of the smartphone platforms are slightly different with regards to their features and user interfaces, but all of them offer centralised app repositories where you can download thousands of free and paid apps direct to the smartphone
Being a bit short of cash doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the smartphone fun. In fact, there’s probably more variety in the budget end of the market than there is anywhere else, with vendors competing for the large pool of first-time smartphone users that are making the transition from regular mobiles.
Some of the smartphones in this price range are older phones that have come down in price, like the Nokia N97 mini, while others have launched specifically as budget handsets, like the Samsung Galaxy 5 and Huawei Ideos X5. Either way, these smartphones are typically available on a prepaid or unlocked basis. Prepaid phones are usually cheaper, but they’re also locked to a particular carrier, and you’ll need to pay an unlock fee or recharge the account to a particular amount before you can get it unlocked. If you don’t have any intention of using it on a different network, however, prepaid phones are a great way to get smartphones at a cheaper price without having to sign up for a contract.
A wise geek once said, “The best camera you can have is the camera you have with you”. It’s a phenomenon you may have experienced for yourself. While your fancy compact or digital SLR languishes in your desk drawer and only comes out for “special occasions”, the camera in your mobile gets most of the action for everyday photography.
It certainly helps that the cameras in mobile phones have gotten so much better in the past couple of years. But it’s not just the improved image quality that makes snapping photos with a smartphone so appealing. The always-on 3G Internet connection on a smartphone means you can share photos (and video) with friends as soon as you’ve snapped them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other online services. The built-in GPS lets you geo-tag photos with location data so you’ll always remember where they were taken, and a multitude of photography apps let you edit photos and add all sorts of fancy effects and filters straight from your smartphone.
It’s not uncommon to have more than one phone. You may need to carry one for work in addition to your personal mobile, or you may have upgraded your phone before your contract expired and opted for a second contract instead of breaking the existing one. Whatever the reason, it can be a hassle carting both handsets around all the time - an inconvenience that you can get around by transferring both your SIMs to a dual-SIM phone.
As their name suggests, dual SIM phones can accommodate two SIM cards simultaneously, and there are two different types available. Dual SIM standby phones can have only one SIM card active at a time, and active dual SIM phones support having both SIMs active simultaneously. The latter is obviously the better setup, but it comes at the expense of reduced battery life, as twice as many transceivers need to be running.
Even if you don’t have two SIMs right now, getting a second one that offers better rates for data, SMS or phone calls can be a clever way to save money on your current phone bill.
Source: TechLiving Magazine: Issue 10 – Updated Summer 2011