What Advice Would You Give a First Time Smartphone Buyer? Discussion

Discussion in 'Headline News' started by Ed Hardy, Jun 4, 2010.

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  1. Ed Hardy

    Ed Hardy TabletPCReview Editor Staff Member

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    Smartphones are all the rage right now, and millions of people are considering switching from their old featurephone to an iPhone or a BlackBerry or maybe a Droid. What would those of you who have already made the switch like to tell people who are shopping for their first smartphone?

     

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  2. Ed Hardy

    Ed Hardy TabletPCReview Editor Staff Member

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    I'll get things started off.

    When you're deciding which smartphone you want, the most important factor is what wireless carrier you use (Verizon, AT&T, etc.) because many devices are available from only one carrier.

    For example, if you want an iPhone, you have to be an AT&T subscriber. If you're a committed T-Mobile customer, you can't get a BlackBerry Storm2.

    However, if you're at the end of your service contract and you're willing to change carriers, then you can choose from any model that's available.
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  3. Hook

    Hook Naked and Unbroken

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    I agree that which carrier is the first question.

    The second question is the one we always have asked people posting for advice on a new handheld: What do you want to be able to do with it?
     
  4. questionfear

    questionfear Google'd.

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    And I would add a third:

    How involved to you tend to be with your tech toys? If you tend to be a hands-off casual user, that may steer you to a different phone than if you are a "must tinker under the hood and push the limits" type of user.
     
  5. Jamison Cush

    Jamison Cush TechnologyGuide Editor Moderator

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    Increasingly, I find my friends and family asking about a smartphone's keyboard, particularly on Android devices. It seems many prefer a physical keyboard to the virtual alternative, but are locked into the iPhone after having picked it up when it was the sexy new thing. Now, Android is the sexy "newer" thing, and the variety of handsets means users no longer have to settle.

    So, while not the first question I would ask, I would certainly inquire about their keyboard preference.
     
  6. Hook

    Hook Naked and Unbroken

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    The keyboard question raises another issue. People should be encouraged at some point to try to find places where they can handle prospective phones because they may think they want a keyboard, but they may find unltimately a tiny keyboard isn't worth much. Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it should be. Cellular companies may have working models in their stores, but Best Buy mostly has mockups.
     
  7. Ed Hardy

    Ed Hardy TabletPCReview Editor Staff Member

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    Here's my thoughts on the some of the different operating systems for "tinkerability":

    Apple iPhone: Absolutely no tinkering is required, but if you want to go advanced you can have fun "jailbreaking" the device and loading it up with software Apple doesn't approve of.

    Android OS: Google's operating system also doesn't need much tinkering, but is so open that there's quite a bit of advanced stuff you can do with it if you want.

    BlackBerry OS: No tinkering is required, or really possible.

    Windows mobile: This is the only OS that I can think of that really requires tinkering. There are tons of settings and third-party apps to tweak it, and you're almost certainly going to want to do quite bit of playing around to get the device tuned right for you.
    -
     
  8. questionfear

    questionfear Google'd.

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    Exactly. I would even argue within OSes there's some wiggle room. Someone on a tight budget without much interest in being a hardcore Android user would be served just fine by a MyTouch3G Slide...but someone who really wants to tinker is better off with the Nexus One.
     
  9. phumphries

    phumphries Mobile Deity

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    To expand on the "what do you want to do with it" question, I would suggest that a potential new user consider whether it is the "smart" or the "phone" part that is more important in the evaluation of a new communications device.

    If it is the "smart" part, I would advise outright purchase of something that leans more toward a PDA or Mobile Internet Device. You can add a SIM card and carrier at your convenience, contract or no. You will probably want to keep the device for a long time if it does, indeed, turn out to be the right device for your mobile computing needs.

    If it is the "phone" part, I would advise picking the carrier with the best coverage in your area and then selecting something comfortable from their collection of subsidized phones. You may or may not grow attached to the applications on or available for the device, and you may or may not want to keep it past the end of the contract (when the carrier offers you a new "free" smartphone in order to keep your business).

    On the keyboard question, I have never needed a physical keyboard when I use my PalmOS devices, although I will admit to replacing Graffiti 2 with the original on my T3 ( :D ). However, other screen input methods, handwritten or keyboard, finger or stylus, have pretty much always driven me to a full keyboard. So, with the current available crop of smartphones, I would recommend a slider with a full QWERTY keyboard. Not all are created equal, of course, so that a hands-on with a few is still important before selecting the right one. If it happens to have a great on-screen keyboard, you'll just keep the slider closed!
     
  10. LandSurveyor

    LandSurveyor LandSurveyor

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    I totally agree. In fact, I would want to know more about what the user typically does already. Sometimes they are just attracted to the novelty of a smart device and find out later that the data plan is a luxury they can do without. It is quite possible that many would be better served with one of the non-smart texting phones. Maybe they just want the keyboard. Plus just about any phone has some internet capability. If they just want to check the weather, sports scores and their web email, they can get one of the lower-priced data plans for feature phones and be perfectly happy. As to PIMs, some feature phones (Motorola comes to mind) will sync to Outlook.

    If they need to have mobile access to email, particularly work email, and are not technically-minded and "just want the thing to work", my one answer, no matter the carrier is "Blackberry." Not exceptional at anything else but great for email. Also a better-quality phone. I have an older client who used to have trouble with his WM phone. He has a BB now and is much happier. Or at least he hasn't needed any help with it.

    I have no experience with them personally, but if a user wants or needs a real smartphone and, again, is not otherwise a tech-fanatic, the Iphone is probably the way to go. With the caveat about carriers mentioned already.

    Again guessing on my part, but maybe the next step up is Android. I would suggest it over WebOS at this point if for no other reason, because they have more carriers and more devices. I have no idea where WM 7 is going to fall.
     

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