Have you ever felt stupid looking for a smartphone? Well, don’t feel bad. You are far from alone. When the iPhone first came on the market, your choice was easy. You only had to decide which iPhone you wanted, and sign up with the carrier who had the exclusive contract.
However, those days are long gone. Now, there are several models of iPhones, and service for them is available through the majority of mobile network providers. In addition, several more options have entered the field.
The Blackberry was actually around pre-iPhone, but has adapted its design to be a more productive smartphone. Google introduced the Android operating system, which is now available on a multitude of phones, and actually dominates the market currently. The latest addition is the Windows 8 Phone operating system. Microsoft is still playing catch up with their OS, and is only available on a few phones, but it shows promise.
So here are four tips to help you wade through the sea of available mobiles to find the right one for you.
1. Decide if a smartphone is right for you
You might think if you’re shopping for a smartphone, you’re already past this, but it is worth reexamining. Smartphones and the mobile plan that is required to get the most from them can be very expensive.
Consider why you are interested in a smartphone, how you use your phone now, and how you plan to use it. If you are mainly using your phone for calls and texts, a smartphone may be more than you need. Many feature phones even come with very good cameras, MP3 players and other features that may fulfil your needs quite well.
If, on the other hand, you are interested in being fully connected to your email, the latest tweets and other network updates; and you are interested in using a lot of apps, a smartphone is probably the right choice for you.
2. Decide on a mobile network provider
When you are looking for a network, the most important thing is the coverage in your home area, as well as reception in the places you plan to frequent often.
If you aren’t able to have ready access to a 3G or 4G network, your smartphone most likely will not perform up to your expectations. Not all phones are available for all networks. Therefore, picking the right provider will quickly narrow your choices.
3. Decide on an operating system (OS or platform)
If you go with the Blackberry, iOS or Windows Phone, you will again drastically reduce your choices. Many people prefer the iOS (exclusive to the iPhone) because of its slick look and performance, and over a million apps available through the Apple App store. Its intuitive interface appeals to many users, but many are bothered by the restrictions on personal modifications.
The Blackberry and Windows platforms are available on only a select few phones, and as of yet, are far behind in the app game. However, if you want a simple to use phone with easy email and internet access, either one of these can be a good choice.
Android is an open OS, which means it allows for a great deal of customization. For this reason, each of the multitudes of phones running Android have very unique interfaces. This also allows the end users to make many more changes to personalize their phones to extremes. This appeals to the techies out there, while many prefer to not have to worry about how the sausage is made.
Android also currently offers the greatest number of apps through Google Play. However, these do not need to adhere to the strict standards of Apple, so how these apps work from phone to phone is unreliable, as are updates for the OS.
4. Set a budget, and play around (with different phones, not your budget)
Decide what is a reasonable amount to spend on both your phone and on your plan each month. Some plans come with free phones, while others have a subsidized plan as part of the billing, and still others require buying the phone outright.
Once you’ve narrowed down all of these parameters, take the time to peruse the different models your provider offers that fit your other criteria.
Try out all the different features you are interested in before settling on any phone. How’s the sound? The display, camera and keyboard? Is it comfortable to use, and do you like how it looks?
You may be stuck with this phone for two years or more, so don’t rush to make a decision, and don’t let anyone pressure you into making a choice before you fell ready.