Thinking of Buying a Smartphone for the Christmas? Read This First!

This holiday season retailers are scrambling to get your hard earned dollar.  The smartphone industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the last couple of years.  The iPhone certainly ignited the fire and Android has helped stoke the flames.  RIM (they make Blackberries) has watched their market share slip, Microsoft watched Windows Mobile die, and Palm is no more.

Apple and Google certainly have shaken things up.  Who would have thought that these two companies would have been able to do so much back in 2007?  However, RIM is making a shift with QNX and Microsoft has brought Windows Phone 7 to life.

What’s someone to do who is in the market for a smartphone?  I hope to answer this question but I have a feeling many of you already know some of the answers.  Lets go over some of these questions.

What Carrier?

Don’t get sucked into a contract if you don’t have the regular income to cover the expenses.  Typically, contract-free options like Virgin Mobile are much easier to get into.  Just because you can afford a carrier doesn’t mean they are worth your hard earned dollar.  Get familiar with coverage maps and remember to look at common locations you are at on a daily and weekly basis.  Don’t forget to consider coverage along your commute either!

You’ve narrowed down your carriers, now it’s time to evaluate their cost.  As I already said, your contracted carriers are typically more expensive.  Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint are the four major US carriers.  They own their cellular networks (with the exception of Sprint’s 4G network)  and their service typically comes at a premium.  Pre-paids like Virgin tend to lease network coverage from one of the big four.  Virgin leases from Sprint and Wal-Mart leases from T-Mobile.

When you compare a $25 plan on Virgin to an $80 plan on Sprint it becomes tough to go with Sprint if you are on a budget.  The premium usually comes in the form of services, high-end devices, network priority.  Sprint is going to ensure that Sprint customers get priority over Virgin Mobile customers.

Which platform?

So you’ve narrowed down your carrier after evaluating your budget and coverage needs.  It’s time to pick a platform.  The sad truth is that for many a smartphone platform is as personal as religious and political affiliations.  The truth is that it shouldn’t be.  These are simply phones with bells and whistles.  Don’t stress, set your priorities, and evaluate your choices.

The first thing I want to mention is this…know what your workplace supports if you want to use this phone for work.  There is no point in buying an Android device if your employer refuses to allow them connectivity to corporate email or data.

For the most part people know what they want.  If you are an Apple fanatic or just want something simple get an iPhone.  If you want a bit more freedom and customization options then look to Android.  Don’t let these be your only options.  Consider Windows Phone 7 too and only consider Blackberry if your work requires it.

Windows Phone 7

Windows Phone 7 is the diamond in the rough when it comes to smartphones.  The user interface is simple, elegant, fluid, and won’t suffer from the same fragmentation woes that Android does.

If you go with Windows Phone 7 you need to be patient.  It can’t yet do everything that the iPhone or Android phone can do, but it’s getting there and even does a couple of things that Android and the iPhone don’t do as well out of the box.

Android

Google really has put themselves in an interesting position. They offer Android free of cost and let manufacturers do as they please with hardware and the software.  I mentioned it earlier and will explain it a little further, fragmentation.  Fragmentation refers to all the different hardware and software modifications available on the Android platform.  Some manufacturers are making phones with 5″ screens, 4.65″ screen, all they way down to 2.5″ screens.  There are different hardware components, different resolutions, and different aspect ratios.  Google has included the NFC chips in their last two Nexus phones but nobody else has even bothered to include them.

All this variation makes it difficult for software developers and accessory makers to develop for the platform.  How many iHome players do you see at Best Buy.  They all support iPhones, iPod’s, and iPads.  I’ve only recently seen a similar product that supports an Android phone.  Guess what phone they support, the Nexus.  My Thunderbolt certainly won’t work to well with this accessory.

If you are a techie who loves to tinker with his phone, likes the idea of installing any piece of software that you can get your hands on, or like the ability to customize EVERY aspect of your phone, then Android is your clear winner.

Apple iOS

Do you want a phone that just works?  Support that will allow you to walk into an Apple store and swap out your handset for another almost hassle free?  Are you ok with restrictions the help keep you secure?  If you answered yes to all of these then iOS (iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch) may be just for you.

Apple really restricts their devices and have sometimes been late to the game with industry standard features like copy & paste.  However, this is always done for the bettering of the platform.

Apple really has done a great job of delivering a polished and finished product.  Google tends to constantly release beta solutions and use customer feedback to bring polish.  Apple develops and perfects a solution prior to release.  Apple offers a simple and easy to use platform that you can enjoy without having to tinker.

What’s Hot!

Verizon

Android Android Android…and the iPhone 4s.  The Droid Razr and HTC Rezound are two future proof phones that have been released this month.  The Samsung Galaxy Nexus should be out before Christmas (or so we hope).

AT&T

iPhone, Windows Phone 7, and some 4g LTE Android devices.  The HTC Titan is a new Windows Phone 7 device, the HTC Vivid is AT&T’s first 4G LTE device, and of course the iPhone 4s is available.

Sprint

Sprint’s biggest push is the iPhone 4s and they are bragging about their unlimited plans (although they may not last much longer).  They have released some 4G phones recently but nothing exciting.  Honestly, don’t even worry about Sprints 4G until they go live with their LTE network.  WiMax is going to be dead soon and all these EVO phones will be good for nothing but 3g devices.

T-Mobile

No iPhone…but they do have great Windows Phone 7 and Android handsets to choose from.  Personally I think the HTC Radar and Amaze are two of the more exciting handsets offered by T-Mobile.

I hope you’ve found this an interesting and informative read.  I expect that many of you have simply skimmed through and that’s OK.  This has been a lot to type out and most people don’t need to read all of it.  For those who read it all, thank you and I hope you enjoy your new smartphone.  As for me, I’ve been given approval to get a new phone but I’m not sure what I want to do.  Part of me wants to wait for an LTE Windows Phone 7 devices on Verizon  part of me wants a Nexus, and part of me would like an iPhone again.  Either way, this is a great time to get a smartphone!

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About snappwku

I'm still figuring me out...
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