Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Smartphone Buying Basics

The smartphone community has a lot to be abuzz about these days. Samsung has just released one of the hottest phones on the market with the Galaxy S3, HTC has the new HTC One X and Motorola the DROID RAZR MAXX. Rumors are abound about the new iPhone 5 and of course there are the new Windows Phones like the Nokia Lumia 900. It is truly a great time to be a smartphone fan.

With all these great choices how exactly do you decide? To be honest it's a tough decision. Every one of the newer phones on the market right now has its own strong points and each has its flaws. Selecting your phone might seem like a tough decision but here are a few ideas for getting the best phone and the best mobile phone deals. When it all comes down to it though it depends on a few key factors.

Your Carrier:
This is obviously by far the biggest factor, as not all carriers carry the same phones and not all carriers are created equal. Now you might think an iPhone is an iPhone is an iPhone, but that just isn't true. Network speeds, coverages, costs, services ect are all different for every carrier.

When deciding on which carrier to get there are a few things to take into consideration. Your local coverage and extended coverage, network speeds, reliability and costs. Local coverage for the big three might be decent, however if you travel a lot you'll need to check to make sure the areas you frequent have just as good of coverage. This too factors into network speeds. Take the area I live in, Sacramento, throughout the heart of town we have 4G coverage for the most part. When I go a few miles out of town though I don't get as good of coverage. If I lived in an area with poor 4G coverage and I paid a premium for a 4G phone that would be a bit if a waste.

The phones your carrier are going to offer are also going to be a factor. Sprint, Verizon and AT&T may eventually carry the new iPhone 5, unfortunately right now we just don't know. If you want one of the latest Windows phones right now Verizon with the HTC Trophy or AT&T with either the Nokia Nokia Lumia 900, Samsung Focus S or HTC Titan II are probably going to be the best bets. I don't really suggest going with one carrier over the other just based on phone offerings but it might be a consideration you'll want to take into account.

If you are looking for an Android phone, then you are going to have your work cut out for you. All three of the big three offer great choices and almost all of the minor carriers now carry decent Android phones. To get the latest greatest though, you are likely going to need to decide between the big three.

Upfront Cost and Monthly Fees:
These are two factors plenty of people often overlook. Often time we want to get the latest greats phones out there and forget that those phones come with a pretty hefty premium. I might want that iPhone 5 when it comes out, but when it does I can likely get the iPhone 4S at a pretty sweet savings.

You also need to keep in mind the more feature packed a phone is the more data it uses and likely the more your monthly costs are going to be. Verizon and AT&T plans tend to cost the most, but those two carriers have the best voice and data coverage in the nation. Sprint and T-Mobile offer considerable savings, especially on unlimited voice, data, and texting plans, but don't have quite the same level of network coverage.

Now days you can even skip out on the contract game all together. Smaller carriers are starting to offer more and more smartphones options for prepaid phones. We're beginning to see prepaid smartphones appear everywhere, especially on smaller regional carriers like MetroPCS, U.S. Cellular, and Cricket Wireless. If you live in an appropriate coverage area and don't need a cutting edge device, the potential savings can be huge.

Your Needs:
You have to ask yourself what are your needs really going to be. When I got my first smartphone I thought I'd use almost every feature out there. But now I rarely use most of them. For instance I'm not a big picture taker, so I don't need a phone with a top rated camera. I don't watch a lot of videos, so having a high resolution larger screen isn't a must for me. So when you browse mobile phone deals look at your options take in to consideration exactly what you think you'll be using your phone for and buy one that best fits with those needs.

Compatibility and Use:
When selecting my phones I ask myself what apps, what compatibility ect am I going to need. The iPhone has by far the most apps out there with the Apple App Store, Android is a close second and Windows is still a work in progress but has tons of apps and features that make it useful.

I use my phone for work and it needs to be able to sync seamlessly with Google and Google apps, but if I was an Apple user I'd likely want an iPhone so syncing across my devices would be easier. If I was a heavy Microsoft user and used Windows Live a lot then the syncing features of a Windows phone might be best for me.

Size and Features:
There has been a movement of late to make phones, specifically screen sizes, larger. It has even been rumored that the new iPhone 5 will come with a larger 4.3" screen. Personally I don't care for a larger screen. I like a smaller phone that is more portable and bit a easier to carry around.

For me some of the features are a bit more important. I've been shopping around for some of the new waterproof phones and the more rugged models. I'm the outdoors type so having a phone that is a bit tougher is a more important feature to me than having one with a larger screen that might be easily broken.

So Which Smartphone Should I Get:
Well, that depends on the factors discussed above, and a lot of personal preference. Personally I really like the user interface that HTC has for their Android phones but some people don’t. Some people are going to be hard core Apple fans and are going to say go Apple.

No matter which phone you go with keep in mind that most carriers allow you up to 30 days to return it. So if you buy something you aren't happy with don't be afraid to return it and try something new.

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