Which SmartPhone is right for me?

Cellular phones have enjoyed a rapid evolution from grey bricks with displays no better than a calculator to mini PC’s complete with HD multi-touch screens and 5+ megapixel cameras. All at less than half the size they used to be. The term SmartPhone is now an apt description because of what the newer phones are capable of.

The new “standard” for today’s SmartPhone is a pretty tall order when you think about it. They all need to be able to:

-Make phone calls reliably (a difficult feat for some handsets).
-Send and receive e-mail, usually from more than one account at a time.
-Access e-mail attachments such as .doc, .xls, .ppt and .pdf.
-Have access to a calendar for meetings and appointments.
-Maintain a full list of your contacts.
-Browse the internet.
-Play music and video.
-Take high resolution pictures.

How we use these new SmartPhones really depends on what your needs are. To use myself as an example, I use my phone (iPhone 3GS) for nearly everything: It’s my phone, camera, GPS navigator, MP3 player, portable TV, e-reader and handheld gaming system. Others use them simply to make calls and reply to the odd text message or e-mail. It all depends on what you’d like to do with it.

Phone applications, or “Apps”, allow you to get even more out of your phone. Apps are pieces of software that are installed on your phone in the same way that you install programs on your PC. The four major players out there all have mobile application stores to distribute these Apps to the people using their devices. Each device runs a proprietary operating system so the software that is installed on them is different (in PC terms, think of the difference between Microsoft Windows and the Mac OS).

These are the operating systems that run on the majority of SmartPhones out there:
Apple iOS
Blackberry OS
Google Android
Windows Mobile (also known as Windows Phone 7).

Each of these operating systems has their strengths and weaknesses. I’ll try to break them down in very general terms according to the types of users they’re geared towards. Bear in mind that all of the operating systems can perform the standard tasks outlined above and there isn’t necessarily a wrong choice. It all still comes down to personal preference.

I’ll start with the iPhone. I find that they are geared to the multi –taskers, those that want to consolidate many devices into one. Once again using my example from above, I was tired of carrying around my iPod, Garmin GPS, HTC Cell Phone and PSP everywhere I went. My iPhone now does pretty much everything that those devices did in one small package. Now it doesn’t do all of that for free, you do need to purchase additional applications such as games and other utilities from the App store. I use it for work, tracking personal expenses / routines and it’s also a good time killer while you’re waiting for an oil change.

Blackberries are the go-to tool for business users. They are streamlined for the e-mail / scheduling / document viewing involved in day to day life at the office. If you want a good work tool and don’t want to be bothered by extra complexity or thousands of games then a Blackberry is probably what you want. That isn’t to say you can’t install games or GPS navigation software on a Blackberry. They have an application store the same as the iPhones, although fewer titles are available.

Google Android and Windows Mobile run on pretty much any other phone that isn’t an iPhone or a Blackberry. The application stores for these two operating systems are slightly less developed than the iPhone and Blackberry counterparts. If iPhones were for play and Blackberries for business I’d put the Google and Microsoft renditions in the middle between the two. There’s still a lot of room for both of them to grow so I anticipate seeing them get very competitive in the near future.

If I had to recommend a phone to someone looking to pick up something new:

-The iPhone 4 is a good choice if you want to do anything and everything with the phone. The iTunes App store really allows this handset to shine.

-The Blackberry Torch is great if you want a streamlined business tool that can still do the social media / gaming / utility thing on the side.

Those are probably the two hottest phones out there at the moment and I’m sure it would be hard to be disappointed by either of them.

-Al Lefebvre

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