Saturday, May 21, 2011

New mobile phone (Smart phone) - Buyer's Guide, tips and advices for choosing a smartphone

As we all know a mobile phone nowadays is no more a luxury or a comfort but has become a necessity. And there is so much to choose in a mobile phone than to just considering it as a replacement to a landline phone or to think of it as a device to make and receive calls on the go.

This is the decade or era of the Smartphones and that day may not be so far when people may think about people having Smartphones as Smart people and those not having them as foolish people.

This is not an exaggeration looking at the revolutionary changes that had taken place in the last 5 years in the development of Smart phones and the abundant features they have today.

Even the PC manufacturing gaints like Dell, HP, etc have already entered into the mobile phones arena. This tells you how big impact the mobile phone market is causing to the PC market though everybody agrees with the fact that a mobile can do so many of the tasks a PC can do but at the same time it can't entirely replace a PC in terms of functionality and comfort in some ways.

But then there are some 100s or 1000s of mobile phone models with a lot of variations and unbelievable features getting added day by day.

If you keep comparing the various mobile phones available today and if you wait to get a good mobile when its price drops down too much so that it falls into your budget range, then you are never going to buy a new mobile phone. This is because the mobile manufacturers come up with new models almost every month and the prices only go down due to the technology becoming obsolete. So if you wait too long you end up getting an obsolete mobile phone for a price not worth its value even if you get it for a cheaper price.

So a wise decision would be to select those options you would like to use on your mobile phone and then fix your affordable budget too.

All the major mobile device manufacturers like Nokia, Blackberry, Apple, HTC, Samsung, Motorola, LG, Sony Ericsson, Onida, Videocon, Micromax, Maxx, Karbonn, etc., generally boast about their latest mobile phone models and encourage you to buy their latest releases.

But everyone can't afford the price of latest mobile phones from any manufacturer. And not all the people think about their mobile phone as a status symbol and crave for the brand or for having the latest mobile phone in their hands.

So the practical and wise people consider some selected features and a fixed budget before looking out for any purchase of a new mobile phone.

Here are some tips from us which may guide you make a better choice based on your requirements:

1. Read as many reviews as possible

Take your time, read as many reviews as possible on all your wishlist of new mobile phones (You are doing the right thing here reading the review on this site).

The reviews we generally come across on various internet sites are of two types - of the editors of good mobile review websites, of the actual users.

Both are equally important because editors' reviews are generally available soon after the new model phones get launched in the market. Sometimes the reviews are available well before the launch of those mobiles in a particular market. This is due to the progressive launches made in different countries  for the high end devices by the companies like Apple, Nokia, etc. And so by the time a mobile phone is released in a country the review is already there.

This will guide you better and you won't repent later for chosing the wrong mobile phone that is not for you or it doesn't cater to your requirements.

2. Enquire with your friends

If you have a large set of people in your neighborhood who are tech savvy, then you probably have the direct possibility to access your dream model of a mobile phone already being used by them. You can directly experience the phone using it for a while and can discuss its pros and cons with your friends.

The only disadvantage by this option is that if your friend had got an odd piece which has some problems with it, you form a bad opinion about that particular phone.

Always remember the fact that any electronic product produced in large numbers will statistically falls under the 'Bath tub curve' concept even if they follow the '6 sigma quality control', and more failures will be detected in the early stages for some number of those devices. Once a device overcomes this stage it works very satisfactorily till the end of its useful life. The failure rate the will be very low.

That is why all the manufacturers give the warranty for 1 or 2 years depending on their product's estimated life cycle to safe guard their reputation. They won't mind replacing their devices because they know their devices' performance based on their statistical data. Oh, we have gone deeper into 'Manufacturing lessons' here!

3. Select your features based on your requirements

The very basic features of any mobile phone without any doubt are voice calls function, SMS, call log, contacts list, etc and we don't need to discuss about them here.

The various other features which we commonly find today in almost all smart phones are touch screens, QWERTY keypads, UMTS, inbuilt modems, Bluetooth, infrared, WiFi, FM radio, GPS, in built camera, etc., in terms of hardware and OS, music player, internet browsers, email applications, various mobile applications for social networking like Facebook, Twitter, and so on.

These additional features are the ones that cause a lot of difference in the pricing of the phones.

Screens & Keypads: For sure everyone of us wants a great screen and an equally great keypad as these are the components (being input and output interfaces) of the mobile device that form the interface with us while using them.

Here the decision to be made is simple. If you are a business person mostly interested in checking and writing mails, you may want to go for a QWERTY keypad in your mobile phone which generally reduces the screen size. Then you just need a good resolution screen insread of an 'all touch' screen.

In general for the same size of the screen, the touch screens are costlier than the normal screens irrespective of the resolution because of the integrated sensors installed to identify the touch.

Again when you have a touch screen you don't get a hard keypad, as some portion of your touch screen acts as the virtual keypad depending on the application you are using on your mobile phone. So if you are using your touch screen phone for mostly typing mails, there is no point in spending more for a touch screen. Moreover a touch keypad never gives a good feel like a keypad on Nokia E72 or that of a Blackberry Bold 9700.

Small screens are fine as long as you use your mobile phone for business applications as you need to send many mails for corporate communications and you know what you are typing. You just need to see few lines on your screen to check what you have typed. For this you can go for the phones like Nokia E-Series phones like E72, E71, Blackberry phones like Bold 9700, Curve, etc.

If you want to browse a lot of internet sites for accessing information then you may want to have a big screen because you need not scroll up and down many times to read the information. And the you can also use the touch features to type mails, not like a business user though. For this, you can go for Apple's iPhone, Samsung Galaxy series, Nokia's Xpress music, some N-Series phones, HTC phones using Android OS.

Differently some mobile phones like Nokia N8, Nokia E7, HTC Desire Z, etc have both big and excellent touch screens at the front while the slidable hard keypad is also available at the backside of the main screen when you slide the phones and expand them for a lot of texting. But these are heavily priced as these are still the latest phones (at the time of writing this post).

Memory: Memory is the important component which however is not complicated to understand and to choose. As we all know, the rule is the higher the memory, the greater the performance of the phone and the storage capacity.

Again memory is of different types, the in-built memory, RAM and the external memory.

In-built memory is the memory which is used by the phone to store your information also including your SMS, photos, music, etc. This will generally be limited but there are some Nokia phones containing some gigabytes of in built memory.

RAM is useful to run the applications faster, and without enough RAM onboard, even the best processor installed will be of partial use or of no use. But RAM is not for permanently storing the information just like the RAM on personal computers.

External memory is what the mobile manufacturers leave the micro SD slot for. As of now there are phones capable of having external memory (flash memory cards to be used) ranging from as less as 2 GB (Nokia N73 had this constraint of 2GB maximum memory) and as big as 32 GB.

But with the current trend of the business phones, you don't need a memory of more than 8 GB and having something around 16 GB is good enough unless you are thinking to use your mobile phone as an USB driven external hard disk only to store some DVD movie files.

Camera: Camera in a Smart phone these days is a compulsion. There is even the demand for the front camera apart from the rear high resolution cameras. This is particlarly needed for the video calls using a 3G connection. However most phones available today in the market are still running on 2G technology and they do have excellent rear cameras.

Any camera resolution above 3.0 megapixel can be considered very good for a beautiful photo shot which can fill your desktop screen resolution of 1024 x 768 and can offer a 'good to print' quality. Nokia N73 was good at that as it had Carl Ziess optics in its camera which was better than the camera of an Apple iPhone of earlier versions while the iPhone was costing more than double than that of a Nokia N73.

Today the established and successful mobile phones like Nokia E72 have 5.0 megapixel cameras with dedicated flash too, while the latest phones like N8, E7 boast of some 8.0 megapixel cameras.

So virtually the mobile phones are giving a tough fight to the digital cameras. Just 5 years ago, you were buying a 5.0 megapixel camera for not less than Rs. 15,000 ($ 400) and now you get a phone like Nokia E72 for Rs. 17,000 (at the time of writing the post).

Internet Connectivity: Internet usage on Smartphones can't be ignored as it is a must on any Smartphones, otherwise these are not to be called Smartphones.

Many Smartphones have the inbuilt modem in them so that you can connect your phone to the PC to use the modem and can access high speed internet at the speed of a broad band connection.

For instance Nokia N73 was released in 2006 but it was a 3G compatible phone with a front camera too. Today N73 can't perform better than some phones because it has a slow processor and a limit of 2GB memory.

We have personally tested a Nokia 73 phone using a Vodafone 3G connection in Europe and it was excellent in speed and downloading capabilities.

But beware, there are many brand new phones by Nokia in C-Series and X-Series which are not 3G phones. They have been released, most probably to clear their inventories of old and obsolete technology by adding some flavor like more memory for music lovers, for by offering a better camera. Of course any manufacturer does the same. They are also honest enough as they provide comparisons in their websites of their own various mobile phone models.

Nowadays the Nokia E-Series phones like E71, E72, E7 are all capable of delivering the internet speed (provided we use 3G and not 2G connection) better than a Nokia N73.

Again by comparison, it is even found that the Nokia E72 has the 3G (UMTS - HSDPA) configuration and speed better than the competing equivalent models from Blackberry.

Data: There are various Data Transfer speeds and technologies available which are network-dependent like EDGE, GPRS, 3G for you to explore on your dream mobile phone and check if you need all of them. More information can be obtained from various other technical websites on these terms, here we just would like to give you a rough idea only.

Apart from these, there are just the Data Transfter methods and technologies for offline use which are network-independent like the Bluetooth, WiFi LAN, Infrared and USB, for exchanging data between various compatible devices that use the same technology. However the trend is that the recent phones are not having the Infrared in them. Of course with an USB connection you never wish to have an Infrared connectivity which is very slow for the huge transfer of the data.

Battery: This is the only important thing for many people who are on the go for most part of their daily work life. For example if you are a marketing person and need to do a lot of travelling, then you must look for a good battery in your mobile phone.

As we all know, mobile phone batteries come in different shapes and sizes and they are not the old traditional AA or AAA size batteries which are universally adapted. Nokia phones are always the front runners ahead of their competition in terms of talk time and the stand-by time on their batteries. There could be many other new smartphones too in these days, but we have not done much research on this aspect, to be frank.

But our intention is to say, "What is the use of your mobile phone even if it has excellent features like 'Touch screen', great Operating system and an excellent user interface, a lot of applications, if it doesn't serve you when needed due to the low battery very often and you need to keep searching for a power point for charging your mobile phone?"

Music & Headphones connectivity: Many Smartphones these days have the standard 3.5 mm audio jack for the use with their mobiles. Few years ago, this wasn't the trend, the mobile phone manufacturers were too concerned about their own spares to be used with their phones.

But then due to the competition and probably due to their customer experience surveys, all the higher end Smartphones today have a 3.5 mm audiojack so that you can connect any earphones or headsets of your choice to listen to the music.

Now coming to the music player, people don't expect much as now the digital music like mp3, wma king of files don't get damaged over time unless the memory card that contains them has a problem.

So any music player from a good company like Apple, Nokia, Blackberry, Samsung, Motorola, etc can deliver a great quality music. However if you are a music lover and would like to have lot of features on your music player, you need to go for a music based phone like Nokia Xpress music series. Or you already might have an Apple iPod.

But as the mp3 files have an universal standard to contain ID3 tags which can be edited by any program like Apple's iTunes, Nokia Ovi music player, or Winamp or Windows media player, organizing the music is not a problem and it is totally irrelevant with the selection of your mobile phone.

The only thing you may need to look in your mobile phone is that you can use your mobile phone as a mass storage device when you connect it to the computer, so that you can dump all your music at one go, then your music player should auto-detect the music.

While some of the iPhone users said to us that is it not possible with Apple's iPhone due to their policy, we have our experience on Nokia phones and they do have this functionality.

4. Fix your budget though with a little flexibility

As we discussed the various features above, the final pricing of the phone depends on the features the mobile phones contain in them. Hence you can't think to have the best of all the features, as you may not find one single phone as such or you can't afford the final price more than Rs. 30,000.

Why we say this, imagine that you got a phone for a higher price. Then what happens. You enjoy it for sometime that your new mobile is the best in its class and it is the envy of your friends and colleagues. But you have paid a whopping 1000s of bucks only to get this feeling.

The mobile phones continue to improve further, if today it is 3G tomorrow there can be 4G or 5G or 10G after 5 years from now. So whatever you have spent is on a rapidly changing technology and it is all spent money. You should be ready again after 5 years to change your phone though you maintain it in an excellent condition.

Otherwise you should be a millionaire who just doesn't care about money and who just wants every best thing in his/her hands.

The problem with many electronic equipment is this, today's technology becoming obsolete for tomorrow. So it is always wise to spend cautiously and then spend according to your numbers in your monthly pay slip.

We also invite you to consider this. Why to spend thousands on a single phone only to serve one person in your family instead of going for a 'great but not the latest' phone available at half the price of a latest phone. You can get two such phones to gift one to your family members.

5. Check for compatibility to various networks

Once you are ready to buy a mobile phone, you need to also think about the compatibility of the new mobile phone in various places or in various countries if you are a frequent traveler for any reason.

There are various networks like GSM 850/900/1800/1900 worldwide for 2G networks, while there are HSDPA 850/900//1700/1900/2100 for 3G networks depending on the country. You must check these specifications on your wishlist mobile phones before proceeding to buy them.

6. Think about practical use of your phone on every feature you spend money for

You can discuss about the features available on the mobiles for any number of hours or even days but finally to buy a mobile phone you need to be practical about the features you need to actually have in your phone to use them.

For example, GPS is great when you need to travel more to different new places for the sake of your job or because you travel a lot personally during your vacation. But if you are not such a person today or won't think to be in for the next few years, you need not have GPS in your mobile.

For example, Nokia E72 has the GPS which works excellently even on 2G networks, but E5 has no GPS. So E5 is cheaper too, and it has all the other features similar to E72 and it even has more memory than E72, moreover E5 is a new release compared to E72. But the people who want GPS can't go for Nokia E5 and at the same time people who want more memory and who don't need a GPS can opt for Nokia E5 to save substantial amount of money.

Another example is to choose between a QWERTY business phone like E72 and a full entertainment like an Android phone. Both types of the phones considering Nokia E72 as QWERTY phone and HTC Android as an entertainment phone, are great in their own ways and for the intended purposes, but is finally upto you to decide what you are going to do with your mobile.

There is no point in spending money for a QWERTY business phone when you don't even think of sending many mails in a day. Similarly there is no point in going for an entertainment phone with all touch screen if you are business person, as you can't type more comfortably on such kind of phones.

Differently if you can afford much cost, you can go for the phones like Nokia E7 or Nokia N8 which have both touch screens and full QWERTY keypads.

7. Don't get carried away just by brand names, beautiful looks and fun features

Many of us tend to take others opinions and give undue value to their opinions. Instead the best policy always would be to listen to all the people, but to finally make a decision independently.

Knowing things from others is good, it gives you awareness, but you know better what you need than others telling it for you. This also applies to the reviews written on the websites like ours.

So we advise you to take all the inputs from various sources and then decide yourself.

There could be many established brands selling a lot of varities of new mobile phones. But there is always a chance for a new mobile phones company to come up with a new idea and start revolutionizing the particular field. Research in Motion is one such company which came into existence after Apple, Nokia and others, but it had made wonders and it had mad Blackberry a name associated with all business people. It had defined the way the mobiles would be used in the next few years after it had launched Blackberry.

Similarly Apple's iPhone is such a marvellous achievement. And what to say about Android operating system by Google. They have outdone so many existing players and they just pushed their OS ahead of others in a very short time.

So when you have a clear picture of a particular model of a mobile phone, the branding, the looks, and all bells and whistles are not so important compared to the functionality of the mobile phones.

8. Think about the application store available for your new mobile from the manufacturer

Nowadays there are applications like Snaptu for social networking which integrates the Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc into a single application which works wonderfully.

Similarly there are chat clients like Fring, ebuddy, etc which are all very much useful as they are specially built by their programmers to suit the families of particular operating systems.

The companies like Apple, Nokia, Blackberry, etc, which maintain their own oeprating systems, offer hundreds or thousands of mobile phone applications which they call in short as mobile apps as they have an online store of such applications. The exception is Google's Android OS which is used by the players like HTC, Samsung, Motorola and others. Android too has many excellent applications and the list keeps growing.

These kind of mobile apps are very much needed for the smart phones, as these phones are just like miniature computers and they need good application programs for better functionality.

So it is always wise to choose such a phone whose manufacturer provides you access to these applications.

9. Think about the after sales service for your new mobile phone.

Buying the phone after much thinking and decision making is not the only thing to be done. There is another step beyond it. That is the after sales service.

Just like the service needed for automobiles and the personal computers, the mobile phones, which are smartphones these days, need to have the after sales service for any issues with the hardware or with the software.

Though it is relatively easy for fixing the software bugs as the companies often provide free access to the upgrades of their operating systems, it is harder to fix such problems related to the hardware. So if the service centers are available in your neighborhood, then you are free to choose any mobile based on the points discussed above.

10. Think about the recycling options as a responsible citizen

And the last, but not the least, think about the recycling options for your mobile phone once you think to discard it due to a permanent damage or if you are unable to sell it to someone due to the phone getting obsolete in technology.

The companies like Nokia are creating awareness that they are concerned about the environment and so they encourage you to dump all such electronic waste in their assigned centers through which the recyclable materials will be carefully recycled for further use by these companies.

Throwing the mobile phone or its components into the dust bins against the local muncipal regulations, may not penalise you, if you are intelligent enough to escape from the authorities, but it is morally and ethically a bad thing to do to spoil our environment.

All electronic waste has to be recycled more cautiously than the household organic waste. Most of the electronic circuits contain heavy metals like Arsenic, Lead, lot of plastic, few components contain minute amounts of precious metals like Gold, Silver, copper, etc. In one way recycling a phone always contributes to saving some of our natural resources and avoids excessive mining for the sake of these metals.

At the end of all this discussion, we wish you a happy exploring on your new mobile handset. Please do leave us the constructive criticism or comments on this article, if you were benefitted by our work. Thanks & Cheers!!
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