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A Guide To Smartphones


The smartphone is a hybrid of a cellular phone and a portable digital assistant [PDA]. Smartphones are fast becoming an essential piece of business equipment, and as a consumer life organizer.

For the business person, the smartphone lets you keep up with your email and calendar when you are away from your desk, and provides a way to keep your at office and out of office schedule synchronized.

Smartphones also help fill in those 'moments' when you are waiting for an appointment, in the taxi or riding the underground. With smart browsers, designed to run on limited power devices, smartphone users can surf the Web and keep up with news.


Getting A Smartphone

All the major cellular carriers now offer smartphone products. These include both the smart phone devices and data service packs.

Devices range in price from $100 to $600, depending on functionality, power, design – and the duration of the cellular voice or voice/data contract plan. Generally, the longer you’re willing to commit to paying for a data service, the more the carriers will subsidize the price of your smartphone.

Smartphone Vendors

There are now a number of smartphone manufacturers. These are either:

  • Cell phone manufacturers - that have added computing functions to their phones - Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola etc
  • PDA manufacturers - that have added communications capabilities to their PDAs such as Hewlett-Packard
  • Smartphone manufacturers - Research in Motion (RIM), maker of the popular BlackBerry smartphones. RIM began life making pagers and dedicated mobile e-mail devices; later added more PDA functions and, eventually, voice capabilities. The smartphone was evolved.


Choosing The Best Smartphone For You

With so many smartphone choices on the market today, it is difficult to choose which smartphone best suits your needs. To help guide you buying decision, consider:

  1. Features And Functions - what it does and how it does it
  2. Form Factor - what it looks and feels like
  3. User Interface - how you interact with it
  4. Operating Platform - Windows Mobile, Symbian, BlackBerry
  5. Network - CDMA, GSM


Features and Functions

Just to make things more difficult, most models of smartphones offer the same core functionality. They let you:

  1. Make and take voice calls on a cellular network
  2. Store and manage personal information (contacts, appointments, to-do items, notes)
  3. Log into corporate networks - with permission!!
  4. Synchronize this data between smartphone and computer
  5. Collect and send e-mail
  6. Surf the Web (over the cellular network)
  7. Play games
  8. Support media - music, show photos and videos, and some with built-in cameras


Some smartphones can function as modems, meaning you can use your smartphone to connect a laptop to the Internet over a cellular network. This is done by either using a Wi-Fi wireless LAN network adapter, or using Bluetooth wireless connectivity .

GPS Navigation

Some smartphones, for example Blackberry 8800, also now come with GPS navigation capability, which includes the GPS transceiver and mapping software.

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Form Factor

Form factor refers to the size and shape of the device, as well as the size and orientation of the screen [square, portrait, landscape]


All smartphones have larger, more colorful and higher-resolution screens than regular cell phones. Some are larger than others. Bigger screens are easier to read, and also mean that keyboards are bigger. Smaller, portrait-shaped screens with numeric keypads or only touch screens look and feel more like traditional cell phones, such as:

  • Verizon PN-820 (Verizon, $150 +), a flip phone
  • BlackBerry 7130e (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, $150+), with numeric keypad.

Screen size depends a lot upon what you mostly use your smartphone for. If thats mobile computing and e-mail, choose a PDA smartphone such as HP iPaq or a traditional RIM BlackBerry unit with keyboard. If you find these models bulky and awkward to use as a phone, you can always connect a wired or wireless Bluetooth headset. Headsets are avaiable in a range of sizes and styles.

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User Interface

Entering text on a smartphone takes a bit of getting used to, but once mastered, you will find the benefits are worthwhile.

Different smartphones use different types of input technology:

  • Standard telephone keypad - the bigger keys simplify dialing voice calls, but are not practical for anything more than occasional text entry.
  • Onscreen touchpad - new Apple iPod [AT&T, $500 up].
  • QWERTY keyboard - on BlackBerry and Palm Treo models have very small keys, which don’t suit large fingers.
  • Handwriting recognition - current recognition software works very well.

Stylus Versus Keyboard

Most users prefer a stylus to tiny keyboards, but this is very much a personal preference.

Some PDA phones include full QWERTY keyboards and handwriting recognition, for instance, the Palm Treo 700wx [Sprint, Verizon, $250+]

RIM's slim smartphones its patented SureType keyboard technology as in the Pearl [AT&T, T-Mobile, $100+]. The 20-key QWERTY pattern keyboard, assigns two letters per key. Artificial intelligence, a bit like pre-emptive text on a standard cellphone, figutes out which of the two designated letters is appropriate. In spite of this, it is still slightly slower than typing on a fully QWERTY keyboard.

High Tech Computer [HTC] Corp's Cingular 8525 [$300+] with a similar appearance to an Apple iPhone, has a large portrait-mode screen, but no keypad. As with the iPhone, you dial using an onscreen numeric touchpad. And if that doesn't suit - the back half of the 8525 slides out to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard. Simply turn the unit so the keyboard is under the screen, which is now in landscape orientation.

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Operating Platform

There are three main operating system platforms for smartphones:

  1. RIM BlackBerry
  2. Symbian [Nokia and other phones]
  3. Microsoft Windows Mobile - also used in phones made by several manufacturers.


Symbian, is more popular in Europe than North America. There have been many add-on applications for Symbian phones – so this OS provides a lot more more choice.


BlackBerry offers the best e-mail and user interfaces.

Windows Mobile

Windows Mobile devices are easier for most people to learn and use because they are similar to Windows on a computer. It is also easier to develop applications for Windows Mobile.


The crunch point in comparing ease of use, is with Email, since this is the most often used application for smartphones. Look for smartphones that provide options to :

  • Set up periodic checks – every 15 minutes or every hour, for example.
  • Control how much of the message is avaiable at first pull - BlackBerry will always deliver the entire message, including attachments if you desire.
  • Apply filters to accessing only certain email profiles
  • Support Push Email - you don’t have to do anything. The mail service pushes messages to you automatically from your regular e-mail box as soon as they’re received. Note: Push email depends upon the service being supported by the ISP.

For a long time RIM was a clear winner in the email arena, but in recent times BlackBerry appears to be simpler, faster and more reliable.

Since the introduction of Windows Mobile 5 in 2006, and a new version of the Exchange e-mail server, Microsoft also offers push e-mail. Service providers now offer BlackBerry-like push e-mail service for Windows Mobile and Symbian devices through cellular carriers, in line with RIM's offering.

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The network only really becomes an issue is you travel a lot and need overseas roaming.

There are two main wireless network technologies:

  1. CDMA - developed in the U.S. by Qualcomm
  2. GSM - a Europe standard. Y

Here lies the issue:

A GSM phone will not work on a CDMA network, and vice versa.

85% of the networks around the world use GSM technology. A phone on one GSM network will work on any other GSM network.

CDMA networks are different by carrier - therefore, just because your phone works on one CDMA network does not mean it will work on another.

Overal, CDMA is extremely restrictive world-wide. Major network carriers such as Sprint are attempting to address this issue by forming partnerships with CDMA networks in other countries - and gaining support for them to change the frequency configuration on those networks to align with Sprints, such that Sprint phone users can also operate their cellphones and smartphones on partner networks.

There are CDMA partner networks in Asia-Pacific, but virtually none in Europe, where GSM dominates.

USA GSM carriers - Cingular [now AT&T] and T-Mobile, and a number of regional and local providers.

USA CDMA carriers - Verizon and Sprint Nextel. All have upgraded to higher-capacity and higher-data-speed 3G (third generation) wireless networks – 1xEV-DO (CDMA) or EDGE (GSM).

To play safe, get a smartphone that supports a “quad-band” or world phone [GSM] - this may cost a little more, but if you do a lot of international travel, it will pay off over the long term.

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Making The Choice

Your final choice will come down to whether style is more important to you than function.

  • Want small and sleek - go Symbian models
  • Want a stylish way to talk - get a smartphone with bluetooth, and use a bluetooth earpiece.
  • The international coverage you need - go quad-band GSM
  • If you are not good with new technology, and want rapid a learning curve - Windows Mobile is your best bet, but the BlackBerry and Symbian software interfaces are also very user friendly.
  • If email is the most important to you - BlackBerry is the best option, with Windows Mobile catching up fast..
  • To use corporate applications - stick with models that operate Windows Mobile.
  • If you are a WiFi hotspot socialite - then make user your smartphone has Wi-Fi capabilities.

Our Go_Reviews Amazon Store offers a full range of smartphones, or go direct to Amazon for:

Smartphones By Manufacturer

  • RIM Blackberry Smartphones
  • HP iPaq Smartphones
  • HTC Smartphones
  • Nokia Smartphones
  • Motorola Smartphones
  • Sony Ericsson Smartphones

Smartphones By Carrier

  • AT&T [GSM] Smartphones
  • T-Mobile [GSM] Smartphones
  • Verizon [CDMA] Smartphones
  • Sprint [CDMA] Smartphones

See Smartphone Reviews on:

HTC Magic - Google Android

Sony Apple iPhone

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