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.
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
- 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:
- Features And Functions
- what it does and how it does it
- Form Factor - what it looks
and feels like
- User Interface - how
you interact with it
- Operating Platform
- Windows Mobile, Symbian, BlackBerry
- Network - CDMA, GSM
Features and Functions
Just to make things more difficult, most models of smartphones
offer the same core functionality. They let you:
- Make and take voice calls on a cellular network
- Store and manage personal information (contacts, appointments,
to-do items, notes)
- Log into corporate networks - with permission!!
- Synchronize this data between smartphone and computer
- Collect and send e-mail
- Surf the Web (over the cellular network)
- Play games
- Support media - music, show photos and videos, and some with
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 .
Some smartphones, for example Blackberry 8800, also now come with
GPS navigation capability, which includes the GPS transceiver and
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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
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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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
- 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
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,
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
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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There are three main operating system platforms for smartphones:
- RIM BlackBerry
- Symbian [Nokia and other phones]
- Microsoft Windows Mobile - also used in phones made by several
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 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,
- 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
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:
- CDMA - developed in the U.S. by Qualcomm
- 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
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
- 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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