Monday, June 18, 2012

How to choose a smartphone - and when to play dumb!

Right off the bat I'd like to say if you don't plan to use a smartphone as a smartphone - which usually means downloading apps - then don't buy a smartphone - buy a dumb phone. There's no shame in that - it doesn't mean you are dumb. Now, for those of you who do want a smartphone, it's time to listen up. I frequently get questions from people with an "xyz" smartphone about how to use specific features. Unfortunately most of the time I have to say I don't know - not a fun prospect for a life long geek. I have to explain there are hundreds of smartphones and I don't even try to learn about them all.

In the good ol' days when PCs were a hot topic, there really was only one basic PC and nobody had to make hard decisions. How can that be? Simple. The hardware consisted of the latest Intel processor, the largest hard drive available (made by a company no user could identify) and the only thing different about them was color and price. At the office, you probably didn't even get a choice of color and it wasn't your money anyway. The software consisted of the current version of Windows and a copy of MS Office.
The upside of this uniformity was that you knew many people with the same computer as you - maybe with a different company logo on the outside but the same computer no less. Have a problem with Windows XP, your friends, co-workers and everyone at every electronics store was familiar with it. Not so today. If you have a problem with your "xyz" smartphone, there's only a very small chance a friend will have one like it. Now repeat after me "not all Android phones are the same". As I've mentioned in the past, people are buying on features and price and not on the OS. There are currently dozens of variations of the Android OS out there. The latest one - Ice Cream Sandwich - is only installed on a small percentage of devices and we're now hearing about "Jelly Bean". To amaze your friends tell them Android operating system names are derived from treats in alphabetical order - originally called deserts - but you have to stretch it when you run into some letters - Ketchup for desert anyone?
The rapid roll out of Android versions and the fact that carriers freely modify them is causing havoc for the developers. When I do get the questions about a phone, I always ask "how did you pick that one?" The responses are incredible - "I liked the feel of it in my hand", "the salesman said this was the best one for me", "I didn't want an iPhone since I use PCs" - huh? The most important missing question when a smartphone decision is made is "who am I gonna' call when I have questions?" Unless you know the answer to that question you should never commit to spending two thousand dollars for a two year contract on any phone.
In the category of "how times have changed' when you see someone with a shiny new laptop, you don't often ask about megahertz or megabytes (you never really understood those anyway). No, you ask those all important questions:

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