As I’ve mentioned in my past post about smartphones, I really enjoy the convenience of a Smartphone (currently an old/slow Blackberry Curve – can’t wait for my next upgrade). My smartphone allows me to keep my email, calendar, contacts, tasks, and music with me everywhere I go (check out my previous post about syncing Gmail calendars on multiple computers and my Blackberry). It also gives me on-demand access to a number of apps and social networking features (Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, etc), which is great as I’m definitely a Twitter/Facebook addict!
So Why Another “Roundup” Article?
As a smartphone addict, I like to keep a pulse on what is new and fun in the smartphone world. Additionally, I set out to do some research as to my next smartphone and thought I’d write it up for the benefit of all! One thing for sure, I was amazed at how drastically the features have changed since my last Smartphone Roundup (less than a year ago)! It would seem that consumers are craving a single device to do everything (email, music, video, etc), and phone manufacturers are listening. If you think about it, the smartphone is a logical fit for a “do everything” device due to its size and computing power.
Enough Already, Tell Me About The Phones!
There are a wide variety of smartphones available on the market, and covering all of them would make this article unbearably LONG. Instead, I’ve distilled out the “best of the best” for this article, hoping to save you some hassle when you head to your local Wireless shop. If you’re new to the concept of smartphones, or just want some basic smartphone features, check out the phones in the “Budget” category. If you’re an experienced smartphone owner looking for lots of social-media/multi-media capabilities, you’ll want to check out the “powerhouse” phones. Lets highlight some of the driving factors behind each smartphone:
|Budget Phones||Powerhouse Phones||Highlights|
|Android||* HTC Incredible (VZW)
* Motorola Backflip (AT&T)
|* Motorola Droid 2 Global (VZW)||Google’s Android OS is still relatively new to the scene but is developing quickly. It’s an Open-source platform that is already on version 2.2 and continues to evolve. There is an active development community that is constantly releasing add-on apps for fun/business/etc. In fact, Gizmodo shows that the Android app store is comprised of 57% free apps (versus 25% for Apple’s app store). If you want a phone that can be customized to your heart’s desire, or if you’re a heavy user of Google’s many services (maps, gmail, apps, etc), an Android phone is for you. This is also a great alternative if you’re dying to get an iPhone, but don’t want to deal with AT&T’s network and prices.
|* Curve 8530 (Sprint) or 8520 (AT&T)
* Pearl Flip 8230 (VZW)
|* Storm 2 9550 (VZW)||Research in Motion’s “Blackberry” is one of the few original smartphone concepts still thriving in the market (with the largest overall market share). Over the last few years, RIM has attempted to make the Blackberry OS more mainstream and consumer-driven, although the phone continues to be popular with business users worldwide. There is a fair selection of applications available for these phones, both from the Blackberry app store and from various 3rd-parties on the Internet. As I’ve mentioned in the past, these things just seem to “work”, although you definitely won’t see the ‘latest and greatest” smartphone features showing up on a blackberry nearly as fast as you would on the iPhone or Android handsets.
|iPhone||* Apple iPhone 3GS (AT&T)||* Apple iPhone 4 (AT&T)||It’s pretty undeniable the iPhone changed the entire smartphone landscape with its intuitive user interface and Internet-aware or Location-based applications. As is evident by changes made to all the competitor phones, the iPhone has continually set the bar for functionality and business models (App Store, Movies, Music, etc). While the phone continues to be the holy grail of smartphones (particularly with younger demographics), the biggest limitation of the device is that it’s currently available ONLY on AT&T’s network. This makes the phone impractical for some due to network coverage and/or monthly cost of ownership (see the link below under “Additional Thoughts”).
|Palm WebOS||* Palm Pixi Plus
* Palm Pre Plus
|N/A **||Palm WebOS has a unique interface that supports multitasking. The WebOS combines multiple web calendars into a single view (same for instant messaging). Third-party applications are available, but not as prevalent as other OS’s. Additionally, Palm was recently purchased by HP and plans for further development of the OS/Phone have not been finalized. I advise caution and research before choosing a Palm phone.|
+ Phones marked with a plus sign (+) are soon to be released.
** Due to the performance characteristics of the Palm phones, I do not consider them “powerhouse” smartphones.
One thing to note, I’ve left out the category of smartphones running Windows Mobile and/or Windows Phone 7. In my opinion, and as evident by Microsoft’s continual loss of market share, those phones simply aren’t “contenders” in the current mobile landscape. Don’t fret – I’ll be keeping an eye on the development of this platform for inclusion in later roundups. If you’re still curious, Engadget has posted a comprehensive review of Windows Phone 7.
My Favorite Phones (and Why):
So I’ve highlighted some of the main points to keep in mind with the different smartphones. However, I have to let you know which phones I’m currently entertaining and why:
- Sprint’s Evo 4G & Verizon’s HTC Incredible: Two phones share my #1 slot as they are nearly identical. From a performance perspective, their hardware is almost comparable to a low-end Netbook! All that performance in a device that fits in your pocket?! Sweet! As far as the Evo, the option of 4G data speeds makes this phone incredibly attractive for the Internet addict (Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Pandora, etc). I also see it as having great potential as a replacement for the instant hot-spots (such as the Verizon MiFi or Sprint OverDrive 3G/4G). Personally, I’ve been using my Spring 4G android phone to stream Pandora at work (since my employer blocks it on their network).
- Apple iPhone 4: If you can get past the few downsides (no true multi-tasking, AT&T only, mostly paid app store) with the iPhone, it’s a great way to consolidate a number of devices into one. After all, this one pretty much set the bar to which all others (including the Evo 4G and Incredible) are measured. I will say that based on experience, the iPhone has less of a learning curve than the Android phones (such as the Evo or Epic).
- Verizon’s Motorola Droid 2 or Samsung Epic 4G: There is one item that instantly sets these phones apart from my first two picks – a physical keyboard. The specs on this phone are plenty to run the latest version of the Android operating system, but if you like having physical keys to punch I’d go with this one. Plus, the Droid has been so overshadowed by the HTC Incredible that the price has started coming down close to that of the “budget” phones. As far as the Samsung Epic 4G, you can expect excellent battery life (for an Android phone) and an amazing AMOLED screen. The slide out keyboard (and included SWYPE virtual keyboard) will definitely let you find a method of interacting with your phone that suits your style. I also find the camera on this phone fairly feature packed (despite the fact it’s only 5MP) – it even includes functionality to create stitched landscape format photos. Awesome!
** UPDATE ** Amazon has been running specials on Android phones lately – some as cheap as a PENNY!! Check out Amazon Wireless and find out if you’re eligible for an upgrade!
Additional Food for Thought:
So we’ve covered the pros and cons of the budget and powerhouse smartphones. However, there’s a few other things to keep in mind:
- If you’re new to smartphones, make sure you consider the cost of your data plan when you’re deciding which phone is best for you. Billshrink put together a great cost comparison that is well worth your time to examine before you go buy your own smartphone.
- Some phones offer the ability to act as a Wi-Fi “Hotspot” for your other devices (laptops).
- The Sprint Android Phones (Evo & Epic) were the first phones which will allow faster 4G data download speeds. It’s great, but it’s also a power hog and only available in select markets. If you plan to use 4G, make sure you’re plugged into the wall so you don’t drain your battery!!
For the Overwhelmed:
As always, if you would like help choosing the best Smartphone for you, feel free to Contact Me! Rest assured that I’m keeping a close eye on these devices and can give you a recommendation any time!
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