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How to choose a smartphone

gadgets Updated: Feb 09, 2012 17:35 IST
AFP
technical jargon

Looking to buy a new smartphone, maybe your first? A recent survey from NPD found that 57 percent of first-time smartphone buyers in the US opted for an Android device - largely due to the wide variety of designs, features and price points. But while all those various features appeal to a wide range of would-be buyers, it's also easy to get lost in the sea of technical jargon used to sell smartphones (GHz, GB, RAM, 4G or MP anyone?).

With these handy tips you won’t need a manual to find the right device.

Technical specifications explained:

GHz (aka processor speed or the smartphone “brain”)
GHz is the abbreviation for gigahertz, the unit used to measure your phone’s processor speed. This determines how responsive your phone will be and how quickly it will swap between applications and browse the web. A typical smartphone in today’s market will usually come with a 1GHz processor or higher.

RAM (aka performance)
RAM, measured in megabytes (MB), determines the number of applications your phone can run at the same time without slowing the device down. If you’re just browsing the web or making calls, 256MB will be enough. If you like to run multiple applications (called multitasking) at the same time or play a lot of processor-intensive games, aim for a minimum of 512MB.

GB (aka storage)
Depending on the phone you buy it may have integrated storage (that can’t be added to or removed) or a device with an expansion slot for a microSD, SD or MiniSD memory card. Device storage is measured in gigabytes (GB). If you want to store lots of music, videos, photos and apps you will want more storage. Most removable memory cards will store between 2GB and 34GB.

MP (aka camera quality)
The smartphone’s camera quality is measured in megapixels (MP). Typically, a smartphone with more MP will take better (higher resolution) photos. Most new smartphones now feature a 5MP or better camera but you can find smartphones that capture up to 16MP.

3G or 4G (aka cellular data internet speed)
3G and 4G refer to the speed of your cellular data speed or how quick your phone’s internet connection is over your carrier’s network. Measured in Kbps and Mbps, 3G networks typically range from 144Kbps to 2.4Mbps. 4G speeds are the next step up and typically range between 1Mbps to 25Mbps (but differ country by country and carrier by carrier). 4G is expected to hit speeds of 100Mbps -- faster than your existing home broadband connection -- in the future.

Top smartphone buying tips:

Try before you buy
Go into a store and try as many different smartphones as you can to see which one feels most comfortable. Before you buy use the exact model you are interested in purchasing. Try using the device to take a photo, send a text, make a call, download apps and browse the internet.

Focus on the features you want
Figure out what is most important to you (long battery life, good camera, fast internet (WiFi and 3G or 4G), cost, easy-to-use operating system, applications, gaming, email). This will help you choose the right handset for your needs.

Choose your operating system
Major smartphone operating systems include Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS, Microsoft’s Windows Phone and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry platform. Choosing the right operating system (often referred to as a smartphone “OS”) is almost more important than choosing the right smartphone: it will determine the applications you can download and will govern the way you interact with your phone.

Research, research, research
After narrowing it down to a few models, hit the web and search for smartphone reviews. Look for “hands on” reviews on technology blogs like TechCrunch, The Verge, Gizmodo, VentureBeat, ReadWriteWeb, AllThingsD, Engadget, Mashable, CNET and The Next Web for comprehensive information about the smartphone you are interested in.

Take a knowledgeable friend with you
It’s good to have a tech-savvy friend to provide assistance and make sure you don’t get conned into buying old technology at inflated prices. If you don’t have a friend in the know, sites like http://www.decide.com/ and http://shop.retrevo.com/ can help you find the right device at the right price.
Microsoft has just released a handy guide that explains smartphone basics on hardware specs. The guide focuses on Windows Phones but still offers some helpful advice for first time smartphone buyers. PC Advisor has also created an in depth smartphone buyer’s guide that can be found here: http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/news/mobile-phone/3253882/buyers-guide-the-ultimate-guide-to-smartphone-specs/?pn=1