The boss just swapped her ageing Nokia phone for a swanky new BlackBerry Torch, one of the higher-end smartphones out there. Once the initial euphoria – "look, that’s the Brunch website on the tiny screen!" – had died down, however, let’s just say it wasn’t exactly easy. For someone who had lived in the comforting, yet somewhat limiting world of feature phones, moving to a high-end smartphone was a paradigm shift.
After all, the things smartphone users take for granted – pull-down menus, IM notifications, touchscreen keyboards, app stores and more – are the same things that novice smartphones users struggle with.
Everyone wants a smartphone but making the move could be more painful than you would think. Most people simply aren’t technologically savvy and just want to get things done. For others, it’s simply too much re-learning. My mother, for instance, gave up on her brand new Android smartphone and went back to the (dumb) phone she’d been using for more than five years ("I hate it", she hissed when I tried to coax her. "It’s a vile thing".)
If only there were a guide to make your transition from the Stone Ages to the 21st century – at least as far as phones go – less painful! Guess what? It’s right here. Six smart ways to get a grip on your smartphone Do you need one?
Because if all you need to do is make calls and send messages, maybe listen to FM stations or even post the occasional update to Facebook or Twitter, you might not.
"The whole point of a smartphone is having a powerful device that can do many things at once and on the go," says Annkur Agarwal, editor of OnlyGizmos.com. "It’s about using your phone to be more productive in general and also as a means of entertainment any time, anywhere."
According to Agarwal, if you aren’t looking to be online 24x7, or editing documents in the car, reading (ebooks, websites, blogs, etc), are allergic to touchscreens (or QWERTY keypads) and don’t really like gaming, a smartphone isn’t for you. They don’t come cheap either. Sure, you can buy a mid-range smartphone anywhere between Rs 10,000-15,000, but the powerful, lust-worthy ones easily run into the 30s. At that price, reason most Indians, you can get a full-fledged laptop. If you’ve decided to take the plunge, however…
Choose a platform wisely
There’s not that many to choose from anyway. You can choose between iOS (which is what the Apple iPhone uses), BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Symbian. A platform is essentially an operating system that runs your phone, like, say, Windows, which runs your PC.
Depending on which one you choose, your smartphone experience can greatly vary. We’re not taking any sides (though we do have personal favourites) but here are some guidelines to help you make a (somewhat) informed choice:
iOS: Fast, clean and simple. One hundred per cent novice-friendly. Get an iPhone if you have the cash and don’t want to read the manual.
Android: Easy enough to use with a little help from a techie youngster in the family. Once you know the basics, however, you can tinker with Android to your heart’s content.
BlackBerry: Must-have for email addicts (and serious, corporate types). Word of caution: the clunky user interface takes some serious training to get used to.
Windows Phone: New kid on the block. Not as simple as an iPhone but comes a close second.
Symbian: Familiar territory for Nokia users. Choose this if you’re nervous about graduating to a smartphone and prefer to stick to the ‘good old Nokia’ interface.
Show brand loyalty
Brands like customers to have a certain level of familiarity with their products, so chances are that a feature phone and smartphone of the same brand will have similar user interfaces. "They have similar menu structures and sometimes, even the same icons," says Prasad Naik, technology writer with GSMArena.com, a site about smartphones frequented by techies.
Practise your touch
Ever since the iPhone kicked off the modern smartphone revolution, every smartphone looks more or less like a rip-off: a large touchscreen with maybe a button or two at the bottom. Touch works just fine in most cases (and how else would we play Angry Birds?) but it’s not for everyone.
“I find typing on a touchscreen extremely cumbersome,” says Ankit Vohra, a Delhi-based banker. “Unlike a real keyboard, there’s no tactile feedback, which makes it difficult to gauge what key I’ve pressed.” Others, like Swati Joshi, a student at Mumbai’s Sydenham College, say that touchscreens rely too much on pinpoint accuracy. “I have big fingers and I invariably end up touching stuff that I don’t mean to. It’s so frustrating!”
If you’re set on getting a touchscreen phone, practice your skills on a friend’s phone just to get a feel. Otherwise, you can get the best of both worlds by getting a touchscreen phone with a slide-out keyboard.
Battery life sucks. That’s a fact of life. Get used to it.
A little more than a day. And that’s if you’re lucky. So get used to lugging your charger around with you.
“Your phone does so many things simultaneously – play music, send and receive email, run apps, give you directions via GPS and, of course, make calls!” says Naik. “All these things consume some serious power.”
Our advice? Multiple chargers – one for the office, house and car to banish the ‘Low battery’ sign forever!
Look and learn
Ever Googled your phone? There is a treasure trove of tutorials and how-to videos for every smartphone model available on the Net. Spend some time browsing through these and you might just be the one doling out some pearls of wisdom.
From HT Brunch, July 17
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