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All the right buttons

They say the hardest thing you’ll have to do in life is find the perfect spouse. Nowadays though, it seems like choosing a smartphone is just as tough. With the former you can go on dates and test things out.

brunch Updated: Aug 25, 2012 19:35 IST
Clinton Jeff
Clinton Jeff
Hindustan Times

They say the hardest thing you’ll have to do in life is find the perfect spouse. Nowadays though, it seems like choosing a smartphone is just as tough. With the former you can go on dates and test things out. But with the latter, considering the cost of phones these days, you’re going to buy one and be stuck with it for a while. So you want to make sure you choose the perfect phone. One that can handle calls and texts, but also offers value for money and more features than you’d ever use. And that’s where smartphones come in.

But first, a history lesson. The term ‘smartphone’ wasn’t as widespread five years ago as it is today. In 2007, Apple released the first iPhone, Nokia had their Symbian phones like the N95, and Google’s Android platform was just coming together. Not many people knew what a smartphone was. Some even bought those early phones without knowing what they were.

Even the very definition of ‘smartphone’ is a bit hazy. But the generally agreed feature is that it’s “a phone on which you can install apps”. By that definition, the smartphone scene is entirely different today. Everyone’s lusting after Apple’s iPhones, Google’s Android offerings are taking over the planet, and Nokia’s smartphones are now running exclusively on Microsoft’s new ‘Windows Phone’ platform.

Smartphones are still a lot more expensive than the average feature phone. As a result, only 18 per cent of the world’s cellphone users have smartphones today. Researchers like comScore are predicting that those numbers are going to rise dramatically very soon, with the number of smartphone owners expected to surpass feature phones in the US by the end of this year.

As smartphone prices get cheaper and cheaper, it’s only a matter of time before we’re all “over” restrictive feature phones. But I digress, this is about you and your next smartphone. Here’s a little advice on how to chose your next device. So what category do you fall into?

PHONE TIP #1: Many folks might be looking for a ‘simple’ phone, but I’d argue that there also exist simple smartphones.

Thinking about getting one, but intimidated by the ‘extra’ features?

First of all, don’t be! Smartphones are meant to complement your daily life, not complicate it. Sure, many folks out there might be looking for a ‘simple’ phone for certain reasons, but I’d argue that there also exist very simple smartphones that can handle whatever you throw at it, and still give you more functionality.

I remember when I first gave my dad his first smartphone – a Nokia N95. One year later, the only features he admitted to using regularly were making calls and checking messages (with occasional camera use or playing music). When I gave him an iPhone 3GS two years ago, all that changed. He installs apps, stalks me on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, streams music and videos and more. Your first smartphone has to be the right one for you, or you’ll not use much of it.

The one advantage some feature phones still boast is better battery life. Feature phones usually have a small-ish screen and no multitasking and very few apps, if at all, so there’s nothing really to ‘drain’ that battery. Smartphones, on the other hand, need more energy for all their functions, but they’re getting better at managing battery life too. If you stay away from huge-screen behemoths, battery life won’t be too much of an issue.

If you’re just venturing into the smartphone scene, I’d recommend the Nokia Lumia 800 and the iPhone 4/4S.

Nokia Lumia 710: Price sensitive and a good pick

Thinking about getting one, but can’t afford the fancy ones?

I make an average amount of cash for a 20-something Indian, but thanks to Delhi’s insane rents, I have very little left for myself. So the very thought of spending Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 on a phone seems like a distant dream. Especially since the phones I really want are all in that price range.

In such cases, one must settle. Thankfully, there are some very decent smartphones under Rs 15,000. Smartphones that I wouldn’t mind flaunting and walking around with. My favourite in the price range is the HTC One V, which I cannot recommend enough because of the screen. The Nokia Lumia 710 and the Sony Xperia U make up my top three. They all have decent build quality and will probably stand the test of time, while being affordable and not compromising on too much.

Samsung Galaxy Chat: This combines a QWERTY keypad with Android

Stuck with a BlackBerry and considering moving to a proper smartphone?

I’m not a huge fan of BlackBerry phones. They’re a little “last decade”, in my opinion. And with apps like WhatsApp and Viber, BBM seem a little redundant, but I have some friends who still swear by theirs.

I won’t recommend any of their current phones, not until their next generation BlackBerry 10 devices start coming out. But for a BlackBerry owner, so used to that QWERTY keyboard, the move can be rough, especially since there are so few QWERTY phones to choose from. I’ll recommend only two – the Samsung Galaxy Chat, and the Sony Xperia Pro, both running Android. Switching over though, will give you access to a whole range of apps that you never knew you were missing out on with your BlackBerry.

Already own one, and desperately want a better one?
If you already own a smartphone and aren’t too happy with it, there are tons of choices out there, but your big decisions will be based on price, features, brand or operating system. The main choice you have to make though, are whether to stick with the brand of phone you currently have. I have plenty of friends who bought an iPhone and are happy with it, as well as Nokia users who content with their Lumia Windows Phones too. With these folks, build quality and an easy -to-navigate user interface were top priority. If you’re thinking about getting a new iPhone, I’d highly advise waiting a month or two for the new iPhone to launch before making up your mind.

Sony Experia S: A great upgrade for those who are already smartphone fans

Then, there’s all those fantastic Android smartphones from HTC, Sony, Samsung and some interesting ones from LG and Motorola that you can also take a quick look at. You have a smorgasbord of devices to choose from, but my favourites have to be the HTC One X, the more affordable HTC One S, and the Sony Xperia S. Samsung’s Galaxy S III is also worth considering but build quality is a concern there and it’s one of the most expensive Android phones right now.

At the end of the day, your smartphone is a device you’re going to probably use for at least a year, if not longer, and you’ll want it to fit into your lifestyle as quickly as possible. It’s going to stick with you through the day, you’ll work on it, play games on it, listen to music, browse the web, send emails and of course make a phone call or send a text message or two.

Make the right choice, and you’ll wonder how you ever survived without a smartphone!

The writer is Executive Editor,

From HT Brunch, August 26

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First Published: Aug 25, 2012 17:17 IST