This is a great question I get all the time. I’m going to break this down into categories as much as possible.
First, ask yourself – what do I want my mobile phone to do? Do I want to email from it? Sync with Outlook or Microsoft Exchange? Send instant messages? Install applications to read ebooks, play games, watch the stock market, or track my daily calories? (If those things sound crazy to you, don’t worry. Keep reading.)
For most of the users – there are ordinary, normal phones. They’re sometimes called “dumbphones”, but that’s not an insult. It’s just in comparison to “smartphones” that let you do more things, like sync with Microsoft Outlook, install applications, and so on. However, so-called “dumbphones” can provide access to Facebook, Twitter, limited email, and instant messaging. The experience may not be as nice, but certainly passable.
Typically the difference between smartphones and normal phones is the data plan. Smartphones typically require a data plan, typically anywhere from $20 – $30/month. If that sounds extortionate (and to me, it does), then you want a normal phone. If you think to yourself “I already pay for internet at home, why should I pay for it when I’m out?” then you want a normal phone.
Normal phones can come in a variety of forms – flip phones, non-flip phones and phones with keyboards are most common. If you wonder “why would I need a keyboard on a phone?” chances are you don’t. If you send text messages occasionally, or wish you sent more text messages – definitely get a phone with a keyboard. Once you have the hang of it, you’ll wonder why you didn’t have a phone with a keyboard long ago.
Other features on normal phones include cameras, speakerphone, voice dialing, and bluetooth. Cameras, while certainly useful in certain situations, will NOT replace your digital camera (also known as a point-and-shoot). Cameras on cell phones are not meant to be used in a public location, as something to show off, or something to capture a great moment with. Cell phone cameras are for situations like car accidents, when you need a quick picture of something – but the quality really doesn’t matter. I’ve been at events where people expect to take a great picture of a famous person with their cell phone camera, while making the famous person wait – trust me, it’s not going to happen.
Bluetooth is another great feature that allows the connection of a wireless headset, or other device such as a laptop. Used most commonly for headsets, this can be a great feature while driving. Anyone who spends significant time in the car would immediately benefit from having a bluetooth headset. However, these are not devices to be worn in public. In the car – absolutely. In a bar – no. On a street – no. In the mall – no. They are not status symbols. You are not incapable of holding the phone to your ear. If you do not agree – that’s perfectly acceptable.
Speakerphone is something that every phone should have. No question about it. In this day and age, as people use their cell phones more than landlines, speakerphone is a necessity. However, this is not a feature to be used while walking around, while having a room full of people speak at once, or while in the car. Why? Simply, because cell phone speakerphones are not designed as conference phones. They pick up background noise too easily, and can’t handle the conversation you’re trying to have. Save the speakerphone for when you’re on hold with your bank, the phone company, or any other call center.
Voice dialing sounds like a great feature – and it is. However, it suffers from the same problems as speakerphone. Unless it’s perfectly quiet, the phone is going to have trouble hearing exactly who you want to dial. Don’t bother trying. Set up speed dials for the people you call most, and leave it at that.
So to recap – decide what you need, and what you’re willing to pay monthly. Then, look for the features mentioned above, decide what you need, and purchase accordingly.
Look for another article to detail your smartphone options and choices soon.