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How to choose the right smartphone

By TheTechDad

There are very few things in life that you spend more time with than your smartphone. If you’re like me, then it’s the first thing you reach for in the morning and the last thing you put down at night. So in many ways, choosing a new smartphone is like choosing a new roommate: You better get it right or life is suddenly going to take a turn for the worse!

But choosing a new phone doesn’t have to be a guessing game. Even though the selection process can appear complicated, there are certain things you can do to narrow down the field. If you go about your search in an orderly and logical fashion, you can quickly find a smartphone that’s right for you.

Here are a few suggestions on how to get started:

Choose a carrier first

The first key to being happy with your phone is being happy with your carrier. It doesn’t matter how many bells and whistles your new phone has if you have lousy service. Your love for your smartphone will quickly turn to frustration as calls are dropped and transmission speeds slow to crawl.

Ask friends and family in your area about their experiences. If you can, check what kind of reception they get in various areas of your home. Think about how much you travel and where. If it’s speed you’re looking for, make sure your chosen carrier has a 4G network that can include you.

Fix your budget

The next thing to decide is how much money you want to spend. If your budget is unlimited, then every kind of smartphone is in play, including higher priced models like the iPhone. But if you want a pay-as-you-go plan or you are on some other kind of budget, then this may restrict what models you can choose from.

Don’t be afraid to visit your local phone store and tell them exactly what you can afford. They will show you what models are in your price range and let you know about any special deals.

Decide on an operating platform

Although phone hardware can have many distinguishing features, the biggest differentiator in a smartphone is its operating system. Here, you really have four choices: iOS (iPhone), Android, BlackBerry, and Windows.

Now, I’m an Android guy but that doesn’t mean Android is for everyone. If you like Apple products and already have a Mac or an iPod touch, then it might make sense to stick with the iOS platform and get an iPhone. The navigation, browsing and Mail features will all be familiar, and you can easily sync with your iTunes library and other Apple programs.

However, if you are a big Gmail user and prefer a more flexible operating environment, then it might make sense to go with an Android phone. And while BlackBerry phones may have declined in popularity over the last year or two, many fans swear by their superior business tools and the BBM instant messaging app.

Again, if you are unfamiliar with any of the smartphone operating systems, ask your local carrier representative to show you the basic features. Being comfortable with the operating system is an important step in selecting a phone that you will love.

Choose a model

Now comes the fun part! For some people, it’s all about style; for others, it’s the features. Whatever you are looking for, make sure the phone satisfies your needs. If you want blue, get blue; if you want a phone with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, an 8-megapixel camera, e-mail syncing, and video conferencing capability, keep looking until you find what you want. There’s nothing worse than being stuck with a phone that doesn’t do what you want it to do.

As well as getting recommendations from friends, do a little research. Don’t be afraid to visit Consumer Reports or some of the consumer tech sites like CNET. They review phones in terms that non-techies can understand and will often include straight-up comparisons between similar phones from different manufacturers or service providers.

Select a plan

Once you have identified your preferred carrier and a phone you like, it’s time to select a plan. How many minutes do you use a month? Do you text a lot? Will you be a heavy data user? Does it make sense to be part of a family plan?

If you are buying a smartphone for the first time, then it may be difficult to estimate your data needs. Again, use the expertise of the people in the store. They can explain what you will get in terms of e-mail, web surfing, music or movie downloads, or whatever else you will use the phone for.

For both call minutes and data, err on the side of caution. Make sure your monthly allowances are sufficient, so you don’t incur costly overage charges.

Depending on your comfort level with electronics, finding the right cell phone can be fun or it can be a chore. But if you do it the right way, you will be more than happy with the result!

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