Smartphones are now outselling feature phones at an incredible rate. You’ll either own one or be longing to own one. But the market is moving so quickly, and the technology improving so radically, that even if you own a model of smartphone that was brand new and cutting edge just a few months ago, you should be eyeing up your next purchase.
The problem is choosing which smartphone to buy. The number of manufacturers is huge and they each offer smartphones on a range of mobile operating systems. Which you choose to purchase will depend on your needs – smartphones are for much more than just making and receiving calls – and your budget.
The bestselling individual handset right now is the iPhone 4. The iPhone 4S, with an improved A5 processor, an 8 Megapixels camera capable of 1080p HD video recording, and a voice control system named Siri has just been unveiled. The iPhone 3GS is still a good option for those not fussed about having the latest model, and the iPhone 5 will be on its way soon.
The iPhone is, obviously, from Apple. And buying one means you gain the added kudos which comes with owning an Apple product. iOS is a powerful mobile operating system, and the iPhone gives you access to the App Store and the whole of iTunes. There are also apps which are currently only compatible with the iPhone, such as Instagram.
The iPhone is for those who like Apple, or who want guaranteed quality. This is the smartphone of choice for geeks or those with enough money to be able to keep up with the annual release schedule.
Android is the operating system from Google which now runs on handsets by a host of manufacturers. The best on offer at the time of writing are the the Samsung Galaxy S2, the HTC Sensation, and the Sony Xperia Arc. These are the top-of-the-range Android handsets, but each has a smaller, less-powerful sibling for those on a budget. Handsets such as the Samsung Galaxy Ace, the HTC Desire S, and the Sony Xperia Neo will provide everything most users need but at a fraction of the cost.
Android receives regular updates, with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) the latest for smartphones. Most handset manufacturers add their own UI on top of the basic Android operating system, with HTC Sense regarded as the best at the present time.
Android is for those who dislike Apple or who want something more open and customizable than the iPhone offers. The range of choice open to you when choosing an Android handset is both a blessing and a curse. Making the right decision can be tough, and you know there is a better model due out a few months down the line making yours outdated.
Microsoft Windows Phone 7
Windows Phone 7 is Microsoft’s latest mobile operating system. And it’s both visually pleasing and easy to use. The number of manufacturers choosing Windows Phone 7 for their handsets is increasing, as is support from developers and the number of apps available. But buying a Windows Phone 7 handset is still a slight gamble at this stage.
Many analysts are predicting a bright future for Windows Phone 7, but that doesn’t help someone buying a smartphone right now. Most cellphone stores offer consumers the chance to try before they buy, so take that opportunity. You may fall in love with the Windows Phone 7 UI, preferring it over iOS and Android. The best Windows Phone 7 handsets at present are the HTC HD7, the LG Optimus 7, and the Samsung Omnia 7.
Windows Phone 7 is for those who like Microsoft, or who want something a little different from everyone else. Buying a Windows Phone 7 handset would be making a statement that you’re not a sheep who follows the herd.
BlackBerry was, at one point, the ultimate choice for those who liked using their phones for communicating. With its QWERTY keyboard it was unbeatable for texting, and is still a great option for people who use their phone primarily for messaging and emailing. Research in Motion has updated its line-up to include touchscreens and dual keyboard/touchscreen options, but sales are on the decline.
The latest BlackBerry Bold (9900 and 9930) and BlackBerry Torch (9810 and 9850) handsets run on BlackBerry 7, the current version of the operating system. These are well-designed, powerful phones which you discount completely at your peril. Just like the Windows Phone 7 handsets, it’s essential to try BlackBerry handsets before you commit to buying one. You may love it or you may hate it, but you won’t know without giving it a chance.
BlackBerry phones are for those who like to text or email a lot – BlackBerry Messenger adds another string to your communication bow – or those who have rejected the iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone 7 options for whatever reason.
I’m not going to sit here an recommend a particular manufacturer, operating system, or handset. Smartphones come in a huge range of shapes, sizes, and even colors, and it’s up to each individual to decide which will serve them best. Go into a store and look, feel, and play with a variety of different options, narrow it down to a select few, and then make your purchase.