Have you been thinking about buying your first smartphone? Are you thinking of upgrading your current phone? There are many different things that you might want to consider when doing so. It may even seem overwhelming at first but this guide is intended to help you learn all that you can about choosing a smartphone so that you can make an informed decision and buy the best phone available for you and your needs.
A tidal wave of information
Brace yourself! This guide is PACKED with information that can help you decide on the right cell phone for you as well as what to look for after you have chosen the phone you wish to purchase. As such this guide is going to be broken into multiple sections and pages in regards to certain topics.
If you are in the market for your first cell phone then I suggest reading this whole guide in its entirety as chances are you might come across something that you didn’t think of.
If you already own a cell phone and are interested in upgrading then I still suggest reading the content in these posts as you might come across a suggestion that you might not have been aware of or have not run across before but feel free to skip to a certain section or page for a quicker reference on that specific topic.
Getting Started: The Basics
- What is a Smartphone?
- Bells and Whistles
- Have a Plan
- Beware of the Silver Tongue
- Smartphones Require Energy
- Smartphones Require Data Plans
- Environment, Profession and Lifestyle
- Third Party Applications
- Check the Warranty
- Consider Insurance
- Don’t Rush
Specifications to Consider when Choosing a Smartphone
- Internal Memory
- External Memory
- Camera Quality
- Power Consumption and Battery Life
- Screen Size
- Screen Type and Quality
- Phone Size
- Removable Battery
- Consider its Design
- Hearing-aid Compatibility
- Operating System
Choosing a Smartphone Operating System
Choosing a Smartphone Manufacturer
- RIM – Blackberry Limited
- Other Smartphone Manufacturers
- Why the Manufacturer Can Make a Difference
How to Choose the Best Wireless Service Provider
- Top Wireless Providers
- Location Matters
- Know your Upgrade
- Cancelation Fees
- International Roaming
- Roaming Charges
- Not all data plans are created equal
Smartphone Buying Tips
- Buyer’s Remorse
- Restocking Fee
- Shop in person but buy online
- Shipping and Handling
- Priority Shipping vs. Standard Shipping
- How much should you spend?
- How much can you afford?
- Pay now or pay later
- When to buy
- Refurbished or not refurbished
Things to Check in Person after Buying a Smartphone
- Check the Box
- Golden Connections
- Snug Battery
- Tilt Test
- Qwerty Keyboard Check
- External Speakers
- Internal Speakers
- Headset Jack
- Check for Branding
- Don’t get un-screwed
Things Often Overlooked when Choosing a Smartphone
- Hotspot Capability
- Indoor and Outdoor Photos
- Camera Flash
- PC Compatibility
- Syncing Options
- Phone Dependency or Addiction
Getting Started: The Basics
I suppose the best place to start with anything is at the beginning. As such let’s start with the basics and then review some important tips to keep in mind which will apply when choosing just about any smartphone on the market.
What is a Smartphone?
If you are researching smartphones for the first time and have never chosen much less purchased a Smartphone before then you might not be entirely sure what a smartphone even is. Don’t fret you are not alone.
A smartphone is basically a pocket computer that can make and receive calls.
Instead of using a mouse smartphones usually consist of a touch screen interface, are capable of internet access and utilize an operating system which allows its user to not only use different programs built into the phone but also allows the person to download and use additional applications which can extend the functionality of their smartphone.
Bells and Whistles
If you have problems navigating your personal computer at home then consider the fact that Smartphone’s are mini computers that you can carry in your pocket. Don’t let a sales representative dazzle you with features you can’t see yourself ever using. If you plan on just using the phone for making calls and possibly for text messaging, then a basic phone might be more comfortable, more affordable, and the better option for you.
Now don’t let technology scare you! Technology is there to make life easier and that’s what Smartphone’s can most certainly do. You can access the internet anywhere you have service and look up movie times playing at your local movie theaters. You can check your personal or work emails while on the go. Or use the GPS if you’re like me and have a terrible sense of direction. You can stay entertained by playing a game while waiting for an appointment. You can take high resolution photos and videos, which is great because you don’t always have a camera with you but you do have your phone. Or you can even use it as your mp3 player and listen to your music on the go. There are a ton of great features and bells and whistles on a Smartphone and the features that don’t come preinstalled on the phone can usually be downloaded for it.
Have a Plan
Research the phone before you buy it! An impulse buy on a candy bar is fine; an impulse buy on a cell phone can be a big mistake, especially if you’re going to get locked into a new two year contract.
Who would know the phone you’re looking at better then people already using it? Find and read as many user reviews as you can to get a feel for your phone before you buy it. Most of the successful websites that sell products online have review sections on them to allow customers to get a sense of what they are buying. Heck, check out any major online store or auction for that matter, two of the big ones would be amazon.com or ebay.com there are reviews for products, reviews for sellers, reviews on shipping speeds, reviews on quality, reviews are such a great resource for making decisions on a purchase.
Compare your Choices
Look at the specifications, its features, and its operating system, everything that is going to make your phone that much better. Many sites online can even compare phones side by side giving you, the reader, even more tools to pick the best option available to you. Check out phonescoop.com for a good site at comparing phones. Also consider going down to a store and handling the phones in person, feel the weight of the device, is it too heavy, too light, too wide, too long. Inspect the screen, is it big enough, is it too big? Is it going to be hard to carry around with you? Bigger isn’t always better. Also remember the bigger the display the more power it’s going to require and the more energy it’s going to use from its battery and of course that is going to affect how long your phone is going to last before needing to recharge it again.
Beware of the Silver Tongue
I know a person who makes a very good living convincing elderly individuals that they need to mainstream and purchase a Smartphone and that they should also buy one for their 12 or 13 year old grandchild because it’s very important to make sure a child can get in contact with someone when they need to, especially in today’s world. And they can do their homework for school on them, and they can do this, and this, and yada, yada, yada. Store representatives whether it is in the store or over the phone often get paid commission, and the more they sell the more they make, whether that device is the best option for you or it isn’t, they get their commission either way.
If you research your phone and then go into the store to buy it, then buy it! Don’t let the rep change your mind and convince you to walk out of the store with a phone you might not be happy with. If you get locked into a contract then you’re stuck with that phone for 1-2 years! Have a plan and stick to it, sales reps are professionals at manipulating people so beware of their silver tongue.
Smartphones Require Energy
Smartphone’s require a lot of energy to function at 100%, you might be shocked when you find that you now have to charge your Smartphone every day as opposed to your current flip phone which you can use for days without having to charge it.
Smartphones Require a Data Plan
Smartphone’s require that you have a data plan on your account; therefore you’re going to have a more expensive bill to pay each month. And if you use more data than your plan allows be ready to see some fees on your monthly bill. I recommend at least a 2 GB (Gigabyte) data plan for the average user. Don’t worry you can use your wireless internet at home and it won’t count as data usage from your wireless provider, plus it’s usually faster.
Consider your Environment Profession & Lifestyle
If you work construction and you have dropped your phone while on a latter, or off a roof, or off your trucks tailgate, or dropped your phone into a bucket of paint, or worse I’ve heard of yet, a container of Lacquer Thinner, or anything of that nature than having a phone that costs $400-$800 or more and can’t take a beating might be worth considering.
Now smartphones are GREAT work phones don’t get me wrong, and if you do work in these types of environments and choose to buy a Smartphone then you should most certainly invest in a great case that will protect your phone and also consider a good screen protector. Touch screens are not made for taking any kind of punishment and shattered or cracked screens are some of the most common results of physical damage amongst even the average user.
Third Party Applications
One of the greatest things about Smartphones is the ability to have access to third party applications. Apps can be games, calculators, weather reminders and advisors, traffic, banking, exercising and health, entertainment, Smartphone file management, backups and restores, basically if there is a need to do something then there’s likely an app somewhere that allows you to do it. When shopping for a phone you might want to consider the app markets and selections available that come with that phone.
Now the topic of apps and the phones in which their available on can be an entire post unto itself, but the apps available usually depend on the operating system that is installed on the phone. Apples iPhone, Google’s Android, and Microsoft’s Windows based OS are some of the phones that have the largest available selection when it comes to applications.
Check the Warranty
Warranty only covers manufacturer defects and does not cover liquid or physical damage, the typical warranty for a new Smartphone is 1 year. Keep that in mind if you’re signing a 2 year contract. Different wireless providers also offer different replacement options, check and see if you’re allowed to just bring your phone into any store location for help if there are any problems or if you need to call into a special department to get assistance with phone problems. If you need to call in to get help you shouldn’t have to pay for it but check. Convenience and speed is a very nice comfort to have on your new life line.
Your Warranty should also come with the phone. If your place of purchase offers an additional warranty that allows you to take your phone back to that location and get your phone fixed or replaced then that warranty is going to be between you and that store not you and the maker of the phone. Check and make sure that if you purchase a warranty through the store that it’s going to last for over a year, you already get that for free! It’s usually a onetime upfront fee, as opposed to a monthly payment and then a deductable. If you’re looking into purchasing an in store warranty then you should also check if they cover liquid and physical damage as well.
Try to read the documentation on what your warranty covers, some people get upset when they find out that the replacement for the phone they bought brand new is actually a refurbished unit. In any case you want to know that you’re going to be covered if a piece of your phone just stops working, or if something in its software gets messed up through no fault of your own.
When purchasing a new phone you’ll most likely have the opportunity to invest in insurance, usually within 30 days of purchasing your unit. While warranty comes with the phone, it only covers manufacturer defects and does not cover liquid or physical damage, so if your phone has an issue and physical damage your no longer covered under the manufacturer warranty, whether the damage had anything to do with the issue or not.
Insurance pretty much covers anything that the warranty does not. It covers liquid or physical damage, lost, stolen, even out of warranty by date. As long as you keep paying that premium every month then you can file an insurance claim for replacement phone. Whether or not insurance is right for you or isn’t right for you personally is a topic for another article. But you’re going to definitely take insurance into consideration if you have a habit of losing things or breaking things. Also remember that there is also usually a monthly premium and if you file a claim there is also usually a deductable involved.
Take your time when you buy your phone. Just because a phone was just released does NOT mean it’s the best phone available on the market. Many times a phone will get released and the first users are kind of like guinea pigs to work out any possible bugs etc.
I know of a few phones that had manufacturing defects on the first batch of devices. After so many calls with people having the same issue the manufacturer would either release an update for the phones software or if it was a problem with a piece of hardware the manufacturer would just keep it hush hush as they started putting better pieces on the devices manufactured after the issue was discovered.
When someone called in to report or complain about experiencing the known issue from the bad batch of phones the manufacture would often offer to repair or just replace the unit experiencing the problem.
So take your time and don’t rush.
Read and Learn More
Feel free to revisit this guide’s outline above to go to a different section of this series of posts and to learn more about what you might want to consider when choosing a smartphone.
Don’t forget to Share
This concludes the first part of choosing a smartphone. If you find any part of this guide helpful then don’t forget to share it with others. It only takes a second to press the Facebook Like or Google + buttons below or to link back to this article in a quick tweet on Twitter.
Feel free to also leave a friendly remark in the comment section underneath this article. Thanks for visiting the site and for sharing this post with others. I hope that you find this information helpful when considering a new smartphone.
14 thoughts on “Choosing a smartphone: Getting started”
I am planning to buy a smartphone
I am planning to buy a smartphone and found your article very informative. I am also checking out the processors used in the phone and the after sales service available.
i liked the points mentioned.
i liked the points mentioned. it’s perfect
I love shopping online
I love shopping online im a collector. Thanks for sharing these tips as i love shopping for second hand stuff.
buying a phone
Being 75 yrs. young and needing to replace my 6 yr old phone. Now I know what to look for. Thanks for a great article.
I, too, am over 60…
I, too, am over 60, and have been dreading the experience of buying a new smart phone. Your advice is lengthy…in a good way. The caution you suggest is really a good one for many people like me who just get overwhelmed by the marketing and info and just want to get it over with. Many great suggestions. Thank you.
Diddo, except I just turned 50.
So fortunate to have come upon your timely article
As a massive white collar crime victim, I was forced into a life of unimaginable permanent frugality. Because it is a critical addition to effective couponing for groceries, I feel forced to finally purchase a Smartphone. Based upon a friend’s product recommendation, I advertised my interest in purchasing a used Galaxy S4. I came upon an opportunity to purchase an S5 at an excellent price. I was ignorantly just about to meet the Seller to simply exchange cash for the phone, intending to just initiate one outgoing call, assuming that to be a sufficient test that the phone was in working condition. I am so fortunate to have, by accident, come upon your article. Ever so fortunately, I am now prepared to evaluate whether the phone is indeed in the “like new” condition that the Seller claims! In addition, I will carefully study the manufacturer’s website and, as well, extensively explore additional reviews. I will make the purchase only as an educated, confident consumer.
I cannot thank you sufficiently for your thorough, cohesive, organized and magnificently informative, well-presented course.
Great article with knowledge and tips.
I feel fully armed for the task of buying a smartphone. Thanks! (I am 60!)
Smart Phone Info
Kudos!! Special thanks for writing an in depth but concise guide to buying a smart phone… I will keep on reading, but you have already answered the basics. I need to keep reading!!
Thanks. This article is very informative.
Thanks. This article is very informative. I have an android phone and I love it, but I never knew it was a smart phone.
Good basic info
Thanks for publishing this. I am at the very beginning of searching for a smart phone of my own after having a company-supplied one for years. I am over 21 but under 100.
Well, you sure give a lot of good info…
Well, you sure give a lot of good info. Now if I can only remember it long enough to buy my new phone. Guess I’ll take a good look at Samsung’s Galaxy 4, the phone you recommend, and also go for an Android. I was looking at a Blu model smartphone but it’s for sure I need to know much more about it to make a ‘smart’ decision. Your writing style is just what I need — calm and simple — it keeps the panic at a low simmer in this modern-day decision-making process. Thank you so much.
Your tips were most helpful.
Your tips were most helpful. Being a senior citizen, I find myself doing “catch-up” with
this new technology! But it is great fun especially when you find the right help. Cheers!
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