Best Smartphone for 2011
What is a smartphone?
A smartphone is a mini computer that fits in your hand. As well as making phone calls you can surf the web, read emails, navigate, listen to music, take and edit photos and video, play games and install a huge selection of other applications or apps, as they are commonly known. Right now the most popular smartphones are touch screen devices which are easy to use and a versatile way of interfacing with such a small device.
What do you want it for?
Before looking at all those shiny gizmos think about what you actually want a smartphone for day to day. For me its email, phone, satellite navigation, twitter, music, photos and diary/calendar. I use it for a whole lot more too but these are my core requirements. Make your own list of what’s important to help you pick the right phone for you.
What to look for?
- Usability You have a small screen and using it needs to be simple, intuitive, enjoyable and reliable. I think a multi touch screen with on screen keyboards gives by far the most intuitive usable experience.
- Battery Life When you’re on the move the last thing you want is a flat battery on your phone. With smartphones this is even more imperative as we the longer you have one, the more you come to rely on them for when you are out and about. With smartphones battery life is more of a problem too, for instance streaming music whilst navigating on Google Maps consumes lots of power and the more capable these smartphones become, the more battery they drink. You should be looking for 10 hours battery life otherwise you are likely to get caught out on the move.
- Camera Quality Look for a minimum of 5 megapixels from your smartphone camera and you may well find the quality is good enough to replace your point and shoot digital camera. Don’t expect any optical zoom in your smartphone this takes up far too much space so the best you can hope for is lots of megapixels and using digital zoom or cropping later.
- Screen Quality With such a small screen to read your emails or browse websites it’s important that the detail on the screen is sharp and clear.
- App Quality & Availability You’ll likely to live in 3rd party apps once you get a smartphone. Whether its playing games, hooking up with friends on Facebook or getting to an important meeting with the satellite navigation, these tasks all use applications written by other companies that offer them for download via an app store. As at November 2010, the Apple iTunes App Store (used by the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad) had over 300,000 apps available compared to the 100,000 available on the Android platform (Googles smartphone touch screen system used by many phone manufacturers). This is only part of the story too. Apple charge developers to add applications to the iTunes App Store and also have a pretty strict vetting process, so the quality of apps in the iTunes store is in my opinion, much higher than the Android store.
- Accessory Availability If you want to use your smartphone for satellite navigation you’ll want in-car holders and chargers. You may also want to be able to dock it in your car for music or listen via your FM radio. You might want to attach it to your lounge speakers for your music needs or boost that battery with a portable external battery. The more choice of quality accessories the more you can use that smartphone for.
What’s on the market?
Right now there are 4 main players in the smartphone market. Apple with their popular iPhone, Google Android (which is the software platform used by many manufacturers for many of the latest touch screen smartphones), the Blackberry range of devices including both touch screen and hardware keyboards and finally a new entrant to the market is the Windows Phone 7 platform. The new Windows Phone 7 platform is Microsoft’s first promising attempt at entering the smartphone market but as it is early days their app store is very small and there isn’t yet a big choice of phones or accessories. Blackberry made their name with the last generation of smart phones and have held their ground pretty well by positioning their offering as the serious business option. Now however, with the power and sophistication of the new Android and iPhone generation and prevalence of apps for them both, they generally make much more focussed and useable business devices than the Blackberry. So that leaves us with the popular iPhone which here at Expert Towers I absolutely love. The build quality, design and amazing screen, as well of quality and quantity of apps and accessories make it hard to dismiss. However, I don’t deny that there are also some great Android phones particularly those made by HTC and Samsung who offer quality reliable hardware at lower prices than Apple’s iPhone. The Android platform is slightly less slick and usable than the iPhone’s iOSX operating system. It feels a little more techy with more configuration and complexity than the iPhone, but its a great platform being adopted by more and more manufacturers and app developers all the time.
Where to buy from
There are so many contract and phone combinations that its mind boggling and we found mobiles.co.uk helped us quickly scan all the combinations and find the best deals, as well as offering some great cash back and free gift deals. If you know the network you’re after then it can sometimes be easier to shop direct with the network provider and Orange, Three, O2 and Vodafone all have decent websites and high street shops. I show the lowest priced deals for each phone below, but everyone has different requirements, so make sure you get the minutes, texts and data limits you need, or you may end up paying a lot more than you bargain for. For instance these cheapest deals typically incur a 24 month contract and include somewhere between 1 & 2 hours free talk minutes. Where did you buy your last phone? How did it go?
Apple iPhone 4 16GB
10 hours battery life, fantastic build quality. Many quality apps and accessories available. Very high resolution “Retina” Display. HD Video Expensive. Some people report reception issues when not using a protective bumper.
HTC Wildfire (Android)
Feature rich smartphone at a fantastic price. Choose your capacity using a removable Micro SD card (not included)Noticeably lower quality screen and slower processor than the Desire and iPhone. Some apps may run slow/laggy. Battery life.
Agree, disagree? Let us know by commenting below and together we can make sure we are getting the best smartphone in this fascinating and quickly changing market.