Smartphone Buying Guide

January 5, 2012, 2:34 IST

Vishal Mathur

Smartphone Buying Guide

What user are you? Identify, before you buy.

And you thought buying a smartphone was easy? Apparently not! The amount of innovation we have seen over the last one-year has taken smartphones into a completely different league. So much so that even smartphones just about 12 months old now seem archaic. And not smart enough. Worst-case scenario, not powerful enough!

Not only the hardware, the software bit has seen a huge battle as well. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android are going at it hammer and tongs. Research in Motion is trying its best to make the Blackberry OS as slick as the rivals. Microsoft is hoping that the Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) update will revive its fortunes. And the same story with Symbian- Anna gets a service pack as well but the real wait is on for the Belle.

However, if you are in the market to buy a smartphone for yourself, what do you buy? Well, first you need to figure out what phone fits you best. Which is why we have divided this buying guide in terms of user demographic, making it easier for you to identify which category you fall in.

Basic user/ Old- school type

Best OS for you: Symbian and Blackberry still rock!

Why we recommend this:

  • Familiar UI makes getting used to new phone quicker
  • No steep learning curve
  • You wont get lost in the application ecosystem!

If you are a bit like my dad and still believe that the smartphone is primarily a phone and believe familiarity is a critical criterion, you would be best suited off buying either a Symbian smartphone, or a Blackberry. What you get with both these OSes is a UI (user interface) that is relatively similar to the previous versions, and even the versions before that- for they have been around for donkeys’ years! For someone who doesn’t want a smartphone to be a learning curve, or isn't willing to spend time getting the hang of a newer OS, familiarity is the best option. The app ecosystem isn't very wide for Symbian and Blackberry, but then again, we don’t assume you would be interested in downloading too many apps anyway!

Here as well, you will get a choice of touchscreen only, touchscreen+ QWERTY and QWERTY only phones.

The absolute geek/ Lives on ‘nightly’ builds

Best OS for you: Android mostly, and partly Apple iOS.

Why we recommend this:

  • Completely customizable software
  • Phone can be shifted to “unofficial” OS builds, offering maybe better performance
  • Can add more functionality to unofficial OS with apps
  • Over-clocking the smartphone is becoming a rage!

We believe that you are the typical user who wants to tinker with the phone’s software, quite a bit. That’ll include lots of apps, rooting/jail breaking (though we don’t approve of it), and custom software, over-clocking- the works. While we do not advice you to do this as it creates issues with the warranty, those of you who must do it will do it! Which is why Android is the best option for you. You can get hundreds of custom ROMs on the Internet that you can install on your phone. The process isn't simple, but the geeks are doing it.

It can also be done with the iOS, following a simpler process. But then again, with Android, you get a wider variety of phones at multiple price points.

The no nonsense user/ no compromise on user experience either

Best OS for you: Apple iOS. And why not check out the Windows Phone Mango?

Why we recommend this:

  • iOS sets the benchmark in terms of user experience
  • WP7 isn't far behind, from what we have experienced with WP 7.5
  • Touchscreen experience will be the best around
  • You get a lot of apps as well, if you want to use them.

Well, the iOS (okay, Android fanboys will probably be sharpening their knives at the moment!) does offer possibly the best blend of functionality, performance and a slick user experience. If you want a phone that does everything, we suggest you check out the Apple iPhone. With the 3GS starting around Rs 19k, the entry price barrier has come down considerably.

Windows Phone 7, post the Mango update, does look like a very neat package. While it is still to really catch on, we quite like the updated OS. The fact that the performance of the OS isn’t lagging, even on a phone with 512MB of RAM does help a graphic intensive, yet easy to navigate UI.

The Business user/ Black suit serious types

Best OS for you: Blackberry mostly, and partly Symbian.

Why we recommend this:

  • Physical QWERTY keypad is an absolute must for you.
  • An added touchscreen capability is okay, but not a must have.
  • Blackberry devices handle emails the best, arguably.

What you want is simplicity but will not compromise on features. You have the daily staple diet of emails, lots of messages, a bit of web browsing and a considerable amount of calls. Ideally, a phone with a QWERTY keypad will suit you the best - immense help when typing those long mails and messages.

Blackberry smartphones are possibly the benchmark, and the Nokia E- series phones are a solid alternative. You will probably have to buy a Blackberry if your organization demands it. The Curve series range starts at about Rs 9k, while the latest Bold 9900 with an amazing touchscreen and QWERTY is available for around Rs 30k.

If the email setup at your workplace isn't locked to one type of device, we suggest you check out the Nokia E- series smartphones as well, particularly the new Nokia E6 (touch + QWERTY) and the slightly ageing but still brilliant E72.

If you are still confused which smartphone suits you the best, read our:

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