No, they don't have a degree from Oxford, nor are they likely find a solution to world hunger (at least at the moment). But many people have already found buying a smartphone to be a smart move. A mobile phone in the body of a PDA (personal digital assistant) -- or a PDA disguised as a mobile -- however you see it, these gadgets take care of many business and personal needs. Personal organiser? Check. Address book? Check. Internet browser? Check. Voice recording? Check. Sending and receiving video files? Digital camera? You guessed it. If you haven't gone digital yet, now may be the time; you can get all your gadgets in one. Those who are seeking to upgrade their technology, a smartphone may be the answer. Just remember, don't leave it in a taxi -- you'll no longer have your phone, and you'll also have lost all your data (but you remembered to back that up, right?).
If you're getting ready to switch to an all-in-one device, read on.
- Smartphones utilise the GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) network for voice communication and the GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) network for data transmission. The GSM network is a wireless digital mobile phone network and GPRS network is a wireless service that allows you to connect to the Internet.
- Most Smartphones are either tri-band (900/1800/1900MHz) or quad-band (850/900/1800/1900). A multi-band smartphone ensures that it can function at a variety of frequencies and allows it to operate in more than one country.
- Advances in communication technology allows a number of smartphones to offer EDGE (Enhanced Data GSM Environment) connectivity which provides faster data transfer, particularly for Web and multimedia over the GSM network.
- 3G (short for third generation technology) smartphones offer faster, more efficient systems for mobile services.
- With the addition of a Wi-Fi card, smartphones can surf the net at speeds faster than using GPRS, however speeds will vary depending on the network and handset. WAP-enabled smartphones use Wireless Application Protocol for accessing the Internet and email connectivity over the GSM network.
- One of the key characteristics of a smartphone that made it popular and essential to businesses is email connectivity. They are able to deliver email wirelessly to the handset using an email client as well as operate with a variety of email applications including personal, business and IMAP Web-mail. It will connect to the email server for the account to send and receive messages over the GPRS network.
- RIM initially launched the BlackBerry as an email-only device. BlackBerry devices download email from an email server, support up to 10 email accounts, and come with a range of email options, such as email downloads to a PC.
- The Palm Treo uses VersaMail and will connect with Microsoft Exchange as well as POP3/IMAP accounts.
- While the new EV-DO (Evolution Data Optimized) is not available in the UK, Orange does provide an EDGE network (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution, 100-kilobits-per-second real-world speeds), and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service, ten to 50 kilobits per second) is still acceptable.
- You can use a variety of browsers for the Internet, including the Explorer, Blazer 2.0 and Opera's mobile Web browser specially rendered for smartphones.
OS Platforms and Performance
- Palm: The platform is slightly limited for multitasking on the devices, but it is easy to hook up with other Palm devices. The interface is designed for ease of use and is compatible with lots of third party applications. For information specifically on Palm Treo OS options, click here.
- Symbian: The platform is supported by a large number of devices. It works especially well with Java, Bluetooth and IrDA technology. Limited software applications supported.
- Windows: Supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and is less user-friendly. Compatible with lots of different software.
- QWERTY keyboard: If you plan on texting and emailing often, look for smartphones that have a slide out or front keyboard with separate alpha and numeric keys.
- Stylus handwriting recognition: Multilingual, handy writing tool that actually uses more than a keyboard. By writing with a small pen-like stick, your handwriting gets translated into document.
- Stylus tapping/touch-screen keyboard: It takes two hands, but it's quicker and easier to use than a numeric keyboard. Use your fingers or a small computer pen to strike the on-screen keyboard.
Wireless Carrier Service
Don't forget that you not only pay for the initial cost of the phone, but also you must pay for service:
- Carriers will usually have you commit to a yearly contract, but there are some pay-as-you-go plans.
- Monthly plans generally range from £20 to £100 per month depending on your usage.
- Are you moving around internationally? Make sure your phone's SIM chip can be changed easily, or, better yet, get a SIM-free phone.
- Camera. Most models have a VGA camera for capturing stills and video with megapixel counts well past two.
- GPS receivers and Bluetooth modems for additional Web access have also appeared.
- Photo storage on expandable memory slots.
- Memory Chip (these usually cost extra and you should have one or two to back up your data).
- Video players.
- MP3 media players.