Conveniently, smartphones can also replace your camera, camcorder, GPS navigation unit and iPod. Oh, and they make phone calls, too! Regardless of your needs, budget or preferred carrier, there's no shortage of feature-rich, high-speed smartphones to choose from these days.
What to look for in a smartphone
• Smartphones come in all shapes and sizes, and the form of each hints at what it's good for. Some models have a QWERTY keyboard, for example, which makes them ideal for those who do a lot of typing (email, texting or instant messaging). Smartphones with large touchscreens are ideal for entertainment, such as watching videos or playing games.
If you want a basic phone that simply makes phone calls, don't opt for a smartphone at all; pick up a small, affordable flip phone with regular buttons instead of a keyboard. Be sure to hold any smartphone before you buy to ensure it's comfortable for you to touch, talk and type on.
3 smartphone operating systems to choose from
• Once you decide on the form of your phone, you'll want to figure out what operating system to go with. Because most BlackBerrys have a QWERTY keyboard, they are great for typing, but not as ideal for games or video.
The iPhone was designed to be used for media (it synchronizes smoothly with iTunes on your computer when plugged into your PC or Mac's USB port) and lets you download more than 425,000 apps, so you can personalize the phone in a number of ways. But the iPhone is a touchscreen-only device, so make sure you find it comfortable if you like to type a lot of emails or text messages.
Powered by Google, Android smartphones come in a variety of sizes and all have exclusive Google apps, a great web browser and access to hundreds of thousands of other apps from the Android Market.
Page 1 of 2 -- Discover the right smartphone to suit your needs with expert reviews on page 2
Learn all about smartphone data plans
• Keep in mind that the longer you commit to a plan with your carrier, the cheaper your new phone will be. For example, a smartphone might cost $149 on a three-year term, but $600 without. But remember: You're signing up to continue paying for service every month for the duration of your contract, and there will likely be a penalty for cancelling or changing your contract prematurely. Some people prefer not to sign a contract, which is fine, but be aware you'll need to pay more for the smartphone itself.
• Talking and texting fall under your voice plan, while all other smartphone features are tied to your data plan. This includes Downloading apps, streaming video, email, web browsing, GPS navigation and so on. Be sure to pick the voice and data plans that suit your needs and budget.
If you're a casual email reader and download the odd song here and there, less data is fine (say, 500 MB per month), but "power users" who rely on these advanced services might opt for a more robust (and thus pricier) data plan of a couple of gigabytes (GB) or more per month. TIP: Smartphones have built-in Wi-Fi support, so if you use these services in a wireless network at home, at your office or in your favourite café, it won't count toward your monthly data allowance.
Top smartphone reviews
For the messaging maniac: The BlackBerry Bold 9900 ($170 on a three-year plan) has both a touchscreen and large QWERTY keyboard, ideal for those who need to do a lot of typing (or those who don't like typing on a touchscreen).
For the app lover: While the iPhone 5 will likely be out by next summer, Apple's iPhone 4 16 GB ($100 on a three-year plan) is an extraordinary smartphone. It has a 3.5-inch touchscreen and excellent media (such as TV shows and music) playback, and supports more than a half-million apps, including games.
For the 3-D fanatic: Those who love the 3-D effect will likely gush over the HTC Evo 3D ($150 on a three-year Rogers plan), a 4.3-inch Android device that can display 3-D movies, games and photos -- no glasses required. It can also take 3-D photos and movies.
For the camera buff: Want a smartphone to replace your point-and-shoot camera? The Samsung Galaxy S II 4G ($170 on a three-year Bell term) is an Android phone with an eight-megapixel camera and the ability to shoot top-of-the-line 1080p HD video.
For the budget-conscious: The LG Optimus Chat (free on a three-year Telus term) is an affordable "slider" Android phone with a 2.8-inch touchscreen that pulls back to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard. It also has a three-megapixel camera with autofocus.
Shopping for the latest in gadgets and technology? Let tech expert Marc Saltzman help you decide what to buy. Find the best smartphones, computers, digital cameras and other tech toys to suit your family's needs with our home electronics shopping guide.
|This story was originally titled "Holiday Tech Shopping Guide" in the January 2012 issue. |
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