Its how you plan to use your smartphone that dictates which device is right for you. As for text entry, you need to consider whether you want a full QWERTY keyboard (essentially a miniature version of a full keyboard), touch screen interface, or you might just want to stick with a plain old numeric keypad. If you send a lot of e-mails or text messages, a QWERTY keyboard is your best bet. But if having access to all of your contacts and appointments in one device is more important and like the idea of something that looks less like a business device and more like a toy, then you may want to forgo a full keyboard in favor of a larger display with a touch screen.
Among other factors to consider: Is it critical that you have access to your documents while on the go? Do you need to use the device while traveling abroad? And dont forget that a smartphone should also function competently as a phone, something some models do better than others.
Pick a Carrier and Phone Thats Right For You
Choosing a carrier is dependent on where you live and if you plan to travel abroad a lot. If you will be mainly using the smartphone in the United States, youll be able to find one that suits you from just about any of the carriers. However, if you plan to take your smartphone overseas to Europe, youll want a GSM phone (AT&T, T-Mobile). However, that said, Sprint and Verizon Wireless. both offer BlackBerry models that are true world phones. This means the cell phone will work on the CDMA networks and it can also take a SIM card (which is needed for GSM service) for service while you travel abroad. But if high-speed wireless Internet access is high on your priority list, then a CDMA carrier (Sprint, Verizon Wireless) may be preferable.
Fortunately, most smartphones are available on multiple carriers networks, though this can sometimes come after a period of exclusivity with a single carrier. So if youve got your eye on, say, a new Motorola Q but it isnt available with your carrier, theres a good chance it will be eventually. The question is: How long can you wait for it? If the answer is: Not too long, youll need to consider an alternate comparable model such as the Samsung Blackjack.
The Benefits of an Unlimited Data Plan
Also, though certainly not least important, smartphones are a lot more expensive, so this isnt a decision you want to take lightly. And its not just the initial cost. Keep in mind that youll probably need to purchase a data plan on top of a calling plan to take full advantage of a smartphones features. If youre constantly sending and receiving email, an unlimited data plan will end up being a bargain in the long run. If you plan on purchasing a limited data plan and send/receive a lot of email, surf the web, or even want to use your smartphone as a portable modem for your laptop when youre on the road, this would be a mistake since youll likely end up going over the allotted megabytes (MB) and have an even heftier bill at the end of the month than if you initially opted for an unlimited data plan. Once you realize the connectivity potential of your smartphone youll need that unlimited data plan. But its still an extra expense that you dont typically have to incur with a standard cell phone.
WiFi Offers Even More Connectivity Options
Youll also want to consider what advantages you may gain from features that arent yet standard on most smartphones. WiFi access means you can surf the Internet without the need for a separate data plan (at the very least, it can reduce the amount of time you spend on your data plan). WiFi can also mean faster download speeds if your smartphone doesnt support 3G accessthe high-speed, third-generation wireless network. The good news is that it doesnt mean battery life degradation. Depending on your WiFi connection speed you may even have faster access. In fact, in most cases youll end up draining your battery faster if you leave Bluetooth activated.
You may be able to use that WiFi access to take advantage of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) services. Skype, the most popular VOIP application, offers a Windows Mobile version of its software, allowing you to make free calls to other Skype customers. Its also useful for making overseas calls. Even if youre calling an international landline or cell phone, the SkypeOut overseas rates are next to nothing compared with what youd pay through your wireless carrier.
Tip: A free service called Fring allows you to use several different VOIP and Internet chat clients, including Skype, Google Talk, and MSN Messenger.
Nokia N95 sports WiFi and a VOIP application to place Internet calls.
If you sign up for T-Mobile @ Home service and have a WiFi-enabled BlackBerry Curve, you can save your minutes by seamlessly making calls over a VOIP connection via WiFi. Additionally, the Nokia N95 even comes with a built-in VOIP application, which makes it easy to place a call when theres no cell reception, but plenty of WiFi available.