What to Consider When Buying a Phone03 Nov 2011
Mobile Phones Buying Guide
If you don't have to own the latest and greatest smartphone, right now is a good time to buy a new phone (check out our Best Buy Mobile Phones to see which phones best fit your budget). Before you hit the stores, however, do a bit of research and read our guide so you'll know exactly what to look for.
Features to Consider
When shopping for a phone, you can do some simple hands-on tests in the store to make sure the phone has everything you need.
Call quality: What good is a phone if it can't make calls? Some of the most simple, bare-bones "feature" phones offer the best call quality--and on the flip side, some fancy smartphones have dismal calling. When evaluating phones, be sure to make a few test calls. In PCWorld's hands-on tests, we generally make a few calls in a quiet room and a few calls in a noisy environment. You might not be able to replicate such tests indoors, but try your best. Take note of static, tinny voices, or any other interference. Ask the person on the other end of the line if they can hear a disruptive amount of background noise.
Design: Your choices range from flip-open clamshell-style phones to candy bar-style phones to slider-style phones with full-QWERTY keyboards. Whichever type of phone you select, check its ergonomics. Is it comfortable to hold against your ear, and can you hear callers without constant adjustment? Can you use the phone with one hand? Consider hands-free use: Can you comfortably hold the phone to your ear by scrunching your neck and shoulder?
Operating system: If you're looking to do more than make calls and send text messages with your phone, consider the platform on which it runs. The mobile operating system you choose will greatly affect the capabilities of your phone. The most popular platforms are Google's Android OS (found on multiple devices), iOS (found only on the iPhone) and BlackBerry OS (found on BlackBerrys of various designs). Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and you should definitely familiarize yourself with all of the platforms before settling on one. Other platforms include Symbian (found on most Nokia smartphones), Windows Phone 7 and Samsung's very-own Bada.
Display: If you intend to send and receive text messages, surf the Web, or use the phone's organizer, make sure the screen is up to snuff. Is it big enough for you to take full advantage of the phone's features? If you're going to surf the Web or edit office documents on your phone, a screen that measures less than 2.7 inches diagonally will feel very cramped.
The screen's contrast and backlight are also important. The phones we've seen show marked differences in viewing quality. If your phone allows you to adjust such settings, you can make text and graphics easily viewable--even in bright places.
Consider the screen's resolution, too. The higher the resolution, the better the screen will look--an important factor if you plan to use your phone to watch videos or view photos.
3G support and availability: Although a lot of buzz surrounds the next generation of wireless networks, 3G has finally seen the light of day in India. 3G's faster download speeds significantly improve streaming video and allow features such as videoconferencing and network gaming. All major telecom providers offer 3G services in most Indian cities today and therefore 3G compatibility is important for a new phone.
Cameras: If you intend to take a lot of photos with your phone, you'll definitely want to pay attention to the camera specs. For mid- to high-level smartphones, 5 megapixels is now pretty much the standard. Some phones ship with 8- or 12-megapixel cameras, but a higher megapixel count doesn't necessarily mean a better camera. Verify that the phone you're interested in has a flash--dual-LED or Xenon flashes work the best--or else you won't be able to take any pictures indoors or at night without their looking like blurry messes. Try to take a few pictures in the store to get a good idea of the camera's photo quality.
Most cell phone cameras also have video-capture capabilities; some high-end phones can even capture high-definition 720p or 1080p video. If video is your thing, make sure that the OS provides an easy way to upload your videos to Facebook or YouTube.
via PC World