Making the leap: From dumbphone to smartphone

Phone

The final step is to chose your phone!  For most, this is probably the most enjoyable process, especially if you’re a gadget geek.  Sadly (or perhaps happily, depending on how you view it), it would be impossible to describe every single smartphone choice you have in this article.  Instead, I’ll try to distill buying the right smartphone down to its essence and give you the major selling points you’ll want to consider before you plunk down your hard-earned cash.

Size and build

Trust me, you’re going to be using your smartphone a lot (or at the very least, more than your dumbphone) so you’ll want to get one that just “feels right” in your hands.  This is entirely a matter of personal preference.

Most mid-to-high-level Android phones have a screen-size above 4”.  The typical Android screen size is around 4.3”, though newer phones are starting to push that average up to around 4.5” now.  Some people absolutely love larger screen sizes–they make for a more immersive and media-rich experience when you’re using it–while others they are too unwieldy.  Personally, I think a lot of depends on the thickness of the phone.  A phone with a large screen that’s very thick is not going to feel comfortable at all (check out reviews of the HTC Thunderbolt).  On the other hand, a phone with a large screen that’s thin and sleek, will feel great (see reviews of the Samsung Galaxy SIII).  I will shortly be upgrading from a 3.7” phone to the Galaxy SIII, and I can’t wait.  I’m sure the larger screen size will be a bit of an adjustment at first, but I think it’s a small price to pay for a big, beautiful screen, and a phone that feels thin and comfortable.

For comparison purposes, all iPhones have a screen size of 3.5”.  Needless to say, iPhones are much smaller than your typical Android phone.  And since there’s only one iPhone, this is the size you’re stuck with for the time being, so if you’re dead set on an iPhone, hopefully you love this size.  The upcoming iPhone 5 is rumored to have a slightly larger screen (largely, in my view, a response to the gleaming Android phones on the market) but at this point, it’s only speculation.

Finally, nothing beats going to the store and trying out the phone for yourself.  Put it up to your head like you’re talking on it and see how it feels.  Stick that sucker in your pocket to see if it’s bulky.  Tool around in the menus a bit to see how it feels in your hand (you’ll probably end up doing that regardless).

Manufacturer

Like size and build, this is going to be a matter of personal preference.  And, since there’s only one manufacturer of the iPhone, this section really only applies to Android and Windows Phones.

The first-tier phone manufacturers are Samsung, HTC, Motorola, and LG.  Sony is also dabbling in smartphones as well, but has significantly fewer offerings.

Honestly, there’s not much to say here, lest I start getting into unsubstantiated opinions.  Samsung is, by far, the largest of these manufacturers, and is currently the largest smartphone manufacturer in the world.  That doesn’t necessarily make it the best, though.  HTC in years past has been a substantial presence, but recently saw its place in line slip.

QWERTY or on-screen keyboard?

This is a consideration that will get less and less important over time, in my opinion.  Before the iPhone and Android rose to dominance, basically all smartphones came with a physical QWERTY keyboard; typically you could slide it out from behind the phone or open it up.  Nowadays, almost every new smartphone that hits the market has an on-screen keyboard, meaning that you’ll be plucking away on your screen, rather than a physical keyboard, to type e-mails and text messages.

Some people still very much prefer having a physical QWERTY keyboard, and if you insist on having one, there are Android and Windows Phones out there that come with them.  But they are limited.  You get a far broader breadth of choice with on-screen keyboards.  Also, you’ll be compromising on the phone’s dimensions as well, since these phones are generally bulkier than their on-screen cousins in order to accommodate the physical keyboard.  Honestly, in a few years, I think the offerings will be even more limited, if not gone entirely.  On-screen keyboards are a joy to use, and manufacturers much more flexibility to introduce unique and interesting designs.

Conclusion

There you have it, folks.  Everything (or at least, most everything) you should consider when making the upgrade from a dumbphone to a smartphone.  You won’t regret this decision.  A smartphone is like a Swiss army knife that’s constantly evolving and becoming more useful.  This is a decision you won’t regret.

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