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Smartphones Buying Guide

What Is A Smartphone?

Smartphones are mobile phones that combine features usually found on a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) or a computer, like access to the Internet, the ability to send and receive e-mail, and to edit Office documents. Other features can include calendars and task lists, calculators, map applications, GPS, MP3 players, camera and video functions.

Which One Suits Me?

Different smartphones specialise in different tasks, so it's important to decide what applications you're likely to use most. For example:

  • Windows smartphones are intended for computing purposes.
  • BlackBerry smartphones focus on e-mail.
  • Palm OS smartphones are geared towards PDA functionality.
  • Symbian smartphones are slanted towards phone applications.

E-mail On Your Phone

Smart phones can deliver email wirelessly. The handset connects to the email server to send and receive messages over the GPRS network.

  • Receive and respond to emails in real time as they arrive in your home computer's Inbox.
  • Support multiple email accounts, including personal and business.
  • Some smartphones include access to instant messaging services, like Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger.

Customise Your Phone

You can personalise your smartphone; for example, the HTC Hero allows you to customise which functions appear first so your most used applications are easier to access.

  • Choose to set it up as a business tool, with travel information, weather forecasts and maps at the ready.
  • Stay in contact with your best friends by organising and searching your text exchanges, email conversations, Facebook status, tweets, Flickr photo albums and phone logs into friend groups.

What Are Apps?

Third-party applications (known as apps) are extra programs that can be downloaded to your smartphone. There are millions of apps available, ranging from business tools to video games. Third party apps, both free and paid, include:

  • Business: Currency converters, expense management, real estate and job search.
  • Finance: Tax, PayPal, ATM finders, loan calculators.
  • News: New York Times, USA Today, MSNBC, Bloomberg.
  • Travel: Google Earth, flight trackers, hotel reservations, taxi hire, GPS, traffic condition updates.
  • Weather: Oz Weather, Pocket Weather.
  • Educational: Language and mathematics tutors, books.
  • Social networking: Twitter, Facebook, Skype, speed-dating.
  • Entertainment: Music, (e.g. Shazam identifies unknown albums, artists and songs), movies (e.g. IMDb, the world's largest collection of movie, TV and celebrity information), computer games.

What Is Synchronisation?

Synchronising your smartphone with a computer means that you create a copy of the computer's files and documents, so you can then view and work on the documents or emails directly on your smartphone. When the smart phone is connected to the computer an automatic data transfer will update both the files on the computer and the phone.

  • Cable synchronisation is usually via a USB port.
  • Wireless synchronisation includes Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Is The Display Screen Important?

Screen size and resolution are important factors for a smartphone, particularly when viewing documents, reading e-mails and web-browsing. While all models have colour screens, resolution and lighting vary.

  • •Some smartphones have a large screen that can be used in either portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) mode.
  • •"Transflective" screens use backlights for indoor use and absorb sunlight when outdoors to reduce glare.
  • •Touch-screens for navigation of the menu and functions.

How Much Memory?

The amount of memory your smartphone has is important if you plan on storing large files like video, music and photos.

  • •Built-in memory capacity usually ranges between 20MB and 80MB; the HTC Hero ranges up to 512MB.
  • •Expansion cards can give up to 8GB of external storage. Card types include: Stick Pro Duo, Memory Stick Micro (M2), MultiMedia Card, SD, miniSD, and microSD.

Your Entertainment Hub

Smartphones can also serve as multimedia devices. Most have at least a two megapixel camera for capturing still images and video; cameras on 3G/HSDPA smartphones can have up to five megapixels or more for an enhanced multimedia experience. Other useful tools include:

  • •Playing music via MP3.
  • •Navigating with a built-in GPS receiver and navigational software.
  • •Bluetooth modems for additional Web access are also common.

What About Accessories?

For smartphones with Bluetooth, there are a growing number of wireless accessories. These include standalone keyboards, hands-free speakerphones, headphones, headsets and GPS receivers.

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