How to pick a smartphone: a beginner’s guide

How to pick a smartphone: a beginner’s guide

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Like many of you, I’m itching to get my hands on one of those sleek and powerful new Windows Phones we’ve been announcing lately. image

But which one to get? I’m not the most hardware-savvy high-tech professional (shhh!), so I’m sometimes uncertain what specs I should look at when I shop for a new phone (beyond “Does it look cool?” and “How’s the camera?”).

So I decided to enlist the help of some hardware geeks around the office and create a beginner’s guide to hardware options and specs. Now, I think I finally know what AMOLED means—and what phone I want to get. Take a look and let me know what you think!

See the guide

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  • I like your post but its a bit too broad and common for my taste. For example; you ignore the fact that Microsoft has set some very strict requirements on the hardware before it can be considered a Windows Phone. Specs need to comply to rather high set minimum requirements. The result of that should be obvious: it's hard to go wrong with a Windows phone since you can be sure of one thing: it'll be hard to pick up a slow & sluggish phone, simply because Microsoft won't allow that sillyness, which I consider a good thing.

    Well, while your section on storage is true, its kind of moot in this matter since most phones will be shipped with 8Gb worth of storage anyway. There are some 16Gb around, so I've read, but hard to come by.

    So all in all; it is a nice article but I don't consider this to be much of a guide (no offense).

    How about this: Newbies should be mindful that when you're in a foreign country the phone will usually start to 'roam'. A smartphone usally accesses the Internet on a regular basis in order to download updates. However, if you're roaming then this can be a very costly experience which many people using "other" smartphones have experiences time and time again. A Windows phone on the other hand will protect you from this. Using its default settings it will block Internet access using your GSM network as soon as you're roaming. So when you're on vacation you can rest assure that the only thing your Windows phone does is keeping an eye out for wifi networks which it can use. It won't gobble up bandwith thus leaving you with huge bills as soon as you get home again.

    So if you want a smartphone but are worried that you'll get HUGE bills when roaming then the Windows phone might be something for you.

    THAT is something which IMO should have been mentioned in a guide for newbies. Its a key feature !

  • Hot to pick a smartphone: a beginner's guide

    Step 1 - Get a BlackBerry, Droid, or iPhone


    How to pick a smartphone: a non-beginner's guide

    Step 1 - Get a Windows Phone

  • tsrblke
    327 Posts


    There's no discussion on how MicroSD will be handled, if they borrow as much from Windows 8 as discussed it will likely be removable just because Tablets will need removable storage.  They may opt to keep it fully integrated much like now though.

    In any case, I understand why you would want more built in storage, but it's sorta a catch 22, more storgage options raise manufactoring costs and then require more devices to be shipped and sold to stores and sit on shelves and not sell.  Making storage upgradeable by the end user solves this.

    Personally I'm all for adding simple customability to a phone like this, make things that can be customized (like storage)customizeable and focus on things that can't change once the phone is bought (Screen size, cameras, etc.)  It ups the likelyhood that I'll find my perfect phone without having to go "But damn it has 32 gigs of storage and I can't afford that!"  Or "Drat, if only it had 16 gigs instead of 8"

    One of the worst problems with buying my wife's iPhone was we had to make an instant decision about what size to get, we blew a bunch of money on a 32 gig to "future proof" a device that now sits in a drawer in favor or her focus S.  I'd much rather have had the option to buy a 16gig device (or even an 8) with the option to add more storage in later if I needed it.

  • @tsrblke, while for many that will be good news, I'm perfectly fine with just having built-in storage options greater than 16GB.  In fact, I much prefer the way the Focus does the expansion--making it part of the whole storage (e.g., striped storage) because there's nothing anyone can do to convince me I need an actual removable storage option in a smartphone anymore.  The fastest memory options will always be what's built-in, not via removable.  The OS clearly can address 32GB or more, so why the resistance from OEMS to making devices with at least 32GB onboard?  It defies comprehension.

  • karin
    1 Posts

    Please force more Windows Phones on Verizon...

  • tsrblke
    327 Posts


    Rejoice, for MicroSD support will be back in Apollo:

  • I'm tired of Microsoft and others completely downplaying storage.  Of course, they do this because all the WP7 devices are anemic in that arena, except for a couple of the first gen devices.  This is why I chose the original Focus and won't budge from it as my primary device until one of the OEMs comes out with a device with at least 32GB onboard.  Having 40GB on my device is just too much to give up.

  • I have to go with @Tribexx comment in Step 1.  I am on Verizon, and it really STINKS that I have no choice of Windows Phone.  Verizon is America's largest carrier, and it's very sad Microsoft hasn't been able to get their partners to work something out to get more Windows Phones on Verizon.  

    So I am left with no choice but to do Step 2 if I want a Windows Phone, which requires an ETF payment to Verizon.  Really lame.

  • @ Juliette G....  I knew it! Yes! Lol.. We need to hear from you more often. We love to get responses because it lets us know you guys are actually reading the post. Thanks.

  • @juliette  It looks like its an issue with the page and Safari 5.1.2  (on OS X).

    I can see the page with Firefox and Camino but not Safari.  And yes, I do use Windows Phone Connector for Mac to sync.  I would try the page in my Windows 7 virtual machine and internet explorer but I assume it works on IE 9.

    Thanks for putting together the guide.

  • @Sebbs: Thank you! Corrected. How embarrassing.

    @Rodney: See? It wasn't false modesty ;-). (Though I actually do know the diff between MB and GB, fwiw.)

    @turtlebreath: I just checked those links, and they worked for me.

  • @abm dell tried that with the locked versions of dvp during the summer. which means its possible to upgrade to 32gb but at the risk of wrecking the phone & having no warrenty for future issues. plus the issue of figuring out how to format the old card for a different device

    @turtlebreath the unlocked dvp(in both pcs/aws flavours) seems to get updates pretty quickly example januarys update notifacation came same day of it being announced

  • Ok, here is Eliza Dushku @ CES, and she cant wait to get her hands on Windows Phone!  Eliza, teamed with the appropriate male counterpart, really should be the WP poster child in future ads.. Notice the 900's color and her necklace..

  • It's a nice page.  

    One thing that is missing from the guide is that someone should choose a phone that gets the most recent updates quickly (instead of languishing with old releases for months).

    Also,  the link to the Lumia 710 is broken.

  • abm
    268 Posts

    nice catch! @Sebbs... lol looks like they are against the concept of internal storage.

    give us 32 GB phone plzzzz!

  • Sebbs
    1 Posts

    You might like to know that the spec cheat sheet ( has 8MB and 16MB as storage sizes... these should be GB ;-)

  • been doing some work on the Nokia Lumia Windows Phones and published this guide to apps to prove that, contrary to public prejudice there are enough apps to keep everyone happy check out the stories about Microsoft and the Nokia phones at our site

  • tribexx
    8 Posts

    How to pick a WP7 device.

    Step 1 - Complain to Verizon/Sprint

    Step 2 - Get AT&T and enjoy.

  • Oh Juliette G., so modest.. Do you expect me to believe that you just found out what Amoled is? Lol! Just joking.. Hey, I bet you know something we don't know yet, Hmmm, "Xbox Kinect Mobile" for WPOcho? Shush now, we don't want to let any secrets out of the bag just yet.....