Mobile phone technology has advanced so much in the past few years that it’s hard to imagine how we coped with the bricks we used to use before. However, for some of us, getting a smartphone is a new and even slightly daunting experience, with the current mobile phone market offering a huge amount of choice and not always a great deal of explanation. If this all sounds a little too familiar then fear not – this beginner’s guide to smartphones aims to help you demystify the smartphone and work out which one is best for you.
What is a smartphone?
In a nutshell, a smartphone is a phone that can do more than simply make calls and send text messages. Running specialised mobile operating systems, today’s smartphones are essentially tiny portable PCs, capable of doing everything from browsing the internet to functioning as video cameras and entertainment systems. Typical smartphone features include:
Internet access (including Facebook and Twitter)
Cameras (and video cameras)
All the features you’d expect to find on a regular mobile phone (like calling and texting)
Who needs a smartphone?
At the time of their initial introduction, smartphones were mainly used by business people and other professionals who needed a device that did almost everything their work PC did, thus reducing the amount of devices and other paraphernalia they needed to carry around with them. However, today the various different handset and price options combined with an almost unlimited selection of apps means that pretty much anyone can get a smartphone and find ways for it to seamlessly improve their daily life.
Smartphone features to look out for
Many people praise modern smartphones’ user friendliness as most operating systems allow users to simply ‘point and click’ (or, in the case of most smartphones, touch) what they want to do. However, here are a few of the key features to look out for when you’re buying a smartphone.
Most smartphones have touchscreen technology, making them incredibly easy to use once you know what’s what. However, a few (such as some Blackberry handsets) use cursors and keypads in order to help you navigate. In addition to input technology, it also pays to bear in mind that screens come in a variety of different sizes and qualities – bigger can often be better if you’re planning on using your smartphone to watch a lot of videos, for example, and if this is the case you’ll probably also want to make sure its display is high definition (HD).
Most modern smartphones have cameras, and you’re going to want a decent quality one if you plan on taking a lot of photos or videos. A lot of smartphones today have a front-facing camera as well as one in the back, which are primarily used for making video calls or using internet chat apps like Skype. Generally speaking with smartphone cameras, the more megapixels, the better.
While all smartphones come with a number of native apps (short for applications) installed (these often varying between manufacturers), smartphones also allows you access to an online app store that allows you to download additional apps. Which store – or stores – you have access to is dictated by your handset’s operating system: iPhones use App Store, for example, while Android has Google Play, Windows has Windows Store and BlackBerry has BlackBerry World. While some apps are paid, there are also huge a number of free apps available, so you’re sure to be able to get whatever you need whether it’s an instant messenger to keep in touch with your friends more easily or a game to play on the train to and from work. Indeed, there are hundreds of thousands of different types of apps available for smartphones, including:
What is the best smartphone on the market?
Here are some of the best smartphones on the market at the moment (and why they make great choices for a smartphone beginner).
Apple iPhone 5
The thinnest, lightest iPhone ever, the iPhone 5 is perfect for those who appreciate Apple’s iconic style (especially if you’re already a Mac user). With a 4-inch Retina display, attractive aluminium enclosure and reimagined EarPods, this handset really embodies the best Apple has to offer. It also features the latest version of iOS and the powerful, energy efficient A6 chip to keep everything running smoothly.
The HTC One is as sleek as it is speedy, boasting an aluminium unibody frame as well as specs on par with – and in some cases exceeding – that of its latest smartphone peers. With great HTC technology such as BoomSound, which provides excellent sound quality, and Sense TV, which allows you to use your phone as a TV guide and a remote control, it covers all the technological bases. It also features the company’s patented low-light-defying UltraPixel camera, great for the avid photographer.
Samsung GALAXY S4
The GALAXY S4 is the latest in Samsung’s award-winning S series of smartphones. With an impressive 5" HD Super AMOLED display (a world first), lightning-fast running speed and a dazzling 13 megapixel camera, it has excellent specs. Additionally, it even has an inbuilt Easy Mode that simplifies the interface and makes icons larger and easier to see and select.
Sony Xperia Z
Sony’s flagship smartphone, the Xperia Z, has a number of unique features that help it to stand out among the competition. As well as having a 13 megapixel camera and RAM and processing power equal to that of its rivals, the Xperia Z is also both water and dust resistant, making it the perfect choice if you’re worried about something happening to your shiny new piece of tech. So which smartphone is the one for you? The best way to find this out is read up on a few of the handsets you’re interested in, find out which have the features you’re most looking for in a smartphone and, if possible, pop along to your nearest Vodafone store and have a play with one (or two, or three, or more) for real. You’ll find your new life partner in no time! You can also browse our online store and, if you want more in-depth information about any of the smartphones we stock, check out our great interactive user guides. If you have any further questions about buying your first smartphone, don’t hesitate to get in touch or alternatively leave any questions in the comments below – we’re here to help.