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The Smart Choice

Smartphones are far from your average handset, writes Coiré McCrystall. They are the way of the future.

Eons ago, phones were somehow tethered by cumbersome wires. There was no texting and the ability to make a call from outside the house would get you burnt at the stake for witchcraft. Eventually, the brightest minds decided to create wireless phones that unfortunately weighed a ton.

Over time however, the magical oracles we call mobile phones got smaller and fancier, and eventually we had something resembling a brick with a greyscale screen that we could play Snake on. The evolution of mobile phones continued; we got colour screens, cameras, polyphonic then MP3 ringtones and more versions of Snake to keep us procrastinating for hours on end.

Eventually, with all these different companies adding ridiculous new features to their phones (N-Gage, anyone?), it became clear that if this fight for mobile dominance were to continue, mobile phones would have to be taken to the next level, it was a new plateau of development and so, the smartphone was born.

Now you may ask yourself: “What is a smartphone, and what does it do?”  Simply put, ‘smartphone’ is jargon for a phone that provides features above and beyond that of your regular phone. Smartphones are generally classified by the OS (operating system), which they run on, similar to computers. For instance, the quite popular HTC line of phones runs on Google’s Android operating system and the Apple iPhone runs on Apple iOS.

The main aim of a smartphone is to essentially cram a standard phone and a computer into one device that you can take around with you. Ultimately, smartphones can do awesome things that other phones can’t.

In today’s ever-changing phone market, the main players in the smartphone realm are Apple, Blackberry and Android. Much in the way the Apple Computer OS is generally only available on Apple computers, this is the same with Apple’s smartphone offering: the iPhone.

For the iPhone 4G, you essentially get an iPod Touch with a built-in phone. With a choice between 16GB and 32GB models and the ability to go online via WiFi and 3G, iPhone 4G is a heavy hitter in its own right, but the real attractions are the apps.

Apps are applications downloadable from Apple’s online store and allow you to give your iPhone more features; satnavs, musical instruments, along with a wide range of games including Final Fantasy and Resident Evil 4. As Apple are only too ready to inform you in their adverts, if you need anything, they have an app for that.

With an iPhone you get all this and that elite air that only comes from owning an Apple product. Buyers beware however, Apple have a proven track record of outputting a new improved iPhone every year and so inevitably, the current phone will be rendered obsolete in the near future.

Similar to Apple, the Blackberry OS is unique to phones made by Blackberry, however the company do support many different models of their phones at once.

Blackberrys are typically geared towards the more business-minded individual, however in recent years it has become more common for the general public. The top range Blackberry Torch 9800 includes a 5MP camera, an MP3 player, 4GB storage with a MircoSD slot for expansion and a full QWERTY keyboard for those not buying into the touchscreen craze. These qualities make it the easiest device in terms of transition to move from a standard phone keypad to a keypad more akin to the features of a smartphone.

The Android OS, which Google’s offering to the smartphone universe is a relatively new operating system. Based on the Linux computer operating system, Android is an OS that is included in many different phones, probably the best known of which is the HTC Desire.

The HTC Desire includes up to 32GB of memory using a MicroSD card. Add to this a 5MP camera and Super LCD touchscreen and you have a phone that stands toe to toe with Apple’s iPhone. In terms of software, Google provide their own open-source app store, which admittedly does pale in comparison to the behemoth of the Apple Store. However, with Google backing it, you can be assured that any software worth having will make it to the Android OS.

When buying, do keep in mind that it’s a big and ever-changing industry out there. There are many more worthwhile smartphones out there and plenty of new technology companies willing to enter the market, so shop around and make sure you’re getting the right handset for you, be it Apple, Android or Blackberry.