Choosing a cell phone today is an intricate process that involves researching mobile devices, manufacturers, carriers, available features, and package plans. It can seem overwhelming to the uninitiated. Still, with a little priming, almost everyone can manage to make a smart and informed decision on their next device.
Mobile Phone Devices
There are many different types, styles, and models of mobile phones available on the market today. They range from smartphones and PDAs to camera phones and multimedia phones to touchscreens, with much overlap between them.
The standard-size "flip" "slider" and "candy bar" style phones, such as the Motorola RAZR and Samsung's UpStage, are most often multimedia phones that allow users to download music and ringtones, watch TV and videos, and send multimedia messages. And frequently, they are also camera phones, enabling their owners to take photos and shoot video. More than half of all cell phones sold today have a built-in camera, making the mobile phone a candidate to one day supplant the digital camera completely.
Smartphones, such as Research in Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry, Motorola Q, Nokia N Series, and Palm Treo, are devices that offer computing capabilities in addition to conventional mobile phone functions. A relative of the PDA, a smartphone typically runs its own operating system, allows users to install applications, frequently sports a QWERTY keyboard, and offers device owners advanced features such as e-mail, instant messaging, mobile Web browsing, office applications, expandable memory, and desktop synchronization. More than 115 million of these smart devices shipped in 2007 alone. (1)
The lines of delineation between types of mobile phones are becoming increasingly amorphous, as hybrid phones now offer crossover in form and functionality. The T-Mobile Sidekick is a camera phone with a built-in MP3 player that offers games, e-mail, IM, a mini SD memory slot, and a full QWERTY keyboard. The sleek BlackBerry Pearl looks like a typical bar phone, but this compact model offers smartphone functionality, including Web access, e-mail, and expandable memory. In short, cell phones are offering much more functionality than mere voice capabilities at this point, and the size and shape of the phone is no longer an indication of its potential.
Another phone that could be considered a hybrid is the touchscreen smartphone, such as the HTC Touch, which lets users interact with the device by touching the screen or using a stylus. The most recognizable touchscreen mobile device to date is the iPhone. Hailed as the "mobile Web killer" by Forrester analysts, the iPhone presents whole Web pages via its Safari browser, rather than simplified ones made for the mobile Web. This offers iPhone users the full browser experience of the desktop Web, rather than dealing with bare-bones Web pages that have been designed to be viewed on the portable Internet. This multimedia phone sold more than half a million devices in its opening weekend? Yet even among enthusiasts, there were criticisms of the shortcomings of the device, including the slow Web connection via AT&T's EDGE network, which is not a 3G technology; no initial Microsoft Exchange support; and lack of compatibility with Flash and Java technologies.
Mobile Phone Manufacturers
Mobile phone manufacturers strive to offer consumers a range of devices and are in a constant competition to outdo one another. The current global market leader is the Finnish Nokia Corporation, which shipped a total of 60.5 million smartphones in 2007. (3) But there are several other major contenders, including the Sony Ericsson Company, which is a partnership between Japan's Sony Corporation and the Swedish Ericsson telecommunications company. The two decided to cease creating their own mobile phones and team up in a venture reminiscent of an '80s Reese's Peanut Butter Cup ad campaign, one adding electronics expertise, the other a communications specialization. …