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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Choosing the Best Android Smartphone

Google's Android operating system has certainly gained its popularity since late 2009. At present, there is a wide range of models produced by a wild range of manufacturers to select from. How to decide which smartphone best suits your needs? How to determine which model will truly simplify your life? Having worked with Android phones since mid 2009, I can share a few tips with you. 

Which one suits you best?

The bare essentials @ Oct 2010
A wonderful feature of Android smartphone is its ability to download apps from Market. You can install applications that simplifies your life. While the content of your smartphone can be customized, there are things that you can't change once you have made the purchase.

You should not consider Android phones that do not have ANY one of the following:
- Android 2.1 or above (or upgradable to 2.1 in the near future)
- Bluetooth 2.0 or above, Wi-Fi, GPS
- HSDPA 7.2Mbps, HSUPA 2 Mbps (if you often upload via your phone)
- microSD support of up to 16GB or above
- 512MB ROM / 384MB RAM or above
- 600MHz or above processor
- 3.5mm headset plug
Use the above basic check list when you shop for an Android phone.

There are a number of 'budget' or 'beginner's' Android phone that does not meet some of the requirements listed above. Perhaps you should consider whether the price or the performance is more important to you. My experiences told me that, nothing is more frustrating than having a smartphone that is too slow or does not respond to you at the wrong time.

Screen size and multi-touch
Once you have checked the specification against the above list, you should consider what is the perfect screen size for you. The bigger the screen, the easier it is to view. However it would take up more space in your pocket, and its weight and battery consumption also increases with size. Manufacturers offer Android phones ranges from 2.55 inches to 4 inches screens. From experience, while 2.55 and 2.8 inches screens are small and sexy, they are really bad for the eyes. While 4 inches screen are nice to have, they are too expensive. The best screen size ranges from 3.2 inches to 3.7 inches.

Even with a 3.2 inches to 3.7 inches screen, browsing web pages (originally designed for computers) is difficult without multi-touch. Multi-touch is a zoom in zoom out hand gesture patented by Apple. Nowadays, almost every manufacturer has implemented their own version. I believe that this is a great invention. It is VERY difficult to view web pages on a phone without multi-touch.

Quality of material
Remember that you carry your phone with you everyday. If you are giving the phone away as a gift, that person will use the phone everyday. You should choose a good quality and durable smartphone.

Apply the following steps to check whether it is a good quality phone:
(1) Read online reviews. In reality, majority of reviews will praise the phone (and that's how the industry operates), read between the lines. In addition, search on forums and see what other users say about the phone.
(2) Go to a shop and get hold of a live unit. Hold it in your hands and feel whether the body is too plastic, feel whether the screen is durable, press every button and feel its response.
(3) Go to Android's main menu (the page with the list of icons), quickly scroll up and down several times and feel its response to your scroll. If possible, install and play the game Jewels a few times to test the phone's responsiveness.
(4) Move your finger around the screen and see whether it is easy to press an icon that you did not intend to press.
(5) Launch a browser or view a photo, switch the position of the phone from vertical to horizontal and wait for it to respond. Compare it with another phone in the store.
(6) Look very closely at the web page or photo and judge whether the resolution is good enough.
You will get a good "feel" of the smartphone once you have completed these six steps.

Summary
The beauty of the Android OS is its open-sourced nature. Many manufacturers have already committed to develop a wide range of Android smartphone. It is a challenge to select a right phone that will simplify your life. I trust the above guide can assist you in finding your dream Android phone.