A recent Pew study shows that 56 percent of Americans now own a smartphone.
Smartphones are basically pocket-sized computers with thousands of applications, or “apps” as they’re more commonly called, that can allow you to do a number of things you can’t do on a regular cellular phone.
While not everyone needs or wants a smartphone, there are numerous advantages to consider. With a smartphone you can:
- Receive turn-by-turn directions using a navigation app
- Store, purchase and play music
- Take great photos and edit them using photo editing apps
- Watch movies and videos
- Video chat with your friends and family and be able to see and hear them
- Stay connected using social media like Facebook and Twitter
- Play all sorts of games
- Surf the Web and look up information
Drawbacks and Data Plans
Perhaps the main drawback to a smartphone is the cost. With a contract, the actual price of the phone may not be as much as you expect. However, you will have to sign up for a monthly data plan, in addition to your cellular coverage. Data usage covers most of the things outside of just talking on the phone or texting, such as uploads, downloads and surfing the internet. The more data you use – such as streaming videos on your phone – the larger data plan you’ll need. You can set your smartphone to use wireless whenever possible and save data-hogging activities for when you’re connected to the wireless internet. You can also track your data usage on your provider’s website or use a tracking app in order to make sure you aren’t going over or upgraded to a larger plan before you’re hit with expensive overage fees.
Aside from cost, smartphones can be intimidating to those who have never used one before. Prior to making your decision, ask friends and family with smartphones to explain some of the features and how to use them. As with any new technology, it’s all a matter of familiarity.
Two of the hottest operating systems currently on the market are Apple’s iOS, which runs on iPhones and Google’s Android system, which is available on many different smartphone models. A few things to consider:
- If you’re sticking with your current cellular carrier, start by seeing which models they offer and for what price. If you’re switching providers, compare companies and talk to nearby friends to see which provider has the best network and coverage in your area.
- Think about which features and apps will matter to you most. Apple’s iPhone offers more apps, but many people believe Android’s operating system allows more customization (see “App Showdown: Android vs. iPhone” from NBCNews.com).
- If key members of your family and friends already have an iPhone, then features like iMessage for free texting over wireless networks or Facetime for video chat can be a bonus for going with an Apple product and help minimize data costs.
- It’s also important to consider the phone’s look and feel. Because the Android operating system is available on various models, you can choose a screen size based on what you like best. Go to your local cellular stores, handle the phones and ask lots of questions to help you determine the best fit.
It’s never too late to join the smartphone revolution!