Making Sense of Smartphones (San Diego Transcript)
Over the past few months we've been inundated
with new smartphones, culminating with the release of the iPhone 4 and
the announcement of the Motorola Droid X this past week. If you find
all this commotion a little confusing, and you're not sure what's right
for you, you're not alone. Hopefully this column will provide some
If your phone is a year old, you'll be surprised
by how much better these new models are. They're fast, have large,
multi-touch screens, and run thousands of new apps. They sync
wirelessly to your computer's calendar and contacts, ensuring you'll
have the most up-to-date information with you all the time.
on-screen keyboards, provide a great browsing experience, and do
everything from making dinner reservations to finding your way to a
destination. But they do require some learning; not everything is
obvious. The user manuals are sparse and often answers are easier to
find by Googling.
phone into a wireless hotspot for another $20 to $30 per month. Your
computer connects just as it does to any WiFi hotspot.
the carriers. While the iPhone was so far ahead than anything else when
it first came out, that's no longer the case.
which makes it much easier for phone manufacturers to bring iPhone-like
capabilities to their products, much like Microsoft did for personal
computers. And that's sparked competition among phone makers HTC,
Motorola, Samsung and LG to outdo one another.
are still e-mail centric, have far fewer apps and poor browsing. But
with their thumb keyboards and e-mail shortcuts, they're still better
for e-mail than anything else.
each carrier, all of which I highly recommend. They all cost about $200
with a new or renewed contract.
best smartphone. It's thin, light and fast. (Reviewed in a previous
column). Combined with the best network, the Incredible, never dropped
a call during my testing.
15, offers a larger 4.3-inch high-resolution screen, and an 8-megapixel
camera. Advice: Choose the Droid X if you like a larger screen. Choose
the Incredible if you prefer a phone that's smaller, lighter and
below) is similar to the Incredible and the Droid X, but with faster 4G
data connectivity (where it exists), as well as the large screen, and
terrific Android phone because it's been first to get the latest Google
features and upgrades. Available from Google.
gunning for, is still an AT&T exclusive, a pity considering how
poorly its network performs for so many users.
I've just started using an iPhone 4 and it still maintains an edge over
the Android for features and ease of use. It's beautifully constructed
like a precision instrument. It's slim, fast, and the easiest to learn
to use. Its best new feature is FaceTalk, allowing you to make video
calls over WiFi to other iPhone 4 users.
instead of giving up at 2 p.m. in my case, and it has a dazzling new
screen with double the resolution of others. One of the biggest
advantages over Android phones it that it has iTunes, the easiest way
to get music, TV programs and podcasts onto your phone.
The biggest negative is AT&T. In my few days
of use, I've experienced slightly improved service, but still get
dropped calls, and the signal occasionally shows it has lost service.
The phone has a few early bugs — sometimes, if
your face touches the screen during your calls, it activates the
buttons and creates a variety of negative effects, such as
disconnecting your call.
Today you have the choice of buying the best
smart phone on one of the worst networks or Android phones on all the
others. Verizon and Sprint have performed much better for me.
requires a new two-year contract that commits you to two years of
service. Termination fees vary, with AT&T and Verizon now double
the others at about $350. Cost of ownership over the two-year period
for "unlimited" data costs $2839 from Sprint, $2449 from T-Mobile,
$2959 from AT&T, and $3079 from Verizon. (Source: billshrink.com.)
and like it a lot. It's the best smartphone Sprint has to offer. The
EVO 4G is a large, thin phone with a terrific display that does
everything well. It's similar to the Incredible with its HTC enhanced
user interface, fast 1 Mhz processor, smooth scrolling and excellent
call quality. But the EVO has a larger 4.3-inch touch display, HD
video, and two cameras, a 1.3 and 8 MP, the first for video calls.
Videos can connect directly to a digital TV for easy playback. A
built-in kickstand props up the phone when you watch movies on it. Its
wireless tethering worked well everywhere I tried it. Its 4G data
speeds can, in theory, download data 2 to 3 times faster. This service
is slowly rolling out, but is not yet in San Diego.
annoying scrolling bug that jumps sideways to when scrolling down. And,
not surprising, the battery barely gets through the day, much less if
you use 4G or tethering. But this is a terrific phone that can hold its
own against any other smartphone from any other carrier.