Best Smartphone for a First-Time Buyer

On, Vipul asks:

I want to buy a smartphone — my first  ever — so I want some advice on which to select: will it be Galaxy Note II, SIII, Nexus 4, BlackBerry Z10, or an iPhone 4, 4s, or 5?

SmartphonesFor someone in college, a smartphone can be an excellent buying decision. Fortunately for you, this is the best time to choose an ecosystem to be a part of. When you buy an Android, iOS, or BlackBerry device, you’re actually buying into an ecosystem of apps and accessories that become something of an investment. You could spend money on one ecosystem and move to another only to spend that money yet again on the next device. Because of this, many people end up sticking to one mobile OS over another for a long period of time to avoid having to pay for everything over and over again.

So the decision mostly comes down to which system provides the best experience for you. If you pride yourself on being able to root around and customize settings on your desktop OS to meet your particular needs, then Android is an excellent option. It’s powerful and quite capable of handling the vast majority of the tasks you might expect your smartphone to carry out. Rooting an Android device isn’t as taboo as jailbreaking an iOS device, if performing that type of operation is your cup of tea.

BlackBerry is in a strange time in its life. The market for BlackBerry devices is shrinking at the moment, with some international markets closing altogether. That doesn’t mean the latest BlackBerry OS and new phones coming out this year won’t be incredibly useful. Indeed, BlackBerry is just as likely to have a strong comeback as any other company. Keep in mind, though, that app makers tend to develop apps for the largest possible audience. That means more attention is going to iOS and Android for the time being, which will restrict your choices until BlackBerry gets some extra market share. If BlackBerry does adopt the ability to play Android apps natively, then you might find yourself in a much better position with this choice.

The iPhone is presently the biggest single seller in the US market. This isn’t the same internationally, but with the US market being the main focus for many app developers, it’s also the one with the largest catalog of apps. If, in the future, you decide to get a tablet, it’s also the one presently boasting over 150,000 apps specifically tuned to the tablet form. Meanwhile, Android is still growing in this area. Does that make iOS better? No. It makes it a more appealing choice for users who see available apps as an important factor in buying decisions.

Apple’s iOS is a bit more closed than Android, and that results in better app optimization as every developer knows specifically which hardware they’re making their apps to run with. You don’t hear as many complaints from iPhone users about stutter and dropped frames while navigating apps on iOS as you do on Android. This doesn’t make the iPhone better for everyone, but it is a consideration that is important to me. Most people won’t even notice dropped frames or occasional stutter on current leading Android devices.

I will say that the Nexus 4 is by far the most buttery Android experience I’ve had to date. If you’re going to get an Android phone, then the Nexus 4 might be the best first stop on your search. If you’re going for an iPhone, I’d say the iPhone 5 is the most likely to be future proofed for the next two years. The slightly larger screen is nice, but the camera is worlds apart from previous releases.

Take some time to try the three platforms out for yourself. If you can, even consider checking out a Windows 8 device. Pick a platform before choosing the hardware. You’ll be much better off in the long run.

Woman On The Phone by Vera Kratochvil