Looking for a New Smartphone - But Which One?This is both a study and a plea for help from the community. Which smartphones should we buy? Currently we have aging BlackBerry Storms. We chose BlackBerries because they integrated nicely with Microsoft Outlook, which we use for business. Having the calendar and contacts easily synced to our phones is very convenient. But time marches on, and RIM does not seem to have kept up with the march. Although recent posts on LockerGnome feature Android (Android Tips, Unlocked Android, Flash for Android, Security for Android), I believe that most people associated with LockerGnome use iPhones. All of our friends who have iPhones love them, and most of our friends who have Android phones love them. I know two people with Windows phones, and they are pleased. That sounds like the iPhone is a winner, but Android is everywhere and Windows is a minor player. How can a person make a reasonable decision? Features, available apps, cost, locked operation, and the infamous walled garden are all parameters to be considered. Androids seem to be vulnerable to infection by rogue apps.

An important consideration that is difficult to overlook is the value of going with a market leader to assure getting a known, reliable product. When buying a new automobile, you are wise to consider brands that are easily repaired by mechanics who have likely worked on the same model. I believe the same goes for smartphones. If something goes wrong, I want to get it fixed or replaced immediately without a long drive to a distant store or waiting for snail mail to carry the phone back and forth. If that convenience costs a bit more, so be it. These phones are work tools, not ego-boosting toys.

By some measures, this means that we should buy iPhones since Apple has the market lead, at least in the US, with both Verizon and AT&T reporting that Apple consistently has more than 50% of the market. (T-Mobile does not offer it, of course). But the iPhone is the only user of Apple’s iOS. How do you compare its popularity with Android, which is offered in several varieties by many manufacturers? For instance, over all, the Android OS far outsells the iPhone OS, but in the US the largest provider of Android, Samsung, is second in sales to Apple. So if, for my business, I want to get the assurance of buying the market leader, do I consider manufacturer or the OS? Should I consider only the US market in which Apple dominates or the whole world in which it trails?

Looking at worldwide providers, Samsung and Nokia both outpace Apple, which comes in a distant third. The largest category for worldwide sales is “other.” Our poor BlackBerries barely make it on the list. RIM is the lowest reported manufacturer with only 1.9% of the market, and based on various news reports, that is unlikely to increase.

Apple is more expensive than Android, both to purchase and probably in the amount of money spent on apps.

None of this addresses what I think is the main reason a person might buy an iPhone. Apple has done a superb job of designing a physical object that is a joy to hold and then loading it with an OS that is functional and cool. That is a hard combination to beat. More than half of the US smartphone purchasers currently agree.

After several hours of surfing and making comparisons, I am confused. Help me. We need phones with good cameras and the ability to sync with Outlook in addition to the normal functions. Price is a secondary consideration within limits. Security is an issue. Reliability is a must. Size is not an issue except that I do enjoy reading e-books and have installed Mobipocket Reader on my Storm, so larger is better. And phablets are out there to consider, I suppose.

Maybe we should just wait for the Windows 8 smartphone by Nokia. After all, we all will be switching to Windows 8 on our PCs, so why have a different system on our phones? (A similar argument could be made for Android in reverse.) I’ll bet it syncs to Outlook. Yeah, let’s just wait.