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Getting my first smart phone - where do I begin?

 
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I looked at smart phones yesterday.  

If things keep on the way they are, I'll need one by this fall, otpr a tablet that can connect to the cell network.

The shop salesmen were adimate that a free phone with plan was the way to go, but I'm not sure.  3 year contract would cost me 380 to 800 dollars more than the plan where I bring my own phone.  And the rates don't go down after the phone is paid off.  

The other things that worry me are the battery life - less than one day!!!  And expected lifespan of the phone.  All said I could expect two to three years tops before it breaks!

One thing I would like is the little tab that blocks the front camera.  Can I use this on no edge phones?

 
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Well, I disrespectfully disagree with those sales people. Totally.

I strongly believe that if you know the phone
you want:

1) Buy it "unlocked" full retail for the best price you find around. You want it completely unlocked (means you can use it with any carrier that the phone's technology will connect with).  You _don't_ want any deep discount which you pay for with ads pushed in your face from now to forever. To say nothing of all the info about your habits that built-in ad software sends home mother. Also, you don't want the special software "enhancements" which each carrier loads into "their" phones and which clutter you work flow and can be _very_hard to get rid of. Commonly known as "bloatware".

2) NO CONTRACT. There are many eager guys and gals happy to give you a better deal _before_ you sign on the line. And, as a matter of fact, I don't think anybody should sign on the line, ever. So far I've never seen a good reason to. Any real reason to. There are many, many "No-Contract" resellers and even the main carriers are starting to offer something like that.

Shop around now, looking at the various ways to get a cell connection. If you know with good certainly the area where the phone will be used. That may well determine your carrier, based on connection quality. Ask around, watch the problems people have using their phones and find which carriers/phones to avoid. This is extremely location dependent. From what I have read, there are many "micro environments" where either a signal drops out or there is only one clear signal that reaches the home. So interrogate anybody using a phone near where you expect to use yours, see what their experiences are.

There are four(?) main carriers, plus their resellers. After you choose a main carrier whose signal gets thumbs up for your area, look for a reseller (cheap hustler). They buy time from the main carriers at low bulk rates and resell it cheaper than the carriers main plans. Sometimes a _lot_ cheaper.

For example, I have used PagePlus (Verizon reseller) (which was bought last year by TracFone), for 2 years with very good results. I wanted Verizon's best nation wide coverage. Until last month I was fine with $30/mo and 3GB of data (the rest of the stuff is unlimited). Now because I decided to use it for all my internet access, desktop, everything, I pay $40/mo for 8GB data. I have, over the years, spent, in total, maybe, an hour on the phone berating their service desk when my automatic monthly payments didn't take or when I couldn't get into their website. I could always reach a human w/in about 5 minutes or less and only had to bump up the supervisor ladder twice to get what I wanted. In two+ years, that's not bad.

A few phones (or tablets, etc) will connect with any/all the carriers, but they often cost a little more. If the combination of the tech you think best, along with your location, lock you in to one particular carrier, then you might not care too much about the ability to connect your "personal appliance" on other carriers.

Viz the actual tech, IMHO, unless you _know_ you'll be a Luddite forever, buy the most phone you can possibly afford. That starts with a screen that is big enough, with text big and clear enough, to easily see and use. AND that big screen also gets you a big keyboard (virtual, they all are) on which fingers and thumbs, used to farm implements, can usually (never always) hit the right key. Fingerprint unlock (if it actually works 99% of the time) is very convenient, but not as secure as simply punching in 4-6 numbers to unlock the phone - which seems to me "not a problem". The finger pad, however, is also at least as useful to control switching between "windows" and screens, opening and closing apps, etc. - if the phone design can use the finger pad that way. Besides going bright and saturated enough to allow seeing it outdoors in the sun, test the screen in a dark room - you want it to dim down sufficiently not to fry your eyes when it's night. The amount of memory (RAM) in the phone controls how big your closet is. And since last year, most phones have no option to add memory cards to a phone - the memory space you start with is all you'll ever get. This matters with pictures, videos, etc. And also how many apps one can keep open at once and how degraded they get (response speed) as more apps are opened. That's not as important as comfortable ergonomics, but it's annoying to wait 7-10 seconds while the screen switches or the weather chart comes up - every time.

I think I've posted this link before, but here it is again:
https://www.howardforums.com/forum.php

And this is a link to their forums discussing various U.S carriers:
https://www.howardforums.com/forumdisplay.php/34-US-Carrier-Discussion

This used to be purely an enthusiast's site, but it's been commericialized now. However, last year when I researched carrier options, threads were still mostly 1st person reports and comments from nerds. Just what you want if you're looking for real information.

My final thought: For Android phones, Google stands heads above everything because of one single point: They push updates and patches to their Android system out to their phones _immediately_. Other carriers provide updates at their convenience which can border on never. This matters a lot because Google often builds those updates in response to security problems as they are discovered. There will always be security problems with software, but by responding quickly AND making the fix available to all it's phones, Google greatly increases the security of _your_ personal information. They also price their phones like gold. But it's a very real safety feature they offer.

Regards,
Rufus
 
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