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Best New Phones - Which one is Right for Me?

By: Bradley Walker

When it comes time to purchase your next phone, there is a lot to consider. The options can seem endless and the details overwhelming. Here are some things to consider that can help you zero in on what is important to you and narrow your search to find the perfect phone fit for you.

Take stock of your personal technology ecosystem.  A pure ecosystem is one in which all of your mobile devices share the same operating system. For example, an individual that owns an iPhone sits within the iOS (Apple) ecosystem; conversely, someone that owns an Android phone is in the Android (Google) ecosystem. Sitting within a pure ecosystem simplifies many facets of smart device ownership, the first of which is how easily data and application purchases can be shared between devices. The money invested in purchasing applications is often duplicated across platforms unless the application publisher's revenue is driven by in-app purchases, which typically transfer to any OS. For example, if you buy $100 worth of applications on an Android device and migrate to iOS, they will need to be purchased again. Another example relates to content bought through a closed channel like iTunes Movies, iBooks or Google Play Movies. Such content is locked into the ecosystem within which it was purchased. iBooks are not transferable to Android devices, and movies purchased through the Google Play Store are not transferrable to an iTunes library. There are also cases when the tablet and phone versions of an application require separate purchases. These additional costs should be factored into any purchasing decision.

Your lifestyle will drive where and how your device(s) will be used. Balancing the pros and cons in a manner that doesn't make the purchasing process frustrating can be tough. A few questions to ask yourself when evaluating device options are:

1. How big are your hands/pockets/purse/backpack? There is nothing sadder than size remorse after buying a shiny, new and pricey device. Demoing a physical version of the device you want to purchase is always a good idea.

2. How much versatility does your lifestyle require? The gaps between form factors are disappearing. Phones come in three sizes: standard, large, and phablet (phone-tablet). One typically does not offer more functionality than the other; however, phablets typically have superior battery life and the potential to replace a small tablet.

3. Which devices do your friends/coworkers/family use? The peer pressure element is alive and well in the mobile world. Messaging and file sharing functionality are two of the top battlegrounds phone manufacturers (e.g. Apple, HTC, Samsung) and OS authors (Google and Apple) are using to cultivate product loyalty via group user experiences. Consider what you have to gain or lose, in terms of enhanced interactions with friends and family, by remaining within or leaving your current ecosystem.

4. What do you like to do? Does your phone need to be crush, dust, scuff resistant, and waterproof? If not, you may not need to spend precious dollars on the latest and greatest durability specs. However, it is worth noting that just because you don't intend to play fast and loose with your device, accidents happen. Device insurance and durability specifications can be the difference between a free replacement, small deductible, and full-price replacement cost.

In the world of software, consumers are better protected and in line to receive the best product experience when their device is running the latest version of its OS. Apple is winning in terms of distribution and adoption rate when new versions of iOS are released because they control the device and software distribution pipeline as the leading closed-source option in the industry. Conversely, Android users that do not own Nexus devices can wait anywhere from 3 months and beyond to receive a version update through their respective carriers because Android is open source. Consumers have multiple options regarding hardware manufacturers because the software is licensed. However, this disparity can lead to a fractured experience and ultimately drive the purchase of a device.

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