If you’re a student considering buying your first smartphone, it’s important to get one with all the features you need. You don’t want to be a week into the new school year with your brand new device and realize that it’s missing something.
An easy answer is “Get it all”, and that’s probably the best option for many of you, as students tend to be heavy users of their phones. But those of you who would like to spend a bit less will need to pick and choose features.
This guide goes through the possibilities, discussing the features that students need, and what they might not.
Big Screens vs. Easy Portability
In the last few months, a number of companies have put put smart phones with very large displays. Both the HTC EVO 4G and the Motorola Droid X have 4.3-inch touchscreens, and the Dell Streak has a 5-inch display.
Anyone who spends much of their life on the go can benefit from a big touchscreen, as they make everything easier, from web browsing to watching movies.
But anyone considering getting one of these devices has to ask themselves, is it worth the hassle of carrying around a very large phone? In some cases it is — some of you will be able to leave your laptop in your room and just use your smartphone for many tasks. But if this isn’t you, you don’t want to be lugging a big phone and a laptop everywhere you go.
More Storage Is Always Better
When it comes to the storage capacity for your smartphone, a simple thumbrule applies: too much is never enough.
You’re probably well aware that an iPhone can serve as your music player. This is also true of any smartphone. So don’t buy a phone and an iPod, just get a phone with plenty of storage.
Everyone except Apple builds devices with removable memory cards. Cards with 16 GB of storage are fairly inexpensive, and 32 GB cards are available for those with a big budget.
And you’ll want storage for more than music. Lots of devices have high-resolution cameras, and let you take greta pictures. These images take up a lot of room, though.
Do You Need a Keyboard?
Some people like to have a physical keyboard to type on, some don’t care. It’s a personal preference.
Using a hardware keyboard is generally easier and faster than an on-screen one, but not always. Some devices have great on-screen keyboards, some have bad physical ones. This is why I encourage you to try out any device before you buy it.
Just be aware, if you want the biggest screen you can get, you’ll have to forgo a physical keyboard. None of the very largest models, like the Droid X, have one. I suspect companies think the combination of a big screen and a keyboard would create a device that’s too large to sell well.
Use Your GPS
Just about every student should have a phone with a GPS receiver built in. You’re headed for a large school where you’ll have to find your way around, and your phone can help you do this.
The good news is, just about every smartphone has a GPS, and Google offers free navigation software for every smartphone. Just use them, and don’t waste your money on a stand-along GPS reciever.
3G, 4G, Wi-Fi.. Oh My
Any phone you get is going to be able to make voice calls and send text messages. Any smartphone is going to add email and web browsing to that list, but to use these you’re going to need an Internet connection.
Your wireless service provider (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) will be happy to set you up with a plan. If fact, when you buy a smartphone, you may be required to sign up for a data plan.
This means you’ll be getting 3G service. I’m not going to go into the details on this besides saying that it’s fairly fast, but a bit slower than Wi-Fi.
If you really want to go all out, you can get the HTC Evo 4G, which lets you connect to a WiMAX network. This is just as fast as Wi-Fi, but you’ll pay a premium for this.
There’s a way to save a bit of money on your wireless bill. As a student, you’re likely to be on a campus that provides Wi-Fi for you everywhere you go. This means you can get the cheapest Wireless Data plan you can, and instead use Wi-Fi most of the time, only switching to 3G when you’re off campus.
Show Your Shining Face
A few high-end models, most notably the Apple iPhone 4, include front-facing cameras and allow you to video conference. Currently, this is more of a trick than a anything mainstream, but it’s undoubtably cool. And it might be a great way to keep in touch with someone you left at home, whether it’s you girlfiend/boyfriend or even Mom and Dad.
But before you get too excited about video conferencing, make sure you’re going to have someone to talk to. It takes two to tango, and two video phones to have a video call.
Are You a Shutterbug?
Camera have been built into phones for many years now, but these have been of fairly poor quality… until now.
Quite a few phones have 5 megapixel cameras and one or two even have 8 megapixel ones. Depending n which model you buy, you might be able to forgo a stand-alone camera, especially if all you want is a “point and shoot”.
But the devices with high-quality camers are the most expensive ones, and even the cheapest can take pictures better than your average “dumb” phone.