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HardwareZone's Smartphone Buying Guide Essentials

HardwareZone's Smartphone Buying Guide Essentials


Connectivity Options

Connecting it Up

Getting a smartphone is a step towards being well-connected. A typical smartphone comes with a varied set of connectivity options, some of which are more highly utilized than others. To give you a better idea of the wireless features you'll be using on your smartphone, here's a quick look at what it will offer:

Wi-Fi

Wireless Fidelity, or commonly known as Wi-Fi, is perhaps the one and only feature that must never be left out in any mobile devices. Acting as the conduit to connect your device to the vast internet realm, your Wi-Fi connection is also categorized according to the speeds and range it supports.

To date, most mobile devices have moved onto the draft-N protocol, supporting faster download / upload bit rates. Keeping your smartphone connected via Wi-Fi consumes lesser power than it would on a HSDPA connection.

When you're out and about, Wi-Fi is unfortunately only available where hot spots exist (areas that are serving out wireless connectivity via Wi-Fi equipped routers), and sometimes, you might even have to pay to get access to it.  As such, the bad thing is Wi-Fi is not as readily available as the latter is.

HSDPA/ HSPA+/LTE

High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA), otherwise known as 3.5G, picks up the pace when a Wi-Fi connection is not available. This is a big part of the smartphone experience, so if you are looking to be connected while on-the-go, be sure to stock up on a 3G-equipped plan.

Most smartphones released in 2011 support the HSDPA protocol, so you'll only need to check on its availability in very budget-grade phones.

With the introduction of LTE services in 2012 by Singtel, consumers in Singapore will soon have more wireless options to choose from. The upcoming LTE data plan promises theoretical download speeds of up to 75Mbps, ensuring that consumers get download speeds that are improved by ten times from the existing HSPA+ speeds. LTE-ready devices are not readily available in Singapore yet, but it's a reality not too far from now.

Bluetooth

By far one of the most common connectivity features, Bluetooth is widely used by not just mobile phones, but tablets too. It is often used to create a bridge between your device and its accompanying peripherals, such as a Bluetooth headset or a wireless keyboard.

HDMI / TV-out

Smartphones are intended to be portable devices, but wouldn't it be nice to be able to enjoy your smartphone contents on a larger screen? To enable this, HDMI is the chosen choice of connectivity, but most smartphones don't feature this as a standard option.

Should you wish to have it, certain smartphones such as the Motorola Razr come with an HDMI output to extend its display onto a HDTV. So look out for HDMI connectivity if you intend to use the smartphone as a media player for your large screen TV.

Near Field Communication

In recent months, interest in near field communication (NFC) has started picking up in various countries. The wireless standard allows information to be transmitted via a mere tap of the device with compatible implementations via an NFC chip. Unlike quick recognition (QR) codes that is limited to just a read mode, NFC chips allow users to program specific info or actions to the chip, and the code can be re-written based on the user preference.

NFC is not a foreign concept to countries such as Korea and Japan, but as 2012 progresses on, expect to see more NFC hubs appearing outside of these two countries.

 

To Tether or Not to Tether?

Once you buy a smartphone, chances are you will be getting or already have a contract with the telcos. More importantly, the subscribed price plans usually come with a data bundle, which gives smartphone users instant connectivity to the internet via a HSDPA connection. What if you are planning to get a secondary smartphone or a tablet at hand and constant wireless connection isn't a necessity on these devices?

Well, the good news is, smartphones platforms such as iOS and Android come with a useful feature: creating mobile wireless hotspots via your 3G connection. With that said, you can save a little cash by purchasing a cheaper, Wi-Fi only tablet that relies on the wireless hotspot. This same concept also helps you quickly establish mobile connectivity for your notebook while on the move. The only downside to using your smartphone as a modem of sorts is seeing the battery getting sapped rather rapidly.