Smart “stuff” – phones, tablets and other smart devices

Smart “stuff” – phones, tablets and other smart devices

Everything seems to be picking up the tag of “smart” nowadays with SmartPhones, SmartTV’s and even SmartFridges we are being bombarded with promises that by buying the latest gadget it will help us, and in some way make our lives easier.

I am old enough to remember a time before video recorders, DVD players, mobile phones and the Internet. Ask anyone under the age of 20 what a video recorder was and they will look at you with a slightly confused look – inform them that there was a point in time when the Internet didn’t exist and they will have you carted off to the nearest hospital! The fact is that we get used to technology so quickly and it integrates into our lives so completely that we soon wonder how on earth we ever coped without it.

I know it can be difficult getting used to new things (it’s the same for all of us, we all resist change) but I would say, overall, that the benefits that this technology brings out weigh the hassle it takes getting used to them.
This month let’s look at SmartPhones (mainly because they have reached a price that most people feel they are worth buying as a replacement for their ageing Nokia) – there are four main flavours of SmartPhone – Android, iPhone, Windows Phone and BlackBerry.

Types of SmartPhones

Windows Phone – this is the oldest (and should be the most established) of the SmartPhone technologies, however Microsoft have never really captured the market in phones like they have with PC operating systems and as a result it’s probably the least favourite (in terms of take-up) type of phone. Never the less it offers all of the benefits of a smart phone and with the latest version has some nice large buttons which may appeal in the morning after a good night.

iPhone – this has long been the standard by which all SmartPhones have been measured. Up until a couple of years ago Apple dominated the market and arguably they still create the most complete package, their phones are beautifully created, very well thought out both from a design and functionality point of view and the iOS operating system (the software used on them) is very robust and performs flawlessly. They also work out to be the most expensive option by quite a bit, so if you buy one you won’t be disappointed but you will need to save your centimos for a while to get one.

Android – in fact there is no actual Android phone. The word Android refers to the operating system (just like iOS on iPhones) used on a number of different phones. Samsung are probably producing the best Android phones that rival, and some say mimic, the iPhone. In general comparible Android phones offer larger screen sizes and more powerful processors when compared to the iPhone, however unlike the iPhone the operating system in my opinion is less robust and harder to use, but like most things its only hard until you get used to the way it works – then it’s the normal way of working.

Blackberry – I mention it for completeness really, it’s historically more used in the business market (mainly I think because Apple’s marketing department were caught napping when SmartPhones first arrived on the scene). They are however fully functioning SmartPhones and are just as capable as their competitors, their menu display tends to be more text based than the others which might suit some people.

So what’s so Smart about SmartPhones

Well, in addition to doing all the things a “normal” phone does some of the basic functions of a SmartPhone include the ability to send and receive email and browse the Internet. Now while I am not going to suggest that using a screen of the size used in a phone is adequate for extended Internet browsing – it clearly isn’t – the ability to use your phone to send and receive emails, which lets face it are only glorified text messages, is really useful – especially for those of us that travel between the UK and Spain and don’t want to have a computer in both places. Emails generally use very little Internet bandwidth and you generally don’t need a large screen to be able to read and create them easily.

In addition to the ability to send and receive emails, all SmartPhones have the ability to download and run “apps” (small programs that perform a specific function on the phone) and these apps are what really bring SmartPhones into their own – there are apps for pretty much anything you can imagine. We will cover apps in more detail another month, but the key thing to say is that depending on which phone you buy, you will be restricted to buying apps from that phones store. Google control the Android “play store”, Apple the iPhones “app store” and Microsoft also have their own – some apps are free and some you have to pay for.