I’ll bet that I get asked that question at least twice a week these days. I think many people are looking to upgrade their communications platform and are stymied by the choices that we have today. Between the iPhone, the Google phone, the Blackberry Storm and the many others available, you have some tough decisions to make.
Let’s try to make sense of it. To start with, you have to choose the carrier. Choosing the carrier is not as sexy as choosing the phone, but this is where you have to start in my opinion. It makes no sense to have a really cool phone that doesn’t get a signal in the places where you spend all of your time! Dropped calls are annoying too, so your carrier choice is also based on how well coverage is offered in your flight path! A good way to know about coverage is from anecdotal experience. Ask your friends, family and clients what carrier they use and if they are happy with them. Ask about dead zones and dropped calls. You’ll soon get a sense of which carrier gives the best coverage in your area. You could also visit each carrier’s web page to view their coverage maps, but I’ll give you a more comprehensive source that you can use to compare the carriers at the end of this article.
Next, you have to determine what features you want on your phone. As a minimum, you need a phone that can give you email PUSHED from your email supplier. The same holds true for your Calendar and Contacts. Having that information on your phone is a huge time saver and it really does enhance your productivity and efficiency. And if you work in a team or have an assistant, being able to keep each other updated on new contacts and appointments as they happen is priceless. Features like a camera, voice recorder and web surfing are nice, but you may not need them and they are more along the lines of personal choice. Also, if you work in area where you can open lock boxes with your phone, then you choices are limited to what your MLS supports. You’ll have to check with them as well to get an updated list of phones.
Check with your company’s IT department to find out what phones are compatible with the messaging system in use there. For instance, at the company where I work we have an Exchange Server along with a Goodlink Server and a Blackberry server is on the way. What that means is that any phone running Windows Mobile will receive email, Calendar and Contacts as they arrive at the server. The phones running Windows Mobile will do this without any special software as they are designed to work with Exchange using Microsoft ActiveSync which is built into the phones. This is also true of the iPhone because it also runs ActiveSync, even though it is not a Windows Mobile phone. If you don’t care that you receive your info in real time from your company’s messaging system (or if you don’t work for a company with a central messaging system) you can skip this step. Most phones have a manual synchronization feature that will sync the phone with a desktop application like Outlook so you can update your Calendar and Contacts whenever you physically connect your phone to your computer using a cable or Bluetooth.
At this point you have determined which carrier you need to use, which features you want and which features you need to have for compatibility with your company messaging system. You could go to the store right now, but I suggest some further online research to learn about the plans available from your carrier of choice. If you are going to be receiving data in the form of email, Calendar and Contact updates (along with text messaging) you will need a data plan in addition to the voice plane (minutes). I think it’s wise to do that research before going to the store. Try to figure out how many voice minutes you really need. Look at your past bills to get that info. Don’t under buy as that is false economy. A few months where you significantly exceed your allotted minutes can be very costly. Don’t overbuy as there isn’t much sense in paying for what you don’t use. Of course if your carrier offers “roll over minutes” then you do at least have a way to “bank” some minutes”. Don’t fool around with any data plan other than the carrier’s unlimited plan. Paying for data overages is extremely expensive, and there really is no good way to determine how much data you are sending and receiving. Just buy the unlimited data plan and you will be set.
Armed with all of this knowledge you can go to the store and look only at the phones that meet all of your criteria. This will probably be just one or two models. Check the phones for weight, how it fits into your hand as well as obvious things like call quality and ease of setup and use. This is very subjective and will vary from person to person so I really can’t give you any advice here other than to say to pick the phone that meets your criteria and that sounds good and isn’t too much of a burden to carry around. After all, you are going to have to live with it for the life of the contract!
Here are a couple of good resources to check out that will help you determine all of the factors that I outlined above. You can use them to compare coverage, plans and phones in a side by side manner. The first one to look at is Wireless Guide.
This is a good choice to learn about phones, carriers, service plans and accessories. Start here for some in depth discussion of each of the areas mentioned above and you will get a great education on these things.
The next one to look at is Let’s Talk.
This site allows you to submit your criteria that you have developed from the above discussion and then it will show what phones a carrier has that will meet your needs. This is a must visit destination before going to the store. If you want, you can even purchase your phone from them and avoid the store altogether!
If you will follow these steps and do the research before you go to the store you should end up with a phone that will become a vital part of your business and not a liability!