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Last Updated: Friday, 24 February 2006, 17:20 GMT
Mobile phone buyers' guide
Richard Taylor
By Richard Taylor
Click editor

The mobile industry is pushing a vast array of new services but do you really need them? Richard Taylor sets out what you should be looking for in a good phone.

Woman using a camera phone
Most mobiles now come equipped with a camera

The first thing to consider is how your mobile will fit into your lifestyle.

For example, businessmen on the go, or road warriors as they are known, will likely suit a more heavy duty handset like a powerful smart phone with built-in satellite navigation, a big screen for web browsing for checking your diary or sending and receiving emails.

Fashionistas on the other hand should look for something less complicated and with a little more of the fun factor - with the options to personalize with screen covers.

Think carefully about the design.

Clamshell and slider designs mean you can protect the screen and keys - though they tend to be bulkier than the traditional candybar design.

It is also definitely worth trying out the keys - and onboard keyboard if there is one - especially if you are fat fingered like me.

Spend some time too exploring the interface.

Is it intuitive and easy to navigate? And is the screen decent and with text large enough you can read without a magnifying glass?

The words kitchen sink spring to mind when it comes to phone applications these days. But which ones will you really use?

Snap shots

On-board cameras are all the rage. But though they are standard-issue, be warned. The lenses are usually cheap, and despite various options which might look enticing, resolution is still low - around a megapixel or so.

Image of the Nokia N91 mobile
Do not assign your MP3 players to the bin just yet

If you are in any way serious about photography, look for one of the crop of upcoming cameraphones, with far better resolutions of two, three or more megapixels.

That means you can get a reasonable quality print - though do not expect it to replace a stand alone stills camera, despite what the salesman tells you.

Now one of the biggest pushes over the past year has been mobile music with the industry telling us your handset can now consign your bulky MP3 player to the history books.

But here too do not be fooled in by the marketing, the fact is that most devices cannot replace a dedicated music player.

Transferring songs onto the device can be slow and fiddly, and downloading new songs through phone networks can also be outrageously expensive.

If you do want to use your phone as an MP3 player, at the very least check that it has either a standard headphone socket or at least that there is an adaptor available.

As importantly, think about where you are going to store all your media - be it music, photos, videos, emails or any other data.

Most have very little storage so consider getting a model with a slot for additional cards.

And also bear in mind that using a phone to do so much invariably means one thing. Battery drain.

As a general rule the brainier your phone, the thirstier it is too.

If you want to use your handset to transfer data then think about connectivity.

Infra-red is slow; Bluetooth is where it is at these days - it means you can sync your data easily to another phone or PC and use a wireless headset too.

Connecting to the wider world of the internet will mean you will need a mobile with good support for data.

If you are taken with the idea of watching live TV on your phone or streaming music videos then look for a 3G handset.

If you are simply after basic web browsing or sending emails then slower technologies like GPRS should suffice.

And a word of warning - check your network supports these technologies too and at what price to you.

One final thought - it is amazing what a new battery and screen cover can do to resuscitate your existing model.

So before going to spend your money ask yourself this: "Do I really need a new handset?"



SEE ALSO
Mobiles look to entertain you
15 Feb 06 |  Technology
Virgin looks to offer mobile TV
14 Feb 06 |  Technology


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