Smartphones Buying Guide

A smartphone is a hybrid device that has all the features of a mobile phone and most of the features of a PDA such as calendar, e-mail, Web browsing and office applications. Here's what to look for when buying one.

Synchronisation A smartphone wouldn't live up to its name if it didn't synchronise with a desktop computer to update contacts, e-mails and files. Smartphones come with out-of-the-box software to be installed on the computer and then connected to the handset to initiate data transfer. Once the software is installed on the desktop, you can select which programs to update and start the process.

Smartphones may use cable or wireless for synchronisation. Wireless synchronisation options include Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, while a cable connection is usually via a USB port/cable. If you want to use Bluetooth to synchronise wirelessly, you need a Bluetooth-compliant desktop or laptop computer, otherwise you'll have to purchase a Bluetooth dongle. Some smartphones also have their own cradle for desktop synchronisation.

Palm Treo 750

One long-established synchronisation technology is Palm's HotSync, featured in all Palm PDAs, and used to transfer information via cable. Devices running Windows Mobile use ActiveSync, which seamlessly synchronises Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. Newer Nokia smartphones run PopPort Organizer (which includes calendar, tasks and contacts) and synchronises via Nokia PC Suite software. Nokia and Sony Ericsson also have SyncML for PC synchronisation. Programs such as Seven, IntelliSync and XTND Connect are used in these and other smartphones.


With an ever-increasing array of files, programs and downloads available, storage capacity in smartphones is important. Built-in memory capacity ranges between 20MB and 80MB, though newer phones such as the iPhone offer larger storage capacities of up to 16GB. External expansion cards can store up to 8GB, depending on the format. Expansion card formats include Memory Stick Pro Duo, Memory Stick Micro (M2) MultiMedia Card, SD and mini SD, and microSD (formerly known as TransFlash). There are also higher capacity examples of some of these cards including microSDHC (high capacity) cards, but be sure to check that your device supports these. The most common memory card format for smartphones is microSD. Whatever the choice of smartphone, it will determine the storage capacity, add-ons and price of the expansion cards, so it's worth doing some research to choose the one that best suits your needs.

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

Good Gear Guide
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