The iPhone 5 sold more than 5 million units in three days, making it the biggest iPhone release ever. But the Apple device still makes up just a small percentage of all the smartphones out there. In just six years smartphones have gone from a niche product used mostly by business professionals to a ubiquitous status as the most common type of cellphone available.
JPMorgan predicted 657 million of them will be sold this year, and multiple reports have indicated that more smartphones have been sold than feature phones -- that is, non-smartphones -- for more than a year.
Despite their majority status, lots of people don't use smartphones. For those who are new to the device, trying to pick one out can be a daunting task, what with four major platforms selling dozens of wildly different models.
We've put together a guide to modern smartphones. It starts with some general information you need to know and continues with an overview and comparison between iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7 and BlackBerry.
SMARTPHONE Q&A Why would I even want a smartphone anyway? I don't want to read the Internet on my phone.
There are countless things you can use a smartphone for other than just getting online. Smartphones now have mapping apps that can locate you if you're lost and tell you where to go. You can take and share pictures. They're also all music players. And thanks to downloadable apps, new uses are added all the time. You can find helpful phone numbers, check the weather, watch videos, translate other languages, manage your bank balances, identify songs or do countless other things in an instant.
Do I have to buy the more expensive data plans in order to get the most out of a smartphone?
No. Every smartphone can connect to Wi-Fi networks, and data taken from them won't count against your plan total. It's always a good idea to connect to Wi-Fi for data-intensive tasks such as streaming music or video. You can set up Wi-Fi in your home, or you can use the many free networks set up in public venues.
What will having a smartphone mean for my phone bill?
You'll have to pay an extra data charge on top of your regular phone fees. Fortunately, you can keep that extra fee as low as $20 per month, but the price goes up for more data usage. Each provider has its own plans, so you'll have to see what each one offers.
I'm not sure I know how to use this thing. Can I get help?
Yes. Many cellular carriers have seminars on how to use smartphones, and the local Apple Store has frequent classes on working with iOS, the iPhone operating system.
Even with all the things they can do, I don't think I want to use or pay extra for a smartphone. Would that make me hopelessly behind?
No. If you don't think you'll get anything out of the features or don't understand how to operate it, there's no sense in paying extra for something you won't use. All the cellular providers still have basic cellphones available.
I saw a smartphone a few years ago, and it was a mess. Have they improved?
Definitely. All of the major platforms have improved by leaps and bounds since the first iPhone and Android phones were released. So it's worth taking another look.
I heard about a cool feature on one smartphone, but surely every smartphone has that feature, right?
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