Is Now the Greatest Time Ever to Buy a Smartphone?

It’s an amazing time to be in the market, or soon to be in the market for a new Smartphone. Never before has there been such a buzz over what’s on the market or coming to the market soon. Just for starters, we’ll look at the OS’s driving the Smartphone industry and where they will be by the time you want to upgrade your phone this summer.

Currently, there are 4 major players and a few minor players in US smartphone operating systems. They all have strengths and weaknesses, but overall, each of them have their positives.

Apple’s iPhone OS is took the stage in 2007 and has run rampant ever since. By far the number one selling device, and since there’s really only 1 style with a few technical upgrades in 3 years, they have it down pact.  The iPhone bring simplicity to the smartphone universe. You want a phone where it’s click and go, the iPhone is the way to go. Now, that simplicity comes at the cost of not having the flexibility that some devices offer, but it’s hard to question a device that is as solid as the iPhone. With the release of the 4.0 software this summer, you should see improvements to the functionality of the device as well as, for the first time ever, a product line dropped from support.

RIM’s BlackBerry line has been a front runner in the communications and email field for the longest time. RIM’s excitement for the summer should be the official ‘release announcement’ of OS 6.0 and their new WebKit browser. They have a few new devices in house, but nothing earth shattering, but it’s a BlackBerry, it shouldn’t be earth shattering, it should just work. That’s what RIM does and that’s why they will remain a major player – devices that work. This summer we will continue to see RIM build new devices including the clam-shell QWERTY device that was leaked in photos, the new touchscreen slider that has made appearances also, and the new 9100 series Pearl that seems to take the classic design of the 8100 series and add a bit of muscle to it. Overall, should be a great summer for all the BlackBerry fans.

Windows Phone is undergoing the single biggest – WOW – change in the history of smartphones. After 15 years, Microsoft is finally doing something, different? Since the earliest days of Windows CE, not much has changed with the popular PPC operating system. Unfortunately, nothing will change this summer either. Vendors will still be hocking their custom overlaid WinPhone 6.5 devices until early next year when 7 becomes ‘available’ to everyone. What this means to you is that you can scoop up amazing devices like the HD2, the Omnia2, the Touch Pro 2 and many others for a song right now. Verizon even ran a $29.99 Touch Pro 2 special (with your $50 new every two credit) a few weeks back. This is a great time to snag a Windows Phone if you like to use Windows at home. 6.5 works great with Vista and Win 7 and the Windows Mobile Device Center. Talk about great pairs, it doesn’t get much easier than plugging in, and everything syncing. Plus with Microsoft Myphone on board, everything backs up to the cloud every night also. Super simple, even if it’s outdated and being replaced. This is one to get the deal on now and then use your 1 year upgrade to get a 7 device next year.

Palm… Um… You still here? With all the rumors about buyouts, sales, and bankruptcy, it’s hard to tell if Palm will be around this summer or if they might be absorbed by someone else. Put this one in a holding pattern for now, but there are still killer deals to be had on the Pre line if you like that little keyboard and gorgeous touch screen.

Finally, Android, if it’s possible to round this into a little paragraph. 2.1 is here, and everyone is getting it. 2.2 is testing, 2.5 is in the wings and ultimately, everyone wants 3.0… Yep, there we go.  The Evo is coming in June, the Incredible hits next week and is there a Nexus 2 in the works? Android is just exploding right now, and that may ultimately be what kills it. Finally, most of the major phones are getting their official 2.1 updates, bringing them to the same OS. Just as this happens, it’s revealed that 2.2 is already testing and devices could come as early as September with it – fragmenting the OS again. Android has so many positives going for it right now that it’s hard to imagine a negative, but fragmentation is a huge one. The other will be LTE and WiMax support – will all the versions have it, will it work right and overall, and most of all, will it be accessible to the carriers before they need it. Right now, it is hard to recommend purchasing a new Android device if you are able to upgrade. There are so many amazing ones coming in the pipeline that buying right now is not the best move. If you are out of contract, you might consider looking at anyone but AT&T, who likes to cripple their droids, and see if they have decent coverage where you are. I was pleasantly surprised that Sprint offered a trial to check coverage in the area, Verizon has always been good about guaranteeing coverage and T-Mobile has some very aggressive pricing options for purchasing without a contract.  Overall, if your phone is dead, the Nexus One on T-Mobile (3G issues and all), the Samsung Moment on Sprint and the Moto Droid or Droid Incredible on Verizon are all excellent choices for summer fun.

The toughest decision you’ll make this year is to buy now on a deal or wait for better hardware later this year. The issue that most have with waiting is there will always be something better around the corner. For now, depending on your usage there is a pretty simple recommendation chart below. They are ranked in order based on the statements below.

– I really want a phone, but want media, fun and games: iPhone, Android, Palm, WinPhone, BlackBerry

– I want to email, text and organize my life: BlackBerry, WinPhone, Palm, Android, iPhone

– I want a flexible phone that has room for me to customize it: Android, WinPhone, BlackBerry, Palm, iPhone

– Best Hardware Verizon: HTC Droid Incredible, Motorola Droid, HTC Touch Pro 2, Samsung Omnia 2, HTC Imagio

– Best Hardware Sprint: HTC Touch Pro 2, Samsung Moment, HTC Hero, BlackBerry 9630

– Best Hardware AT&T: iPhone 3Gs, BlackBerry Bold 9700, HTC Tilt2, LG Expo

– Best Hardware T-Mobile: HTC HD2, BlackBerry Bold 9700, MyTouch 3G, Samsung Behold 2

Overall, given the current hardware, there isn’t a carrier among the 4 majors that is hurting for great devices. Again, if you are out of contract, there are some wonderful devices coming soon, but if you can’t wait or don’t want to, check out the competition, take them for a test drive and make sure you are getting the most out of your wireless company – before you commit to them again.

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