Buying Decisions to Weigh Practicality Against Novelty

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2010-06-09 Print this article Print


The iPhone 4 has a very nice pixel density, but it's still not true HD, and that doesn't matter because you'd never be able to tell if it were. What matters is that it's close enough to look like HD when you watch something on it. But the Sprint and T-Mobile devices look pretty good too. They don't have the pixel density of the iPhone 4, but most people won't be able to tell the difference. 

Most of the other features that matter to smartphone users aren't actually part of the phones. They're related to the networks they run on, the services they have available (is Apple's store better than the Android store?) and perhaps the relative value of the operating system. This might explain why T-Mobile's HD2 device got so little attention; it runs Windows Mobile 6.5, which is no longer very cool. 

And the landscape is only getting more complex. There will be more devices that show HD video; there will be more devices that operate at higher speeds, whatever you may call them; and there will be more applications that will help you find ways to consume bandwidth. When Verizon starts delivering its 4G LTE network next year, it'll offer theoretical speeds over 50M bps. You can assume that Verizon will have at least some of its Droid population able to use those speeds sooner or later. 

So there's no question that the recently introduced iPhone 4, or the Sprint Evo or the Verizon Droid Incredible, may be the coolest phone out there-for now. But there's also no question that some of them will be superseded by new versions in the near future.  

About the only thing we know for sure is that the iPhone is here for another year, at which point we'll have another big introduction with lots of hoopla. The other sure thing is that by then it will have been passed by virtually every other device out there in terms of capability and performance.  

But really that shouldn't matter. All of that coolness shouldn't matter if it doesn't deliver what you need in a smartphone. So unless you actually need HD video on a phone, getting it is a waste of money. If you need to support two Exchange accounts, then it's a waste to buy a device that only supports one. 

So now that we've waded through this mass of chaos, there's really only the bottom line: What do you really need, and which device actually meets those needs? Once you filter all of that out, then you, too, can ignore the hype and get what you need instead of what everyone else tells you, you need. But that's probably a lot more boring than all the hype.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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