First of all, sorry for being so slow on getting this post up. Those few days between Christmas and the New Year can really get to you quickly!
For the second part of my three-part smart shopping plan, I’ll discuss researching options. Once you have an idea of what you want it’s time to start shopping around at different locations. The research phase can be separated into two distinct parts: primary methods and secondary methods.
Secondary Research Methods
As you probably know, secondary research means using information others have gathered about something — smartphones, in this case. Here are a few places to start researching smartphones online:
Carriers, Operating Systems & Specific Phones
- Great breakdown by Operating Systems at USAToday.com
- Follow the crowd? Nielsen reported the United States’ most popular operating systems in October 2010.
- PCMag.com groups smartphones by carrier and provides a review of each
- Comparison chart for iOS, Blackberry, Windows and Droid
- CNET Reviews offers great insights into specific phones. In addition, they have a helpful buying guide for cell phone shoppers.
Once you’ve done the research and matched your desired features with that of a few top choices, it’s time to delve into more specific research. For example, I narrowed my choices down to three: the Droid X, Droid Pro and Droid Incredible.
Primary Research Methods
I would suggest two main primary research actions: Talk to people and test devices.
Talk to People
This one may seem obvious, but communicate your interest and request feedback on as many channels as possible. For example, if you ask your Facebook friends, “What kind of smartphone do you have and do you like it?,” ask your Twitter followers (and friends on other networks) the same question or something similar. This will make it more likely you’ll get feedback.
Also, don’t forget about good ol’ face-to-face or telephone conversation. Ask tech- and/or mobile-savvy friends and family members what they think. Mentally compile all these opinions to help with your own decision.
I’m a big believer in seeing is believing, or, in this case, touching is liking (or disliking). Feeling a phone’s buttons and seeing what you can do with your own eyes will prove more helpful than any other research tactic.
Also, if you visit the carrier’s store or a tech-based store like Best Buy, you can talk with the sales people. Best Buy is a good place because they don’t really have any official ties with a specific phone or carrier besides perhaps the one they have. Also, don’t feel pressured to buy right when you’re shopping around. Ask any questions to sales people and have them “pitch” certain phones to you, then think about it for a day or two.
During your device-testing phase, you can also compare prices, but don’t forget to look online, too. For example, when I was looking to buy a smartphone from Verizon, I first went to the Verizon store, where my choice phone cost $149.99 after a $100-mail-in rebate. When I came home, I looked up the phone at Walmart and Best Buy, both of which had the exact same phone for free with the purchase of a two-year contract, something I planned to get anyways.
I ended up buying my phone through Best Buy (over Walmart) because of Best Buy’s Walk Out Working service, meaning they helped me set up my phone through my carrier and everything, so I walked out texting my friends and checking my email.
When shopping around and testing devices, be sure to ask sales people or friends about extra charges you may receive so you can prepare accordingly. There’s nothing worse for having to pay for something you thought was free or that you didn’t know you would be charged for.
Stay tuned for Smartphone Shopping Part 3: Purchasing and Following Up with Your Decision