Before You Buy Your Next Smart Phone, Read This!
Before You Buy Your Next Smart Phone, Read This!
By Robert McMillen, Koin’s Tech Guru
The next evolution in smart phones is coming out, and you may miss out if you buy the wrong one. This is an evolution of speed, not just features. There are also other hardware upgrades you should be aware of before buying, and here is the scoop.
We have been talking about 4G for a long time and now we can say it’s officially here. 3G topped out at around 2 megabits for data plans. Data plans are that extra charge you get every month for web browsing, downloading apps, and other internet surfing. 4G will be around 4-7 megabits. Just as a comparison, dial up speed is 56 kilobits, so 5 megabits would be around 100 times faster.
3G has two different types of technology. Rather than go into technical jargon, let’s just say that Verizon uses one, and ATT uses the other. Because of that difference, it has allowed Verizon to be able to spread out their 3G across the country more easily, but it allows ATT customers to be able to surf and talk on the phone at the same time.
We have a similar issue with 4G. There are two competing technologies. Clearwire makes the “Clear” product, utilizing Wimax technology. Wimax was a spinoff from Intel. Clear started calling themselves 4G over a year ago, and we called a party foul. 4G was not officially adopted at the time, so it was a little premature. As of now it is generally accepted that it is one of the two main players in the 4G arena. I remember Clear coming into our office a year and a half ago wanting us to test the technology for our readers and for listeners of our radio show. We thought this would be a fun thing to do until they presented us with the bill. Then we kicked them out. We don’t pay companies to do them favors.
The second 4G technology is LTE. This stands for Long Term Evolution, and this time Verizon and ATT are on the same page. They both plan to use LTE, although they will adopt it at different times. Verizon will start LTE this year, and ATT will do so next year.
I do realize there are other providers, but Verizon and ATT carry a total of over 50% of the market in our country, so whatever they do the rest are likely to follow. Sprint and Clearwire created a joint venture in 2008 to have Sprint’s phones use Clear instead of just 3G. Although the speed is far greater than either ATT or Verizon could muster, there were few communities where Wimax was already set up. Even now there are only 27 communities that offer it. There are already 40 LTE sites up in beta mode and ready to be moved into production, if they haven’t been already. Clear has also seen the inevitable large scale adoption of LTE, and they have left the door open to possibly move from Wimax to LTE when the time is right. That would leave us with one standard in the future.
If you recall about a year ago, I mentioned in this blog and on our radio show that we would see amazing innovations come from the sale of the wireless spectrum when our analog signals were shut down. LTE uses some of that spectrum, and it’s the first major breakthrough using the old wireless analog range that allows wireless data to penetrate walls. The current wireless technology we use for our computers at our homes and businesses can’t do this easily, but LTE can.
So should you buy that smart phone today? Let’s break it down by popular phone choices. The Apple 3Gs is a great phone, but it won’t support 4G until the release of the model expected in June. It won’t initially run 4G, but when ATT comes out with it next year, it will be ready to go. If you buy the 3Gs now, then you will be out of luck. Samsung has an LTE phone called the R900, and LG also has a 4G offering.
A Verizon representative told me this week that they don’t have a date for a release of a 4G phone, but it will be at the latest in the 3rd quarter.
There are many technology shows going on worldwide that are showing demos of Android using 4G, so we know it’s coming soon. It will be sold both at ATT and Verizon, as well as smaller carriers.
There are conflicting reports on when Rim will release a 4G Blackberry phone. Some are saying not until the 4th quarter, while others say it will be included in the new Blackberry Thunder 9500.
So here’s the dilemma: Should you buy a 3G only phone and get locked into a two year agreement only to be left in the dust of 4g phone buyers in just a few months? I say we wait it out.
The other new technology is the vast improvement in camera and video technology we will see in 12 months. We are moving from an old fashioned CCD type of chip to a new quantum dot based one. The cost will be roughly the same but the increase in quality, especially in low light, may have you completely ditching your regular digital camera by next year. That is, if you wait to buy a smart phone until then. This may or may not be worth the wait because it will only start hitting store shelves in a year, whereas 4G phones will be here in a few months. Hmm, decisions, decisions.
I guess if we all waited until the next big thing we wouldn’t have any good toys!For great tips, check back here each week and listen to me on the All Tech Radio show at 9:00 Sunday mornings on AM 1360 KUIK, or listen online at http://alltechradio.com.
To buy my latest book “How to be an IT Administrator,” go to http://howtobeanitadministrator.com/
If you would like your technical question answered here, just email firstname.lastname@example.org. Even if it doesn’t get answered in the column, I will always answer by email.