HOME Technology Nov 2008
Mobile lifestyle link
Complementing copper
It’s 25 years since the launch of the once humble cellphone or ‘brick’ which has today slimmed down to a sleek, smart, multifunction fashion accessory that slots comfortably into the pocket or the purse.

In New Zealand there are more mobile phones than there are people with many users having phones on both networks. New Zealand youth are the world’s heaviest users of mobile phones sending 29 million texts a day.

A Telecom survey asking what value young people placed on their cellphones found 55 percent of those spoken to would need ‘a million dollars’ to never pick up their phones again. Of course no-one actually fronted up with the money to test their resolve.

Superphones arrive

The tipping point to mass market mobility is a combination of revamped 3G networks which are about to push the speed boundaries and the arrival of stylish new touch-screen superphones, including Apple’s iPhone.

Other options include the Blackberry, Palm Trio and versions from Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Samsung and LG depending on your pocket and your needs.

These new smartphones, which double as web browsers, electronic diaries, contact books, cameras, MP3 and mini-movie players, are moving into the mainstream and taking the game to another level. Soon users may be able to maintain their social networking profiles while on the move.

With the growing number of offerings on the market, finding the right device can be difficult. Price depends on quality and function. You can still get the basics for under $200 but as multimedia capabilities are added the curve grows incrementally.

For just over $1000 you might get 16Gb memory, a 5Mpixel camera, music and video player, FM radio, wifi capability, possibly navigation and other bells and whistles, some of which may be invaluable if you spend a lot of time on the road.

Features and functions

Decide what you don’t need and start narrowing your shortlist from there. Sometimes having everything in one device means something suffers. What do you really need in your digital armoury?

How does it feel in your hand? Can you easily get your finger and thumb around the keys for texting or quick calls? Is the screen easy to read in different light situations? Is it robust enough for your needs? How long will the battery last?

Does it have Bluetooth to connect with printers or other enabled devices in close proximity? If you’re going overseas will it roam with other carriers? Can you get a free phone by signing up for a month or will it support pre-pay and still offer all the data functionality you want?

What sort of plans are on offer? Will it work with the new generation 3G networks that are being rolled out over the next six months, if not how will you make that transition?

While your multi-function phone may purr along on the Internet, remember everything comes at a cost, including cellular data charges. If you are a regular web user, download music or mini-movies or send lots of images, those charges can ramp up rapidly and deliver a hefty shock when the bill comes in. Remember every Google search is costing you.

Decide whether it’s a great phone first before being distracted by the multimedia features. From there web, text, music and photographs are a bonus, if you can support your data habit.

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