Android, the Google-owned mobile operating system, is slowly inching towards its goal of total market dominance as more and more people are making the switch. One thing that really works for Android is the fact that it offers almost all the features that its competitor iPhone offers without compromising on the user's freedom of choice.
While iPhone users are stuck with the same hardware and the same features, Android users get a lot of choices in every department. Walk in to a gadget store and ask for an Android phone; there's a huge chance that you'll be shown more than 10 different Android devices.
Even though Android offers a lot of options to its potential buyers, the element of choice can be perplexing to some people. Since its inception, the open source operating system has been loaded on many devices from a variety of manufacturers. Therefore, if you don't choose carefully, you might end up with a bad Android experience. So, before you run to your nearest gadget store, here are few things you should consider before buying one:
* Make a list of the features you need
What are you going to use the phone for? For browsing? As a camera? Or as a powerhouse smartphone to compliment your desktop? It's always better to narrow down your needs so that you won't end up buying something you don't want. If you are a bit more meticulous buyer, you can also make a list of the minimum features you need. For example, let's say you want to buy a phone with at least 5 MP camera, 256 MB RAM, 2.2 Froyo and so on. Make a list and make sure you get a phone that has all the features you want.
* Do the research first
If you go into the store and keep browsing each and every model, it gets tedious for the buyer as well as the retailer. Instead, insist on finding out all the features and prices beforehand (using the Internet of course). That way, you won't spend half your day in the store.
* Read the reviews
Sometimes, despite all the hypnotizing adverts, big brand names and eye-catching publicity stunts, the final product turns out to be quite disappointing. For example, some dual-core phones, when they came out, create quite a lot of buzz amongst tech enthusiasts. However, when the final product was reviewed, the dual core feature didn't add any significant power to the device, and the phone turned out to be a disappointment. Hence, it's better to check out phone reviews from reputed sources like Engadget so you won't end up paying a lot of cash for a second-rate product. Another advantage of watching/reading reviews is that you'll get to know the phone really well before you buy it.
* Check the OS version
Many manufacturers ship with modified versions of Android that helps them market their phones as unique products. Even though this brings a bit of variety to the market, it makes it harder for manufacturers to push updates whenever they're ready. So, you'll find several smartphones with Android 2.1 or 2.2 loaded on them even though the latest version is 2.3.4. Always lookup which Android version the phone ships with. If the phone ships with a very old version, do make sure that you can upgrade it to a newer version. On the other hand, if you always prefer the bleeding edge, you can go for pure Google phones like Nexus One and Nexus S. These phones will give you the pure Google Android experience without any modifications whatsoever.
* Check the manufacturer first
With the power of Android being leveraged by so many companies, there are also some sub-standard brands which have used Android to make themselves more popular in the market. Although you might find that these manufacturers offer Android phones at ridiculously low prices, once you get the phone, you'll be thoroughly disappointed. Many of these unknown manufacturers load Android on phones using low-quality hardware, sometimes making the phone absolutely unusable. Even if you're in luck and find it to be working perfectly, there's a good chance that if ever you have problems with it, you won't be able to find any help at all. So, always buy a phone that has been manufactured by reputed brands like HTC, Sony, Samsung, LG and Motorola. Another important thing, when you buy the phone, make sure you get the proper documents like warranty card, manual and invoice. Finally, to save valuable time in the future, make sure you store the contact details of the nearest service center for your phone.
Good luck with your first Android phone. After you buy one, don't forget to check out all the Android-related articles we've written before.