(Dominion Post (Morgantown, WV) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 02--In cars. In buses. In airports. At school. At the office. On subways. And on the couch at home.
Smartphones, perhaps more than any other tech gadgets, are prevalent in every situation.
It's tough to go anywhere these days without seeing people talking, text messaging, checking Facebook pages, shopping or playand distribing "Candy Crush." Thus designers utors keep the smartphone market ever-evolving.
Joy Bender, who owns Mountain State Wireless with her husband Herky Bender, said new phones are always joining the lineup, but she took time recently to point out five of the newest and most popular ones on the market: The Apple iPhone 5s, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, the Samsung Galaxy S4, the Nokia Lumia 1520 and the LG G2.
Bender said Mountain State Wireless, the only locally owned AT&T authorized retailer, carries all of the phones, but it's important to figure out which one is best for you with a little bit of research.
"Definitely educate yourself before selecting a phone, because it's a large investment. You don't want to be unhappy with it later," Bender said.
Best Buy mobile manager Shatae Belajac agreed, adding that the regular price for a smartphone is between $600-$1,000, and it is reduced drastically when agreeing to a two-year contract. It's still bound to make a dent in the wallet though, she said, so picking the right phone before leaving the store is essential. She loves helping people do just that.
"Anymore, your smartphone is your life," she said. "You need your phone to do everything, and it's really fun to upgrade somebody from what we would call a dumb phone or a flip phone to a smartphone and see their reaction."
Apple iPhone 5s
Apple's newest iPhone model is the 5s, and it comes with some added security.
"One of the great features of this phone is the fact that you can unlock it by using your fingerprint," Bender said.
Like old versions of the phone, the 5s still has moveable icons and is easy to use as far as texting, taking photos and even checking the calendar, she said.
"The iPhones are extremely easy to people that are not tech- nologically savvy whatsoever because it is all very straightforward," Belajac said. "There's no guessing, and it's all right there on the front screen."
As far as apps go, Bender pointed out Passbook in particular, which can hold all of your travel reservations and flight information and even serve as a boarding pass.
"All in all, I think this is a great phone. It's very popular. The price point is mediocre at $199 on a two-year contract. And it comes in a variety of colors, white with silver on the back or like a graphite grey in the front with a darker grey on the back or gold. And several gigabytes 16, 32 and 64."
While the 5s is made of aluminum with a glass screen, another version, the 5c, has the glass front but the back is plastic. That makes it more durable, Belajac said, but it doesn't come with the thumbprint scanner.
Apple offers cloud storage for users, she added, which makes phone owners' information more accessible, even on other devices.
"Another nice feature of Apple is all of their technology is compatible with each other, so if you have an iPod, an iPhone, an iPad, a Mac, whatever, anything you load on one you can sync them, so they automatically load onto all of your devices. So you're not paying for it multiple times," Belajac said.
"Yo u 're also able to start where you left off on any of your devices, which is really awesome as well."
Samsung Galaxy Note 3
The most expensive phone on the list, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is also one of the most popular, Bender said. It sells for $299.99 with a two-year contract at Mountain State Wi re l e s s.
The phone, like all Samsung phones, is an Android device. It offers a large screen, complete with a stylus.
"One of the neat things about this phone is that it has a stylus, which is super for writing," Bender said.
One of the other plusses is a 13-megapixel camera, Bender and Belajac said.
"A lot of these phones have better cameras built into them now which is alleviating you of also having to carry a camera," Belajac said.
The larger screen also makes for easy in-depth Internet needs, such as online banking, Bender said.
And while its operating system isn't always as straightforward as the iPhone's, Samsung has come up with a solution for that, Belajac said.
"One great feature about all of the Samsung phones is that you can put them in easy mode, so that is going to be, obviously for the people that are not technology savvy, it's going to be easier for them to use," she said.
In this mode, the icons are larger and the system is more straightforward.
A major plus of all Samsung phones, not just the Note 3, is the ability to have more than one window open at the same time, Belajac said.
Samsung Galaxy S4
"It's a lot like the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. This would maybe be the little sister to that phone," Bender said about the S4, which sells for $199.99 with a two-year contract at Mountain State Wireless.
"This phone is very popular right now, the price point being at $199, so it's rivaling the iPhone, and if you're an Android fan, this is definitely the phone to get, unless you want to spend a little bit more money and get its big sister, the Note 3," Bender said.
Samsung offers a variety of smartphone sizes, Belajac said, with the S4 being the average one. (There is a smaller version of the S4 called the S4 Mini.)
Belajac, who uses an S4, likes the special features of the phones, specifically eye-tracking technology.
"I love my S4. They have the controls where I can actually go on to the website and I can just control it with my eyes, so it'll scroll. So you don't actually have to use your hands anywhere," she said.
A plus of having any Android phone, she added, is that there is a more open market for apps, which means you won't have to pay for many of them. Whereas, with an Apple device, you often have to pay for apps, she said.
"It's like apples and oranges," Belajac said about Apple vs. Android.
"One unique thing is, once you have one or the other, you're less likely to switch. So if you have an Android, you're less likely in two years to get an iPhone because you're used to that. They have two completely different interfaces."
Nokia Lumia 1520
This Windows-based phone is part of a growing market. It runs Windows 8, which has tiles like a computer instead of the icons.
"Anyone that's comfortable with a PC should be very comfortable with this phone," Bender said. "It also has something that's unheard of, which is a 20-megapixel camera.
"You could pretty much carry this as your phone and your camera on vacation."
That 20-megapixel camera is the largest of the five feature phones here. (Both Samsung phones and the LG G2 have 13-megapixel cameras, and the iPhone 5s has an 8-megapixel one.)
The app store is comparable to Android's app store or Apple's iTunes.
And priced at $199.99 with a two-year contract at Mountain State Wireless, the Nokia Lumia 1520 is competing with the iPhone 5s and the Galaxy S4, Bender said. It also has the best battery life out of the five, with 25.1 hours of talk time and 780 hours standby.
Belajac said a lot of people who use the Windows phones are businesspeople who need their phones to sync up well with their PCs.
Perhaps the best deal is the LG G2, Bender said, which is an Android device that sells for $99.99 with a two-year contract.
"The price point on this is $99, which is a great value. The phone itself has a 13-megapixel camera, and it also has 32 gigabytes of available storage, which is huge, especially for the price point," she said.
One of the best features is that the volume and power buttons are on the back, Bender said, which makes it easier to take selfies.
The Android platform makes it similar to the Samsung phones, as far as apps and icons go. It also makes a good starter phone because of the price and simple interface.
"I like that this has a battery manager, which tells you what you're doing or what your device is doing to cause your battery to decrease rapidly," she said.
"If you're looking for a budget-priced Android with great hardware and a super, super camera, I would go with the LG G2."
Wave of the future
Because it's how the smartphone market goes, there are always new cells and cell gadgets available, Belajac said.
Motorola phones, which are increasingly popular, have become intertwined with Google so that you can use the phrase "OK Google" to ask it questions.
For instance, she said if you're bad about losing your phone, say the words "OK Google, find my phone," and the phone will chime a response for you.
LG will soon offer a curved-screen cell called the flex phone, which makes the device more durable.
"That's something that we've been waiting for on the market for quite some time now is more of a flexible phone because you know people are going to drop it," Belajac said.
Samsung has developed a wristwatch as part of its Galaxy Gear that allows you to answer your phone, take pictures, check the weather or look at Facebook, all with a quick glance at your wrist.
On the horizon are phones that are eyeglasses or ones where you can see the numbers on your hand, Belajac said.
"This is your future right now," Belajac said. "There's a lot of great things that are in the works with different companies that are going to be coming out in the coming years as well."
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