The Upgrade Guide: Smartphones

The Upgrade Guide: Smartphones

Eric Chen
Sep 27, 2011

Ever wonder why everyone loves fiddling with their smartphones? Today's smartphones breaks the mold of being a perk of corporate America, and really help manage our lives in the palm of our hands. Join us as we discuss hardware, software, dinnerware from ALL of the major manufacturers (yes, Androids and even Windows Phone 7!). Even if you already own a smartphone, check out some ways you can step it up, for the low low cost of free.


iPhone 4. There is no smartphone without the iPhone, iPhone IS the modern smartphone, and its creation has redefined the smartphones category as we know today (and this is coming from the person who wrote THIS). And guess what, it is still the best all-around smartphone that exist today. We love this phone for its easy-of-use, great battery life, and best overall user experience.

There is a method in Apple's obsessive madness of control, with the goal of giving users a better experience with the product. In our honest opinion, iOS is the easiest smartphone software to pick up for those transitioning from a dumb phone. And its beautifully built hardware will be a constant source of comfort to the pain of paying a premium for a smartphone. This is our go-to recommendation for anyone moving into the smartphone world, even from this Android-love writer. Apple has a great deal of propaganda that will rival whatever we produce in a few sentences, so check out this video for information on the iPhone and here for what's coming for iOS 5. A tip here, for those who could wait, we would hold off on getting an iPhone 4, the word on the street is that the iPhone 5 is just around the corner.

The best Android phone

Samsung Galaxy S II. This is the latest and greatest of Android hardware out today. It is evident when you touch this device, that Samsung spent time on making it look beautiful while keep it as thin as a fashion show model. Packed inside is a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, with 4G capability. What does this all mean? The Samsung Galaxy S II is @#$%ing fast. This phone also has a 4.3" (or 4.5" if you get the Sprint version) Super AMOLED Plus screen, which means the screen is top-notch and perfect for watching movies. We know the giant screen form factor is not for everyone, but if you enjoy watching videos and movies, you won't know how you survived without it. Bottom line: if Android is your cup of tea, this is the one for you.

Android Alternative: Google Nexus S by Samsung. With Google behind this phone, this is the Android phone that Google envisioned. The 4.0 inch screen is a bit smaller than the Galaxy S II, and easier to hold for those with smaller hands. The best thing about stock Android, you know you'll always get the latest and greatest Google has to offer.

The best Android ROM
This is the next step up if you're tired of the same old Android from the phone maker. For those that don't know what I'm talking about, here's a quick intro: Android ROMs do more than just adding different theme to your phone, many custom ROMs can add additional functionalities to your phone or completely transform it all together. Also, getting custom ROMs usually means getting the latest version of Android before the official update is available from the phone maker. Best of all, thanks to all the dedicated developers, this is usually available to you for free! We're not going to get too much into how to get new ROMs on your phone, since there is so much information that we can probably write two or three articles to cover everything. If you are interested, we recommend starting your research at xda-developers, a treasure chest of information from a great community of developers.

*If you want a more comprehensive guide to rooting and "flashing" new ROMs, make you voice heard in the comments below!

Our favorite Android ROM: CyanogenMod. This is the most well-known and established Android ROM. We love this ROM for its stability and features. The interface is very close to what stock Android looks like, but hidden features like the Lockscreen gestures and Theme support brings your phone to a new level. And with an army of developers behind the project, you can rest assure that most of the kinks and issues will be ironed out quickly. You know this is a good ROM when its founder is hired by Samsung to work on their variation of Android.

Android ROM alternative: MIUI. This ROM, originated from a Chinese developer, has spread all over the world, with developer support in Brazil, Germany and many more. This ROM takes the best of Android combined with the looks and feel of iOS, and create an easy-to-use yet powerful experience. The ROM has gotten so popular that it came out with its own phone in China, the XiaoMi.

The best Windows Phone 7
Although Microsoft was the first to the smartphone game with its now outdated Windows Mobile OS, it made its late entry into the "modern" smartphone world with Windows Phone 7 platform (WP7). Microsoft really stepped away from the app-focused approach of iOS and Android and went with an information-focused approach. It pride itself on the simply designed yet informative "tiles" to show information that is important, allowing users to "spend less time on your phone" (as their commercials suggest). Now that Microsoft has refined the user experience with the latest "Mango" update, check out some of our favorite up-and-coming WP7 devices.

Our favorite WP7 phone: HTC Titan. This is the big daddy of all smartphones, with the screen coming in at 4.7inches, it is probably one of the largest "pocketable" devices out in the market. The CPU clocks in at 1.5GHz, matching the latest industry standards to date. This is also one of the first devices announced with the latest Mango update onboard. Again the giant screen may not be suitable for everyone, but it does take mobile entertainment to a whole other level, but at 9.9mm it will certainly fit flat in your pocket.

WP7 Alternative: Samsung Focus Flash. This is the announced-but-not-yet-available update to the Samsung Focus we tested a while back. Coming in at a more "holdable" 3.7 inches, this is a good alternative to the behemoth from HTC. Although touted as the budget option to the new line of WP7 devices, it's no slouch in the internals, with CPU clocking in at 1.4GHz, and a Super AMOLED display, it will hold its own against the best on the market. *No official pictures or link for this device yet, check back as we'll update as soon as we find some for you!

What are your personal experience with our picks? Do you have any smartphones that you want to recommend to our readers? Or do you just want to give us a shout out for the awesome job that we're doing? Leave it in the comments below!

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