Hello fellow experts.
I am not ashamed or embarrassed to admit that I know practically nothing about Smart Phones because up until now I have had absolutely no need nor desire to have one and incur the additional cost of using one, but I have been asked by an American friend to help figure out what would best suit her needs.
I have only ever used a simple voice and text phone on a non-contract Pay As You Go service, and I only really have a mobile in case people need to get me while I am not at home. Although there has been the very odd occasion where it would have been handy looking up a map on a mobile while I have been out and about, I have never encountered any pressing need to invest in a fancy new phone. I could get on the Internet from my basic phone if I needed to, but only on the old WAP service that drains the top-up balance.
Clearly I am a newbie, and find myself unable to offer much advice to my friend about what spec and service would be best for her, so I thought I could pick your brains and relay the info to her.
Unfortunately she is a full-time carer for an elderly relative living "out of town", but is anticipating the possibility that her relative may need residential care in a home or hospice in the near future where it would be useful if she had the means to use the Internet whilst away from home. She doesn't have much of an opportunity to go into shops trying out phones, or to look at friends' phones and get an idea whether their phones and contracts would suit her needs. She has tried doing some searching online, but it has frazzled her brain as she isn't familiar with the lingo. I am in the UK, so although I have tried to do some research for phones that would suit my own needs, things seem to be different in America when it comes to contracts, pay as you go, etc.
Here are the basic criteria:
She isn't a dummy with computers, and I'm confident that she could learn to navigate and use a Windows or Android based mobile fairly easily.
She does not want to be tied to a 2 year contract for personal and financial reasons, so it would be preferable for her to get a phone that is not tied to any particular carrier.
She has a Wi-Fi broadband modem in her house (used in wired mode for now, but Wi-Fi can easily be enabled), so if she chose to use her phone while at home she would want one that allows her to connect through the modem.
She would probably use it for:
Reading and responding to Facebook messages and viewing some videos through Facebook.
Viewing the odd YouTube video throughout the day.
Skype would be useful as I talk to her on Skype quite often.
A POP3 email client would probably be useful, but not essential as she can read messages in webmail.
A fairly good camera and video is quite important, but she doesn't anticipate doing much in the way of video chat, so a front-facing camera isn't that important.
I wouldn't anticipate that she would be storing many music or video files on the phone, but it should have sufficient internal storage capacity to save some video footage and photos for a while before downloading them to her Windows PC (XP if that is important).
The important criterion is that she can't really afford to pay any or much more than $200 US. She has been looking at phones in the sales that would have been at a higher price.
So, where do you start?
Buy an "unlocked" Smart Phone, compare the pre-paid packages for amount of data allowed per month, price of phone calls and text messages (and how many come free), select one that allows unused data allowance and call/text time to be rolled over each month, and then buy a SIM card to suit?
I have no idea about mobile processor speeds other than the fact that for dual or quad core you multiply the speed by 2 or 4 to get an approximation (eg. a dual core 2.2 GHz processor runs at 4.4 GHz, and a quad core 2.2 GHz runs at 8.8 GHz). Is this a rough parallel to processor speeds in a Windows PC, or are Smart Phones more efficient in terms of processor speeds?
Basic pre-paid plans are for something like 1GB of data per month. This seems to be a tiny amount that would be inadequate for an "average" user's needs. She isn't going to live her life online on the phone, so roughly how much data allowance would she be likely to need per month?
Memory? Different mobile operating systems are likely to consume memory in different ways, and I would suspect that a Windows 8 phone might need more RAM than an Android one. What would be the minimum spec in this regard?
Some phones come with a relatively small amount of internal storage and have a microSD slot, but the card is another unwanted expenditure. Do mobile operating systems use part of the storage as Virtual Memory? I have been trying to figure out the absolute minimum amount of internal storage would be for somebody who takes occasional video footage, several photos a day, and stores a few music albums to listen to, and Virtual memory would obviously be a factor to consider.
Coverage? If she had a SIM card for a voice/text/data pre-paid account with Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon, does this mean that she would only get internet coverage if there was a relay aerial (or whatever you call them) for that particular carrier in the vicinity?
She has her broadband Internet through AT&T. Is there Wi-Fi coverage for AT&T available while out and about, where internet browsing could hop onto that and allow her to sign into her ISP instead of using her data allowance through her phone account?
Please try to refrain from laughing out loud at the simplicity of my questions. As I said at the outset, I am very ignorant of Smart Phones, how they work, and their spec.
What I am really looking for here, more than links to specific phones that might be suitable, is some general advice about the specifications to look for and avoid, and some personal experience of what choices of data plan might be appropriate for my friend. Armed with some pros and cons, do's or don'ts, and maybe the odd pitfall to avoid, I am sure that she will be able to shortlist some phones and pick a carrier and plan.
Thank you in advance.