Columbia ISA
Audio – Video



What is a smartphone:

A Smartphone is a hand-held electronic device which functions as a mobile phone and computer. The smartphone functions on its own to capture images or video using a built-in camera, plays music, displays stored information and a host of other functions, but it can also link to the internet and send and receive voice calls when close enough to compatible radio/cell towers. These cell towers form a network to allow radio transmissions from phone to phone across the country and around the world. Smartphones can reach a transmitting tower several miles away and under the right circumstances, up to 40 miles away maximum. This all depends on many factors. Voice calls and internet will only work if the signals can reach your provider network.

Smartphones are mobile and therefore battery powered. The battery is internal and has to be recharged often. The modern smartphone is operated mostly by touch to the screen or touchscreen navigation. You press, press and hold, drag or other finger moves to execute various tasks and run apps.

Smartphones are always evolving. Todays smartphone is already outdated because if you have it, the new model is already developed and will be available soon. The new model will have improvements over the current model. Apple Inc. released the iPhone in 2007 followed by the iPhone 3, 4, 5 and now iPhone 6 in 2014-2015 which will no doubt be followed by the iPhone 7 and so forth. Samsung has the Galaxy S, S4, S5, S6 and S7 along with the Galaxy Note 3, Note 4, Note 5 and even more models. New display technologies such as the flexible OLED will add additional capabilities for the next generation of Smartphones.

What smartphones are available:

Currently, there are two primary platforms to choose from when deciding which smartphone to get. One is the Apple Inc. iOS / iPhone and the other is the Android / Samsung, LG, Google etc. with many others trying to gain market share.

The Apple iPhone and the Android Samsung and LG are the most popular today. It does make a difference which platform you choose although a case can be made for either and the debate could go on forever which is better. Choosing one platform over the other could make a difference in which apps you can run. Apps are applications or software programs which run on the smartphone such as games, and a variety of tools to help you in daily activities.

Smartphone operating system software:

Android is developed by Google and Google releases upgrades every 6 to 9 months. Because each Android manufacturer uses their own hardware, the new release of the OS software has to be tailored for their own use. This results in a delay getting the upgrade for Samsung and LG phones. Apple iPhone OS upgrades are faster to implement because no tailoring is required. Again, the standard is more restrictive but more efficient.

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If you choose the iPhone, you enter the Apple world of proprietary everything. Apple forces you to operate their way, use their products, and do things in an Apple universe. That is not neccessarily a bad thing if you accept the Apple universe. Apple has fine products but remember the incompatibilities with anything outside of the Apple world.

Apple Inc. iPhone

Android, on the other hand, is open architecture and allows more customisation. The Android phones do not lock you in as much as the iPhone. This is one reason why the Android phones are gaining in popularity. The advantage of choosing Apple however is the standardization. With the iPhone, you have Apple's software and only that, so you know what you have. You do not have to guess what you have. With an Android phone, you do not neccessarily have a standard because of the ability to customize. Because of the Apple standard, you have compatibility with other Apple products.

Features to look for in a Smartphone:

1. Phone and contact address book
2. Texting capability
3. Video calling (Apple FaceTime, Skype)
4. Web browser
5. E-mail
6. Weather
7. Predictive typing (predictive text).
8. Voice dictation/recording
9. Voice-activated virtual assistant
(see Siri, Google Voice Search and Cortana).
10. Alarm clock, stopwatch, timer
11. Calculator
12. Calendar
13. Note taker
14. Music player
15. Photo album
16. Camera (still and video) front facing/rear facing, quality (8MP, 16MP megapixels)
17. GPS navigation
18. Applications store search

What to be aware of when selecting a Smartphone:

To get some idea of the numbers to look for when comparing smartphones and to gain an understanding of what the terms mean, read the following. Remember, as new phones arrive the numbers will advance.

1. Screen size and resolution
Display size: 4.7 inch, 5.5 inch
Display resolution: 1440x2560 pixels, 1080x1920 pixels
Display Technology: AMOLED, IPS
Display Protection: Corning Gorilla glass 4

2. Battery capacity (talk time, stand-by time)
Battery Technology: Li-Ion

3. Battery replacement - something worth considering
Smartphone batteries, over time, can lose their ability to maintain a charge. With a smartphone that has an easy battery swap capability, you can just swap in a fresh battery and then charge the first battery but immediately continue using the phone. Unfortunately many phones do not have a user replaceable battery.

Apple Smartphones -
iPhone batteries are not designed to be replaceable by the consumer, although it is possible.
Apple charges $79 to replace a battery if out of warranty. Some Apple stores may provide this service, otherwise you pay to ship off your phone. 

Samsung Smartphones -
Galaxy S5 and Note 4 models do have replaceable batteries.
Galaxy S6 officially does not have a replaceable battery, yet it is possible but may void the warranty.
Galaxy S7 officially does not have a replaceable battery. It is possible for the consumer to replace but it is not recommended and may void the warranty.
Samsung has a few centers that provide battery service so at least you can save shipping costs if you live near a service center.

LG Smartphones -
The LG Ultimate 2 model has a replaceable battery.
The LG G4 model has a replaceable battery.
The LG G5 model has a removable Li-Ion 2800 mAh battery in a pop open tray on the phone's bottom.

Replacement batteries generally cost $30 to $50.

4. Charging methods
Car charger, Wall charger, wireless

5. Form factor: width, depth, height, weight

6. Compatible video and audio formats

7. Headphone, keyboard

8. Physical connections (USB, micro-USB, Charger, data)

9. Network connections (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, IR, NFC, 3G, 4G, LTE)
Bluetooth version: 4.1

10. CPU power, RAM capacity
Qualcomm Snapdragon 808
Central Processor:
Random Access Memory - 3GB

11. Internal and external memory capacity
32GB, 64GB, 128GB
MicroSD card expansion

12. Default Apps

13. Network landscape

14. Cost for phone/voice/data

15. Technical support, warranty, insurance

16. Operating system and apps

OS: each new release is designated with minor upgrade or major upgrade numbers such as
iOS 8.1.3 for Apple where the prior release was 8.1.2, indicating a minor upgrade. When a major upgrade is released, the first number advances such as iOS 8 to iOS 9
Apple - iOS 8, iOS 9 for iPhone
Google, Samsung, LG - Android 4, Android 5
Your smartphone can upgrade to a newer OS within a range of time. After that you may need to buy a newer phone. The OS has to be compatible with the phone. Newer functionality usually requires the newest OS which may not run on your current phone.

17. Camera - front and rear
8 megapixels (MP), 16MP
video resolution: 1080p@60fps, 720p@120fps

18. Sensors
Compass, Barometer, Gyro

Carriers - Network wireless providers:

You want to get the best performance, best customer support, best coverage, best plans and best cost from your network provider. The big four offer the best overall service. The big four are:


3G, 4G, LTE and the need for speed

Each of the major cellular network providers have networks that cover most of the areas in the U.S. that need service. Some areas of the country are covered by one carrier and not the others. These companies are in business to make a profit. Marketing strategies will often exploit the technology standards. It takes a long time to upgrade a network to newer standards and there are many variables in communication speeds.

There are two communication standard technologies currently being used:
Global System for Mobiles (GSM) and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA).

All GSM devices are designed so that service is provisioned using a SIM card. CDMA devices do not have SIM cards. Some smartphones have both GSM and CDMA.

AT&T and T-Mobile use the GSM technology while Verizon and Sprint use the CDMA technology. The two communication technologies are not compatible with each other.

3G is 3rd generation mobile communication standard. The first 3G networks were introduced in 1998. The communication spectrum between 400 MHz to 3 GHz was allocated for 3G.

4G is the 4th generation standard introduced in 2008 and is much faster than 3G. Smartphones can have both 3G and 4G capability. Many vendors market their products as 4G but do not meet the standard.

LTE means Long Term Evolution and is a 4G technology that does not quite meet the 4G standard. Just as HSPA+ was the pinnacle of the 3G standard and was often marketed falsely as 4G, LTE does not measure up to the 4G standards. LTE-A is the next level coming along for faster data download. LTE is initially used for data only but will be used for data and voice eventually.

iPhone 4s will only support HSPA. iPhone 5 and 6 will support LTE. The LTE technology provides the fastest cellular data network available to date. To be compatible with a given network, your smartphone model not only needs to be 4G LTE compliant, but needs to be compatible with the network's radio bands.

iPhone 6

Model A1549 (GSM)*
Model A1522 (GSM)*

UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz)

GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)

LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29)

Model A1549 (CDMA)*
Model A1522 (CDMA)*

CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz)

UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz)

GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)

LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29)

Model A1586*
Model A1524*

CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz)

UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz)

TD-SCDMA 1900 (F), 2000 (A)

GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)

FDD-LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29)

TD-LTE (Bands 38, 39, 40, 41)

Additional communication technologies your smartphone may need:

o 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi‑Fi

o Bluetooth 4.2 wireless technology

o NFC (Near Field Communication)

Smartphones with Wi-Fi built-in can provide additional capability to communicate over home networks such as broadband. Wi-Fi could save you some money by using a hot-spot instead of burning up your minutes on the cellular network.

NFC is a contactless communication method between devices. Apple Pay uses NFC technology and is available on the iPhone 6.

Locked and Unlocked phones

What is a locked phone and what is an unlocked phone?

A locked phone is setup by software code to only work on the network of the provider who sold you the phone (or the providers agent). So when you buy the phone from AT&T for example or their agent, the phone will only work with AT&T's network. Almost every GSM device comes "prelocked" to a particular carrier.

Some phones are sold unlocked, meaning they can be used on T-Mobile or AT&T networks. A locked phone can be unlocked by your carrier if they want to do this. The user can also unlock their phone if they have the code and instructions to do so. Many of the smartphones made today for Verizon and Sprint also include GSM capability on top of CDMA and LTE. If a device also supports GSM, then it has a SIM card, which can be swapped out to access almost any GSM network. An unlocked phone either doesn't have the lock software on it or someone was able to get a code that unlocks the software. Once a device is unlocked, you can remove the SIM card and put in a different SIM card from another GSM operator and get service.

Verizon 4G LTE devices are unlocked.

Buying a Smartphone and service

There are many different ways to buy a smartphone. You can buy a used phone and then obtain network service. Used phones are available online from many sources or you could get one from a friend or a retail store. You can buy a new phone and then setup with a carrier. You can buy a phone directly from a carrier or their agent. This way you should be assured the phone will work with their network. Phones can be purchased outright or you can pay month by month. But the phone is limited unless you setup network service for voice calls and internet.

The big four and the discount carriers have a constantly changing market. All are trying to get your business. Basically you can get service on a contract and pay by the month or you can get a no-contract, pay as you go setup. Many carriers fool you into thinking you are getting something free. Nothing is free. They have to make money. They don't give away anything for free. If they did this, they would go out of business. They make you think something is free but the costs are hidden somewhere else and you are paying anyway.

Smartphones cost from $50 to over $800 depending on how current and how capable they are. Smartphones are only current for about 6 months and a new updated model is available. Buying a current model phone outright is expensive and if the phone is lost, stolen or breaks, you need a replacement. You can buy phone insurance to cover the replacement.

Buying a used phone can save money but often a used phone is really outdated and may have scratches, marks, dings, cracks or worse not function correctly or be missing something such as the charger.

Buying a new phone gives you the best and latest capabilities but it will cost you. The new phone does eliminate most of the possible problems you could encounter. You have to decide if your budget can stand the price of the gadget with the latest bells and nice to have functions. Ask yourself why the cost matters. Are you impressing your friends or do you really need the latest features and functions.

The discount carriers often use the network of one of the big four. For example, Cricket uses AT&T's network and MetroPCS uses T-Mobile's network.

Always look at total costs over a long period of time. What is the total cost for phone and monthly service over one year? Then compare against the alternative. Compare apples with apples. The same service and same phone over one year. Who has the best deal? Ask yourself how much data capacity you need and how much voice time. Carriers have plans which cover low data usage and increasing data usage for more each month. Mobile internet plans offer 1GB, 3GB, 5GB and more. What does 1GB get you?

Skype - 6 hours of camera calls
YouTube - 27 5min. 720p videos
7 hrs. general web surfing

The per month cost may include rollover which means any unused time rolls over and is available next month.

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