Put simply, tethering lets you use your smartphone as a wireless modem, and its a handy way to ensure a laptop has Internet access in areas where Wi-Fi isnt available. Not all phones support tethering, however, and as mentioned earlier, you can expect to pay extra for it.
The HTC Touch Pro 2.
(Click for larger image).
Smartphone Operating Systems and Ergonomics
Detailing the differences between the various smartphone platforms is beyond the scope of this guide, but suffice it to say that each offers a somewhat different look and feel, set of features, and built-in applications. All but the iPhone offer multitasking (the capability to run multiple programs at the same time).
Each platform offers an online store to browse and download new programs (many free), but Apples provides the widest selection by far. Most smartphone apps tend to be more consumer- than business-oriented, but there are plenty of productivity- enhancing examples as well.
Smartphones come in many shapes and sizes, with ergonomics that are largely a matter of personal preference. Still, two of the most important physical factors to consider are the size and type of display and the style of keyboard.
The Motorola Droid .
(Click for larger image).
Smartphones with large, touch-enabled displays such as the Apple iPhone or Googles Nexus One make navigating the devices features not to mention browsing the Web relatively easy. On the other hand, most such smartphones rely on virtual on-screen keyboards that arent as conducive to extended periods of typing as actual buttons.
Smartphones with physical keyboards generally make for speedier, more precise and more comfortable typing, but the real estate they require necessitates smaller screens that typically arent touch-enabled.
A few smartphone models, like the Palm Pre and Motorola Droid, give you the best of both worlds a large touch screen and a slide out portrait (the Pre) or landscape (the Droid) keyboard often at the price of a slightly thicker phone.
Additional Smartphone Tips
Remember, we recommend that you choose a carrier before choosing a phone, but when considering a particular smartphone, be aware that many are exclusive albeit usually temporarily to specific carriers. The iPhone, currently available only on AT&T, is a good example.
Also, smartphones sold by carriers are typically built to an individual carriers specifications, so two seemingly similar devices from different carriers may have considerable differences; features available on one may be omitted (or at least rendered inactive) on another.
Also, AT&T and T-Mobiles networks use SIM-based GSM technology, which gives you the option to purchase an unlocked phone thats not on the carriers device menu. Be advised, though, that unlocked phones can be quite expensive since they lack the carriers price subsidy; the cost of subsidized phones usually ranges from $50 to $250, while an unlocked phone can easily cost $500 or more.
Smartphones represent a major investment, and its important to remember that the capabilities and costs ultimately have as much to do with the network as with the device itself. But they also can be important productivity tools, keeping remote employees in the loop and allowing them to get real work done from just about anywhere.
A Sampling of Smartphones
||Symbian||AT&T, T-Mobile (unlocked)||No/Yes|
|Palm Pre/Pre Plus||WebOS||Sprint, Verizon||Yes/Yes|
|BlackBerry Bold 9000||BlackBerry||AT&T||No/Yes|
|HTC Touch Pro 2||Windows Phone||Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile||Yes/Yes|
Joseph Moran is a veteran technology writer and co-author of Getting StartED with Windows 7, from Friends of ED.
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