Tips for Smart Cellphone Use

7Cellphones are increasingly full-blown handheld computers, and everything that can be done on the Web via computer – photo-sharing, Web browsing, game playing, tune-swapping, real-time text or video chat, and (oh yeah) talking – can be done on a phone. Here are some basic ideas for keeping mobile phone use safe and constructive:

Share with care. Use the same good sense about what you post from your phone as from a computer. Once they’re posted, text, photos, and video are tough to take back, can be copied and pasted elsewhere, and are up there pretty much forever. Think about the people in them (including you!). Reputations are at stake.

Phones are personal. Letting other people use your phone when you’re not around is like letting them have the password to your social network profile. They can impersonate you, which gives them the power to mess with your reputation and relationships. Lock your phone when you’re not using it, and use strong and unique passwords for all your apps.

Keep it kind. Because people socialize on cellphones as much as online, cyberbullying can be mobile too. Treat people on phones and the Web the way you would in person, and the risk of being bullied goes down. Be aware, too, of people randomly taking pictures at parties, in locker rooms, etc. – you may not want to be tagged in their social-network photo albums!

Sexting: The vast majority of kids are smart and don’t take, send, or post or even store nude photos of themselves or peers on their phones. People who do so can be charged with production, distribution, or possession of child pornography, a serious crime. They can also be subjected to jokes, bullying, blackmail, expulsion from school, loss of a job, etc. and the images can circulate forever. Just don’t go there.

The value of presence. If you do a lot of texting, consider the impact that being “elsewhere” might be having on the people around you. Your presence during meals, at parties, in the car, etc. is not only polite, it’s a sign of respect and appreciated.

Know what your apps know. Pay attention to any permissions apps request as you install them. If an app asks to access your location, contact list, calendar or messages or to post to your social networking services, consider if the app really needs that information to function. When in doubt, consider withholding permission or not using that app.

Mobile phones buying advice

3Mobile phones can be divided into two categories: feature phones, which offer basic phone functionality and simple features such as Java games; and smartphones, which are in essence handheld call-making computers with internet access.
When choosing a smartphone, the choice of platform can be as important as the hardware specifications of the handset (see ‘Platform’, below). Like desktop PCs, the choice of platform will dictate ease of use, security, and choice of applications – ‘apps’ – that will be available for the phone.
Wireless connectivity: all phones have elementary wireless connectivity, if only for voice calls and SMS. For usable wireless data connections you’ll need at least EDGE (‘2.5G’) technology. But most wireless data today relies on 3G technology.
Confusingly, 3G data standards can be labelled UMTS, HSDPA, HSUPA; the latter two variants are sometimes known together as HSPA.

In urban Britain, you can expect 3G to provide at least 1Mb/s download connectivity, which is sufficient for easy web browsing. Beware of claims for 7Mb/s or 14Mb/s downloads – you’ll be lucky to see 5Mb/s under even ideal conditions, whatever the technology or commercial network.
Wi-Fi connectivity is ubiquitous in smartphones, all to 802.11b/g standard; many now to 11n specification.

Bluetooth was developed for mobile phones, and is useful for, for example, connecting a hands-free earpiece. Look out for the A2DP version of Bluetooth which allows stereo audio and better quality sound than with older Bluetooth connections.
The latest Bluetooth is v3.0 but most devices still get by fine with v2.0 or v2.1, often accompanied by Enhanced Data Rate (EDR) technology.
Display: since the original Apple iPhone, most smartphones now rely on capacitive touch-screen technology, with virtual buttons to press in place of real keys.
Older resistive technology is still found on the cheapest handsets but best avoided – it requires more pressure to activate and often mandates a stylus. Most phones now use capacitive touchscreen tech, and the best have multi-touch control, with natural gestures such as swiping and pinch-to-zoom facilitating simple control.
When looking for a smartphone, aim for a high resolution display to reduce pixellation of on-screen text – 320 x 480 can be considered a minimum for a 3.5in display, for example.
Instead of traditional LCD screen technology, some phones use AMOLED displays which offer more saturated colour but can be less easy to view in sunlight.
Battery life: like early ’90s GSM phones that barely lasted one day on a single charge, smartphone battery life is still short. The better smartphones now run two days or more between charges with intermittent calls and data use, and up to a week in standby.
Processor: all smartphones regardless of brand or platform use a processor licensed from British company ARM Holdings. These ARM chips take many forms, with clock speeds from around 400MHz to 1GHz, and are predominantly single-core designs. Memory helps keep the phone faster; expect upwards of 256MB.
Like a PC, backing up this processor will be a graphics processor to render on-screen animations and power games and video playback.
Storage: some smartphones are built with plenty of NAND flash storage on-board; others expect you to use a card such as microSD to store your media and other files. If you’re going to use your phone for music or video playback, you’ll need at least 8GB storage.
Camera: every self-respecting smartphone has a stills camera, and it’s usually enabled for video recording as well.