2012 Smartphones: Specs That Matter
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2012 Smartphones: Specs That Matter
The multiple challenges of the real estate business compelled some practitioners to be among the earliest adopters of smartphones. As highly mobile specialists who spend the day out of the office doing things like studying their market area, meeting with clients, and farming, the perceived value of their services can depend on access to all relevant resources, no matter where they are. The smartphone, with its multiple capabilities, is built for exactly this situation.
All smartphones offer users voice calling, texting, e-mail, and instant messaging. However, those vital links are only as reliable as your cellular network, which can be the ultimate factor when you’re choosing your service provider, and, in turn, limit your choices either to the smartphones it offers or to unlocked phones that are compatible with its network. The best models take advantage of the faster voice and data speeds of new 4G (fourth-generation) networks. But beyond these functions, these handsets also must be evaluated as handheld computers. The operating system determines which software apps run on that phone.
Real estate requires some special tools; whether you put together a neighborhood tour, create a floor plan, or calculate a mortgage, explore the available real estate apps for all the phones you’re considering. Also check with vendors of computer software you rely on to see what smartphone platforms they support, or if a “cloud” version — which stores data online rather than on your PC, making it available everywhere — has been optimized for mobile handsets. This preliminary research will alert you to all you can do with a smartphone, and may help narrow your selection to a particular OS.
Just as you’d evaluate a desktop or notebook PC to make sure it could run your software, similar specs matter here. The phone’s type of processor and its speed, amount of RAM, and storage options all affect performance. Some of the newest smartphones feature dual-core — or even quad-core — processors rated 1.2GHz or better, comparable to laptops just a few years ago in their ability to crunch data. Some models can also serve as mobile hotspots, letting you connect your other hardware online anywhere.
Except for handsets that include a true mini-QWERTY keyboard, the touchscreen is where you’ll interact with your smartphone. Screen size (measured diagonally) should be considered along with screen type and resolution. However, when it comes to smartphones, bigger isn’t always better: Advances like AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) displays or Apple’s “retina display” deliver stunning clarity that somewhat compensates for the smartphone’s small view. The largest screens may be convenient, but they can add bulk and drain battery power.
Over the last year, smartphones have really started to come into their own as digital cameras and camcorders. They’re not yet fully viable alternatives to true cameras — lens optics remains the biggest challenge — but you may find a new smartphone good enough for basic photo/video tour needs and sending images to clients from the field.
In fact, many smartphones now boast two cameras: a front-facing webcam adjacent to the screen for video chats and a higher-resolution, rear-facing camera for photos and video. On new smartphones, a 5 megapixel sensor now seems the minimum standard. On the video side, look for HD recording rated at least 720p, but preferably 1080p. Step-up camera features include an LED flash, the ability to set the lens aperture, and an optical or digital zoom.
Packing all this functionality into a handset imposes some real engineering challenges. While there’s a certain “look” now common to most smartphones, designs vary widely by model and maker. It’s imperative to actually try several smartphones before settling on one. Some may feel like a brick in your hand. You’ll be best served with a multifunction handset that’s comfortable to use, and one you can conveniently slip into your pocket or purse until needed.
With the right smartphone, you may decide to leave your computer, navigation system, or digital camera behind. Whether it becomes the one device always at hand or the latest addition to your mobile toolbox, you should have one. For real estate in 2012, the smartphone is an essential.