What You Should Know Before buying Your Next Mobile Device

Posted on Jun 27 2014 - 8:40am by John Terra

Mobile Phone

When you stop and take a look around, you’ll notice that there’s a lot of electronic devices out there, with more added every day. There’s laptops (or notebooks, if you prefer), e-readers, smart phones, and tablets. But wait! There’s more! Each of those types of electronics have a plethora of brand names, operating systems (iOS and Android, for instance), and even configurations that are geared for particular functions (such as games-oriented systems).

Now, most of us have only so much money to spend on things like electronics, mostly because all of those pesky other things that require money, like food, shelter, insurance, and most importantly, your Internet access. Sure, sometimes you’ll see kids who have a tablet, laptop, and a smart phone, but more often than not, mommy or daddy is shelling out for those nice toys (not to mention paying for phone access and data plans!). The rest of us are on our own, and need to make some hard decisions. Let’s take a look at each of the four electronics types and see what they bring to the table.


We start with the venerable (relatively speaking) laptop. Of the four devices, it’s the largest and bulkiest, and though it is indeed portable, it’s the least so in terms of weight and bulk. But if your idea of mobility is a device that you can use in any room in your house and not so much outside the house, then laptops are for you. Laptops by virtue of their size have more functionality, easier to upgrade, and if you really long for the days of your desktop, you can always hook up a keyboard and monitor to it, and voila! If you’re intimidated by the complexity of a laptop (after all, something which can do a lot usually has a greater degree of sophistication to it), “laptop terminology explained” will go a long way towards establishing computer savvy and therefore more confidence. And incidentally, there’s nothing like a laptop to make you look self-important in a trendy coffee shop.

Smart Phones

Let’s go from the oldest device to the most common. Smart phones, for better or worse, are everywhere. Their upsides include portability, multiple functions including cameras, GPS, and of course, they are in fact an actual telephone! On the downside, they don’t have as many functions as a laptop, their small keypads can be frustrating to work with, and there’s no guarantee that your particular phone’s operating system will have all of the apps you want (nothing is as frustrating as to learn that the app for your favorite tv show is available for the iOS, and you have Android!). But if all you want is a way to stay in touch with people, whether by voice or text, and perhaps run a few apps like getting directions or looking up a restaurant, then go with the smart phone.


The existence of tablets is one of the big reasons why Windows 8 was designed the way it was. This means we should all hate tablets right now and curse their very existence.

Okay, just kidding! Mostly. Tablets are smaller and lighter than laptops, and thus are more portable. The screen reacts to a finger or stylus, offering a greater degree of control than what a mouse or trackball can provide. You can put your music and pictures on a tablet, and use it as an e-reader. However, the tablet’s screen is fragile and requires careful handling, something which may come into play if it’s carried around a lot. Tablets are best suited for light, casual web-surfing, and not very good for gaming. But if you want something for light Internet use and access to your media, then go with the tablet.


We save the device that can do the least for last. E-readers are used to read electronic books, and that’s about it. If you like to store dozens of books on one light, portable device, and have them with you wherever you go, then get an e-reader. But don’t expect to do anything else but read; no web surfing, no games, nothing. Of course, if you enjoy the tactile sensation of turning pages and the smell of a new book, then just give this one a pass, though for the record, the e-reader does have its share of fans.

How To Make Your E-Dollar Go Further

When you consider purchasing an electronic device, consider the following factors:
“Obsolete” Versions: When a new version of an electronic device comes out, every techno geek wants it. That means that the older models still out there can be obtained for a lower price in most instances. Look for deals when the newer models come out. So if you don’t have to have the absolutely latest technology, then this is a perfect solution. Of course, if you don’t want to dedicate time and effort in keeping track of new releases, there’s another option.

Refurbished Devices: Speaking of older models, what do you think happens to those devices that the consumer who must have the latest and the greatest no longer want? A lot of them are part of exchange programs or buybacks, and then taken, reconditioned, and resold. You can find some fantastic bargains this way, and if you go through the actual manufacturers, you’ll get a device that’s been rebuilt using the correct brand name parts, and usually with a limited warranty and/or trial period.

All In All…

Your choice of device comes down to one simple question: why do you want this product? You don’t want to buy more device than you need. But bear this in mind: the personal computer made the typewriter obsolete. The laptop/notebook computers are undermining the personal computer’s dominance. But now, the smart phone is cutting into the laptops’ popularity. Whatever you choose, choose wisely.

About the Author

John Terra has been a freelance writer since 1985. He's still in denial about being in his late 50's, but the free donuts for AARP members help mitigate this somewhat.