Every so often — really, about once every few weeks — someone asks me for advice on buying an Android smartphone. It’s been this way with BlackBerry devices for years. If you write about something, people you know will come to you for first-hand advice. With BlackBerry it was easy. Everything was relatively straight forward, so once you got to know the basics of what they wanted, you could give advice without quarrel. Android, however, is a completely different game. There are so many devices on so many carriers that you can spend weeks trying to pare down the choices. Yet there are two issues that constantly stymie me when researching what Android would fit what person.
With BlackBerry, this was relatively easy. There are only so many BlackBerrydevices released every year, and we usually have a good idea of what’s coming out when well before it happens. If someone asked me about whichBlackBerry to get, I’d ask them which carrier they used and make sure to not the new models and when they’d come out. With Android, though, it’s a completely different story. There are not only tons of models already available for each carrier, but there’s always a long list of coming-soon models.
This is what the internet has brought us. We know about dozens of upcoming Android models, and we can usually get an approximation of when they’ll be released. That’s one big factor to consider when recommending someone an Android smartphone. For instance, when the Thunderbolt hit, I had a bunch of people asking if it is the one they should get. Well, yeah, it’s a fast and powerful device, but the Droid Charge was coming not too far behind it. So do you want to jump in with the Thunderbolt, or wait a month and a half for something you might like better?
Which, of course, brings up the most frustrating question of all: when is it time to stop waiting and just get what’s available?
The first issue about upcoming devices was raised multiple times this weekend. I went to a wedding, and plenty of people asked for my opinion on what device they should get. I had to be careful with how deep to go on the upcoming devices, because that can get confusing. Hell, it confuses me most of the time. The second issue, though, came about when I was browsing Phandroid today and saw that AT&T dropped the price of the Motorola Atrix to $99 (as well as the price of the laptop dock). Imagine if I recommended the Atrix to someone this weekend, and AT&T dropped the price next week. I’d have felt terrible if someone bought it before that.
It’s almost impossible to predict when an Android device will come down in price. They all will, of course; that’s the nature of modern technology. Prices go down, because 1) demand has leveled off, and 2) they need to make room for the new models. Sometimes that happens after a month, and sometimes it can take a quarter or longer. There are instances where we get advanced word via a leaked document, but even then it’s usually just a couple of days ahead of the actual news.
As a general rule of thumb, if I recommend holding off on getting a handset if you don’t get it within the first eight weeks it is released. After that point a price reduction becomes much more likely. For instance, we’re about at that point with the Thunderbolt, so I’d have a hard time recommending it to someone. Who knows, maybe it won’t see a price reduction for another six months. But it’s getting to the point where it could happen. I’d absolutely hate to buy one today, only to see it drop in price two weeks later.
This isn’t to say I won’t recommend Android devices. I always do, since I truly believe in the platform. But despite all its awesomeness, there are definite issues with Android and picking a new handset. It’s one issue I really hope works itself out somehow as the platform further develops.