Question: I’m sure I am the last person to buy a smartphone. But I want to get one to keep in touch with my daughter and family. At the momen, I have a ‘basic’ mobile phone but I don’t use it much. It’s a Nokia phone. I’m non-technical and I’m in my seventies but I hope that there’s something suitable for a beginner like me.
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First of all, put most of your concern out of your mind. It’s a very good time for a person of 70 or older to be switching on to a smartphone for the first time – almost all of today’s models have larger, brighter screens, meaning it’s much easier to see messages, text and images.
Moreover, the interfaces they use are gradually becoming simpler and more robust. It’s harder than it used to be to ‘break’ anything by pushing the wrong button.
You don’t say what type of phone your daughter or family use, but that might be important for the model you end up choosing. So I’ll say something about this before I get into a possible smartphone model to pick.
As you may know, there are two main different types of smartphone systems. One is Apple’s iPhone and the other is Google’s Android. The iPhone is the only smartphone system that uses Apple’s proprietary iOS software, whereas almost every other brand (Samsung, Huawei, Sony and others) uses Google’s smartphone system, called Android.
In most ways, the two smartphone systems are quite similar. They’re both touchscreen-based and they both mostly depend on the same apps, like Facebook or Whatsapp. But there is one key difference between the two.
On iPhones, people often use Apple’s proprietary messaging and calling systems, called iMessage and FaceTime.
For example, if both you and your daughter have an iPhone, it’s usually more convenient (and sometimes cheaper) to call or text from iPhone to iPhone using these systems.
This is because both iMessage and FaceTime don’t use up call minutes or texts from your operator. They’re all online.
(And when I say ‘online’, I mean either using your home wifi (from Eir or Sky or Virgin or whoever your home internet provider is) or your mobile ‘data allowance’, which is the amount of online usage you’re allowed each month.)
This doesn’t happen between iPhones and Android phones. Instead, you either use the normal texting and calling system or you download and use a system like Whatsapp (which is owned by Facebook and is free to use).
That’s what many Android phone users do, although it’s not automatic, like iMessage is.
There are other differences, but they’re mostly to do with shortcuts in getting around the phone, such as adjusting settings or saving a photo to your phone.
You’re going to face one or two other initial challenges when you get your first smartphone.
The first one is your sim card. Almost all new phones now take what’s known as a ‘nano’ sim card. This is probably smaller than the one in your current Nokia phone.
You can either get your operator to give you a new sim card in the correct shape and size or you can have a phone shop ‘cut out’ the central bit of your old sim card (the copper bit that looks like circuitry) so that it matches the size and shape of your new phone’s ‘nano sim’ slot. They usually do this for free.
Next there is your smartphone ‘account’. If you get a Samsung phone (or any other phone that uses the Android interface), you will need a Google account to download apps. It’s possible you already have one of these. If you have a Gmail account, you have a Google account: it’s the exact same login and password.
If you don’t, setting one up is quite painless (and free).
It’s a somewhat similar process for an iPhone. You’ll need to set up an ‘Apple ID’. This is relatively easy, although you will need a working email address. (If you don’t have one, get someone to help set one up on a computer. Gmail, which is free, is probably the easiest one to use.)
Then there are your phone contacts. If you’re like most people, many of these will be stored on your SIM card, while some might be on your physical phone.
The easiest way to transfer them is to go into your Nokia phone’s ‘contacts’ setting, choose ‘options’, ‘settings’, ‘contacts to display’ and switch the ‘tick’ from ‘sim’ to ‘phone’. Then reverse back to ‘contacts’ and now you’ll see only the contacts stored on your phone. You can now copy them onto your SIM card by choosing ‘options’, ‘mark all’, ‘options’ again and ‘copy’. Then select ‘sim memory’ – they should now be copied and ready to be transferred to your new smartphone.
Finally, the phone itself. For a good, straightforward, affordable, user-friendly beginner model, I’d go for a Nokia 4.2 (€179), Samsung Galaxy A50 (€329) or iPhone 7 (€479). If you wait a few weeks, the iPhone will be around €100 cheaper.
Recommendation: Samsung Galaxy A50 (€329 from PC World)
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