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Who needs an Android phone? People searching for an Android phone

Google recently placed a tongue-in-cheek print ad in Canada’s Globe and Mail with a simple message. It asked, “you know who needs a haircut?,” and answered, “people searching for a haircut.” While the message here is that Google’s web ads are a more efficient and targeted way to market your business (not to mention an ironic jab at what some say is a dying print media industry), it got us thinking about the ways people are learning about products such as smartphones and subsequently making purchasing decisions.

In the past those looking for a new mobile device had one option: go directly to the carrier and pick from a small selection of devices locked to their network. While carrier contracts still rule the mobile world, recent years have seen an explosion in the number of third-party retailers offering to set you up with a new phone. Instead of walking into a carrier-branded store and choosing from a few handsets, we can now surf Amazon from the comfort of our homes and compare smartphones across carriers, ultimately picking the device and service plan that makes the most sense (often at price cheaper than what you might pay Verizon or AT&T directly).

It’s not quite what Google envisioned when they attempted to turn the mobile market on its head with the introduction of the Nexus One, at first available only as an unlocked device sold at full price direct from the tech giant, but it’s a move in the right direction. A lack of customer support and inexperience in the area led Google to abandon the plan, but more recently the company has had success selling their Nexus 7 tablet from the Google Play Store, and all signs point to the trend continuing with future Nexus devices.

There still exists a need for customers to experience these devices hands-on, so perhaps Google’s internet-only sales policy still needs some tweaking. Then again, there are plenty of folks out there relying on the opinions and reviews of industry experts and bloggers that often get early access and hands-on time with devices. An unboxing video doesn’t give you a real feel for that Nexus 7 you are thinking about purchasing, but for some it is enough. In this respect, carrier stores won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, nor will retailers such as RadioShack and Best Buy that offer the same hands-on experience with a wider selection of handsets.

I suppose the point I am arriving at is that customers are far more empowered today in making a decision on their next smartphone than ever before. No longer must you settle for the Android phone your preferred carrier sells. The choices have been expanded, phone and tablet options are plentiful, and deals abound if you know where to look. The carriers and their service plans still lag behind in this way, but if you are searching for an Android phone, you can find the best one for you.

Aside from the retail level there is an entire culture that has sprung up around smartphones, and its roots are in the strong community of developers and enthusiasts, tech industry insiders and analysts, and the blogs and news sites we read on a daily basis. Not only do we have more options, but we are far better informed on these options than ever before. The start of your journey to purchase a new phone is just a Google search away.

So that brings me to my ultimate question: how has the way you shop for a phone today changed since perhaps you purchased your first Android phone? And do you think we’re moving in the right direction? Sound off below (the poll is multiple choice, so feel free to pick more than one option).

 




  • https://plus.google.com/102290060063255149992 Alek Tritt

    I always bought my unlocked phones on eBay before Android (sidekicks), the only thing that’s changed is the online store I use.

  • jayray78

    Being with Verizon (and a company plan) my choices are limited in the hardware department. Unlocked is out. Second hand phones through eBay or full priced from the retailers are options that I have entertained. I’ll never give up my unlimited data plan, so an upgrade is out of the question. I’m just hoping and waiting that the next Nexus is offered through the play store with a Verizon variant.

    • Edwin M

      I’m right there with you. I’m locked in until 2014 and I have unlimited too. Once the contract is up, I’m doing ebay or full retail for my next phone. I’m not giving up unlimited 4g.

  • Josh Flowers

    was on VZW for nearly 11 years, then left three days ago for an unlocked GSM GNEX (via Play store) with T-Mo $30/mo plan.
    what’s changed since i first signed up for my first phone? my expectation of updates interrupted by carriers.

  • RitishOemraw

    my first phone I got as a present, so I never knew anything about it, besides what I saw on tv ads (though I didn’t know I was gonna own one myself)

    And the first hands-on time I had with my Nexus One and Galaxy Nexus was when I unboxed them. Have had some hands-on time with other phones in stores, but still think the nexii were the best ones for me. So while I like hands-on time before making a purchase it is not mandatory for me. Those nexii were the best money I ever spend!

    EDIT: And since I still have an unlimited data plan and nexus phones get released for my carrier very late, I buy them unlocked and just extend my contract with no new device.

  • bedwa

    Mostly online, preferably unlocked or unlockable. Still in a contract from a few years that will end in Oct, but happy with my service. With ATT at the moment, will never buy branded again. When I can pay $10 for unless data and use it unthrottled, why buy anything else?

    My first android was an N1. Over 10 devices later, I’ve come full circle to a G-Nex. The software has gotten better, the hardware is 110% better, but what’s changed the most is the increase of good developers. Its increased exponentially.

  • bmg314

    I’ve always bought or phones on contact, then every five months or so I would sell my phone and use that money top buy another outright (that worked on my carrier, of course).

    However, with what I have been reading about prepaid, I’m finding it’s not just for those who could not get post paid contracts anymore. So, going forward, I highly doubt I will be signing another contact, instead I will be sticking with Nexus phones, with a possible non Nexus here and there if something catches my eye and the next Nexus isn’t due for several months. ;)

  • tomn1ce

    I do my research online along with a hands on in the store for the device I’m looking to buy…That’s how I got my OG Droid on Nov 2009 (1st smartphone for me). Last December I was debating over the Droid Razr and the G-Nexus. Didn’t pull the trigger until vzw finally released the G-Nexus and I was able to compare both phones and of course I picked the G-Nexus. My main phone I usually buy it at the carrier branded store and phones to use on my vacation I get them online. But going forward to keep my unlimited on vzw I will be paying full price for the device but not from vzw. They can stick the share everything plan where the sun doesn’t shine.

  • Jeremy Mundell

    Well, I think this site would attract the people who research through blogs anyway…

  • http://claimid.com/155/ 155

    Google has to be internet only. You’ll never convince the stores to sell the Google device without service, when they can get an enormous commission selling it with service.

    Why would a store shoot themselves in the foot?

    It’d be like a doctor or dentist charging medicare less than the full reimbursement rate and saying that’s too expensive. No one is silly enough to leave that money on the table.

  • DarrenR

    My current phone (is outdated upgrade in november) I got some hands on with at a Walmart, did a bunch of research online and drove an hour to an AT&T store to buy it.

  • Mike in NJ

    In my area, Verizon is the only carrier with a reliable signal. It doesn’t make sense to buy a phone from anyone else but Verizon because there’s no reduction in the cost of service for not taking the subsidized price. They really should reduce the cost of the plan for people not buying a subsidized phone. I just added a line for my daughter, and got her a free Galaxy Nexus. She could have used my old Droid 3 if there was some benefit to me for not accepting the $600 discount on the phone.

  • anywherehome

    no
    who needs iOS device? nobody
    who needs the best phone with democracy? everyone needs Android ;)

  • ionekoa

    I wanted to read this article, I really did, but I was blinded by the hi-gloss chrome on that dudes head. wow.. it is SHINY