Buying Tech

Buying technology is a big step, that is important to get right first time. Make sure the item meets your needs, today, and plan for tomorrow (for example if you just do basic surfing, emails and store photos then you may be able to get away with a low specification device. However if tomorrow or next month you decide you want to do photo editing, then your low specification device may struggle).

Before buying do your homework and research what’s available and what will fit both your requirements and your budget.

Buying a computer

There are many different types of computers you may have heard of, such as desktopslaptops, and tablets. But before you start shopping, you’ll need to think carefully about the kinds of things you want to do with your computer.

For example, if you only need something for email and light web browsing, you’ll probably buy a very different computer from someone who does a lot of video editing or PC gaming. You should also think about where you want to use your computer because it will have a big impact on the type you buy.

Once you’ve decided on the type of computer you want, you’ll need to start thinking about how much money you want to spend. This is probably one of the more confusing things about buying a computer, and that’s because you’ll find options across a wide range of prices—from as low as £250 to well over £1,000.

These prices are based mostly on the internal components of the computer, such as the amount of hard-drive space, memory, processing power, and so on, which are called the specifications (or specs for short). These internal components are also a big part of the reason computers can become outdated or obsolete after only a few years. As manufacturers continue to create faster processors and larger hard drives, a computer that costs £1,000 today might only cost £500 in a few years.

So, very generally, I recommend spending between £300-£800 on a new computer, depending on your needs and budget. And if you really don’t have much to spend, I’d still suggest buying a machine with even slightly higher specs than the absolute cheapest model. A computer with more hard drive space, more memory, and faster processors will be a much better deal in the long run.

So far, I’ve been mostly talking about computers that run the Windows operating system, which is the most common OS for PCs. But in addition to tablets and smartphones like the iPad and iPhone, Apple sells desktop and laptop computers, which use the OS X operating system.

They’re well-made machines, but they’re also very expensive, especially compared to some of the computers above. Because they don’t use Windows, you probably won’t be able to install any existing Windows software you already own. And because even the cheapest Apple laptop will cost at least £1,000 new, I’d only recommend purchasing an Apple computer if it’s well within your budget. In most scenarios a high specification, lower priced, Windows PC will do mostly the same tasks as a Mac.

If you’re trying to save money, you might consider buying a used or refurbished computer instead of a new one. Refurbished computers are machines that originally had some kind of defect but that have been restored to working condition; they’re often available with the same internal components as new machines, but for much less money. Just make sure the seller offers some kind of warranty so you can return the computer if it doesn’t work.

You can also buy previously used computers, but you’ll want to be cautious when doing so. Whether you’re buying it from a friend or a site like eBay, it’s much more difficult to guarantee everything will be in good working condition. And it’s even less likely you’ll get your money back if it stops working.

One other thing to note: If you’re buying a computer that’s already a few years old, just remember that it will probably go out of date much sooner than a new machine. If you decide to buy used, I’d only recommend buying a used machine that’s less than two years old and still in good working condition.

Laptop or Tablet

Tablets are simple and easy to use, tablets don’t tend to need the same level of updates or maintenance as a laptop (though they do need a level of this).

Tablets are useful for emails, browsing, social media, movies, ebooks. If you intend to do a lot of typing on a tablet, be aware that the keyboard and keys are generally smaller than on a laptop and so you may experience a level of discomfort after a while (this is true of any keyboard, but as I say the keys on a tablet are smaller).

You can print from a tablet, but it can be more of a chore than on a laptop, you can’t burn a  CD/DVD nor store as many files/music/picture on the actual device due to restrictions on drive space on the actual device itself.

Laptops cannot compete with tablets for portability or battery life (though usage will effect battery life). 

Laptops can be an alternative to a main computer and do have a level of portability. There is more storage on a laptop.

If you already have a desktop computer, then a tablet may be enough for you. 

When to decide to buy a new computer

Maybe you recently tried to upload a photo from your camera or download new software and received a message saying that the storage on your device is full. If so, you may want to try clearing your computer of any unused files or programs. If you still don’t have enough room after clearing out as much as possible, you might need a new computer to get more space.

Does your computer take forever to boot up? Can you type an entire sentence before it appears on the screen? Similar to being out of space, some slowness can be solved by clearing your computer of unused files. If you still can’t do what you want in a timely manner, you may want to upgrade to a computer with a faster processing speed.

Does your computer make strange or loud noises? There are several reasons your computer might make these noises, some of which are fairly minor. These might include a dusty fan or crackling speakers, which can be easily fixed.

However, some problems can be more serious, such as your hard drive dying. Although you can replace a hard drive, it might be worth buying a new computer, especially if your computer is very old.

Some of these problems can be solved by replacing parts or running a program or seeking help from a professional. However, there may come a time when it costs more to fix than replace the device.

In addition, replacing or fixing your computer may not be a permanent solution. Some fixes are only temporary patches, and some replacement parts may be more difficult to find as your computer gets older.

Buying a SmartPhone

Whether you’re thinking about purchasing your first smartphone or just upgrading from an older model, you might feel overwhelmed shopping for a new smartphone. With so many options to choose from, it’s difficult to know if you’re getting the right phone at the right price.

A smartphone is a more powerful version of a regular cell phone. In addition to the same basic features, including phone calls, voicemail, and text messaging, smartphones can connect to the Internet over a cellular network. This means you can use a smartphone for the same things you would normally do on a computer, such as checking your email, browsing online, or shopping.

Wireless providers will require you to pay a monthly fee, usually called a data plan, to access the Internet with a smartphone over their cellular network.

Most smartphones use a touch-sensitive screen, meaning there isn’t a physical keyboard on the device. Instead, you’ll type on a virtual keyboard and use your fingers to interact with the display. Other standard features include a high-quality digital camera and the ability to play digital music and video files. For many users, a smartphone can actually replace things like an old laptop, digital music player, and digital camera in the same device.

Even if you know you want a smartphone, it can be challenging to know where to start. There are different smartphones to choose from, such as a Apple iPhone or an Android phone (Android is an operating system devised by Google).

What is an iPhone?

The iPhone is a smartphone from Apple, which also produces the Mac line of computers. The iPhone is available in a few different models, starting at £420 and going up to over a thousand pounds. It’s powered by the iOS operating system, which is also used by Apple’s iPad and iPod Touch devices (though recently the operating system for the iPad was changed to be specific for the iPad – Irrespective of this the majority of the devices operations feature remain the same).

What is Android?

Unlike the iPhone, which is only available in a few different models, there are hundreds of Android devices to choose from. This is because Android is not one specific smartphone. It’s actually an operating system designed by Google. Many different companies make devices that are powered by the Android operating system, including Samsung, Google, LG, and Motorola.

Each of these manufacturers produces different Android smartphones, each with their own custom hardware and features. As a result, Android smartphones are available in a much wider range of prices than the iPhone, starting as low as £100 for an entry-level device.

Android or iPhone?

Should you get iPhone or an Android? If you try searching for advice on this topic, you’ll find no shortage of opinions on both sides; iPhones and Android phones have strong groups of supporters, and most people place themselves firmly on one side or another. There are definite advantages and disadvantages with either option, so let’s take a look at some of the biggest factors you should consider.

Affordability

In terms of cost, the iPhone simply can’t compete with Android models. If you don’t want to spend more than £200 to £300 on a smartphone, you’ll want to choose Android over iPhone.

Unfortunately, the actual cost of a smartphone may not be immediately obvious. For example, your wireless carrier may offer certain smartphones for free if you sign a two-year contract, or allow you to spread the cost across small installments instead of one single payment. Regardless of how you pay, an iPhone will almost always be more expensive than an Android smartphone.

Support

Because the iPhone is produced by one company instead of several manufacturers, it’s often easier to get answers and help directly from Apple’s customer support. By contrast, most Android phones work a bit differently from one another depending on the manufacturer and wireless provider you choose, which can make it more difficult to know where to look for help.

If you’re worried that you’ll need a lot of extra help once you get started, you might consider choosing an iPhone over an Android (if your budget allows).

Apps and app stores

Both iPhone and Android allow you to download applications, which are commonly known as apps, to add extra functionality to your smartphone. The Play Store for Android and the App Store for iPhone provide a huge selection of apps for you to download. Although some apps are available exclusively for one platform, most are available on both. Unless there’s a specific app you want that’s only available on one device, this shouldn’t be a significant factor in your decision.

However, if you already have another device that uses Android or iOS, such as a tablet computer, you might want to consider purchasing a smartphone that runs the same operating system. This way, you’ll be able to install any apps you’ve purchased on both devices.

Customisation

Android smartphones allow for a lot more customisation than iPhones. Whereas the iPhone offers a few customization options (like your phone’s wallpaper and ringtone), Android allows you to change just about everything on your device, including themes, notification widgets, and default applications.

For some users, this might not be a very important distinction. But if you want to have more control over the way you’ll use your device, I’d recommend choosing an Android over an iPhone.

System Updates

Remember how I said before that Android and iPhone use different operating systems? Like desktop and laptop computers, these operating systems are updated just about every year. These updates usually include new and useful features, as well as security upgrades.

But upgrading an Android phone to the latest version can be pretty hit and miss. In many cases, it actually depends on when your wireless provider decides to push the update to your device, or the phone manufacturer decides it’s worth updating the phone. By contrast, the iPhone can be updated as soon as updates are available, regardless of your wireless carrier. Devices produced by Samsung, Google and a few others do usually get the latest updates for two years from device release.

You should note that there’s nothing especially bad or dangerous about using a slightly older version of your phone’s operating system. But if you know that you always like to use the latest software as soon as it’s available, you might consider choosing an iPhone over an Android (if your budget allows).

Tablet Buying

Whether you’re thinking about buying your first tablet or just upgrading from an older model, purchasing a new tablet can feel overwhelming. With so many options to choose from, it can be difficult to know if you’re getting the right device for the right price.

If you’re thinking about replacing an older computer, a tablet might be a good alternative to a traditional desktop or laptop. A tablet is similar to a laptop, but with a few important differences. For example, tablets are usually lighter and more portable than laptops, but they offer less storage and fewer connection ports.

Another important distinction is that most tablets do not include a keyboard; instead, they have a touch-sensitive screen, which means you’ll use your fingers, or a rubber tipped probe, to interact with the display and type on a virtual keyboard. It might be easiest to think of tablets as just a larger version of a smartphone; with the exception of phone calls, tablets work basically the same way as most modern smartphones.

Buying a tablet: What to consider

The type of tablet you buy will depend on your budget and your needs. Let’s take a look at some of the most important factors to consider when buying a tablet.

Screen size

Tablets are available in different sizes and are divided into three basic categories:

  • Small: 7-9 inches
  • Medium: 9-11 inches
  • Large: 12 inches or larger

Generally speaking, the larger the screen size, the more expensive the device. Tablets with larger screens also tend to be more powerful, but they’re also heavier than smaller tablets. The screen size you choose will likely be a matter of personal preference, but it should also be influenced by how you plan to use the device.

Entertainment or productivity?

Even though smaller tablets aren’t as powerful as regular laptops, their compact size makes them good for simple tasks, like checking your email, browsing online, playing games, and streaming online videos. However, if you want your tablet to replace your laptop for tasks like creating long documents or editing photos, you may need the extra screen space and processing power of a larger tablet.

Apps

Another important difference between tablets and regular computers is that most tablets use a mobile operating system, like iOS or Android. This means tablets can’t run desktop software you might already own for a Windows PC or Mac computer.

However, if you already have a smartphone that uses Android or iOS, you might want to consider purchasing a tablet that runs the same operating system. This way, you’ll already be familiar with the way your tablet works, and you’ll also be able to install many of the apps you’ve already purchased on both devices.

Product Lifecycle

Irrespective of what device you decide to buy, you do need to consider whether the device manufacturers are releasing a newer model soon, or when support for the model you are buying will end. When a device is released the manufacturer will only plan to support it for a distinc period of time – The Lifecycle.

Why is this important for you?

At this point, you might be thinking: So what? I don’t care about fancy new features. I just want something that works!

Well, let’s imagine you just bought a new smartphone. A few weeks later, you hear a new version has been released. The new one has a lot of features your phone doesn’t, and it costs the same amount. Even worse, they lowered the price of the phone you just bought by £100!

It definitely requires a bit of extra work, but knowing when to buy something can save you a lot of money and potential frustration. And figuring out the best time to buy isn’t as complicated as it sounds.

How to research product lifecycles

There are a lot of ways to research the likelihood of a new product release. The best way to start is probably to search the Web for new [product name] release date. In the example below, I’m searching for information about the likely release date of the newest iPhone:

searcing for information about the newest iPhone

Once you have a good idea of a probable release date, you’ll need to weigh your options. Does the newer model have features you really want? How long would you have to wait for the new model to be released? Is another model likely to become cheaper anytime soon? If you’re having trouble making a decision, you might consider making a pros-and-cons list for each product you’re considering. You can then make a decision based on cost, features, and availability.