What Informs Your Phone Recommendations?

Posted by

What informs the phone you recommend for people?

An aunt of mine needed a phone. She saw a Lumia 520, liked it and asked for my opinion, I gave her a go-ahead. Today she is enjoying her phone, hardly having any reason to call me- the family tech support- for anything more than simple tasks. For someone who does just email, web browsing, telephony and basic instant messaging she is very happy with her phone.

Another older relative, male, got a Tecno H5, all he does is phone calls and SMS. He had a terrible time with the phone and reverted back to a trusty Nokia Torchlight phone after a few weeks of use. During this period I was called upon more times than I care to be. From minor niggles like the icons on the phone book and messaging app, to general UI navigation issues. Long story short, the poor man relegated the phone to bottom drawer material, bought a dumb dual SIM Nokia torchlight phone and has been happy with it.

These series of related events brought some things to my consideration. I used to think getting anything asides a smartphone is a massive waste of money because if you decide not to use the ‘smart parts’ of the phone, it will be available whenever you need them. Those that swear by Android (as the one-size-fits-all panacea to everyone’s mobile computing needs) also follow with similar logic.

My discovery is that for those who don’t need these ‘extra features’ they turn out to be more of a chafing than a prospective pleasant surprise waiting to be discovered. My point? If someone asks you for suggestions on getting a phone -as the de facto tech guru of the family or social group- (if you’re reading this site you’re probably one) there are several factors you should take into consideration before suggesting a phone/ platform to such a person, especially if you don’t want to be on a 24-hour tech support conversations that ends with, “shebi you are the one that told me the phone is good”.


We need to understand how the non-techy population think.

They don’t think, “Hey I just got this phone, lemme try a dozen pdf readers available in the app store and choose which is best and support all pdf standards”.

They think in terms of, “I just received this pdf in my email/from my office, let me click on it to open”, then they do that and read their pdf nothing more.

If a pdf reader is not available the problem ensues. The patient ones may visit the store and download the first pdf reader they see, the less patient ones will instantly get pissed . They get a video, they want to be able to play it instantly and expect everything to work without any complicated setup.

They will rather go through the path with little or no resistance to get their work done without fussing with things. They want their phones to work essentially the same way it has been working since the introduction of GSM.

This is where I think Android is problematic. Windows Phone and iOS will show you two big shiny buttons to tap and answer/ignore a call, while Android will ask you to swipe left or right. I had to specifically teach the Tecno owner how to pick or ignore a call, the Lumia owner didn’t need to be taught to tap a button. It was a nightmare navigating the dialer and phone menus of the Tecno as the icons aren’t intuitively designed or placed. The Lumia owner didn’t need a crash course on how to answer or make calls. Talking of the stock keyboards on both platforms, the disparity in the ease of use is great.

People, Budget, and Choices

Apart from budget, another important thing to note is that everybody has different uses for their devices, so its best you go with the unique criteria and peculiarities of the person. It saves you headaches later. For someone whose only requirement is phone calls and FM radio, they might not need a smartphone. Placing a Galaxy Note 4 in the hands of someone whose data usage doesn’t exceed email and occasional IM isn’t practical. I call it redundancy, because the person might not understand why he needs to be coughing up about N3000 or more for data on a monthly basis. Unless such a person wants an expensive device based on reasons other than productivity.

Lastly, after the phone is acquired, help them setup things for easier use of their phones. Help install essential apps, set defaults and take the person through a quick tutorial if possible. They’ll most likely adapt to your setup and never bother to make any adjustment until when needed, better than having them figure out complicated menus by themselves, making wrong choices, and having them needing to call you again and again.

Some might have contradictory views, prefer to get the ‘robust’ smartphones and have all the available features, whether they use it or not. This is good, but a balance needs to be struck between that and the frustration to be experienced in everyday usage. Balance is key here, Your view?

  1. Balance is always key.
    Help them upgrade a bit at a time.
    Give them a tutorial they can adapt to easily.
    Ask them ” what do you need the (smart)phone for?
    So that you don’t end up with the #ShebiYouSaidItWasGood.

    Ultimately, never recommend a device that has dumb battery.
    You’ll know no peace. 🙂

  2. No. 1 rule when recommending a phone to someone who isn’t techy – don’t go with your personal preference.

    Even if someone likes what they see on your phone, it doesn’t always translate to “this will work for me”.

    It’s never about you, it’s ALWAYS about what they want and what works for them.

  3. That’s a funny one Noni. If someone is going to be liking what they see on my phone and wanting similar for themselves, how can it be about what they want again and what works for them? If they know what they want and what works for them, they won’t be coming to me for advice, would they?

    On a serious note, for someone making a transition from a dumb phone to a smartphone, some tutorials and handholding are always going to be in other. The arguments presented in this article obviously tries hard enough to portray Android in a bad light but that’s hardly the truth of the matter going by general trend. I mean, North America are generally known to embrace things that are easy to user and adapt to but Windows Phone is performing woefully there showing that the ease of use presented in this article is more romantic than practical.

    I’ve seen a couple of people who are non-techy but adapted quite easily to Android and its approach to doing things and I’ve also seen knowledgeable people who have used smartphones from Nokia before they dumped Symbian and embrace Windows Phone being frustrated by the way Windows Phone handle common tasks or the lack of basic tasks too. I think at the end it boils down to what individuals consider better rather than what the author considers better.

    Things like forwarding emails by appending a like or attaching documents to emails or even copying snippets from other documents and sharing them with people via email, WhatsApp or other Social Networking services are basic enough for today’s world and we know how Windows Phone and iOS suck on those but of course the article didn’t mention them because the author believes that the common people can cope with the awkward way Windows Phone and iOS handle them. A whole bunch of issues that people have been complaining about Windows Phone weren’t touched at all here and the author still believes that Windows Phone is such a wonderful platform the gets the basics fixed. My understanding is that Windows Phone is only really getting useful and usable from Windows Phone 8.1.

    The fact remains that Android couldn’t have been performing so well ahead of Windows Phone if it wasn’t handling what people in general consider basic or important to them better than Windows Phone is doing.

  4. A well written article, Great kind Lord barrister. Lots of a Android fanboys love to insist that Android is the answer to everything mobile. That couldn’t be so far from the truth.

    The plan is to always get what fits your lifestyle. Or make relevant recommendations for people based on the specific scenario and not on your own very prejudices. ONE shouldn’t behave like a carpenter and look at all problems with a hammer.

    This is an apt article, Lord Saidiggie.

  5. WP is not perfect but I can asure you it will work for an average user. How do u feel when u recommend a Mobile Phone to someone and not a Laptop and asking them to download RAM cleaner, clearing background data every once in a while or risk there phone slowing to a craw ? And Antivirus?

    You might say Android has virus targeted at it bcos its popular part of that is true the other part is android nature which is Too Open for anything. Deep down you and I know that Android is a Geeky OS like Linux not everyone can manage it.

  6. @Harry, you of all people know how easy it is for the average user to like what someone else has, acquire it and never use it or claim it isn’t as good as you made it out to be.

    It’s possible for people to like what they see you using but it may not be suitable for them. And coming to ask my advice doesn’t mean I won’t contradict them nor myself at some point.

  7. Ultimately, never recommend a device that has dumb battery.
    You’ll know no peace. 🙂

    This, i wholeheartedly concur

  8. I think at the end it boils down to what individuals consider better rather than what the author considers better.

    Goood, so we are saying the same thing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *