Your smartphone is often the gadget you're closest to every day, from your nightstand in the morning, your desk at work, your pocket or purse on a night out, and then keeping you entertained when you're on your way back home again. One size doesn't fit all: you wouldn't wear the exact same clothes as your parents, siblings, friends and colleagues, so why should your smartphone be any different? T-Mobile has a choice of eleven 4G Android smartphones (more if you count the different colors) spanning a range of screen sizes, physical design and a choice of on-screen or slide-out QWERTY keyboards.
This post has been sponsored by T-Mobile USA
Throughout the line-up there are some key consistencies. All of the devices have access to the Android Market, Google's rapidly-growing download store of apps for business, social networking, gaming and more. All prize multitasking, allowing you to leap between apps with just a few taps. And all have a core suite of basic functionality, including email, messaging, internet browsing, music and video playback, and comprehensive mapping with straightforward navigation support.
From there it's a case of picking your phone to suit your lifestyle. Those prizing portability might opt for a more compact display, for a handset that slips unnoticed into a pocket or purse. Those keen on gaming, mobile video or ebook reading might choose one of the super-sized screens on offer, up to 4.52-inches in fact with the Samsung Galaxy S II, and more than an inch more than an iPhone offers. Those keen on photography can find high-resolution cameras with Full HD video recording.
Even Adobe may have sworn off Flash for mobile, but until HTML5 takes over it's still a mainstay of the web. Android devices are set up to handle both, with Flash and HTML5 support in the browser: that's more sites, more games, more streaming multimedia you can see on your phone today, rather than waiting for the rest of the tech world to catch up tomorrow. Finally, Office-compatible apps for business mean you can satisfy the work world and sate your gaming and multimedia needs on the same handset.
When you're balancing performance and your budget, choice is vital. T-Mobile offers multiple combinations of individual and family plans, with a range of minutes, texts and data bundles to pick from depending on how you - and your family -use your phones. Want to make calls in the cheapest way? T-Mobile offers a 500 minute individual talk plan for $34.99 a month, if you already have your own unlocked phone to slot the carrier's SIM inside; doubling the minutes with two SIMs to share in your family takes that to $49.98 a month. There's also an "unlimited" plan with two lines at $49.99 per line for unlimited data, talk and text.
Most smartphone users want data, and T-Mobile offers up to 10GB of its 4G access per month. Thanks to the modular talk and data options, those who want to focus on getting online while on the move but don't make many calls aren't forced to pay for unlimited talk. Even if you do opt for no limits on talk and texts, T-Mobile's classic 2GB data plan (with unlimited talk and unlimited texts) is $15 cheaper than an iPhone plan on AT&T and $20 cheaper than Verizon. A two-line family plan with unlimited talk and text, and 2GB of data, is $15 cheaper than AT&T and $10 cheaper than Verizon.
If you don't already have a phone to use, T-Mobile will happily offer you one from their extensive Android line-up. There are two options: picking a phone and a value plan, or picking a subsidized handset and a regular plan. You can get the Samsung Galaxy S II for $529.99 for instance, with the upfront price meaning you're not seeing the cost of your phone adding to your monthly value plan spend. If you'd prefer not to pay so much upfront, T-Mobile offers 4G Android phones from free with a new agreement, though the monthly plans are more expensive.
Speed of smartphones, speed of data: Android on T-Mobile just keeps accelerating. Dual-core processors in Android smartphones have already hit 1.5GHz, and higher speeds are in sight. Faster chips mean smoother browsing, more immersive, console-like gaming, and desktop-levels of flexibility. Handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S II and HTC Amaze 4G support MHL-HDMI display output and Bluetooth peripherals like a full-sized keyboard, allowing you to set up an impromptu mobile office with the big-screen TV in your hotel room.
A phone is only as good as the network it's on, though, and T-Mobile's 4G network is the largest in the US. Coverage is only half of it, though: it's also fast. T-Mobile HSPA+ is now capable of up to 42Mbps theoretical speeds, which means real-world 20Mbps downloads and 8Mbps uploads on compatible smartphones. That's faster than many home and office fixed broadband connections. And, where rival networks have demanded new devices - with a serious thirst for battery life - to suit their attempts at 4G, HSPA+ on T-Mobile has been a more evolutionary roll-out with devices still managing to last all day.