The mobile world is full of choices as summarized in the following platform lists (names in parentheses are hardware vendors). Remember, "One size does not fit all" in the portable computing world. Smartphone Platforms 1. iPhone (Apple) 2. Android (Samsung, HTC, Motorola, etc.) 3. Windows Phone (Nokia, HTC, etc.) Worldwide smartphone shipments are approximately 85% Android, 14% iPhone and 1% Windows. Tablet Platforms 1. iPad (Apple) 2. Android (Samsung, Acer, Amazon, etc.) 3. Windows 10 (Samsung, Microsoft, Dell, etc.) Laptop Platforms 1. Windows (HP, Dell, Lenovo, Acer, etc. etc.) 2. Mac (Apple) 3. Chromebook (Samsung, Acer) Smartphones Vs. Tablets The major differences are phone-ability and portability. Smartphones are telephones; tablets are not, and like any cellphone, most people have their smartphones nearby at all times. Tablets do virtually everything a smartphone does except make voice calls via a cellular carrier. However, Skype and other phone apps can make voice calls over the Internet. See smartphone features, smartphone operating system and tablet computer. Figure Out Your Storage Requirement One of the best things about smartphones and tablets is that they can be used as a portable media album, holding thousands of photos and hundreds of videos. Although they all have built-in storage, many devices have an SD Card slot for more. If you plan on taking a lot of pictures or videos, compute your storage requirements carefully. If your device does not accept additional storage, be sure to buy the unit with the built-in space you will need later. See SD Card. Wi-Fi Vs. Cellular All mobile devices have Wi-Fi, which requires a hotspot for Internet access. Since smartphones are cellphones, they can access the Internet in any location a cellphone call can be made. For data access (e-mail, Web, etc.), users typically use Wi-Fi at home or in a free hotspot and employ the cellular network when a hotspot is not available (switching is automatic). Most tablet vendors offer an extra-cost model with cellular capability in addition to Wi-Fi. However, if the tablet has Wi-Fi only, a Wi-Fi hotspot can be generated on the road with a portable device or smartphone (see cellular hotspot). What's a Phablet? A phablet (phone-tablet) is a smartphone with a 5" to 6" screen. Although bulkier, the larger screen and keyboard are more comfortable for Web surfing and other activities. See phablet. Tablets Vs. Laptops The differences are weight, battery and keyboard. Tablets weigh one to two pounds; laptops two to four. The thinnest, lightest laptops are the MacBook Air and the many models of Windows Ultrabooks. See Ultrabook and laptop. Models vary but the charge in a tablet battery can last up to three times as long as a laptop. For touch typists, nothing beats typing on a high-quality laptop keyboard. Tablets offer an on-screen touch keyboard that can become tiresome, and the external keyboards integrated into the cover of the tablet vary greatly in typing quality. Windows Vs. Mac For decades, the personal computer world has been Windows versus Mac. The single advantage of Windows is the huge variety of desktop and laptop models over a wide price range. Software is written for Windows first and Mac second. The Mac advantage is the consistency of its user interface without dramatic changes in operation in each new version. In addition, utilities such as routine backup and migrating an old Mac to a new one are built in and easy to use. The Mac is also more resistant to viruses than Windows. However, no platform is impenetrable; as the Mac gains market share, it becomes more of a target. The Chromebook Laptop Google's Chromebook is a relatively new and low cost (USD $200-250) laptop computer that uses the Internet for everything. Essentially a Web browser that stores all your data on Google servers, an online connection is required most of the time. For Web surfing and e-mail, the Chromebook is a viable alternative, and high-end Chromebooks are also available for enthusiasts (see Chromebook Pixel). See Chromebook. Compatibility When you purchase a mobile device, you have chosen a specific platform that determines which apps you can run and which online app store you go to for free and paid downloads (see online app store). For example, you cannot run an Apple app (an iOS app) in an Android device and vice versa. While essential apps are available for all platforms, there is often a favorite app that runs on one platform but not another. For a comparison of app compatibility among mobile devices, see mobile compatibility. Windows Tablets Windows tablets, starting with Windows 8, are the only tablets that run all the programs that work in Windows PCs. However, Windows tablets have the same battery life as an Ultrabook, generally no more than four to six hours under heavy use. Earlier Windows RT tablets had longer battery life, but they did not run legacy Windows programs; only RT programs from the Windows app store. Nevertheless, Windows RT is now obsolete. Starting with Windows 8, Microsoft popularized the detachable laptop with a screen that becomes a tablet (see hybrid laptop). Another variant is the 2-in-1: a laptop that folds into a tablet (see convertible laptop). What to Buy and How Much Smartphones can be free or up to USD $300 with a data plan contract. They sell outright from $250 to $800. Monthly fees range from $25 to $90 and more. For people who want an emergency-only phone, pay-as-you-go plans are based on prepaid minutes and bytes of data transfer. Tablets come in a wide range from USD $130 to $1,000 and more. If cellular service is used, fees range from $10 to $40 per month. For the novice, the iPhone and iPad are the most consistent and friendly, especially in the U.S., where Apple has a higher user ratio, and more people know how to use it (you always need help). In addition, Apple support by phone and in the store is usually excellent. See iPhone and iPad. Android phones and tablets are very popular and come in a huge variety of models from numerous vendors (Samsung, Motorola, LG, HTC, etc.), but the differences can be confusing. This also means one Android user may not be able to help a friend with a different Android device (remember, you always need help). Nevertheless, the variety of features has made Android the best-selling smartphone worldwide. See Android, phablet and Android fragmentation. Windows Phones are innovative and easy to use, but because they have a very small market share, there are fewer friends who can help you figure something out. See Windows Phone. For the user who works exclusively with Windows applications and needs portability, a Window laptop or tablet is a no brainer (Windows tablets are Windows PCs in tablet form). See Surface tablet, hybrid laptop and convertible laptop.