Read this , if you are looking to buy an Android phone!

Over the past one month, five people have asked me, “What’s an Android phone? I have to buy a new phone, you think it would be a good idea to try out an Android ?” The surge in numbers of phones with Google’s Android operating system has generated a lot of talk, but many aren’t clear what it is and whether they actually need an Android phone.

The rule of thumb when going for any gadget is: what do I need it for? The question should be increasingly asked, more so now, when the market has a huge variety of models with confusing permutations and combinations of specifications.

If you are using the phone merely to text and call, and if you hate GPRS, you don’t need an Android, which is a smart phone (as different from the simple feature phone). Instead of worrying about Android or any other OS, you could look at the keypad or voice clarity or price or design. What make Android phones attractive are the applications. If you are an app freak, go for Android. And there are tens of thousands of them in the Android Market — anything from breaking news and cricket scores to astrological forecasts and currency converters. There are also those that help you see stars and planets . And, if you are shy of popping that all-important question to your partner, well, there’s an app for that too.

Don’t other phones like Nokia, iPhone and BlackBerry have apps? Yes, they do. But not the variety and numbers that Android offers. Why? Mainly because Android is an Open Source platform, meaning app developers in any part of the world can write the codes to develop the apps, and put them on the Android Market.

Nokia has lately woken up to the app power, and is proactively forming a vibrant developer community. If you are a fan of Google products, like Gmail, Picasa, Blogger, Calendar, Reader etc, then too it makes sense to go for Android. The phone contacts , for example, get synced with Gmail contacts; and serve as a good back-up.

Even if you are only texting and calling, an Android smart phone can significantly enhance user experience. There’s , for example , Gesture Search that lets you quickly find a contact, a bookmark, an application or a music track on your device by drawing on the screen. There’s the translator app that can work as an interpreter if you are in a new place where you don’t understand the local language.

Android phones are available for a wide price range, from as low as Rs 4,000 to as high as Rs 35,000. The low-priced ones, with minimum features may be good enough for basic functions. If you are aiming at using a number of apps then you will have to loosen the purse strings a bit. So, do I need an Android phone? Well, it’s the same old question : What do I need the phone for?