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Cost is an important consideration when comparing netbooks and smart phones. The cheapest Apple iPhone 3G, which requires a two year contract with AT&T, will cost you $1779.75 US over the two years. Unsubsidized Nexus One smartphones running Google Android cost $529 US up front, and will also require the purchase of an expensive monthly phone plan that will make the long term cost comparable. If you want to use your phone more, you will have to pay for more data.
In contrast, as of 2010, netbooks can be had for less than $300 US, and no monthly subscription is required. If you want to use your netbook in locations with no local WiFi networks but available cellular service, you can buy a 3G laptop stick from many cellular providers and access the Internet over the cell phone data network. While this also entails a monthly fee, it's not required to use your netbook.
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How portable a device do you need? If you're a backpacker that just needs to access maps, email, and websites; and needs the most compact device possible, a smartphone may make more sense than a laptop. These cell phones allow very portable access to many common services. You can get directions, watch YouTube videos, stream music, and text chat with your friends all on one device that fits in your pocket.
However, if you're a person that does not need this level of portability, you may want to consider a laptop. Netbooks are significantly cheaper than smartphones, and if you usually need to access the Internet in locations with WiFi and don't mind a bit of extra weight and space taken up, this is probably the better choice.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Kmetz
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Content Creation vs. Consumption
The Achilles' heel of the cell phone is that it still does not allow for content creation in the same way that a laptop does. If you need to edit images, video, or audio, smartphones are not the way to go. Most importantly, if you need to do a lot of typing on your computing device, this is the most compelling argument in favor of the laptop for most people. A smartphone may be serviceable for taking a few quick notes and doing minor edits on a few documents, but the lack of a full size keyboard and screen makes writing longer documents extremely cumbersome and slow.
Of course, if you're a person that doesn't need to do content creation or editing, and is more fond of the ability to quickly access maps, directions, and information from websites on the go, a smartphone may fit you the best.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ASUS