Smartphones have been in vogue for several years but in 2011 they really became the soul of the handset industry. Every vendor claims to have a smartphone portfolio that can be used by masses and classes. A few brands succeeded and a few are yet to shine through.
The craze for smartphones is reflected in the numbers. In the third quarter of 2011, IDC estimates that smartphone shipment to India market grew by 21.4 per cent, and Android overtook Symbian to emerge as the top platform in India.
A smartphone is defined by dual core processors, AMOLED screens, high definition video and camera quality, battery size, data storage capacity and apps. With enough computing power to handle most of the functionality of the typical information worker, a smartphone purchase is not an easy choice. What needs to be evaluated closely is the ease with which the user can manage email and multiple inboxes, use text messages to communicate, check the latest posts on social networking sites, search for important business news items and plan meetings on their smartphone.
SAMSUNG GALAXY SII
Best Buy price : Rs 30,100
The second generation Samsung Galaxy SII seems to have broken all sorts of records in 2011. It not only became a hot-favourite of reviewers across the globe but also managed to hold ground against Apple’s smartphones. It seems to be one of the most powerful and user-friendly Android phones
Features you need to notice
Samsung Galaxy SII is not a small phone (it has a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display), but is definitely slim (8.49 mm) and light (weighs about 116 g). Compared to 9.3 mm thickness of the Apple iPhone 4 and 8.7 mm of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, SII is simply anorexic. Anyone who has used or seen a SII will vouch that its screen resolution is the sharpest, with eye-popping colours that don’t fade when you look at the screen from an angle.
Samsung Galaxy SII boasts a 1.2GHz dual-core A9 processor that provides really fast performance without any delay. This is why the device sold 3 million units worldwide within the first 55 days of its release. The phone is also one of the first smartphones to support Android 2.3. The new OS is smooth, slick and when combined with the TouchWiz (user interface that Samsung put on top of Android OS) makes it an easy-to-use device.
Samsung Galaxy SII has an 8-megapixel camera with auto-focus and LED flash that takes photos at resolution of 3264x2448 pixels and 1080p videos at 30fps. Simply speaking, the results are very pleasing to the eye. During texting and email, a dual window view opens up (in landscape mode) and that makes it easier to search for a message, etc. As an added bonus Samsung also pre-installs Swype, an alternative keyboard that makes composing text easy and quick.
It should be your choice, if you want to own the ultimate multimedia mobile that is a very reliable replacement for a pocket camcorder.
Best Buy price : Rs 44,500
The iPhone 4S has disappointed a few when it came across as an upgrade to iPhone 4. But on closer look, the smartphone has a few aces up its sleeve. For starters, just about everything that matters on the inside of the new iPhone has been newly refreshed with a faster dual core A5 processor, upgraded camera, new version of iOS loaded with 200 new features and a digital assistant called “Siri” that exclusively runs on this new model
Features you need to notice
The 1GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor is much faster than the single-core processor of the original iPhone 4 and though it provides great graphical acceleration, it yields to the CPU of the Galaxy SII, in terms of performance. There is still the one concern — the glass back can easily shatter. The key attraction for iPhone 4S owners is that they can talk to their smartphone to write SMS messages, check for appointments and more. Siri does need a few tweaks and upgrades but it’s the first step toward an entirely hands-free approach for using smartphones.
Apple’s secret weapon is the services it packs on its platform. This includes support for Apple’s iTunes and App Store, as well as iCloud. For users who would like to video chat, they can do so via FaceTime with friends on other mobile products or Apple Macs. The iPhone 4S now has an 8-megapixel camera, just like the Galaxy SII, and improved optics, which the company claims, delivers point-and-shoot quality photos. The phone is also capable of handling 1080p video. Plus 4S also has a CMOS illuminated sensor, which is claimed to be 73 per cent more effective and about 30 per cent faster than before. With iPhone 4, competitors had to go back to the drawing board to think afresh. While the iPhone 4S is not a revolution, it surely has put Android and Windows Phone devices makers in a huddle trying to figure out how to outdo Apple’s latest offering.
It should be your choice, if you own the older iPhone 3G/3GS models. If you have always dreamed of talking to your phone and getting things done without moving your fingers, then iPhone 4S is your dream device.
Best Buy price : Rs 36,599
The Sensation XL is decidedly HTC’s most premium handset at the moment. While the 4.7-inch screen may make the phone too big for some users, it really helps when browsing the internet or watching movies
Features you need to notice
The handset weighs 163 gm thanks to its aluminum casing and glass front. But it is still a slim device at just 9.9 mm thick.
What would you do if you have an enormous 4.7 inch screen and a powerful 1.5 GHz single core processor? You would, of course, use it for hardcore multimedia usage. The user interface runs with excellent speed. Even while multitasking between apps, videos and browsing, there is no time lag. It is easy to type messages on the spacious keyboard. Phones with large displays usually ship with disproportionate battery power, but the HTC Sensation XL is equipped with a large 1600 mAh battery which is able to keep the phone running for up to seven hours (in 3G). It has an 8-megapixel camera with autofocus and also has an accompanied LED flash.
The XL’s advertised 16 GB of internal storage and lack of a memory card slot could be a problem for some. It does have HTC’s Sense interface, which improves on many Android functions, and HTC has promised an upgrade to Android 4.0 for the XL in early 2012. With built-in Beats audio technology it brings a whole new dimension to music playback on smartphones. According to HTC, when you plug the beats headset into the 3.5mm jack the phone automatically turns on the ‘beats audio experience’.
Should be your choice, if the idea of a big and comfortable display screen sounds appealing to you. It is not Samsung Note that blurs lines between tablet and phone but a device that is powered by a capable processor that has a lot of power for demanding users.
Best Buy price : Rs 33,990
With just 7.1mm thickness, the revamped Motorola Razr is truly a worthy successor to the original clamshell handset that sold more than 130 million units after it was launched in 2004
Features you need to notice
The phone is not this wafer thin size from top to bottom, a small section at the top around the camera is slightly thicker. It is also light at 127 gm, which is impressive for a smartphone with a large 4.3 inch super AMOLED screen. The device is not frail and Motorola has ensured this by internally strengthening with a stainless steel chassis that is further supplemented by its Kevlar fiber back cover for reinforcement, and water repellent nano-coating to absorb some levels of liquid splashes — though, it’s not completely waterproof.
It has a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor, an 8-megapixel camera that can record in full 1080p HD video, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage (plus micro slot for additional memory). The Razr takes reasonably good photos when everything is perfectly in order, but the slow autofocus and relatively poor low-light performance doesn’t make the task easy — especially not compared to the newer, faster cameras in phones like the iPhone 4S.
Running Android 2.3.5, the device also includes a new app called MotoCast that allows the device to stream or download content such as music, films or files from any computer in the world, so long as it is also using MotoCast. From launching applications, pinch-zooming and kinetic scrolling, the new Razr is pretty much spot on. Smart Actions is probably its main USP; this feature monitors the phone’s state and location and automatically adjusts settings and performs tasks (in background) accordingly. The possibilities range from launching the music player when headphones are plugged in, turning off Bluetooth and GPS when the device senses user has reached home (detected via GPS address) and thus preserve battery life. The overall app performance is great and the homescreens and menus fly around without any glitch. The thought of seeing the latest Android 4.0 version on Razr at some point in 2012 is quite exciting.
Should be your choice, if you would like to see the slimmest device in your hand. There is no disappointment as far as web browsing is concerned as it is blisteringly fast just like Samsung Galaxy SII
SONY ERICSSON XPERIA ARC S
Best Buy price : Rs 27,750
The problem with Android smartphones is that they sport similar designs. But Sony Ericsson Arc S is different. It’s an elegant slab of glossy black plastic encased within an eye-catching chrome frame.
Features you need to notice
Arc S rivals the Samsung Galaxy SII for skinniness, measuring 8.7 mm and weighing only 117 g. Despite having a 4.2-inch display; but it’s only half a centimeter wider than the iPhone 4/4S. The capacitive touchscreen is also massively responsive and makes typing emails less fiddly.
From the earlier 1GHz Arc, the latest Arc S sports 1.4GHz. However, this has a single-core processor, and hence may not attract those obsessed with dual-core. The Samsung Galaxy S II and HTC Sensation have set the trend towards dual-core chips, leaving the Xperia Arc S looking inadequate. Arc S has 512MB of RAM, Adreno 205 graphics and 320MB of internal storage, the latter of which is supplemented by a 8GB microSD card. Yet, processor-heavy tasks such as playing games or streaming video are seamless, with no noticeable lag. It looks like the Xperia Arc S’s CPU can handle pretty much anything you throw at it. While browsing webpages, users will see crisp text and a lot of detail - the screen really doesn’t disappoint.
The phone packs an 8.1-megapixel camera that uses a mobile version of the Exmor R backside-illuminated sensor found in the latest Sony Cyber-shot cameras, while the 4.2-inch display utilizes the same Bravia Engine technology found in the Sony HDTVs. The Arc S also brings the new features of 3D panoramic photos to the table. This allows you to take sweeping photos, which can then be exported as 3D images to 3D-enabled televisions. It should be your choice if you like to have a camera that you can show off. And since Sony Ericsson manages to keep its UI customisations to the minimum, it makes it easy for beginners to get used to Android OS.
OTHER PHONES THAT STAND OUT
We couldn’t help but notice the BlackBerry Bold 9900 and Nokia Lumia 800. They certainly have features that appeal to select users.
Nokia Lumia 800 marks the return of Nokia with a highly capable smartphone. It has a 3.7-inch clear black display, 8-megapixel camera and the latest Windows Phone operating system.
For those who have always used BlackBerry devices, it’s time to move to the Bold 9900 as this is as good as the ‘BlackBerry experience’ gets. The BlackBerry Bold 9900 uses a 1.2GHz, single-core Snapdragon CPU and has 768MB of memory along with 8GB of storage. The software works on the device without any imperceptible lag. It’s screen is touch sensitive, though one won’t use it much, but it is handy.