Business | Technology

Smartphones galore this holiday season

Gulf News takes a look at some of the best smartphones in the market to help people narrow down their choices

  • By Naushad K. Cherrayil, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 19:36 December 24, 2012
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Supplied
  • The latest deal from Etisalat boosts residents' access to smartphone and one of the world's most advanced mobile networks.

Samsung Galaxy S III

Samsung Electronics flagship product – Galaxy S3 – is powered by 1.4GHz quad core Exynos processor and features 1GB of RAM.

The 4.8-inch, 1280 x 720 pixel, Super HD Amoled display is massive, sharp and bright.

The S3 ships with Android Jelly Bean operating system with Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface on top of it. It has a voice-recognition app which Samsung calls SVoice, which is the company’s challenger to Apple’s Siri.

Pop Up Play allows videos stored on the S III to play in a pop-up window (just like picture-in-picture on a TV) so you can watch a video and perform other tasks at the same time.

If you want to share photos with other Galaxy S III owners and let them keep the files, you have to use a different feature called Share Shot, which automatically distributes the photos you’re taking by sending them over WiFi to other S3 handsets on your WiFi network.

When you’re composing a text message on the S3 and then bring the phone close to your ear, it automatically dials the person you were messaging.

Samsung has added its own NFC sharing system called S Beam, which shares files when the two devices are tapped together, but it only works with Galaxy S III phones.

The Smart Stay uses the S3’s 1.9-megapixel front camera to detect when you’re looking at the phone or not. The rear shooter is a very capable 8-megapixel unit that’s paired with an LED flash.

It is priced at Dh2,399 for 16GB.

Pros

* Beautiful display

* Light and thin body

* S-Beam and Buddy Photo Share

* Decent battery life

* Eye-catching design

Cons

* Touchwiz software is half-baked

* S voice-control feature doesn’t work always well

* The body feels cheap and grabs prints

* Video Hub and Music Hub does not work

* Slick photo modes

 

Apple iPhone 5

The iPhone 5 is the thinnest and lightest iPhone ever, completely redesigned to feature a stunning new 4-inch Retina display.

The screen improvement is a real step forward at 1,136 x 640 pixels.

The Apple-designed A6 chip offers blistering speed at 1.2GHz that matches the best the opposition has to offer. The iPhone 5 continues to use a dual core processor as compared to other handsets in the market which are running on quad cores.

What works against the iPhone 5 is iOS6 which is now showing its age. The latest operating system has over 200 new features including: Shared Photo Streams, Facebook integration, all-new Maps app and Passbook organisation.

Apple has rolled out iOS 6.0.2 to select iPhone and iPad users. It will be available in the region after some time.

Users can’t share items to Dropbox without connecting up to iTunes or send files to your mates via Bluetooth. And then there’s the lack of NFC.

The LTE device also has a very good camera specs – 8MP on front and 1.2MP at the back capable of recording 1080p at 30 frames per second.

Apple Maps is a disaster. It does not have a turn-by-turn directions for the region. The recently launched Google Maps offers this facility for the region. Siri has also been updated providing more info on movies and sports. Price starts from Dh2,749 for 16GB, Dh3,199 for 32GB and Dh3,599 for 64GB.

Pros

• 4-inch IPS display

• Faster processor

• Blazing fast LTE service

• Great camera

• Good battery life

Cons

• Ageing operating system

• Lack of NFC

• Poor maps

• Highly priced

• Screen size needs to be bigger

 

Samsung Galaxy Note 2

The size of Galaxy Note 2 has gone up slightly from original Galaxy Note’s 5.3 inch to 5.5 inch and it now resembles a bigger S3.

It is powered by 1.6GHz quad-core Exynos chip and runs on Jelly Bean software. One big advantage is that Samsung has boosted its RAM to 2GB instead of 1GB in most handsets.

The 1,280 x 720 pixel resolution is actually lower than the 1,280 x 800 resolution of the original Note.

Most of the features in Note 2 are same as Galaxy S3 except the S-Pen. The Note 2 has a revamped and redesigned S-Pen. The stylus tip provides a little friction and feels like you’re writing on paper. The S-Note app pops up automatically once you remove the stylus from its dock.

Open the S-Planner app and you can hover the pen over an event to see more detailed information without touching the screen. There’s a similar preview feature in the email application.

Users will benefit from Airview, Quick Command and Easy Clip.

The Note 2 ships in with 16GB and 32GB. The Note 2 has a 8MP camera and a 1.9MP camera facing the front. It has got Best Photo, which identifies the best out of several taken in quick bursts, Face Detection, Panorama, Smile Detection and Buddy Share, which identifies commonly viewed friends and will even send them pictures featuring them. These features are also available on the S3.

The Galaxy Note 2 is priced at Dh2,699 for 16GB and Dh2,899 for 32GB.

Pros

• Fast processor

• Super screen quality

• Improved handwriting recognition

• S Pen is becoming legitimately useful

• Enormous battery

Cons

• S-Pen is complicated

• Slow camera shutter

• Size may be a barrier

• Scarcity of good stylus apps

• S Planner is a downgrade from default Calendar app

 

Nokia Lumia 920

Nokia’s new Windows phone - Lumia 920 - is big and heavy but the smooth and streamlined design sets it apart from other Windows phone in the market.

The 4.5-inch device runs on Microsoft’s latest operating software, Windows 8 and is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 processor at 1.5GHz.

The Lumia 920’s HD screen has a 1,280x768-pixel resolution with a pixel density of 332 pixels per inch. It looks and feels every bit the flagship part, with the polycarbonate unibody and the curved display working extremely well together.

This is the first capacitive touchscreen flagship to support operation with gloves. The screen can automatically brighten when you go outdoors in bright light, a move that does require a greater battery contribution. The phone tops out at 600 nits of luminance.

Using advanced floating lens technology, the 8.7MP Carl Zeiss-certified camera with LED flash is able to take in five times more light than competing smartphones without using flash, making it possible to capture clear, bright pictures and video indoors and at night. It has a 1.3MP front-facing camera.

It’s the first one to feature true Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) technology.

The Lumia 920 also comes with Nokia City Lens — giving a new dimension to augmented reality.

The advantage of Lumia 920 is the Nokia maps. Nokia Drive is the most useful, with turn-by-turn voice directions.

The great free voice-guided navigation with offline maps, the cool Nokia Music service, and the exclusive camera apps are actually good for more. It is priced at Dh2,499.

Pros

• Wireless charging

• Excellent camera

• Very high sensitive screen

• Nokia maps

• Nokia software enhancements

Cons

• Big and bulky

• Weak on apps

• Slippery body finish

• Battery life unpredictable

• Expensive

 

HTC One X

The flagship product from HTC - HTC One X - takes its place atop the pile as one of the best Android smartphone so far. The One X feels rather large but impressively slim.

One of the biggest draws to the One X is its massive, 4.7-inch, 1280x720-pixel glass capacitive display.

There are seven home screens you can customise and swipe between. Email conversations are threaded, and HTC’s rather nice clock and weather widgets also pop up a Google Earth-style globe for tracking time and weather around the world.

It is powered by Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor, clocking 1.7GHz speed, and runs on Android Jelly Bean along with HTC Sense 4, a lighter version of the company’s earlier user interface overlay that doesn’t mess with the built-in apps quite as much as before.

A nice feature is car mode, which displays a beautiful landscape home screen with large icons for easy access while behind the wheel. This includes free Google Maps navigation, as well as icons for making calls, streaming internet radio, and calling up music tracks stored on the phone.

The 8-megapixel auto-focus camera is pretty special. There’s also a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera that’s useful for video chats and self portraits.

Recorded videos looked sharp and colourful right up to 1080p (1920 by 1080-pixel) resolution.

Some might baulk at the lack of a microSD slot, but 64GB of built-in storage is plenty and you also get access to bonus 25GB of Dropbox storage free for two years. It is priced at Dh1,999.

Pros

• Elegant design and superb screen

• Some great camera features.

• Capture video and pictures at the same time

• First Tegra 3 processor.

• 25GB cloud storage facility

Cons

• Poor battery life

• Weak internal speaker

• Poor quality photos/videos in low light

• Lack of a microSD slot

 

HTC 8X

HTC has done a good job on the 8X design with its flat front, rounded edges and smooth curving back. It uses the same polycarbonate material used for the HTC One series. The rubbery finish is pleasant to the touch and aids grip.

HTC 8X runs the same core components as Nokia’s Lumia 920, namely a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor and 1GB of memory.

The HTC 8X sports a 4.3-inch Super LCD2 720x1280 pixel screen with a pixel density of 342ppi, which is higher than the iPhone 5 and the Nokia Lumia 920.

The phone is light at 130grams and has 16GB of internal storage and no microSD slot to expand memory further.

In terms of photography, the 8X is pretty decent but tough to beat the iPhone 5, the Galaxy Note 2, and the Lumia 920.

The 8X has an 8MP and a 2.1MP front-facing shooter but it does not have the 30 shots per second burst mode nor the panorama feature on HTC’s One X. The 2.1MP front camera is by far the best I’ve seen from a smartphone.

Video recording with 8X was the thing that impressed me the most. Even when shooting at the maximum 1080p resolution, there’s zero motion blur between frames.

The handset comes with Dr Dre’s Beats Audio technology, essentially an extra amplifier in the headphone jack that will work in all applications and built-in NFC connectivity.

It is priced at Dh1,999.

Pros

• Sleek design

• Excellent reception quality

• Bright and crisp screen

• Feels great to hold

• Upgraded audio hardware

Cons

• Battery life is on the short side

• No expandable memory slot

• Hardware buttons are shallow so it’s hard to feel the press

• Small screen size

• Weak camera features

 

Sony Xperia TX

Sony designs gorgeous-looking phones and Xperia TX is one of them. It has an arc-shaped back, thin strip of silver and mirror-like front.

It is powered by Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor at 1.5 GHz and runs on Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system while backed by 1GB of RAM. It is a shame that Sony is not launching it with Jelly Bean.

Running on top of Ice Cream Sandwich is Sony’s own Timescape UI, itself a very beautiful and navigable user interface.

The Xperia TX takes over from the Xperia S as the Japanese company’s new flagship device.

The 4.5-inch (1280x720) display, with a pixel density of 323ppi, uses Sony’s Bravia TV technology and on the back of the handset you’ll find the 13MP camera and a 1.3MP front-facing camera. But, indoors, the camera performs rather poorly. It weighs 127 grams.

The onscreen shutter button takes a while for the camera to focus before it finally snaps a picture.

The screen remains nice and bright even when used outdoors, especially with the brightness level cranked up to maximum.

There’s a tiny bit of lag when swiping between the homescreens. The TX comes with 16 GB of onboard storage and expandable up to 32 GB via microSD card.

Sony’s Walkman app is the Xperia TX’s stock music player. The app is simple and attractive, changing its background coluor depending on the album art you’re viewing.

The phone will be available this week and expected to be priced at more than Dh2,200.

Pros

• Arc-shaped design

• Excellent display

• Excellent sound quality

• Some nice UI features

• PlayStation Certified

Cons

• Average battery life and no 4G

• Dual core processor

• No Jelly Bean

• Plastic design feels cheap

• Small shutter lag

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