Smartphones may not always be the smart option. And if you’re not a smartphone user today, it’s probably out of choice—basic Android handsets cost as little as a feature phone today, so price is clearly not the only deciding factor.
Many users just want a phone to make and take calls, possibly take photos and listen to music. If they can also check their mail on it, surf the Web and post to Facebook, well, that’s a bonus.
A low-end smartphone isn’t a solution; most tend to have a poor user experience. If what you really want is something simple with extra features, and you’re not tech-savvy, then you’re not alone—and there are some feature-rich phones that fit the bill today.
Rajat Agrawal, Delhi-based executive editor (India) of technology news website BGR.in, says smartphones make up a small percentage of phone sales in India, and also a small percentage of the phones used for social networking, email and Web browsing (the tasks typically associated with smartphones). He says, “Less than 20% of all phones sold this year will be smartphones. For the rest, the term I’d use is ‘smart enough’. And the feedback I’m getting from the industry is that over half of all users for services like chatting, music downloads and social media use these smart-enough phones.”
So what are your options in the smart-enough category? Read on to find out:
Sony Ericsson Fengli txt pro CK15i
The txt pro has a slide-out qwerty keyboard hidden under the screen which is comfortable to use, and excellent battery life. It comes with Facebook and Twitter integration, push email and a Web browser. There’s also an accelerometer for screen auto rotation, and built-in TrackID, which can identify a song after listening to it for a few seconds. Aside from the built-in functions, users can also enhance their experience with the phone by downloading Java applications, using either their computer or the phone directly. The lack of an app store is a bit of a drawback—you can find a lot of programs on the Internet but there is little feedback on the quality. However, sites such as www.getjar.com have been cataloguing these apps for years, so it isn’t as much of a setback as you might think.
Since the screen uses capacitive touch technology, the experience is very smooth. In fact, some cheaper Android phones are still using resistive touch, so the experience can actually be better on the txt pro than it is on some bare-bones Android phones. The txt pro is relatively expensive, but offers a great experience.
Samsung Champ Deluxe Duos C3312
Samsung’s Champ budget phones have a user-friendly interface and good build-quality for the price. The phone has Samsung’s custom ChatOn software for chatting and file sharing. Resistive touch technology (designed ideally for a stylus) does get in the way of a smooth experience at times though. It has a good media player, and supports Web browsing and push email. It has the worst camera among these phones, which might be a deal-breaker.
The phone uses a resistive touch screen but the touch experience is all right. If you like the Samsung TouchWiz interface and also want to use the ChatOn software (if your friends are already on it) but aren’t willing to use a resistive screen, you’re out of luck—the range only uses resistive screens, though with the small screen size, the greater accuracy of resistive technology isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
At first glance, the X78 seems like the best budget feature phone with a good-enough camera, a touch screen and a qwerty keyboard, but the maximum expandable storage of 8 GB is really limited when compared with the other phones. The camera is not bad for the price though, and the keyboard makes the email experience much better too. You can add Java games and apps, but without an app store, you need to find and download them yourself.
At this price, the phones have resistive touch screens, which are a little harder to use than a capacitive screen, and the experience on the X78 does have shortcomings. Luckily for users, the keyboard is pretty solid. Since it is a vertical slider, it gets a little cramped, but the keys feel reasonably tough. The X78 is certainly not the best of both worlds, but it offers a worthy compromise.
Karbonn Gamester K3000
The K3000 has a mediocre touch experience, but gives users all the other features they need—push email, Opera Mini for Web browsing, music and video playback, and built-in apps for Facebook, Twitter, Nimbuzz, ‘Angry Birds’ and K-Zone, where Karbonn users can download games.
The phone is the most basic device on the list, and the camera is not very good. On the plus side, its expandable storage goes up to 32 GB, which is pretty good for the price, and means that you can have a lot of songs and games loaded on the phone.
Karbonn has also created an app store, called the K-Zone, for Java applications. While Java applications are not hard to find, the K-Zone is a good idea from Karbonn because it makes it easier to find apps that have been tested to work with your handset, something which is not always guaranteed when you are downloading the applications from the Internet instead.
Nokia Asha 311
The Asha range includes sliders, and touch and type phones as well, but the Asha 311 is the best in the line-up. Sporting a capacitive screen, the user experience is definitely very good, but the real advantage comes from the bundle of services Nokia has put together for the phone: Aside from the browser and Facebook and Twitter apps, Nokia has its own services as well.
Nokia Maps by itself is worth the price —it’s one of the best map services in India at present, with detailed maps of even small towns. Aside from that, Nokia Music gives Nokia users access to a huge library of songs that can be downloaded for free. Once downloaded, the user doesn’t have to consume data to listen to the music. Also interesting is the Nokia Nearby app—it shows points of interest, such as ATMs or restaurants near your location, on the map. This is something you’d take for granted on a smartphone, but to see it executed well at this price is impressive.