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Finding the perfect new phone

Finding the perfect new phone
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First Published: Fri, Sep 30 2011. 07 50 PM IST

Something for everyone: The new smartphone market is varied, and new phones are being made to appeal to new audiences.
Something for everyone: The new smartphone market is varied, and new phones are being made to appeal to new audiences.
Updated: Fri, Sep 30 2011. 07 50 PM IST
Three powerful new phones launched recently by HTC, Sony and RIM (BlackBerry) are all powered by Qualcomm chips. The similarities end there. Each device is unique and will appeal to very different people—which one is right for you?
Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
For the compulsive cameraman and social sharer; price, Rs 18,995
Something for everyone: The new smartphone market is varied, and new phones are being made to appeal to new audiences.
The Sony Xperia ray is tiny—it’s the first thing you’ll notice. It has a 3.3-inch screen with a widescreen ratio, making it almost too small to hold for men. The phone also weighs only 100g, yet packs in an 8.1 megapixel camera, with 16x digital zoom, scene detection for autofocus and smile recognition.
A built-in app called Xperia Timescape displays feeds from Twitter and Facebook, can share pictures and make updates on both, making the ray ideal for social network fanatics, who love to take pictures.
With a one-touch interface that goes from taking a picture to sharing it online, the ray was clearly built with sharing in mind, but has enough features to be a good entry point to high-end smartphones.
Though the screen is really too small to watch movies on, the ray does have a high-quality screen, based on Sony’s Bravia LCD technology, and the small screen looks incredibly sharp.
Clearly, the camera is the strongest point of the phone and it works really well for the most part, but there are some quibbles—there is little fine control with the digital zoom, making small adjustments difficult, and the camera really struggles in low-light conditions. The flash can also be set to run continuously, as a torch for steady lighting, but while this makes a difference, it’s often not enough.
The ray has a 1GHz processor that handles all apps and widgets with ease, but the only caveat is the battery life—the claimed 7 hours never came through, and charging the phone in the morning and then again in the evening was necessary.
The phone is affordable, small and unobtrusive, so if the battery life isn’t a big issue, then it’s a great phone for people in love with Twitter and Facebook.
HTC EVO 3D
For the early adopter, who needs something unique even if it’s not fully polished; price, Rs 35,990.
HTC phones have a strong pedigree and the EVO 3D has the typical HTC design and specifications—there is an enormous qHD 4.3-inch screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio beaten only by the Samsung Super AMOLED display, and most users won’t be able to tell the difference.
It’s also a powerful phone, and can easily handle all the latest Android applications.
What really sets the EVO 3D apart, though, is the 3D camera, and a glasses-free 3D display. The camera dominates the look of the phone—those twin lenses are attention grabbers.
Users must keep their head directly in line with the phone, a whole arm’s length away, to get the 3D effect—not a natural pose at all. While the display itself works well in 3D, maintaining the correct angle and distance to watch a movie is not so easy.
The 3D still and video camera works excellently, and taking nice 3D pictures is a breeze, but composing good shots has the same problem of focus. Unfortunately, the camera is not so good in 2D mode, and can’t match up to the quality of other phones that cost about the same.
The price of the phone is a reflection of the 3D capabilities, other similar phones from HTC being almost Rs 10,000 cheaper.
So this phone is only right for the early adopter, who needs a 3D camera and player before anyone else in the neighbourhood.
BlackBerry Torch 9810
For the enterprise user, anyone who’s serious about productivity; price, Rs 29,990
The new BlackBerry Torch is a significant update over the previous model, but everything that happens takes place below the surface. As a result, the phone has a bulky profile, a solid body, and the under-the-hood changes mean that the phone is now good for more than just creating a PowerPoint deck while you’re supposedly on holiday.
All new BB7 devices use a “Liquid Graphics” touch-screen technology, and unlike the earlier BlackBerry touch screens, the new screens are responsive, matching the best of Android or iOS. The slider is a solid one, and the keyboard comes out with a satisfying click. The OS update also brings terrific battery life improvements.
A 1.2 GHz CPU with 768 MB RAM help power the improved display and touch screen, a sign that Research In Motion (RIM) is taking the competition seriously. RIM has also completely upgraded the built-in BlackBerry browser, and what was once the fatal flaw of the device—Web browsing—is now handled smoothly, a lot of lessons having been learnt from the experience with the PlayBook.
On the other hand, the camera is fairly typical of BlackBerry, and it’s not going to keep anyone happy for long. The other real issue with the device is that cosmetically, OS7 looks and feels a lot like OS6, despite the huge overhaul.
The “home” screen is not a proper home screen the way it is on an Android device or the iPhone—you can’t install widgets, or create folders easily.
Smartphones have moved outside the business set and the new Blackberry is trying hard to make something for everyone. The new phone does handle media and browsing well, but it’s not enough.
For BlackBerry loyalists who want to work on the go, this is an excellent phone, but it doesn’t offer any of the style or the app experience that Android and iOS devices deliver. The solid keyboard and heavy build scream business, and that’s what the phone is good for.
gopal.s@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Sep 30 2011. 07 50 PM IST