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Which is the smartest?

Which is the smartest?
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First Published: Wed, Jul 23 2008. 08 43 AM IST

Updated: Wed, Jul 23 2008. 08 43 AM IST
Motorola Rokr E8
Price: Rs15,455
The E8 is a music phone. The keypad looks like it. A feather-touch, circular touch “wheel” dominates the phone—as in an iPod, you can glide through menus and music lists at the flick of a finger. This is especially handy when your music runs into several GBs and navigating by clicks is just too cumbersome. The best part: The more you move your finger toward the periphery of the circle, the faster you scroll through selections.
The innovations don’t stop there—the keypad is devoid of push keys. Instead, it’s a plain smooth surface with little bumps that indicate the location of each numeral. Touch one and the phone registers that a key was pressed, giving itself a mild shake as acknowledgement. This haptic key system also changes as you pick different options. When you type a message, the entire keypad lights up to show you the location of each letter. Move to music, and only the relevant keys—play, pause, next and back—stay visible on the surface.
Most important, the sound quality of the phone is excellent.
Unfortunately, for people looking for video functions rather than audio, the E8 has very little to offer. For starters, the screen is very small, making it inadequate for viewing videos or even pictures. The camera, at 2 megapixel, won’t get you very good shots.
But it is connectivity—or rather the lack of it—that lets this phone down: It isn’t Wi-Fi enabled. Besides, since the touch “wheel” isn’t a full circle, it leaves most people feeling a tad disoriented. But hey, if it’s audio you want, then it doesn’t get any better than this.
LG KF600
Price: Rs14,900
Ever since the iPhone unveiled its all-screen, one-button design, phone manufacturers have been trying to remove as many buttons as they can. With the KF600, LG goes a step further—adding a second screen. The main screen displays menus, pictures, videos; the second is a touch screen—with every menu selection, the lower screen shows options specific to the application. Unlike earlier phones that tried this, the KF600 touch screen gives you an extremely smooth experience, making navigation as easy as sliding your fingers over the phone. It does come with a stylus, but most selections can be done with the fingers (even intricate ones, such as character recognition for SMSes).
Plus, the KF600 comes with a 3 megapixel camera, a flash and several options to help you click good, vibrant pictures. The phone also has a document viewer that works for most Word documents and PDFs. Unfortunately, it lacks an editor—you cannot create new documents or edit existing ones. The phone incorporates several connectivity options, from GPRS for surfing to A2DP for listening to music on wireless headphones.
However, LG seems to have missed a few details. Although the music player lets you select equalizer settings, you can’t customize them. This, coupled with a max volume that is barely a whimper, makes the music player fall far behind the competition. Worse, battery backup fails after just two hours of calling and surfing.
Asus P320
Price: Rs12,900
The P320 is the runt of the smartphone family—it’s tiny, has no keys and simply doesn’t live up to the bulky-as-a-brick image this segment carries. What’s truly amazing is that there isn’t a smart feature you will miss on this phone, despite its size. The P320 can handle Word documents, display PDFs and surf the Web through Wi-Fi; and the GPS resolution is good enough.
Like all offerings from Asus, the P320 comes with a Windows skin that lets you access the most important features of the phone without resorting to the menu. Instead, contacts, local weather, RSS feeds and even four different clocks can be accessed with one touch of the idle screen.
All of this is packed into a plastic lozenge, most of which is a screen, a central circular button, two buttons to receive and cancel calls, the Windows menu button and three selection keys. For the rest, of course, there’s the stylus.
But the P320 does have a few problems. The processor of this particular model isn’t as fast as other smartphones. As a result, the phone gets slower and slower with use, as downloaded applications and stored messages increase.
Even the camera, at 2 megapixel, is barely enough for business users.
However, GPS is the biggest problem with this phone—Asus doesn’t provide maps with the handsets nor does it tell you where to buy or download one. Users have to find their own way to mapping software, and install it on their own.
However, these problems aren’t enough to counter the advantages of size and ease of use. So far, no phone in the market comes close to delivering this level of performance at this price.
Palm Centro
Price: Rs13,900
A touch screen, a full Qwerty keyboard and loads of application in an ellipsoid that fits in your pocket: the Centro is the people’s smartphone with no useless animation or other time-wasting nonsense.
In fact, what may appear to be a frugal phone is full of functionality. The Centro can literally become the centre of your workflow, with push email (so you can access your inbox even outside office) and document handlers that work with word processing and spreadsheets. The Palm OS also lets you move between menus, open applications and switch between them at speeds most phones only dream of. The touch screen is designed to reduce finger motions to a minimum for most applications, cutting stylus time to the bare minimum, too. Simple functions such as messaging have been spruced up, displaying as conversations of sent and received messages, like lines of chat. It also offers a host of applications—from picture organizers to games—easily downloaded from the Web.
However, a few things hold this phone back. The Centro lacks Wi-Fi. This is especially surprising when competitors offer this connectivity in the same price range. The 1.3 megapixel camera is, bluntly put, inadequate for serious snapping. Even the OS, although lightning fast, looks dated.
These disadvantages can be overlooked if you want a device just to let you work on the move. The Centro can handle most communication needs (GPRS, Bluetooth). For first-time smart-phone buyers and advanced users looking for uncluttered functionality, it could be the answer.
Nokia N78
Price: Rs19,999
The N78 seems both an amalgamation and evolution of the Nseries. Unlike older phones in the series, the 78 doesn’t have an “original” design. It replicates the best form factors of its predecessors. The back surface looks like the N82, the polished black finish is reminiscent of the N81. Yet, not everything in it is old—the menus are faster, the graphics slicker, and the phone’s overall performance is of an order earlier believed to be beyond the Nseries.
There are a lot of features that have been packed into the N78, the lightest and fastest Nseries phone ever. It continues the tradition of great audio and video playback. A standard 3.5 inch jack lets you enjoy these from your headphones. But the inbuilt speakers, placed on opposite sides, provide playback that’s decent enough for a small crowd.
The speakers also speak for the GPS. On that front, the N78 still suffers from long waits to get the mapping facility up and running.
A related application is the Nokia SportsTracker. A free download (http://sports tracker.nokia.com/nts/main/index.do), this GPS-based activity tracker automatically stores walking/jogging speed, distance and time in your training diary. Using it off the site, you can store progress charts and even share your workouts and routes with others.
The N78 also uses the GPS for “geo-tagging”. Geo-tagging or location tagging means that geographical data—such as latitude and longitude coordinates, and sometimes even altitude, bearing and place names—are automatically added to images you shoot with the phone. So, when you upload them on Flickr, the site pins them to a map, letting your friends know exactly where you clicked that shot.
But photos are where the N78 falters. Unlike its more expensive brethren in the Nseries, it has a 3.2 megapixel camera—not powerful enough to match the other functions that embody this phone. Also, the buttons on the keypad are so thin that dialling and messaging become a pain in the thumb. The main problem is the central navigation key, which replaces the joystick with a touchpad. It reacts far too slowly when surfing the Net, for instance. Apart from these issues, it’s a great entertainment device.
Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com
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First Published: Wed, Jul 23 2008. 08 43 AM IST