The gauntlet has finally been thrown. Nokia’s sleek new smartphone, due later this year, is Exhibit A for Symbian3—the latest revision of the mobile operating system that brings it up to speed with Google’s Android and the iPhone. Underneath its shiny exterior, the N8 promises to be blazing fast, and comes loaded with a 12-megapixel Carl Zeiss lens (with flash).
Here’s the score so far. Sony Ericsson: 4, Competition: very confused. The mobile manufacturer’s tally of smartphones continues to grow bewilderingly. After the Aino and Satio, we get the Vivaz and Xperia X10. Desperate times for a company that’s been left behind in the smartphone race, or a smart, thoughtful gamble? Happily, the Android-powered X10 is a gorgeous device, and minor foibles aside, among the best Android phones available on the market. The Vivaz sports a nice camera (12 MP Cybershot) and a pretty design, but is otherwise doomed to the graveyard of inadequate smartphones.
LG’s Cookie Pep, along with Samsung’s Corby, brought the touch screen to new lows. Price-wise, that is. The day we see a Rs5,000 touch-screen phone may not be far, according to LG’s Sudhin Mathur, the business head of the mobile communications division. “We hope to hit that price point by the end of 2010,” he says. LG’s Cookie Pep, priced at Rs7,799, was a full- featured touch-screen phone. Heading downwards on the mobile food chain are two variants of the Pep, priced between Rs6,000 and Rs8,000. The Fresh is swanky, inexpensive and sports a 2-megapixel camera. The Plus has a cartoon-style interface, comes in 10 colours and has social networking features.
A match almost made in heaven. A shiny Armani touch to a plain-Jane smartphone design, some slick wallpapers and themes bundled on-board, and a beautiful leather case to hold it all in. Samsung’s Giorgio Armani phone almost gets the “premium phone” right. It’s absolutely gorgeous to behold and the keyboard is excellent. The weak link is the ageing Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system that slows to a crawl even with simple tasks, and the iffy touch screen that behaves like a stubborn child. The flaws aren’t deal-killers, but at a price of Rs40,000, they loom unnervingly larger than usual.
It’s a habit with Sony Ericsson. Every time the company pushes engineering boundaries, challenges tradition and unveils something exciting, it also seems to get cold feet and retreats head first into the familiar. Case in point, the Elm. It looks like any other Ericsson phone—candybar form with a 320x240 screen and a modest features list with music and Internet. What sets the Elm apart, however, is that it’s one of Sony Ericsson’s “GreenHeart” phones—it’s made with recycled plastics, features a noise shield that shuts out ambient sounds and consumes much less power than an ordinary dumbphone. Why every phone can’t have these features as default, we don’t quite know.
Dear HTC, we like your phones. Really. But you guys iterate more often than Norton AntiVirus and it’s really difficult to keep up. So among your “exciting new phones” already out, we have the Incredible (called the “Droid Incredible”), Dream, Hero (confusingly, the “Droid Eris”), Legend, Magic, Tattoo, HD Mini, Smart and the high-profile Google Nexus One. Now, there’s the Wildfire and the EVO. And the Desire, which is coming to India in a week’s time. On the inside, it seems eerily similar to the Nexus One. On the outside, it looks like a streamlined Hero. Help us make up our mind, please.
We miss Motorola. The company made radically zany devices with sometimes dodgy software and dubious functionality for the longest time ever. Then it disappeared off the face of the earth. But the Droid (called “Milestone” here) is the company’s second wind—its attempt to rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of its past. The effort shows. The Milestone is a solid Android phone with a slide-out keypad. Its brisk sales in the US (250,000 units in its first week of release in November) have rejuvenated Motorola’s ailing mobile phones division, and some of that radical zaniness just might be coming back to the company.
Welcome to Nokia’s new naming convention. With its latest set of launches, the Finnish mobile giant is discarding its usual plethora of four-digit numbers (goodbye, 3315) in favour of four letters—N, C, X and E. Are you among the “youth” and crave constant “social connectivity”? The XSeries is where you should be looking. Do you dress in spiffy business clothes and send terse emails? Nokia deems you an Eseries person. If you’re none of the above, the C3 and C6 might be just what you need—not too fancy, not too cheap. Functional. With frills.
The new upstarts of India’s mobile phone market have outlandish designs, bizarre features and ridiculously low price points. The Zen Mobile Z77 is a full-fledged BlackBerry clone at one-fourth the price. The Lava A9 is a budget “multimedia” phone. The Micromax X235 doubles up as a universal remote—albeit one that works dodgily. All the phones are also dual-sim.