Are you looking to purchase a phone but want it to match your individual needs and personal preferences as well as your budget?
There are a few things to keep in mind while making a choice. There are a lot of new brands entering the market, and most of these have entry-level options, which is a safe way to “test waters”, rather than going all out with high-end stuff. Google’s Android is a new, exciting platform that includes the operating system (OS) and supporting applications but there are some pretty basic and glaring flaws—hands-free dialling and call-answering support is dodgy. Android’s latest avatar 2.1 (Éclair) is just out.
Windows Mobile (WM) 6.5 is hardly different from WM 6 and even WM 5 in terms of interface. Nokia has finally ditched Symbian in favour of Maemo, which, like Android, also borrows its design heavily from Linux.
In terms of handsets, touch screens are universally desired, although not everybody realizes that a flawed design can render a touch-screen phone nigh unusable. Touch designs are resistive or capacitive, the former being suited for use with pointed objects—stylus, fingernails. Capacitive touch displays work with fingers and are, therefore, the more usable of the two. Anyone who has used an iPhone can testify to its ergonomics—Apple has a flawed handset, but a nearly flawless interface. Sure, HTC has its TouchFLO interface—designed to give WM-based resistive touch devices a gesture-based interface—but this cannot compete with an interface designed from scratch to be touch- and gesture-based.
Theoretically, if we could choose a handset with all possible interfaces—a hardware Qwerty keypad and touch screen and maybe a good on-screen number keypad— there would be no problem. Practically, this is usually costly.
In order that we could suggest the best phone options keeping in mind all the ideas talked about above, we created three user profiles, each with specific needs and budgets, and tried to match the user profile with suitable phone options.
The SMS Junkie
This user could spend Rs15,000 and specifically wanted a Qwerty keypad, a 3.5mm jack, a 2.8-inch display or thereabouts. But a touch screen was not mandatory. Helpful widgets were a must.
The Nokia E72, priced at Rs17,900*, is a beautiful handset—very solid, with a thick metal battery cover. The Qwerty keypad is surprisingly tactile and comfortable to use and will make sending mails a snap, while goodies such as Wi-Fi, a 5MP camera and a 3.5mm audio jack ensure its universal appeal.
Its older sister, the Nokia E75, has both a hardware number keypad and a Qwerty keypad that slides out from the side. This, coupled with the metal battery cover and solid build, makes it a heavy phone. Despite the two keypads, the phone isn’t as sweet a deal as the E72—the Qwerty keys are flat, devoid of bevelling and lack tactility, and the battery is a measly 1,000 milliampere-hour (mAh), unlike the E72 that has a nice 1,500 mAh battery.
There’s also the BlackBerry Curve 8900, priced at Rs18,500*. The Curve is another sweet handset, although BlackBerry’s interface leaves a lot to be desired—their menus are so complicated. The keypad is excellent though—superb for SMS junkies.
Sony Ericsson’s Xperia X1 is still available: a good handset, with speedy processing. The Qwerty keypad is a mixed deal—some like it, others don’t. It is priced attractively at Rs21,600*, but the E72 seems to be a better deal and would be longer lasting.
The Gadget Freak
This user craved a touch screen. He needed a large display, and wanted a good camera and great music playback abilities. Wi-Fi was also desirable, as was adequate memory and a fast processor.
The HTC Touch HD2 has a huge screen—this makes the device pretty big too, but not unmanageably so. The HD2 is a sexy handset—WM 6.5, a capacitive touch interface and really snappy hardware under the hood. The touch interface works flawlessly; gestures, typing—everything has a nice feel; and the large screen is a pleasure to behold and use. At Rs35,800*, the Touch HD2 was right up this user’s alley, but he told me that he didn’t want WM 6.5 and if he bought a WM device again, it would be WM 7-based.
Well, we agree. Although HTC uses a proprietary multitouch user interface (UI), this is not as fluid or intuitive as an interface designed natively for a touch/gesture interface.
But one handset that might fit the mould would be the as-yet-unseen Sony Ericsson Xperia X10. Based on Android 1.6, this handset promises a lot—a 4-inch touch screen, good camera and music capabilities and a very fast processor. The gadget freak was waiting for this handset and WM 7 devices before taking the plunge.
People interested in buying a high-end handset in the range of Rs25,000 should do the same—wait. The market is in a state of flux: capacitive touch screens are taking over, and devices based on newer, more fluid interfaces will become available at more competitive prices.
The ideal touch device is one that doesn’t make you miss a hardware keypad, and in this regard, we’ve yet to come across such a device. WM 7 should answer a lot of queries as Microsoft has promised a complete overhaul and a completely new interface without the horrible Start menu system carried over from their PC OS.
The Gaming Addict
This robotically efficient Quake III fragger (as gamers for shooting games are known) wanted an Android phone. Wi-Fi was a must, as was a touch screen. A Qwerty keypad was necessary as well. His budget was up to Rs20,000.
Finding an Android-based handset for his budget proved difficult. The HTC Hero was the only one available, priced at Rs23,000*. So we looked for similar options.
The Nokia N97 Mini, priced at around Rs22,500*, is a pretty decent package, although Nokia’s resistive touch-based interface sucks.
Samsung’s B7320 OmniaPRO, at just Rs11,500*, had a decent price, but the lack of a touch screen on a WM device is a bit pointless. The Qwerty keypad is pretty good though.
The Nokia 5800 XpressMusic is another worthy priced ?in ?the Rs13,000 range; a decent touch phone, pretty compact and with a good battery life—good for someone looking at a music phone with decent features, although the touch interface tends to lag and is not as intuitive.
There are a bevy of other Nokia N-Series phones such as the N79 and N86, but Symbian as a platform is on its way out, and we recommend against investing in a high-end Symbian device.
We couldn’t find an Android-based device for this user, although there were some alternatives such as the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 and X2—both with Qwerty keypads.
* Prices of cellphones can vary.
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