Thursday, April 19, 2012

Which Phone to Buy Right Now - April 2012

Hello all, here's my monthly guide to which phone is right for you. This time around I have tried to expand the scope and in some cases, included alternatives rather than a definitive answer. Some further usage of the devices I mentioned in the March 2012 guide has resulted in updated impressions of those, and sadly, not all of them are favorable. Here it is.


The entry-level segment is not as hotly contested these days, and that's why average phones like Nokia X2 02 rise to the top. You detect a change in tone, right? Right. Having had another month to use this phone, I have found out that it is quite buggy. It is prone to freezes and restarts. Given that it runs Nokia's S40, a 'dumb' OS that has been around for more than a decade, and is commonly shared with dozens of models over previous years, does not even have touch capabilities, this lack of stability is downright shameful. It speaks volumes about where Nokia stands today; the pathetic set of engineers that cannot get a dirt-cheap set right do not deserve our money. Additionally, the phone is not that fast; the one thing you expect in entry level sets is speed, which is missing here. 

Even so, the feature set means that this still remains the cheap set of choice for me, though that is almost certain to change by end of this month. 


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So, only after a month, Samsung's Galaxy Y has lost its perch as the cheap smartphone of choice. Why? Because suddenly, HTC Explorer's price dropped to Rs12k and in Galaxy Y territory. This price drop means that now you can get an HTC Android device, with a 3.2 inch HVGA screen (the resolution is notably superior to that of Galaxy Y), for rock-bottom prices. The phone loses out in the processor speed stakes to Galaxy Y (600 MHz vs 800 MHz), but in every other respect - looks, build, camera, user interface - it emerges on top. The set is reasonably fast and has WiFi, GPS, motion sensor, and other bells and whistles. You can't go wrong with this one.

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I know, I know - at Rs29k One V is hardly 'mid-priced', but its price is expected to fall to Rs25-26k level in a couple of weeks. Why has it replaced Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo V? Because Neo slows down over time. It still remains a good bargain, but there should be no compromise on the speed of a set at any price. Neo is set to receive its ICS update shortly, so it might make it back into this list if its speed issues are fixed. Till then, you can consider HTC One V; its specs are almost identical to those of Neo V, however, it sports an aluminium body and Android 4.0. The one drawback is tiny internal memory of 4 GB, but an SD card slot takes care of that. The set is solid and speedy. 


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At Rs 25k, HTC Radar is an excellent Windows Phone 7 set. As I mentioned in a previous post, WP7 doesn't have the power or flexibility of Android, but it is noticeably ahead of iOS in those aspects. Arguably, WP7 is the best-looking interface on phones today. The phone is fluid, fast, and has good specs. The only drawback I can think of is that since WP7's future is far from certain, this set's resale might be questionable.


So the Nexus retains its perch. In the intervening time, I have had the chance to use the HTC One X which is being billed as the best Android handset on the planet right now. However, I cannot recommend a set with hard physical buttons and tiny, non-user-replaceable battery despite all its other merits. Additionally, I will take vanilla Android 4.0 any day over HTC's Sense, but that's a personal preference and nothing else, since Sense has its own advantages. 

What has happened is that the Galaxy Nexus's price has fallen to Rs42k, and at that price you cannot find a better phone, period. It is astounding to see the local market's gross underestimation of the handset's capabilities, and their perceptions are dictated by the 5 MP camera. However, this ignorance means that the Galaxy Nexus has now become a bargain. Let them be fooled. 


The hottest phone in local market at the moment. Note is the SAME as Galaxy S2, with three differences: 5-inch screen with an HD resolution (same as Galaxy Nexus), larger battery and stylus capability. The only negative points I can think of are debatable pocketability, Samsung's horrible TouchWiz UI over Android 2.3 (though an Android 4.0 update is due in a month or so) and difficulty in reaching the corners of the screen due to large size. If you can live with these shortcomings, get ready to be blown away by the games and movies on this device as nothing else comes close to in those respects (except to some extent, the Galaxy Nexus). This beast (in all senses of the word) will set you back Rs55,000 and even at that price it's a steal. If you can live with the size, there's nothing else like it!

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