In recent weeks, three phones — an Android, a Windows and a BlackBerry — have reset the bar for affordable smartphones. While manufacturers have been scaling up standards, the recently launched Nokia 630, the Blackberry Z3 (which hits the market on July 2) and the Asus ZenFone 5, which will be available from July 9, deserve special mention. Here is our take on this trio.
Asus ZenFone 5
(Price to be announced)
The first thing that strikes you about the ZenFone is the metallic band below the screen. But no, it doesn’t have any function, it’s there just for the design. With curved edges, clean lines and a soft-touch plastic back, the phone looks and feels good. The phone has two micro-SIM slots behind the battery, which has enough juice to last a full day if you use both SIMs – and even longer if you use the built-in battery manager.
Boot the phone and the ZenUI, which runs on top of the regular Android operating system (OS) pulls you in. The 5” screen supports a 1,280x720 pixel resolution, and using full-screen lamination, Asus is able to render good colour on this screen. The ZenFone runs on a 2GHz dual core Intel Atom processor.
Perhaps the bragging rights should go to the 8 MP main camera that handles low light exceedingly well even without flash, thanks to a complex algorithms and processing power.
Another talking point is the PC link software that lets you access most of the functions of the phone via keyboard while hooked to the computer via the USB.
Asus is expected to price this phone in the Rs. 15,000 bracket. The phone has two siblings — ZenFone 4 and ZenFone 6, with the number indicating the screen size.
The Canadian phone maker has been having a torrid time in recent years, but has not let up on new models. The Z3 has a 540x960 pixel 5” touch screen, 15.5-hour talk-time, the latest Blackberry 10 OS, 8 GB of internal storage with a microSD card slot, and a 5 MP rear camera.
The budget BlackBerry is powerful, agile and brilliantly built. You insert the microSIM and the microSD card via side slots, with buttons also on the side. The phone has a textured back that gives it good grip, and the edge-to-edge screen gives best use of the real estate. True, the resolution is not the best, but it is enough for Skype and YouTube — and gives better yield on the battery.
The BlackBerry OS10 has the industry-best keyboard, a dictionary that remembers recently-used words and lets you type in Hinglish natively. And if you want corporate security on the device, only BlackBerry OS has it.
Negatives: not all Android apps are available (Ex. Instagram). BlackBerry is expected to integrate the Amazon App store soon. For daily tasks —tweets, Facebook, emails and Skype video calls —the Z3 shines. It runs on a dual core Qualcomm 1.2 GHz processor with 1.5 GB of RAM. and is available only in black.
Nokia Lumia 630
The Lumia 630 has a 4.5” screen with 854x480 pixel resolution; its 4-tile layout maximises the screen usage. The screen is sharp and bright for both games and videos, though it is not high definition. The lowered resolution means the twin-SIM Lumia 630 (available in single SIM also) has a claimed 13-hour talk time, though we did have to charge it after a day of use.
The Lumia runs on a quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, and comes with 8 GB of storage that can be expanded via microSD.
Microsoft does not have every possible app out there, but the numbers are increasing. What seems to be a great feature here is the free bundle of Microsoft Office on the Go that lets you view, edit and even create documents.
From a stability and speed point of view, as well as being user-friendly, it appears that the Lumia is a great starting point compared to Android. The price being a talking point as well.
All three phones have their plus points.and depending on your main use you can make a decision. For Office-specific users, the Lumia 630 is a great buy, even if it is a tad underpowered and the screen slightly low on resolution.
If security, productivity and ease of handling various functions including social media are your thing, the sturdy Z3 wins hands down, and the battery lasts a whole day as well.
For the partying, selfie-clicking Android lovers, the ZenFone is the choice to make, with the best camera and the best screen in this line up which only an unrealistic price point can mar.