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2013: the top ten phones

The device that leapt forward in 2012 will see more radical changes in the new year Yes, you read that right – the top 10 phones of 2013, not 2012. And while it’s a thinly disguised strategy of using a...

brunch Updated: Dec 31, 2012 16:48 IST
Rajiv Makhni

The device that leapt forward in 2012 will see more radical changes in the new year Yes, you read that right – the top 10 phones of 2013, not 2012. And while it’s a thinly disguised strategy of using a shout-out loud headline to get more eyeballs for the column, fortunately it’s also true. This really is all about the top 10 phones of 2013. Let me explain.

The year 2012 was a watershed event in the world of mobiles. I say this because this little device really leapt forward in this year like never before. If you compare the phones of 2011 to those of 2012, it’s almost as if the move forward in design, features, innovation and utility is by a few generations, not just 12 months. Thus if this pace continues in the next 12 months – we will end up with some radical new phones that may deliver way beyond what we may even wish and dream. Here then are the top 10 phones of 2012 and what the next generation of each will become in 2013.



HTC came storming back into the spotlight with the HTC One X and the 8X takes that legacy and betters it. The form factor is so attractive that every person who has held this device in their hands raves about it. But the 8X+ of 2013 will need to do much more. By that time Windows Phones as a platform should have about 8 per cent market share. Stunning looks and a plain vanilla WP OS won’t cut it.

The next one will have to have a killer app from HTC themselves that sets it apart. It’ll need a full 1080P display, a killer camera, one HTC user-level feature that makes all jaws drop and maybe a flexible screen. It’ll also need HTC to up the ante about getting people to hear about their phones and what they are capable of. I find HTC to be a company that is way too understated for its own good.


Galaxy is a sub-brand that has made Samsung the number one mobile phone brand in the world. This is the phone that has finally become an alternative cult hit and has spawned a generation of Galaxy S fanatics who upgrade to anything the company releases. But Samsung will have to pursue new avenues with the S4. It has to get over its obsession with thin and light and thus plasticky and fragile. The S4 will have the most powerful hardware and some outstanding user features – that is a given. But this time Samsung will have to reinvent the Galaxy S ethos and take it to super premium.

Samsung Galaxy S3

The S4 must LOOK more premium than the iPhone 5S/6 in materials used, form factor, feel in hand and design. It needs to stand head and shoulders above all to make sure it continues its dream run. More importantly, Samsung must realise that it can’t milk the Galaxy sub-brand to the level that it is. Almost anything and everything released from Samsung is a Galaxy. Galaxy Mini, Galaxy Grand?? What’s next – Galaxy Cheapo, Galaxy Average, Galaxy Toxic?? It’s killing the exclusivity of what the Galaxy S started out as. HTC ONE X+HTC-ONEX+

I saw the original One X at the Mobile World Congress at Barcelona and was stunned. It was HTC reinventing itself from a company that had tasted success and lost its way. The One series got it all right and brought HTC right back into the reckoning. Then came the One X+ and while good, it was just an evolutionary leg-up to the original and didn’t break any new ground. And that’s where HTC needs to be careful. This is a company that is no longer a fringe player. It’s always counted with the big guys and it needs to make some big moves. Evolutionary upgrades are the best way of ruining all that HTC has done. The HTC One X 2013 version must once again make us all stand up and applaud. It’ll need brand new outer material not used by anyone else (also to make sure that its Android line-up looks different from its Win Phone 8 line-up), it’ll need a camera with tricks no one else has yet thought of, it’ll need to set a record for storage (128GB should be the aim) and it needs to take its partnership with DropBox to the next level. Then and then only can that HTC device be called ‘The One’ (which by the way is what it should call its 2013 flagship Android Phone).


Treacherous territory for me as I know I get abused even if I breathe the word ‘Apple’. Regardless, I shall do this one right and bear the violence. The iPhone 5 is a great phone, but it didn’t do enough to make it a ‘great phone by Apple’. It tick-marked all the points it should have covered but didn’t tick-mark all the points that we didn’t think of.

And that’s what has made Apple the industry leader it is – to boldly go where no phone company has gone before and give us what we didn’t know we needed. The iPhone 5 is a brilliantly engineered product that ended up with issues with its tragically comic mapping service, the fact that some apps didn’t look right on its new stretched-out screen and that the new connector has put a bit of a dent in all the add-ons that people have built up as a collection over the years. The iPhone 5S/6 will need to start with a totally new look – it can’t keep re-tweaking it current design anymore. Wireless charging done the Apple way, NFC so that phones finally are used as a gateway for payments and an optical zoom on its camera would be the other much needed features. And then it needs to do what it’s always done. Put in one feature that makes everyone of us sit there with our jaws dropped! That one thing that makes the competition look silly! That one thing that makes Apple the formidable innovation leader that it is! Come on Apple – give us your best shot with the next one. Steve wants it, we want it!


When you invent a category of your own, you pretty much own it. That’s the good news for the Galaxy Note 1 and 2. Samsung cocked a snook at all those who mocked it for their over zealously big-screened wonders and went on to sell them in millions. Today, due to the Galaxy Note – there is a whole new war of the Phablets being run at premium and economy levels that have rebooted the industry itself. But the Note has a problem at hand. The Note 3 cannot be bigger!

Samsung Galaxy Note

There are rumours of a 6.3 inch Note 3 and if true, would sound the death knell for this biggie. There is a limit to what a phone can expand out to be. Even 5.5 inches is a bit of a struggle and anything above will end up being ridiculous. The Note 3 will need to shine in all things, including intelligent usage of that massive screen, an industry-defying display resolution, taking the S Pen technology to magical levels, putting in a set of business applications (its key market) and services that no one else can offer, lighter in weight and on the pocket, a hybrid keyboard add-on that makes this into the world’s smallest hybrid device and most importantly, a battery life that really makes it a phone and tablet that gives you a full day’s use of both. Nokia Purview 808NOKIA PUREVIEW 808

Nokia made news all of 2012. Most of it for reasons that they weren’t proud of, but some of it for exactly what the company has stood for. A product or innovation that sets industry standards. And the PureView 808 was exactly that and more. A camera phone with such exemplary optics and results that it made professional DSLR looks slightly sheepish.

I’ve seen printed-out posters of images shot by a 808 that have been as large as 50 feet. I know of people who’ve bought a 808 and never even put a SIM card in it – and use it only as a camera. The next Pureview doesn’t need to do much. It needs to look a little better, look a little slimmer, improve on its zoom dramatically, come with a 1080P screen so that the images you take look amazing as soon as you take them and come with some software that makes in-camera editing much easier than it is now. That’s it!


Sony did it. It broke from an ill-conceived partnership with Ericsson. But what it hasn’t done is to break from the heavy baggage of that partnership. While we see some seriously good phones from Sony (some of the best-looking ones for sure), we still aren’t seeing what this company is capable of. The Xperia S was the rare phone that stood out. And the rumours of the S moving on to becoming the Sony Yuga next year are strong. This phone will have a whopping 128GB built-in storage, a 5-inch full HD screen, a quad-core processor, 3GB RAM, a 16-megapixel camera, 3000mAh battery and a glass back. That would make it one of the most powerful devices in the market. One more thing. Sony really needs to get its phone names right from here on. Yuga, Tipo, Miro – Huh??


Google NexusWhat can I say? A phone that has the specs, features, hardware and looks that are better than anything the market offers, and a price that is almost half of the others! Only Google can pull off such an anomaly. But this phone also marks the return of a previous champion, LG. While they did very well with even the LG 4X HD, it’s the Nexus 4 that has put them back on the charts. And for the next Google LG Nexus partnership – they need to keep it simple. Whatever is the top-of-the-line phone in the market – beat the specs of that by a margin of at least 20 per cent, make the phone look good, add the latest raw Android OS with the guarantee that the next OS iteration will come on that phone first and then price it at $199. Then watch the competition groan, crumble and die.


The Lumia 920 is apparently sold out wherever it’s been released. Even if we discount the fact that it may be in short supply, you have to understand that its demand is phenomenal.

Nokia LumiaAnd for good reasons. Nokia has had enough time to work out what a Windows Phone 8 device should really be all about. They’ve introduced wireless charging, making it simple to use and the screen looks brilliant. They’ve closely merged the outside and the inside of the phone and tweaked the feature set enough to make a Nokia with WP 8 different from any other phone with the same OS. The next flagship Lumia (Lumia 1000?) should have the same camera as the Pureview 808 as part of the phone, should be lighter, have a 5-inch version with a staggeringly dense PPI, add on a slot for external storage and have enough supply to satisfy the demand. Then it should sit back and watch its market share rise dramatically like the phoenix.


For the last one to make it an even 10 – I’m going to go with three different devices as each of these could be a serious contender. The first BlackBerry 10 phone I’m betting big on this one as I’ve played around a bit with the BB 10OS and find it exceptional. If they pull it off then something very big will happen in the market. Think of the millions that have stuck to BB as their phone. Each and every one of them will upgrade to the new BB10 device. That’s millions and millions in sales for RIM. Could bring them right into contention in the top three.

An Amazon Kindle phone

The probability that Amazon will NOT bring out a smartphone is practically nil. They’ve tasted super success with their e-Readers, phenomenal sales with their Kindle Fire tablets and now will turn that into super heady numbers with an Amazon Phone. Expect it to again have top-of-the-line specs and a price slightly lower than the Nexus 4.

Amazon Kindle Phones

Eco Phablets

The biggest players in this category are all here in India. It’s an amazing category that is seeing the most amounts of activity as well as innovation. For just under Rs 10,000 you’re getting a 5-inch or more phone, a fantastic touchscreen, the latest Android OS, nice form factors, pretty good battery life and a whole slew of freebies. Micromax, Spice and Wicked Leaks look good here. Expect this category to explode in 2013 with the first 5 for 5 phone. That’s Rs 5,000 for a 5-inch Phablet!

From HT Brunch, December 30

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