New smartphones set to take the market by storm
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New smartphones set to take the market by storm

More smartphones with standout features, that reboot innovation, hit the market

brunch Updated: Jul 09, 2017 08:54 IST
Rajiv Makhni
Rajiv Makhni
Hindustan Times
Tecno i7,HTC U11,Moto Z2 Play
Snap on the Mods and convert the Z2 Play phone into a movie projector or a JBL stereo speaker

Smartphones are now commodities! I hear this slightly ambiguous comment all the time from most experts and specially from those that analyse the market. Almost everything within and outside the phone is now standardised they say. There are no differentiators left, only marketing gimmicks they emphasise. The more the brands try to make their phones unique, the more similar they remain, they underline. I couldn’t disagree more. I will agree with this though. It’s getting brutally tough to stand out, but this desperate attempt to stand taller, has led to the most amount of innovation we’ve seen in many years. Let’s take a look.

The player

The original Motorola Z Play was a sleeper hit. The Z2 Play takes it many steps further. Surprisingly thin (5.9mm), stunning-looking, great battery life, it has an excellent camera with a large F/1.7 aperture and a very large number of autofocus pixels. But now come the two big innovations. The first is Moto Experiences. Moto Actions is a gesture-based control system. You act. It reacts. Twist your wrist to start the flashlight, chop downwards once to start camera, twice for music. Lots of customisation here and all of it works. Moto Voice is its inbuilt voice assistant that works better than Google’s own. Moto Display gives you notifications and you can reply to emails and texts without even unlocking your phone. Then, there are the Mods. Slices of innovation that snap on and convert your phone into a Hasselblad Pro camera or a JBL stereo speaker.

Rating: Phone - 8.5/10; Innovation - 9/10; Gimmick - 0

The Moto Z2 Play is surprisingly thin with great battery life and amazing innovations

The beast

HTC U11’s biggest innovation, that has been amplified, has been its squeeze feature. Squeeze the sensors on the side of the phone once for camera, again to take a picture. While this is cutting edge stuff works well, it’s the least of reasons to buy this phone. Once you have it in your hand, you realise that HTC went overboard and created an absolute beast of a smartphone. Absolutely breathtaking design (a pearl-like liquid glass back), stunning screen (QHD 2560 x 1440 resolution), the best camera on a smartphone ever (the gold standard in camera ratings, DxoMark scored it at 90, above Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S8), 4K and slow motion videos, water resistance (takes selfies underwater too), 128GB internal storage with 6GB RAM and a processor that makes it into an absolute hardware monster. The U11 is the only phone that takes on the Samsung S8 and gives it serious competition. And then HTC went and priced it super aggressively at 50K. It seems they can’t do anything wrong with this one.

Rating: Phone - 9.5/10; Innovation - 9.5/10; Gimmick - 0

HTC U11 is an absolute beast of a smartphone. Besides a breathtaking design, it has the best camera and is water resistant too

The night shooter

While the race to make camera phones as good as standalone cameras is still on, there is one aspect that they still lag behind in. That is low light and night photography. Noisy images and jagged pixelated pictures are the norm here. But not anymore with the Tecno i7. The phone has a sleek all-metal body, full HD screen, an anti-oil fingerprint sensor, a Rocket charging fast mode, an octa-core processor and a 4000 mAh battery. Then comes the night and low light front camera. It’s a 16-megapixel front camera with its own LED flash and a lot of software and AI that makes low light photography come alive. So, night selfies and even a single birthday candle cake cutting event gives clear and lucid results. Something even the big guys can’t do. The i7 at about 12K tick marks all the boxes for an economy phone and then surges ahead than the more expensive camera phones.

Rating: Phone - 8.5/10; Innovation - 9/10, Gimmick - 0

The Tecno i7 has software that makes low light photography and night selfies come alive

I’m predicting a big year for smartphones and some radical out-of-the-box features being introduced. Watch this space for more.

From HT Brunch, July 9, 2017

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First Published: Jul 08, 2017 23:08 IST