Android smartphones: The big fight
The high-end Android phone market is always busy, with companies releasing new flagship models every few weeks. Most people might not be able to afford some of these but it’s still fun to watch.tech reviews Updated: Apr 11, 2012 18:56 IST
The high-end Android phone market is always busy, with companies releasing new flagship models every few weeks. Most people might not be able to afford some of these but it’s still fun to watch. This has never been truer before, with companies now pulling out all the stops with phones that have multi-core processors and HD displays. Today we have collected a small bunch of the hottest Android smartphones available in the Indian market. Each of these phones represents the pinnacle of the smartphone technology available today with the best of what Android has to offer and no matter which once you choose, you can’t really go wrong.
Before we start, here is a handy comparison table showing all the main specifications of each of the phones we will be talking about today.
HTC One X
The one Android smartphone that’s currently making the news is the HTC One X and not without good reasons. The One X brings together everything that is great about the company and more in one device. For starters, it has this beautiful polycarbonate unibody design that not just looks great but also provides the phone a sense of solidity and ruggedness. Once you stop looking at the phone’s body you will find that there is lot more to ogle at on the One X thanks to its gorgeous 4.7-inch 720p Super LCD2 display that makes everything look crisp and vibrant.
Hands-on: HTC One X
Underneath this beautiful exterior lies a powerhouse of a processor. The Nvidia Tegra 3 is the first quad-core processor that we have seen on a phone. Thanks to its 4-PLUS-1 configuration, the processor employs a fifth companion core responsible for handling all the menial tasks whereas the four performance cores take over when things get too demanding. This helps save some power because the companion core consumes only a fraction of power compared to the performance cores. Apart from this there is also a 12 core GPU for taking care of all your games and 3D applications.
The HTC One X also has one of the quickest cameras around. Thanks to the dedicated ImageSense processor, the One X camera can start, focus, capture and move on to the next shot faster than any camera phone we have seen before. It also has a super fast burst mode along with 1080p video recording.
If there are any complaints about this phone, it would be the rather large size, the love-it-or-hate-it Sense UI and the less than stellar camera quality. Otherwise, for approximately Rs. 35,000, this is one of the best smartphones you can currently buy.
Samsung Galaxy Note
With an enormous 5.3-inch display, the Galaxy Note is in a class of its own. Dell may have pioneered this category with its Streak but it certainly could not convince people to buy it, something Samsung had no problem doing despite the condemnation from the critics.
Samsung Galaxy Note Review
The biggest feature of the Galaxy Note (literally) is its display. 5.3-inches of glorious Super AMOLED goodness makes almost every other smartphone display pale in comparison. Whether it is web browsing that you like to do, or watching a movie or viewing some photos, the display makes everything look splendid.
The Note also comes with a stylus that helps you get creative with the touchscreen and the suite of drawing apps. There is also a fantastic 8 megapixel camera on the back with 1080p video recording that is one of the best in the business and a long battery life despite the enormous display.
But the large display is also its greatest problem, because it makes the phone itself really, really large; large enough to make you wonder if you should continue using the term ‘phone’ for it. This is definitely not a phone for people with small hands and even those with large hands will find it uncomfortable to operate single-handedly.
Another problem with the phone, although temporary, is that it still comes with Android 2.3 Gingerbread even though Android 4.0 has been out for months now. Samsung has announced, though, that the Note will be updated this quarter.
If you can live with the phone’s disproportionately large size, the odd looks you get when you are out talking on it, the outdated version of Android and Samsung’s custom TouchWiz interface then the Galaxy Note is a solid alternative that really puts the ‘smart’ in ‘smartphone’.
Samsung Galaxy Nexus
The launch device of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, the Galaxy Nexus enjoys the distinction of being a Google branded phone, which gives it some advantages over others. One of them is that you always get the latest Android updates before everyone else and the second is that you get to enjoy the stock Android experience untainted by hardware manufacturers’ custom skins.
Really, the biggest reason why one would want to go with this phone is the software. Android 4.0 is a wonderful operating system and nowhere do you get to enjoy it better than on Google’s own phone.
Unfortunately, the hardware leaves a lot to be desired. The processor is from last year’s smartphones and has a hard time keeping up with the latest chips from Nvidia and Qualcomm. You may not notice this while using the phone, which remains smooth and fast but this difference will be clearer as time moves on and applications become more demanding. The camera is also average in terms of specs and performance. There is just 16GB of internal memory with no way to expand it further and the battery life isn’t particularly great. The only good thing about the hardware is the vivid 720p display but some may find the colors too saturated.
Review: Galaxy Nexus
Then there is also the problem of the phone not being sold officially in India. Samsung India had promised to release it sometime in March but the month has come and gone with no sign of the launch. However, you can purchase it for around Rs. 29,000 on eBay. For that price you get the pure Android experience that the Nexus series is known for along with the latest software updates but almost everything else is done better by its rivals here.
Sony Xperia S
Sony’s first handset after they dropped the Ericsson part of their name, the Xperia S brings a lot to the table. First of all, there is a 12 megapixel camera, which no other Android phone currently has on offer. And it’s not just a spec; if you’ve seen any camera sample from this phone you’d agree that it does in fact have a brilliant camera. Then there is also the 4.3-inch 720p HD display that has the highest pixel density of any mobile device available in the market today.
Then there is also the Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 processor, which despite being last year’s chip still manages to give some of the newer processors a run for their money. Add to that 1GB of RAM and a generous 32GB of internal memory.
Sony announces Xperia S, Xeria P, Xperia U and Xperia Sola in India
What we really like about this phone first of all is the design, with its cool transparent glass strip at the bottom. The glass contains the icons for the buttons placed above it and interestingly, also acts as the phone’s antenna. The other good things about it is that it is the most compact of the smartphones in this bunch, despite having similar features. A lot of people don’t like having big smartphones and for them the Xperia S would be a perfect fit.
Of course, it also has its share of flaws, the fact that it is running Android 2.3 being the biggest one. Sony did promise Android 4.0 update for this phone but seeing that it launched recently it should have had the latest version of the OS out of the box. Other minor issues are lack of expandable storage space, non-removable battery and display viewing angles that are not on par with the other LCD and AMOLED units here.
With a launch price of Rs. 32,549, the Sony Xperia S is priced pretty well although we would advise waiting for the Android 4.0 update to come out first, by which time the price would have hopefully gone down further.
It would be difficult to pick one out of these, considering each one is good at different things, but if we had to suggest one it would be the HTC One X. It’s currently the most all-round device available on the market and should fulfill almost every user’s needs.
Having said that, if you are not in a big hurry, we would advise waiting for the Samsung Galaxy S III, which is expected to be announced in May and is likely to be a firecracker of a device, going by Samsung’s track record.
First Published: Apr 10, 2012 17:20 IST