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back to article Seven snazzy smartphones for seven sorts of shoppers

The main drawback of folk thinking you know more than the average person in the street about digital kit is the inevitable stream of requests from friends, relatives and people you’ve slept with to suggest the ideal new phone for them come upgrade time. It’s not that I mind helping but I do tire of the inevitable “...but so-and- …

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One-handed operation is key to Many buyers' needs

You should always keep in mind that many people want a handset they can operate easily with one hand. The iPhone 5 is at the limit of that, really.

When out shopping, carrying things, holding a child's hand, etc, you want to be able to work the phone with one hand.

I rarely see this mentioned.

Super large batteries only really are found in two-handed phones. If you have battery life figures for one-hand phones, please show them.

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Re: One-handed operation is key to Many buyers' needs

Must have really small hands. I can use my 5.3" note 1, one handed all the time and its absolutely fine as long as I don't need to touch a tiny <1cm square on the top left corner (which you really don't need to touch when texting, calling etc). I have distinctly average man hands and soon got completely use to it...

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Re: One-handed operation is key to Many buyers' needs

methinks it's a comment on teh user interface. Most of android can be used with one hand, thanks to the back button being ad the bottom of the screen. needing to reach to the top-left of a screen is not the most ergonomic setup.

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Re: One-handed operation is key to Many buyers' needs

I get on well with my Xperia P, which is about 4" diagonal across the screen. However, whilst the battery is better than it was when The Reg reviewed it (due to stamina modes in the ICS and then JB updates- fair play Sony) it's not brilliant.

I get the impression that many Android apps and browsers were developed for 4.5"+ phones - I can read everything, but it's nearly at the limits of my eyesight.

EDIT: It works very as a phone, too. Calls are nice and clear.

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Re: One-handed operation is key to Many buyers' needs

Wankers.

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Paris Hilton

Re: One-handed operation is key to Many buyers' needs

One handed operation ... Heh.

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Paris Hilton

Re: One-handed operation?

You must have very petite hands.

I have an SGS4 - not a small device, and yet I have no difficulty using it one-handed.

--

Paris, who also has petite hands.

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Multitouch, not screen size, is main stumbling block

I can still use my Galaxy Nexus one-handed, and actually the problem is with pressing something *close* to the same side as my thumb, so smaller phones aren't easier (and reaching the top of the screen is something that's hard on smaller phones anyway).

Actually though, the big stumbling block to one-handed usage is not the screen size, but needing to use multitouch. I find it amusing that fans praised the original iphone by touting multitouch as being the single best thing ever, yet now the iphone 5 is praised for still being able to use one-handed. Well no, not if you want multitouch you can't.

Ideally, a good UI should still be usable with single-touch too (which was a nice thing about my single-touch Nokia - it worked one-handed, because the UI had to support single-touch). I wish Google would roll out the "single-touch zoom" gesture that's now in Google Maps, to be a standard gesture throughout Android, as that would mean you'd hardly ever need to use multitouch.

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Stop

Re: One-handed operation is key to Many buyers' needs

> The iPhone 5 is at the limit of that, really.

Show me proof. Other than the brainwashing Apple commercial (the one with the thumb).

You could argue (but would lose), that my galaxy note 2 is too big for one handed operation. It's not, I do it all the time, and I'm a normal size person.

I also want to say it on record, that your statement is only true until Apple introduces a larger iPhone. At that time, the larger iPhone will embody the perfection of one handed operation.

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Re: One-handed operation is key to Many buyers' needs

They've already done that - it amuses me that the photo advertising for the ipad "mini" implies how it too is perfect for one handed use...

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Left-handed operation is key to Many buyers' needs

The problem with most interfaces is they are naturally right-hand orientated. As a natural result of text reading left to right, the interface usually has description on left, interface element on the right. This means a left handed person is always streching - and obscuring the screen at the same time.

I wonder if this will lead to an increase in right handedness in future generations.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: One-handed operation is key to Many buyers' needs

iPhone 10:

http://goo.gl/cVS3K

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Happy

Or at least until the iPhone 6 comes out.

Fire.....meet petrol (that's gas for the colonies)

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Re: Or at least until the iPhone 6 comes out.

Nah.... I think you'll find the world is anticipating the Note 3...

:P

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Yes, but how good are they as phones?

Seems like there are a few things someone might look at in a phone that are missed off here. For example how good are they for phoning people? Not all phones are equal in use, particularly when it comes to the ability to maintain a connection and the ability not to have random settings selected by your ear while you are trying to talk to someone - a particularly irritating trait of my Sony.

Also I sometimes go outdoors and even indulge in pastimes that involve being near water, rocks, etc. I'm quite interested in how well a phone can survive being dropped and getting damp. I think probably the Xperia Z is winning this particular contest, but it would be interesting to hear how others match up for resilience.

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Re: Yes, but how good are they as phones?

There is also the Xperia ZR, which is more waterproof than the Z (apparently can film video underwater) and appears to have a more rubbery back than the Z (so hopefully minimising wet handed fumbles onto rocks). It' slightly smaller at 4.5".

Unfortunately, it doesn't yet seem to be available in the UK, only some European countries.

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Re: Yes, but how good are they as phones?

>>the ability not to have random settings selected by your ear while you are trying to talk to someone

What? Why would you want to do that with your mini tablet? Put it near your head? I'm not sure I understand. I have heard of this new feature "Instant Voice Chat" but.... I don't think it'll ever take off.

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Re: Yes, but how good are they as phones?

A touch too subtle, Mr Hicks...

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Re: Yes, but how good are they as phones?

I've been able to film underwater with my xperia z, got some great video of my kids in the pool, one problem with the xperia z is that the touchscreen randomly activates underwater, so I got a few still photos captured along with the video.

Although it's waterproof I wouldn't describe the z as rugged, so would definitely avoid those rocks!

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Re: Yes, but how good are they as phones?

>one problem with the xperia z is that the touchscreen randomly activates underwater, so I got a few still photos >captured along with the video.

Try this, if it gets rolled out for the Xperia Z:

http://www.xperiablog.net/2013/07/02/sony-intros-touch-block-feature-to-prevent-unintentional-touches/

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Thumb Up

Re: Yes, but how good are they as phones?

Many thanks! This sounds perfect, just hope it rolls out soon.

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Re: Yes, but how good are they as phones?

If it doesn't, there is a good chance someone at XDA will port it!

Hehe, I remember trying to buy a train ticket at a small station, under threat of a heavy fine should I board the train without one. Alas, the touch-screen ticket vending machine interpreted rain drops as my intention to travel from Truro to Gloucester by way of Edinburgh with a family of six, so I just swore at it. Sometimes a resistive screen is better -or, heaven forbid, just being able to buy your ticket from the train conductor like a civilised company.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yes, but how good are they as phones?

"Alas, the touch-screen ticket vending machine interpreted rain drops as my intention to travel from Truro to Gloucester by way of Edinburgh with a family of six"

I got an all-in-one desktop for one of our office people here, and when the computer got left on over night one time, flies walked on the monitor and browsed the internet.

I never found out what they were looking at.

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Trollface

Re: Yes, but how good are they as phones?

@David W. "flies walked on the monitor and browsed the internet. I never found out what they were looking at."

Well, if it drew flies my bet is farm pr0n.

(obligatory) Fnar.

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Re: Yes, but how good are they as phones?

>flies walked on the monitor and browsed the internet.

Are you sure it wasn't a mouse getting amorous with a mouse?

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Happy

Re: Yes, but how good are they as phones?

As a phone:

As far as clarity of voice both ways goes, it's a toss-up between HTC One and the Nokia 920. HTC is slightly better incoming, due to the front facing speakers that don't distort sound.

As far as ringing loudness goes, it's a toss-up between the Nokia and the Samsung Note 2. Ringtones they are loud. They do get distorted at the high end, but they do get heard. HTC One is a bit behind, though the sound doesn't get distorted funnily enough. The Nexus 4 is quite bad when laid flat on its back. You will miss some calls.

Dialer-wise, they are similar. If you get used to it the HTC Sense phone is very very good, though may be a bit confusing for the first day.

Durability/punishment taking? The Sony is waterproof. Nuff said. You can dunk it. Don't drop it, like the Nexus 4 (and the old iPhone 4/4S) it is glass on both sides. Dropwise your best bet among these are the Samsung S4 for the plastics, HTC One and the iPhone 5 for the rigid metal chassis. Metal does get dinged upon impact, but doesn't flex so protects the screen. The S4 may wear its dings better, but is prone to shattering more (the screen is big and inflexible, but the chassis is).

Battery? Depends on what you do, how you use them. I'd say without any personal experience, the Blackberry. Not enough games and apps on it, you see. Actually all of them are crap by dumbphone standards. Two days tops, if you use them to say hello. 5 hours if you use the GPS and play games. Usually they all last the day though.

These are not phones, and we are not in Kansas anymore.

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Happy

Chinese handsets ......

The rise in the Chinese markets are a much better option. It used to be that some of the devices from China were poor quality clones of western devices, sold with access to a Chinese (cr)app store. However, as well as the reasonable clones they now offer a lot of fantastic quality handsets. I currently use a 4" waterproof Lenovo dual sim android phone, it came rooted and fully set up for the UK including Play store.

I would not own any of these mobiles mentioned as they are so over-priced it's a joke.

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My priority is to avoid having to carry two phones (one work, one mine). Therefore dual-SIM offerings are of high interest to me. I suspect UK retailers don't like to push dual-SIM models (e.g. Samsung Galaxy Grand) because it goes against an ethos of network tie-in.

I've not seen much on dual-SIMs in UK media. Plenty in Indian media though :)

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merimobiles.com is where I purchased my dual sim droid from. Although had to purchase using my phone browser as it doesn't like a desktop environment. Also, with dual sim only one of the slots does 3G. So it might not be ideal.

I make no guarantees for the phones on the site etc etc

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FAIL

staff unfailingly polite, helpful and eager

"The real killer feature for the newb though has nothing to do with software or hardware, it’s all about the experience you get in an Apple Store. It’s second to none, with staff unfailingly polite, helpful and eager to help the lost, confused and downright incompetent get the best from their iDevices. A near no-questions-asked replacement policy is the cherry on the cake."

Never been to the Brighton Apple store then. The staff there are rude, downright unhelpful and I don't think 20mins wait for your prebooked 'genius' bar appointment you are on time to is really on. Esp when the hipster twat staff seems to want to talk to each other not you. No questions asked replacement also fails these days with an ipad that is 12 months old (under the 2 year warranty guideline from the EU) refused any assistance at all unless pay out over £200 for a duff battery! Hellish experience all in all.

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FAIL

Re: staff unfailingly polite, helpful and eager

'Genius Bar' really is the twattiest name they could have ever thought up for what is essentially technical support.

Marketing wanker #1 - 'Hey guys, let's call these monkeys we pay chicken feed 'Geniuses' so they feel like their job is actually somewhat important'.

Marketing wanker #2 - 'Yeah, and like let's say they like work at like a 'bar' because it's all like cool and laid back'

Marketing wanker #3 - 'Right, pub...sorry, bar everyone?'

Wankers

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Re: staff unfailingly polite, helpful and eager

Quite a few members of the public (or at least those who drink in the pub most evenings) have long referred (half-jokingly) to those of us who can use or fix a computer as 'whizzes', 'gurus' or 'geniuses', so I've always seen Apple's adoption of 'Genius Bar' as sharing a nod with their intended users.

It seems to work for that segment - look at the Consumer Association's ('Which?') retailer of the year award, compiled from questionnaires completed by their subscribers. Whether it works for us is irrelevant.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: staff unfailingly polite, helpful and eager

Not saying they aren't good at their job (which isn't hard, they're not exactly writing real world physics simulation engines), just that it's a terrible name. And while the term may have initially been tongue in cheek, if you've ever had to deal with one of these walnuts at an Apple Store, you'll know they do see themselves as tech whizzes of some sort because they can read a fucking manual.

Now to take a deep breath....

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Re: staff unfailingly polite, helpful and eager

<sheldon>... I refuse to contribute to the devaluation of the word genius ...</sheldon>

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Stop

Re: staff unfailingly polite, helpful and eager

Ah, now the warranty Apple provides is a totally separate promise over and above some very powerful statutory rights which you possess.

Now the 2yr minimum is indeed in effect only a guideline, you're right - but falls below the protections typically obtaining within English law, which tell you that you may expect goods to work properly for up to six years, depending on how much you paid. The EU measure is that the goods must 'conform to contract' for two years, i.e. be reasonably durable etc. The measurement of reasonable lifespan applicable in English law (and likely applicable in EU law), is really how long it's reasonable to expect something to last given all relevant considerations including the price.

What isn't applicable in measuring the reasonable lifespan is the consumer's mistaken beliefs as to how little they're owed by the retailer!

However as a failsafe, it's always important to pay on a UK credit card when buying goods over £100 - as the credit card provider is jointly liable for the goods fulfilling all the above criteria: so when a £400 iPad goes kaput after a year and Apple don't want to know, then, if you don't fancy taking them to small claims court, you can just ring up your credit card provider, and they'll ordinarily pay out a refund then and there with a pro-rata deduction for usage against the expected lifespan. So your £400 iPad will probably have an expected life of three or four years, against which they'll deduct one year. So £266 or £300 as a refund.

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Coat

Re: staff unfailingly polite, helpful and eager

It is a relative term. The distance between marketing-perceived customer position and the clueless tech support.

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jxp

The Nexus 4 is not a value phone (although it may be good value for features/price).

I would suggest something more like Samsung Ace 2 or Nokia 520 (both just over £100, not £250 like the Nexus 4). To go from a £60 feature phone to £250 smartphone is far too big a leap for many people.

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FAIL

Who said it was a value phone? From TFA:

I should make it clear: this round-up only concerns itself with top-end devices

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Yeah, somehow I doubt that if "money is too tight to mention" then a £239 phone will be at the top of the priority list.

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Unhappy

No 4G

Value or not, the biggest problem with the Nexus 4 is the lack of 4G. Even if I do hack the system to turn on the hidden chip, it still won't work on the frequency used in my country (Australia).

Come on Google, get your act together and give us a 4G phone already!

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Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX HD

Excellent handset, love the battery.

Live in the UK. Dodgy ebay deal, a lot of screwing around required (after downgrading to ICS, rooting, upgrading, etc) to get everything working right. Still worth it.

Hope Motorola's next handset takes battery life so seriously, and is actually available everywhere.

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Re: Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX HD

Nice to know it can be made to work. The older MAXX is actually available in the UK and when/if it dies I was rather planning to get whatever the newest version was, due to battery life.

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Another option when asked by people in the pub which phone to get:

Stick with your candybar-Nokia or clamshell-Samsung, and get a 7" tablet for your car, jacket or handbag.

Just a thought.

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Camera

On balance I’d recommend... waiting for the Lumia EOS/1020.

There, fixed that for you.

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Re: Camera

The Galaxy S4 Zoom is supposed to be out this week. Looks interesting.

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Re: Camera

http://www.techradar.com/reviews/phones/mobile-phones/samsung-galaxy-s4-zoom-1160410/review

'Interesting' being the operative word, like Sir Humphrey saying "What a Novel idea"! : D

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Windows

It's always going to be a subjective list...

...but the categories and omissions are interesting.

I have to admit to owning an iPhone. And a Blackberry. And an Android phone. And not a single Windows Phone since the self-harming 6.x days. But, I'm surprised that a Lumia 520 didn't appear as an option under "value" at 20% of the cost of an iPhone, and less than half the price of a Nexus 4. Or the Lumia 925 under camera, rather than the 920. or even any of the Lumias under Ease of Use.

Which leaves the missing category where iPhone is a potential winner: app availability, or some hybrid "immersive device/experience/lifestyle statement" category, rather than any one thing.

If nothing else, this article has made me think seriously about jumping to Windows Phone once I've done a rummage to see if all the apps I need are there. Who'd have thought it...

(Now, if there was an 8" Windows tablet based on WinPh that "just worked" and was compatible with this so I didn't need two eco-systems)

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FAIL

Pixels != noise

More pixels does not mean less noise, quite often the exact opposite is true. One small high pixel count sensors the pixel noise is far higher. This is why full frame sensors in DSLRs produce far less noise than the same tech when shrunk down to crop sensors.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pixels != noise

Erm you are missing the point. Each pixel section of a sensor can only let in a specific amount of light. If you shrink an 8MP full frame sensor down to the size of a phone sensor then you get more noise. Why? you have to amplify the signal more as the signal is weaker. As you amplify any analog signal you get noise, it's a fact of life.

Digital camera sensors aren't purely digital, they are A/D convertors, analog to digitial, much like a sound sampler but for light.

The pixel sizes of an HTC One are much bigger than many other phones around. This is why the Nokia 920 can't compete with it's 808 pureview cousin and why the 1020 will.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pixels != noise

"Digital camera sensors aren't purely digital"

Mine is. Here's the best picture I've taken recently:

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It's a bit over-exposed, but I think it's fine given the subject matter.

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