Friday, January 14, 2011

January 2011 Smartphone buyers guide

It is amazing how much smartphones prices fluctuate and how fast new models comes out. Because of this, we decided it was time to update out buyers guide. 

The best of the best: Apple iPhone 4, Samsung Galaxy S and HTC Desire HD

We kept the Apple iPhone 4 and Samsung Galaxy S on our list, and added the new HTC Desire HD arrived in January 2011. In no particular order...

1. Apple iPhone 4. The Apple iPhone 4 was not the first touchscreen phone in the market, it can be credited with innovations which lead to the touchscreen being the dominant smartphone interface. With its fourth generation smartphone, the iPhone 4, Apple has its most legitimate claim to being the best smartphone in the market.

It has a fast operating system, a slick user friendly interface and the 3.5 inch screen has the highest resolution of any mobile phone screen at 640 x 960 pixels. With either  16GB or 32GB of internal storage is also equal or better than any of its competitors. Other phones have a larger screen, more RAM, or a better camera,  but would be less capable in some other category. Any head-to-head comparison will result in a draw. 

It is also the most expensive option in the market. At Php38,500 for the entry level unit this is one expensive phone. You can also get an iPhone from Globe Telecoms. At Plan 1799 you would need to add a reasonable Php10,800 to get an iPhone 4. You can get it free from Globe at Plan 3799. If you don't spend around Php1,799 a month on calls, SMS and data you should really consider whether or not you need a smartphone in the first place.

2. Samsung Galaxy. At Php30,990 for the 16GB model, with a official Samsung warranty, it is the most expensive Android phone in the Philippine market. It specifications are top class with a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, discrete graphics, 16GB of internal storage storage, MicroSD slot and a 4-inch 480 x 800 pixel display using Super AMOLED technology.  Super AMOLED LCD's are arguably the best display in any phone available now. AMOLED technology also reduced battery consumption. The Galaxy S biggest weakness is that it has no flash for the camera, which is kind of perplexing for such an expensive phone.

3. HTC Desire HD. When this 4.3-inch monster was announced with a price of Php35,000 to Php40,000 in the fourth quarter of last year, we found it a bit too expensive. It hit the market at a lower lower than the expected price, and now just two weeks later can be had for just Php26,500, with an official HTC warranty.

It has a much larger screen than the iPhone, and is a fair bit larger than Galaxy S. It's  800x480 LCD  display is not match for the iPhone 4 iPS display and the Galaxy's Super AMOLED technology, but it is more than adequate for the intended purpose. Other than the large screen, it has a lot of things going for it: 768GB of RAM which is 50% more than any smartphone in the local market, a 1 GHz processor Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8255, 8MP camera and a dual led flash. The HTC Desire HD also does fall short on built in memory at only 1.5GB.  An 8GB MicroSD card bundled does come bundled with the unit.

If you are looking for the best Android available, it is either the Desire HD or the Galaxy Galaxy S. At its current price, it also a value for money proposition.

Best mid-range smartphones in the market - HTC Desire and Motorola Defy

With lower prices for the HTC Desire and the new offerings from Motorola which were released in December, Nokia N8 and Samsung 8500 Wave, our favorite mid-priced phones, just don't cut it anymore.

HTC Desire
1. HTC Desire. The HTC Desire is an Android powered smartphone with a 3.7-inch screen and is powered by a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and equipped with 512GB of RAM. It is regarded by many as the best smartphone for 2010. At it previous price point of Php25,500 for the HTC desire, we preferred the 8GB version of the Samsung Galaxy S which was priced at Php26,500 
(with a shop warranty, not a official Samsung warranty).

At the lower price of Php23,000 price with a HTC warranty, we think the price gap has widened enough for us to recommend the lower spec'ed Desire. Now at the same price as Nokia's N8, unless the built-in camera and HD viedo recording, is your main consideration, the more powerful Android OS makes the HTC Desire a better deal.

2. Motorola MILESTONE XT720. The Motorola MILESTONE XT720 has officially landed on Philippine shores last December. The price is an eye-poppingly low Php18,000. However, it is not a state of the art Android, still running Android 2.1 (Eclair). It is a mid-level Android phone with with a 3.7" screen (854 x 480 pixels), 256MB of RAM and a 720MHz ARM Cortex A8 processor. Internal storage is a only 150MB, but it is expandable via MicroSD.  The camera is an impressive 8MP auto focus camera with a Xenon flash. To top it off, this thing shoots HD video.

Sounds to good to be true, well it is? The 8MP camera is decent, but the Xenon flash has a very limited range and HD video shoots at just around 18 frames per second resulting in disapointing output. But at the retail price of Php18,000 this is still one very good buy. The Motorola MILESTONE XT720 runs Android 2.1 (Eclair) but a Froyo (2.2) update might be on the way. Hopefully this might sold some of the HD video problems. Still, at Php18,000 we think it is a better option than Samsung S8500 Wave.

Best budget smartphone in the market - LG Optimus One P500

No changes here.

LG Optimus One P500. At Php12,490 retail price you get a phone running Android 2.2 (Froyo), with a 3.2 inch capacitive touchscreen display with 320 x 480 pixel resolution, 600MHz processor, 419MB of RAM and 170MB of internal storage. For the camera, it has a 3.2MP autofocus camera. Connectivity options are the expected: GPRS, EDGE,  HSDPA, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, a micro USB port and as well as a built in GPS transceiver with A-GPS support. All-in-all not a bad package, for Php12,490. It's the best budget Android, and probably the best budget smartphone in the local market.

Need a physical QWERTY keyboard?

Some of us cannot make the transition to pure touchscreen, and the manufacturers are happy to meet our needs:

1. HTC Desire Z.  HTC offers a 3.7-inch Android with one killer feature, a phyical keyboard with an innovative z-hinge. While some have felt that the z-hinge may be flimsy, so far no horror stories have come up about someone breaking one. The z-hinge is innovative because instead of sliding the keyboard straight out which results in a flat keyboard, it "lifts" the phone over the keyboard allowing for raised keys. Basically, is it is the best slide out keyboard I have ever tried.

Equipped with a 3.7 inch 800 x 480 resolution screen, a 800MHz Qualcomm processor and 512GB or RAM and 1.5GB of memory with a bundled 8GB MicroSD card. The price of this one varies wildly from seller to seller. But you can find it Php25,000 with an official HTC Warranty. 

The screen is smaller than the Desire HD or Galaxy S, but since the keyboard does not clutter the screen, it does give you more effective real-estate.

2. Samsung Galaxy 551. Another physical QWERTY option is the Samsung Galaxy 551, priced at Php15,990 the Galaxy 551 is a budget priced phone as Android smartphones go. It is current though, running Android 2.2 and equipped with a 3.2 inch 400 x 240 resolution screen and powered by a 667MHz processor and 256MB of RAM.

BlackBerry users

A smartphone is only as good as the services supporting it, if you rely on BlackBerry services...

BlackBerry Curve 9300. A QWERTY messenger is still todays standard for a business phone, and BlackBerry's still make the best messaging phones. BlackBerry's top of the line QWERTY messaging phone is the Bold and the Torch. The Bold and Torch would set you back between 21,000 to Php28,000. Priced at around Php15,000, the Curve is the best choice. You lose the higher resolution screen, get a lower end camera and a host of other features. But the BlackBerry Curve 9300 will allow you to avail of push email through its BES or BIS service. Basically, that is what you get a Blackberry for. Its 90% of a Blackberry Bold, at 60% of the price.

If you want to spend more, it is probably best to just save the difference for the BlackBerry Playbook, which will make a nice companion to your Curve. If you are thinking of getting a Bold or Torch, we recommend you look at the Android phones at the same price range. 


  1. What about the high-spec'd Cherry Mobile Magnum HD?

  2. That could be a interesting choice, falling in at the price of a Motorola Milestone with better specifications. Unfortunately, our lists are based on reviews by other sites, feedback on a local forum (, availability in the Philippines, and finally adjusting for Philippine pricing. So far we have not found a review of the Cherry Mobile Magnum.

    The Cherry Mobile Magnum is actually Huawei Ideos X6. So it should be a pretty decent choice. Someone should be reviewing it soon I guess, and who know, we may place it on our next list.


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