Sunday, February 3, 2013

February 2013 Mid-Level Smartphone Buyers Guide

The entry level smartphones in my earlier guide all provide dual core power, screens with sufficiently sharp resolutions, come with an operating system that maintains good app compatibility with its ecosystem, and have decently sized batteries. Given a larger budget of over Php10,000 to Php20,000, there are better options, and I think this are than handsets which are worth the additional money. 

The prices posted are those covered by an official manufacturers warranty.

1. HTC Windows Phone 8S (Php13,490) - How much do you like Windows Phone 8?

Not everybody is satisfied with Android, so a option for a different operating system is a good reason to spend more. The HTC Windows Phone 8S is the cheapest phone which comes with the latest version of Windows for smartphones, Windows Phone 8. Getting Windows Phone 8 or a Windows Phone 7.x device is a big deal, since Windows Phone 8 apps are not compatible with Windows Phone 7.x. This leave Windows Phone 7.x as a obsolete operating system.

At Php13,990 the HTC 8S cost almost twice as much as our most expensive entry level option. The hardware on this phone is decent enough, but it is really the operating system which puts it on this list. If the best hardware for the money is your concern, there are better options.

The HTC 8S has a 4-inch WVGA (480 x 800) display paired with a 1 GHz dual core Qualcomm Krait processor built. The Krait on the still cutting edge 28 nm technology which makes it extreme battery efficient. A decently sized 1700 mAh battery promises long battery life.

The other specifications are typical of the entry level smartphones, with 4 GB of internal storage expandable via a microSD card slot and a 5 MP camera. The phone does not have a secondary camera, which is a bit disappointing and the 512 MB of RAM make me worry that it might not be upgraded to the next version of Windows.  

Basically, whether this phone is a good choice of not depends on how much you want a Windows Phone.

2. Samsung Galaxy S3 mini i8910 (Globe Plan 999/Php14,250) - The cheapest phone I would recommend for someone interested in the camera.

The Samsung Galaxy S3 mini comes  at almost twice the price of our most expensive entry level Android recommendation.

It is worth twice the money. The Galaxy S III mini comes with a nice vibrant 4-inch WVGA (480 x 800) Super AMOLED display which is much nicer than any of the display on the entry level phones.

A 1 GHz dual processor is paired with Mali 400 graphics, which is a much faster graphics chip than the Adreno 203 or PowerVR SGX 531 found on the cheaper Androids. It also comes with 1 GB of RAM, which is more than the 512 MB or 768 MB offered by the entry level Androids I recommended. 

Internal storage is good 8 GB, again, double of what the entry level Androids are offering. The 8 Gb of memory is expandable via a microSD card. 

Out of the box this phone comes with with Android 4.1, Jelly Bean. In short, this phone does a decent job of justifying a much higher price tag.

Globe Telecom is offering this phone at Plan 999, which is a pretty, and if you are looking for a free phone on a mid priced plan, this is really an irresistible offer.

For cash buyers the next two offerings will give you reason to pause. 

3. HTC One S (Php14,490) - A big drop in price, makes this phone a decent choice

Last year HTC released the HTC One S, the first phone to feature Qualcomm's dual core Krait processor. The phone was fast enough to match quad core phones and had excellent battery life. That was true for the US and Euro versions at least. For the Asia models, HTC put the older Qualcomm Scorpion processor instead. So while most of the world had a amazing new phone, in the Philippines we essentially had the same old HTC Sensation, released in a new shell. Worse, the phone was priced as a flagship phone, coming with 10% of the price of the HTC One X. An old processor and high price made this phone a dud.

Well not, its selling a Php14,490, which is Php12,500 less than is price 7 months ago. With the price this low, it is a decent enough offer.

Like the Samsung Galaxy S III mini, this phone also comes with a Super AMOLED display. The HTC One S comes with a larger 4.3-inch qHD (540 x 960) display. It also comes with 1 GB of RAM.  The 1.7 GHz dual core processor and Adreno 225 graphics provide enough power at this price point. In terms of the camera, the 8MP unit is the same as the one HTC puts on their top of the line HTC One X/X+ and butterfly smartphones. The phone comes with the older Android 4.0.4 but is upgradeable to Android 4.1, Ice Cream Sandwich.

Still it the Samsung Galaxy S III mini has advantages in several areas. The HTC One S comes with 16 GB of storage, double of what you have in Galaxy S III mini. But the HTC One S does not have a MicroSD card slot so you are stuck at 16 GB (almost 13 GB user available). The Samsung Galaxy mini can be easily upgraded to up to 72 GB of storage. The Samsung Galaxy S III mini also has a user replaceable battery while the HTC One S has to be disassembled by a technician to replace the battery.

The HTC One S also has some key advantages. This phone can record 1080p video, and it is the lowest cost phone on the list that can do that. Combined this with a premium build quality, with a nicely built aluminum case which is just thin 7.9 mm, makes for a tough choice between the Samsung Galaxy S III mini and this one. The next offering will make your decision making even harder.

4. ZTE Grand Era U895 (Php14,999) - The new face of the mid-level: 720p quad core. 

The ZTE Grand Era U895 is really a surprising option at Php14,999, well if you can find one.

This phone comes with a HD display. A 4.5-inch 720p (720 x 1280) display at less than 15K. Inside you have a 1.5 GHz quad core processor on a Nvidia Tegra 3 and 1 GB of RAM. The other specifications are fine too with an 8 MP primary camera which can record 1080p video, a 1.3 MP front camera, 1800 mAh battery. Internal storage is just 4 GB, but it is expandable via a MicroSD card slot.  Another nice touch is that the ZTE Grand Era U895 has Nexus style on screen buttons.  This what you can expect from mid-level Android in 2013.

The the ZTE Grand Era U895 is unfortunately, not a great looking device, but it has all the right curves where is really counts. It is just 8.6 mm thin at its thickest part. Thats just as thick as a Samsung Galaxy S III. But in hand, the phone is actually thinner, being just 7.9 mm around the part where you hold the phone. The phone is also all of just 110 grams in weight.

On the downside, this phone runs Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich, rather than Jelly Bean.

Overall, this looks like a better choice than the Samsung Galaxy S III mini and the HTC One S. The 720p display is the main reason. There are a lot of unknowns with this phone. I am not certain about the quality of images produced by its camera. Also, while having been officially announced in the Philippines, I have been unable to find one for sale so far.

5. Huawei U9510 D1 Quad (Php18,090) - Another 720p quad core phone at a mid-level price

Huawei's D1 Quad has a a 
4.5″ IPS+ LCD display with a HD (720×1280) resolution. Powering the phones is 1.4 GHz quad core processor on a chipset designed in-house by 
Huawei, the K3V2. The fact that is has a in-house designed chipset is pretty impressive, since only two smartphone manufacturers design their chipsets in-house: Apple and Samsung. In terms of performance it is right up there with Samsung quad core Exynos chipset. Basically, its a fast as you need, and performs really well in the graphics intensive tasks. 

Internal storage is 8 GB, with a microSD card slot so that it not an issues.It has a 8 MP primary camera and a 1.3 MP secondary camera.  By all accounts the camera image quality and video capture is just average.

Powering all this is a 2600 mAh battery. Despite the large battery, the phone still comes in at a reasonable 150 grams in weight. The battery is user replaceable, which is a rare feature these days in higher end handsets. The Huawei D1 Quad XL is also surprisingly handy, being a narrow 64 mm wide, compared to the 68-70 mm girth of its 4.7 and 4.8-inch rivals. 

The phone runs Android 4.0.4, Ice Cream Sandwich, and like other "branded" phones comes with its own custom User Interface. If you don't like the custom UI uou have the option to revert to a pretty much vanilla Android interface. 

6. Lenovo K860 (Php18,500) - A Galaxy S3 under the skin

The Lenovo K860 is a 5-inch Android powered smartphone with a 720p (720 x 1280) display. A massive 5-incher is not for everyone, but those who want a monster phone will be very satisfied with the Lenovo K8860.

Inside is a quad core 1.4 GHz processor on an Exynos 4412 Quad chipset with Mali-400MP graphics. That is the same hardware as the Samsung Galaxy S3.  The processor is backed by 1 GB of RAM and a 2250 mAh battery. Internal storage is only 8 GB, but it does have a microSD card slot.

The Lenovo K860 has a 8 MP primary and a 2 MP secondary camera. The 8 MP camera is not produces only average images and video capture is not the best either.

7. The Sharp Aquos Phone SH930W (Php19,200) - 5-inch 1080p display

The Sharp Aquos Phone SH930W sports a large 5-inch Full HD display with a 1080 x 1920 pixel resolution. The Sharp IGZO display has an amazing 441 pixel per inch resolution. The phone comes Android 4.1, Jelly Bean out of the box. The rest of the specs include 32GB internal storage, a 8 MP primary camera, a 2 MP front camera, and a 2100 mAh battery.  I have no idea about the image quality of this phone camera.

The phone runs on a Qualcomm 8260A chipset with a 1.5GHz dual core Krait, backed by 2 GB of RAM. This will mean that the Sharp Aquos Phone SH930W will do a great job at traditional smartphone tasks like communications and multimedia consumption. The Qualcomm 8260A chipset has the Adreno 225 graphics chips, which just has enough power to run the 1080p display, but leave little overhead for hardcore 3D gaming. Early reports even say that 1080p video playback can be choppy at times.

That's it for this category.

The mid-level has something for everyone. Those looking for a well rounded package should look at the Samsung Galaxy S III mini and the HTC One S. Mainly these are good choice for those who want a decent camera. Those looking for a more powerful gaming oriented package would be happier with the ZTE Grand Era D1 Quad, Huawei Lenovo S720. If the 1080p display is really important to you Sharp's offering will fit the bill, just expect some 3D games and 1080p video may not run all the smoothly. Those who prefer Windows Phone 8 can look to the HTC 8S.  

The mid-level is all about compromises. One of these seven should represent an acceptable compromise. Me, I would go with the Huawei's D1 Quad.

1 comment:

  1. I am satisfied with my HTC One S. This year we are getting few new phones from Apple, Samsung, There are many rumors around them. click here


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