Sunday, September 2, 2012

September 2012 - Smartphone Buyers Guide - Part 1 (15K and below)

Before we start, I should note that you won't be finding the iPhone on this list. The new one will be unveiled in less than two weeks, and the iPhone 4S is selling at a pretty hefty price, being the most expensive smartphone in the country. So if you are looking to buy an iPhone or considering one I would suggest you wait another two months or so. 

Similarly, you won't find any Windows Phone 7.x devices on this list. By October a whole range of Windows Phone 8 devices will be coming out, rendering all existing Windows Phone 7.x devices obsolete, both in terms of hardware and software. If you are thinking BlackBerry, well I am not recommending any.'

For Androids, to make it to this list, it has to be running Android 4.x, meaning Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean. This ensures that it will be compatible with new apps like Google's Chrome browser and take advantage of a many improvements in apps that only are available if you are running Android 4.x.

For the past few months, I have imposed the same standard, but gave leeway to units with promised ICS upgrades. It is now September 2012. If it the upgrade is not out, I won't be putting the phone on this list.

This month we will start at the lowest. All prices quoted are with official manufacturers warranties.

1. Sony ST21i Xperia tipo - Best Budget Priced Android Phone (Php7,150 to Php7,690)

There are cheaper smartphones, but really none are worth your money. If you are looking to get into the world of smartphones or replace an old smartphone, this one is where you should start. For many users, there really is no need to buy anything more than this.

The Sony ST21i Xperia tipo runs Android 4.03, Ice Cream Sandwich ("ICS"), so you should have no problem with Android app compatibility. It comes with a small 3.2-inch display, but which runs at a sharp HVGA (320 x 480) resolution. It also comes with a 1500 mAh battery which when combined with the frugal power requirements of the small screen will result in excellent battery life. The 2.5 GB user available internal storage is expandable with MicroSD cards up to 32 GB being officially supported.

It is not a terrible fast device with a single core 800 MHz ARM Corter-A5 processor, and the 3.2 MP camera is just best used in emergencies. But many users really do not need more.

If your purpose in getting a smartphone is for the traditional smartphone uses: communication and organization, there really is no reason to spend more. This phone is great for calls, SMS, email, instant messaging and making calls over VoIP, with the only drawback being the absence of a front camera for video calls. It will also keep your calendar and tasks organized and even keep them in sync with other devices or other people.

2. Lenovo P700 - There are more reasons to buy this than it dual SIM capability (Php10,900 to Php10,999)

If we were to spend more than the Php7K price for the Sony ST21i Xperia tipo, we would really like a larger display. The Lenovo P700 gives you that at a bit over Php3K more. This Android ICS powered smartphone performs at about the same level as the typo both offers  you more in every other respect. 

The Lenovo P700 comes with a much larger 4-inch WVGA (480 x 800) display, has a larger 2500 mAh battery and it also comes with a front camera. In other respects, it is similar to the typo with the same 2.5 GB or user expadable storage and a mediocre camera.

The bigger screen is a good enough reason to get this one. By the way, it is a dual SIM phone too.

3. Sony Xperia go - Dual core power (Php12,990 to Php14,990) 

Sony has several excellent mid price dual core offerings, like the Sony Xperia U and Sola, which have planned upgrades to Android 4.x. We have been recommending this phones for the past few months, but with the ICS updates still not out we have removed them from the list. Fortunately, Sony has a good offering  to replace them with.

The Sony Xperia go has a decent sized 3.5-inch display, with a HVGA (320 x 480) resolution. The drop in resolution is not a big deal. HVGA looks fine on a 3.5-inch display. Inside you have a 1 GHz dual core ARM Cortex-A9 processor which is the main reason to get this phone over the Sony Xperia Tipo and Lenovo P700. It also comes with a decent 5 MP autofocus camera with a flash, as well as a secondary camera. The Sony Xperia go also provides more internal user available storage, at 4 GB (expandable via a MicroSD card) and has USB-on-the-Go support allowing you to connect it with USB Flash drives.

The only part I am not to crazy about is the smaller than average 1305 mAh battery, which is the same issue we have with the Sony Xperia U and Sola. An this is where the Sony Xperia go is a better choice than the Sony Xperia U and Sola. These two phone comes with higher resolution WVGA (480 x 854) displays combined with small 1320 mAh batteries. Given the small battery I would prefer the Sony Xperia Go. The lower resolution display will use less power and result in better battery life.

As a bonus, the Xperia go, is IP67 certified to be dust and water resistant, making this a though phone. Despite its though status, this phone is 9.8 mm thick. 

4. HTC One V - An alternative to the Xperia go (Php13,200 to Php13,990)

If the HVGA display of the Sony Xperia go puts you off, there is a good alternative. The HTC One V. This phone has a larger 3.7-inch WVGA (480 x 800) display and decent sized 1500 mAh battery. You do give up the dual core processor, but the single core 1 GHz Snapdragon Qualcomm S2 inside the HTC One V is pretty fast, much faster than is makes it a lot faster than the Sony Xpeira tipo and Lenovo P700.

User available storage is 1.1 GB, expandable via Micro SD and there is no secondary camera which puts it behind the Xperia go in terms of those features. 

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