There are plenty of cheap smartphones about but the majority are pretty awful. Most budget Android devices are stodgy, under-specified affairs that feel even cheaper than their price sticker suggests. Samsung's new Galaxy Fame and LG's L5 II are a couple of good examples.
Nokia's Lumia 520 and 620 devices aren't bad but Windows 8 still doesn't deliver anything like the app selection of Android or iOS and the 520 lacks a web camera.
BlackBerry - the company formally known as Research In Motion - has had a torrid time of late. It’s BB7 operating system had become woefully dated, its handsets looked like cheap toys next to the best offerings from Apple, Samsung and Nokia, it was losing money hand over fist and the management team was as unstable as a very wobbly thing during an earthquake.
Two hundred and forty is a the number to keep in mind as you read this review of the latest and by some margin greatest Google phone: the LG-made Nexus 4. It’s the number of pounds the Google Play Store will want from you in return for an unlocked, SIM-free 8GB sample of the latest Nexus-branded handset. For some perspective Apple wants £529 for its cheapest iPhone 5 and Nokia wants something very similar for its flagship Window Phone 8 handset the Lumia 920.
With mobile data use and web access increasing at a scarcely believable rate the connected, touch-screen mobile phone was the must-have tech device of 2012. The battle for dominance was as intense in the courtroom as it was on the high street as Apple and Samsung squared off in a bitter struggle for market share under the guise of the protection of intellectual property rights. Meanwhile at the bottom of the pile BlackBerry started to come perilously close to being an irrelevancy and Nokia continued to struggle to compete in a market it dominated just four short years ago.
A new model of iPhone has arrived and if you have read some of the near hagiographical reviews you could be forgiven for thinking the smartphone has been reinvented from the ground up. Well it hasn’t. As we will see the iPhone 5 is a solid update of an already more than decent device but not much more than that while in some places the new software and operating system feels just a little rushed and even lazy in execution.
Motorola resurrected its Razr badge late last year with an impressively thin, light and powerful Android handset. Being partly made from Kevlar and having splash-proof internals it was a tough little box of tricks too. Now there’s a new version that aims to overcome the curse of all smartphones - lousy battery life - by having a truly massive battery shoved up its derriere.
Arriving hard on the heels of Huawei’s well regarded bargain Ascend G300 smartphone the new Ascend P1 has one job in life - to steal market share from HTC, run off laughing into the woods with it and bury it under a tree so HTC never gets it back. To achieve this the P1 offers a 4.3in 960 x 540 Super AMOLED screen, a 1.5GHz dual-core CPU with 1GB of RAM, 4GB of storage, Android Ice Cream Sandwich, an 8MP camera and a 1.2MP webcam and all for £26 a month on a Vodafone contract come August 31st.
The new generation of huge quad-core superphones with their 4.6 and 4.7 inch screens are all well and good but sometimes I think that a small, rugged handset with good battery life, a decent dual-core CPU and plenty of storage would make more sense for every day use, especially now the Nexus 7 tablet has arrived to take care of the heavy lifting. An outright purchase price of around £200 would be nice too. Handily that’s the new pocket-sized and rugged Sony Xperia Go in a nutshell.
Five years ago is was by the quality of their cameras that mobile phones were known rather than the size of their touchscreens or the number of available apps. At the time I had a Sony Ericsson K850i with a superb 5MP camera and a Xenon flash. It took better pictures than any handset I’ve used since and still would do had I not gotten drunk and left it in a bar in Bangkok. Now Nokia is attempting to put the camera back in it’s place of honour by releasing a handset with a 41 - yes, you read that right, forty-one - megapixel snapper.