Smart pick for your smartphones

Last Updated: Sun, May 29, 2011 19:51 hrs

LG, Samsung and Apple have launched flagship models.

The newest bunch of smartphones can keep you off the laptops, well almost. There’s almost nothing that these smartphones and their army of apps cannot do — browse, compliment your productivity, helps unwind after work and are great tools for social networking on the go. But make sure you zero down on a suitable data plan before buying that smartphone.

Price starts at Rs 34,500
The iPhone was launched in the US in June last year, but it still seems to have the power to make every smartphone vendor in India sit up when it came knocking last week. Comparing the Samsung Galaxy S2 or LG Optimus 2X with a device that is more than halfway into its product lifecycle isn’t exactly fair, but iPhone 4 manages to stand up just fine.

The 3.5-inch display in iPhone 4 may not exactly look big enough but the new retina display is the most significant change to its hardware design, taking the pixel count to 960x640 pixels. While many don’t see a problem with the 320x480 resolution devices, but having once seen the iPhone 4, we bet it would be difficult to switch back to a lower resolution screen.

We loved the touchscreen — highly sensitive and scratch-resistant. The phone works smoothly on the 1GHz Apple A4 processor, 512 MB RAM with memory options of 16 or 32 GB and dual cameras, 5 megapixel 5x digital zoom rear camera with LED flash and a 0.3 megapixel camera for video calling. The battery life is about 10 hours, while using all the multimedia features.

The updated iOS 4 software adds a feature that people have been calling out for — multi-tasking. The iOS 4, to save resources, allows seven simultaneous services to be run at one time. Since Apple has packed more sensors into the iPhone 4, so now there’s an accelerometer, a three-axis gyroscope, a proximity sensor and the ambient light sensor. All said, there remains some minor annoyances, including the absence of a memory card slot.

We believe the iPhone 4 will be your digital Swiss Army Knife that can replace multiple single-function tools. Thanks to the fact that there are over 350,000 iPhone apps available, including games, productivity tools, books, podcasts, lifestyle and utility apps.

Most smartphones would require videos to be transferred to a computer for editing but Apple provides an on-the-go solution with iMovie that gives a range of basic editing tools. While features are limited, the software shows potential to become a popular app among those who love sharing on social networking sites. Apple also packs in a punch with apps like Facetime, a Wi-Fi enabled video chat tool that engages in video chats with other iPhone 4 owners. The limitation being that the system currently works only between two iPhone 4s and both parties must be within range of the Wi-Fi network.

Verdict: We don’t need to give a verdict. You will know if it is meant for you when you hold this beauty in your hands. And if you own an iPhone 3G or the older 2G model, then upgrading to iPhone 4 is a no-brainer.

Price starts at Rs 32,890
Samsung’s most advanced phone stands up against the Apple iPhone 4. On the plus side, the Samsung Galaxy S2 features a 4.27-inch super AMOLED screen with a resolution of 480x800 pixels and an 8 megapixel digital camera. So, whatever you’ll click and view on S2 is going to be far superior to that of the Apple iPhone 4. Like its predecessor, the Galaxy S, the S2 is made almost entirely out of plastic, save for the Gorilla Glass front panel and metallic chrome edging. It still feels like a good-quality phone and the plastic keeps it light at 116 grams.

The only thing that could have been added was a dedicated camera shutter button. We loved the fact that S2 makes video viewing a pleasure. Not only can you plug a HDMI cable into the USB at the bottom of the device, but also use DLNA to stream any footage you have just taken, direct to your DLNA-capable TV.

The device runs on Google’s Android 2.3 mobile operating system, Gingerbread. The CPU running at 1 Ghz and Tegra 2 dual core on Galaxy S2 is made for multitasking. With the 1650MAh battery, you are good to go for 8-9 hours of heavy usage or up to 15 hours of casual browsing. The original Galaxy S suffered from some software flakiness, especially before it got an update with Android 2.2 Froyo. But the Galaxy S2 has none of those problems. The device comes in both 16GB and 32GB options with the choice of upgrading it by 32GB via SD card - a lot of memory for such a small smartphone.

Samsung has also improved its TouchWiz user interface, both in the way it looks and how intuitive it is in use. For instance, from the lock screen one can open messages, emails and missed calls or holding down the Home button displays the last six apps you have used and has a direct link to the Galaxy S2’s extremely capable Task Killer application. The music software on S2 is quite commendable too and the phone allows its social, music, reader and video hubs to be customised for maximum handiness. Not to forget, a number of motion controls such as tilt to zoom, motion-aided panning and tilt to silence, are some other interesting additions to the TouchWiz interface.

Verdict: By far the most impressive and sleek Android device that we have played with.

Price starts at Rs 27,000
LG has been the underdog in the smartphone market for long, but the company scores with the new Optimus 2X smartphone. As the name suggests, it sports a dual-core processor. Wondering what the real benefit of a dual core processor is? The Nvidia Tegra 2 1GHz dual-core processor at the heart of the Optimus 2X ensures it is the best when it comes to videography — the device records video in 1080p Full HD, can mirror the video to a HDTV via the micro HDMI connector, and even accelerate Flash performance for websites or games.

As far as the looks go, Optimus 2X is pretty heavy weighing a solid 139 grams. Optimus 2X also sports a fairly large 4-inch 800 x 480 IPS LCD display. You would be glad to see a HDMI video out support and 3.5 mm audio jack on the device, which is only fair since it boasts a supreme processor. Also built-in is an 8-megapixel camera, with auto-focus & flash, a front-facing camera, all powered by a 1500mAh removable battery. The phone has twin stereo speakers with simulated surround sound and you can plug in headphones or mirror video output in 1080p to a HDTV. You have to acknowledge the value LG adds by bundling all the cables and connectors that a consumer will need to get the device running.

The Optimus 2X is shipped with Android 2.2 rather than the latest 2.3 (Gingerbread). This can be disappointing news for prospective buyers as the Optimus 2X is meant to be LG’s best and most up-to-date phone. The real muscle of the handset becomes evident when we run a Tegra compatible game and see how good the high detail titles render. Dungeon Defenders, as an example, looked fantastic on Optimus 2X and the ability to scale it up via HDMI to an HDTV is complimentary.

Pre-loaded apps such as Polaris Office are included for editing Office documents, but it requires registration, and the email programme is capable of viewing most Office documents. The Optimus 2X also includes custom Facebook for LG and Twitter for LG apps which are not as powerful as the native apps from the Android Market.

The processors pave the way for smooth movement between screens and applications. Flash 10.3, released earlier, works well with content accelerated by the GPU but some optimisations are still required. For example, while installing some applications from the Android Market, the handset can lag a little. However, we expect this to be fixed in the next OS update from LG.

Verdict: If you insist on quality display, good camera, near-perfect HDMI mirroring and impressive gaming performance, then invest in Optimus 2X.

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