Five smartphones to consider

Wait until December (or March) until you buy a smartphone, says Hilton Tarrant

By - November 4, 2011
Apple iPhone 4S

Three months ago, I argued that you should not get a new smartphone (unless you absolutely had to). The major device makers were all in the middle of transitions to new platforms. (Some still are.)

But new smartphones announced in the past few weeks mean you’re not going to be stuck with last year’s technology.

At the high-end, there are only a handful of great phones to choose from:

iPhone 4S

It’s a massive upgrade to the iPhone 4. It’s faster. An improved camera. And the “intelligent assistant” Siri. Once you’ve found yourself talking to Siri, it will be impossible to change. It is rumoured that the 4S will be available in South Africa on November 24.

Pricing is likely to be at similar levels to what the iPhone 4 retailed for when it launched. There is a caveat though, you’ll likely end up on a waiting list unless you take out (another) new contract at launch. (This is why you might need to wait until December).

iPhone 4S

iPhone 4S

Motorola Razr

Sporting the same name as one of the most famous phones ever, Motorola is selling its new smartphone as the “thinnest” in the world. It packs what is now the “standard” set of features, and it runs Android (2.3 or “Gingerbread”).

Motorola is touting the “upgradeability” to the new version of Android (4 or “Ice Cream Sandwich”) as a reason to buy the Razr. But, consumers don’t buy operating systems.

Motorola RAZR horizontal

Motorola RAZR horizontal

BlackBerry Bold 9900

The new BlackBerry Bold (9900) has the best keyboard I’ve ever used on a phone. If you are a “crackberry” addict, this is by far the best phone for you. The e-mail is (still) unrivalled. BBM is very useful, especially if all your friends have BlackBerrys.

There are a few drawbacks: the battery life isn’t great (not what you’d expect given the performance of other BlackBerrys), the operating system (new BB OS 7) is slick but Research In Motion is transitioning to a new platform called BBX. This will probably happen next year, which means you’ll be stuck on an old platform. Also, the number and quality of apps available on BlackBerry still trails rival ecosystems (like iOS and Android).

BlackBerry Bold 9900

BlackBerry Bold 9900

HTC Sensation

The build quality of HTC devices has improved dramatically in the past two years. Back then, a six-month old phone ended up looking like a four-year survivor of various wars. The flagship Sensation is a very good phone.

It runs Android (2.3/Gingerbread), has a massive screen (and a great one at that) and an 8 megapixel camera. If you’re in the market for an Android tablet, some operators are offering a combo deal on the Sensation phone and HTC Flyer tablet.

HTC Sensation front and back

HTC Sensation front and back

Samsung Galaxy S II

Operators are practically giving this phone away. It’s available on contract at R249 per month, which is very low for this type of device. This is the top-of-the range Samsung. It also runs Android (2.3/Gingerbread), and has a noticeably great screen. The one drawback with Samsung is it launches new phones at a rate of knots.

Samsung Galaxy S2 and Samsung Galaxy Note

Samsung Galaxy S2 and Samsung Galaxy Note

Or you could wait till early next year for the Nokia Lumia 800. The new Nokia N9 (available now) is a fantastic phone, but practically dead on arrival given that it’s running the now defunct MeeGo operating system. Wait for the Lumia 800 – it’s effectively the same hardware as the N9, but running Windows Phone software.

Nokia have not confirmed an official South Africa launch date for the Lumia 800 (or Lumia 710), but given the countries Nokia has announced (and one or two well-placed sources) the Lumias will be available in the first quarter next year. If you’re a Nokia fan, wait. The Lumia 800 is that good.

Nokia Lumia 800

Nokia Lumia 800

*Hilton Tarrant contributes to “Broadband”, a column on Moneyweb covering the ICT sector in South Africa. He’s undecided about whether or not to get the new iPhone 4S. But, if he could get his hands on one, he’d get the Nokia Lumia 800 immediately.

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