Saturday 3 December 2016

Battle of the heavyweights: How the best smartphones square off

Published 28/05/2015 | 02:30

Apple iPhone 6
Apple iPhone 6
Huawei Ascend G7
Sony Xperia Z3
Samsung S6
Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Apple iPhone 6

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While it doesn't quite have the engine power or some feature specifications of Samsung's S6, the iPhone 6 remains the joint best phone you can currently buy for a couple of reasons. Its main advantage is its ecosystem. Not only does it (still) have the best range of apps (new offerings are launched for the iPhone more than any other platform), but it's most likely to be the phone that is 'supported' by the IT department at work. (Apple iPhones have replaced BlackBerrys in middle-aged corporate office land.) Of course, the phone itself is no slouch, with a nice (but not top-end) 4.7-inch screen, a fingerprint-reader function button and the customary sleek Apple hardware design. The 8-megapixel camera is good, though not as good as some rivals. Lastly, the iPhone 6 will support Apple Pay, due to be launched in Europe later this year (and a service that I think will be a big deal).

Samsung S6

If you like Android and are looking for the top model, this is it. Whereas Samsung was beginning to wobble with its plasticky S4 and S5 phones, it's right back on top with the new S6. This is a gorgeous, powerful handset that jumps to the head of the queue. Made of metal and glass, it feels fantastic in the hand, while the 5.1-inch screen is top-end. Samsung hasn't added much to the 16-megapixel main rear camera, but it has beefed the front-facing 'selfie' camera up considerably, with a 5-megapixel, f1.9 lens. This puts it head and shoulders (excuse the pun) above its competitors for Instagramming yourself. Under the hood, the 5-inch S6 plays second fiddle to no-one with 64-bit computing and 3GB of Ram. One advantage it has over the iPhone 6 is that the entry-level model has 32GB of storage, compared to (an insufficient) 16GB in the entry-level iPhone 6. (64GB and 128GB versions are also available.)

Huawei Ascend G7

While not as well known as its premium brand rivals, Huawei is making good phones with 90pc of the features of flagship rivals and selling them for 50pc of the price. The G7, for example, is a very decent-looking 5.5-inch Android model with 4G, a good (13-megapixel) camera, a fast processor and 16GB of storage. Clever design tweaks include two built-in antennae which allow it to maximise the phone signal depending on which way you're holding it. This sounds minor but it's not in areas where the phone signal is patchy. But the killer feature here is its price: €275 unsubsidised is less than half the price of high-end rivals. This is a really decent alternative for those looking for high-end features on a budget.

Sony Xperia Z3

Sony handsets have largely kept pace, both in design, power and features, with Samsung and Apple. I like the Z3 a lot, even if some of its unique features - its waterproof quality in particular - are not really business critical assets. The 5.2-inch handset has a really great high resolution screen and lots of power under the hood to make it shine. It also looks nice, with rounded metallic curves. Its only questionable feature is its battery life which, in my experience, doesn't quite keep up with its rivals, despite Sony's attempts at making the phone more efficient on power usage. The company is just about to release a slight upgraded version, called the Z3+. It has the same look and feel but more power (faster processor) under the hood.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

I've been a fan of Samsung's Galaxy Note phones since they first came out three years ago. Mainly, it has been because of those big five-and-a-half-inch screens: there is simply no beating a large display on a smartphone and, once you try it, it's impossible to go back. This is even more so for business purposes. Samsung was first with the 'phablets' and, up until recently, was easily the best choice in the segment. There's much more competition now, but the Note 4 model still holds its own as an excellent business smartphone. It has the best screen on the market, strong battery life and enough power under the hood that you won't have to worry about being forced to upgrade any time soon. Its stylus ('pen'), which I thought superfluous in the first three Note models, is even starting to become useful. It is also now one of the only top-end phones that allows you to take the back off and change the battery. This is still a killer work phone.

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