Friday 30 September 2016

The phone for your business and budget

Published 28/01/2016 | 02:30

Iphone 6 plus
Iphone 6 plus
OnePlus x
Nexus 6p
HTC One

Looking for a new work-friendly phone? With lots of choice out there, our technology editor road tested four contenders, from budget options to ultra-premium phablets

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Over €750: Apple iPhone 6S

Price: from €870 unlocked (16GB)/from free on contract

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For anyone in business, it's hard to argue against the 6S Plus being the best overall phone out there right now. The 5.5-inch model is top of the line in what has effectively become the default work phone system (iOS) for most companies that choose to standardise on a platform. The 6S Plus's other additions are nice, too. It has upgraded cameras (12 megapixels and 5-megapixel 'selfie') with better low-light photography. It has added 4K video recording (twice the resolution of 'full HD'), too, and boosted its slow-motion mode to 1080p ('full HD'). A new feature, '3D Touch', lets you press harder on a screen to see a shortcut menu pop up for certain apps such as Instagram, Photos, Camera or Mail.

It's very handy once you get the hang of it. Battery life on the 6S Plus is, in my experience, slightly better than the 6 Plus even if it's not the best on the market. In look and feel, the 6S is almost exactly the same as the former 6 model.

It uses slightly stronger aluminium and glass, which may be Apple's way of nipping any potential 'bendgate' controversy in the bud. This is a high-price handset (although not much dearer than Samsung's equivalent, the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus). But it's the best on the market. It comes in 16GB, 64GB and 128GB versions.

€600 - €750: Google Nexus 6P

Price: €649 (32GB) from store.google.com

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Anyone who already has a Nexus (like 2014's impressive Nexus 5) will love Google's latest 5.7-inch model, which is made by Huawei. Its elegantly designed, unfussy metal body shows off its superb screen beautifully. Nexus models are usually known for two things: being around €100 cheaper than similarly-specced premium rivals and using 'pure' Android (the latest version available) without any manufacturer-added complications or bloatware apps. This, again, is what you get with the 6P: if you want to cut through the treacle to get to your own stuff with blazing power, this smartphone will do it for you.

There is no shirking on specs. It has an incredibly sharp 2.5k (518ppi) screen, 4K video recording, 3GB of Ram and a 64-bit octa-core processor. It starts with a generous 32GB of internal storage, too. The 6P's camera is excellent, though just a twitch off the best out there (from Sony, Samsung and Apple). This is mainly because of Google's slightly clumsy camera-snapping process. Technically, its 12-megapixel, f2 rear camera is superb, with 'larger' pixels for better light capture. If you find yourself taking selfies a lot, the 6P offers up a fairly high-end super-selfie 8-megapixel front camera. And for those who curse their phones' battery lives, the good news is that the 6P packs a relatively long-lasting 3,450mAh battery which comfortably takes it through a day's use. The 6P also comes with a fingerprint placed on the back of the device which is handy for security.

€400-€600: HTC One A9

Price: €550 sim-free

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HTC's 5-inch A9 looks like HTC simply 3D-printed out an iPhone and made a few cosmetic changes to it. Oddly, this tactic works beautifully. Only the most harrumphish of intellectual property guardians would not concede that the all-metal A9 is a gorgeous handset to touch, hold and operate. HTC has always had the prettiest Android handsets and this one is no exception, regardless of how they arrived at its form factor. So if design is important to you, this is worth looking at.

The A9's 13-megapixel camera is good but doesn't quite match the best (Sony Z5, Samsung S6, iPhone 6S), despite some extra features such as hyperlapse and raw capture. It comes with Google's latest Marshmallow Android operating system, which tweaks things like app shortcuts and voice search. One element that is still an advantage for some people is the MicroUSB charging system. Some new Android phones are changing over to USB-C, but most people are more likely to have a few of the older variants around. The HTC One A9 comes with 16GB of storage but also takes expandable memory cards. It is also available in several colours.

Under €400: OnePlus X

Price: €269 unlocked from OnePlus.net

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If you're rationalising your costs and want to maximise the amount of smartphone you get for much less than iPhone or Samsung Galaxy pricing levels, you won't find much better than the OnePlus X. It's a powerful five-inch Android handset that looks and feels a whole lot better in the hand than most other phones, no matter how much they cost.

There's a lot more muscle than you'd normally get in this price bracket. Its quadcore 2.3Ghz processor is bolstered by 3GB of Ram, which means this can handle any kind of app or task you throw at it and will likely continue to do so for some time. It comes with 16GB of storage but allows you to expand this to 128GB using an external memory card.

The 12-megapixel rear camera is good, though not quite at the level of top handset lenses from Apple, Sony or Samsung. It has an 8-megapixel super-selfie front camera, which will be popular.

Unlike the OnePlus 2 (which uses the new USB Type-C port), this comes with a standard Micro-USB charging data port, which means that it's a lot easier to connect to accessories such as cheap car chargers or battery backup devices. It comes in two colours, while a 'ceramic' version is €100 extra.

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