Tuesday 16 July 2019

Ask Adrian: Our technology editor tackles your trickiest tech problems


Huawei P20 Pro
Huawei P20 Pro
DJI Osmo Pocket
Devialet Phantom
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Question: My contract is up and I'm thinking of getting a new iPhone. But a friend of mine told me that there's better value in Android phones. Is there one you'd recommend?


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I'll go through a few options.

While pricey, fans of the Apple handsets say that you get a more secure, more robust, less buggy interface. Android aficionados say that this is overplayed and that rival devices now give you more for your money.

In terms of raw specifications, it is possible to get longer battery life or more storage on an Android phone on a comparative pricing basis.

For example, the latest OnePlus 6T phone gives you 128GB of storage (which is very good), 6GB of Ram memory with a Snapdragon 845 chip (which combine to make a very fast, powerful engine) and a 3,700mAh battery with a gorgeous 6.4-inch screen for €549. An equivalently-priced iPhone (the iPhone 7) has a fraction of the storage, less power, a much smaller battery and a much smaller (4.7-inch) screen. To get anywhere near the OnePlus's raw specifications on an iPhone would cost at least an additional €250.

That said, you can buy an iPhone through an Irish operator on a contract or in a physical store. By contrast, you can only buy a OnePlus phone online from an international store. This kind of purchase simply doesn't suit a lot of people - if something goes wrong, for example, it all feels a little more remote when you're dealing with postal returns and online help desks instead of the person you bought it from or someone with a local reputation to preserve.

But what about the big Android brands you can buy here from operators or stores, such as Samsung or Huawei?

Both of these make very high quality phones that generally come in a little cheaper than an equivalent iPhone.

For example, if you look at what an operator like Vodafone is currently offering on pre-pay, Samsung's current Galaxy S9 (with 64GB of storage and brilliant cameras) costs €749, which is slightly cheaper than the iPhone XR with the same storage, at €809. (Both can be purchased for far less if you agree to a two-year contract.)

Using the same operator's pre-pay pricing, Huawei's excellent P20 Pro costs €599 with 128GB of storage and an amazing camera system.

The prices tumble if you're willing to consider models from 18 months ago still on sale. For example, Samsung's Galaxy S8 - which is still a great phone - costs €579 on prepay.

(All of these are pre-pay prices from Vodafone: you might find them €20 dearer or cheaper from other operators.)

And while you can still get phones like Apple's iPhone 6S for €379 (from operators and retailers, as opposed to Apple, which only sells from iPhone 7 onwards), there's a whole extra layer of budget Android phones that cost from €150 to €300 that are more than decent. Nokia and Motorola are arguably the two standout players here.

Does this mean that it makes more sense to get an Android phone, such as a Samsung or a Huawei, than an iPhone?

There's honestly no uncontested answer to that question. I've outlined above some reasons why an Android phone might make more sense than an iPhone at a certain budget. Now here's the other side of it. The following is why it sometimes makes more sense to choose an iPhone over an Android phone, even if it costs a little more or you get fewer raw hardware specifications (like storage and battery life) for the money.

(i) FaceTime: Some families use FaceTime quite a lot, especially when living some distance away. FaceTime is only available on Apple devices, so if your family is used to this, you might need another system. There are a few alternative video-calling systems, but none are as simple or baked-in for iPhones as FaceTime.

(ii) iMessage: This isn't as big an anchor as FaceTime, mainly because WhatsApp has become so prevalent. But again, iMessage has a familiar feel for a great many people and it extends to any iPad, MacBook or iMac you use, too - something WhatsApp doesn't do.

(iii) A solid standard: Because Apple makes and designs more of its total phone - from the operating system to the case and functions - than any Android manufacturer does, its phones tend to have the latest software features (most Android phones are on older software versions than the latest iteration). And, like FaceTime and iMessage referred to above, the things that iPhones do tend to become standards, from security and app standards to things like facial recognition and notches. This means that iPhones remain more constantly familiar than some (though not all) Android rivals.

There are also very few 'bloatware' apps or alternative manufacturer 'accounts' (for email, messages or backup features) that Android manufacturers nag users about, but which few people actually join.

Recommendation: Huawei P20 Pro (€599 from Vodafone; price may vary from other retailers)

Email your questions to ­ caomahony@independent.ie

Tech Two

Devialet Phantom

€1,690 from Cloney Audio

Devialet Phantom

On holidays, you often see 'selfie-sticks'. Some take it further with 'gimbals' for their cameras, which allow for smooth filming. DJI's Osmo Pocket is the next level. It's a camera that can film in 4K, super-smoothly (with a three-axis stabilising gimbal). Also capable of 12-megapixel stills, it fits in your hand.

DJI Osmo Pocket

€359 from retailers

DJI Osmo Pocket

Normally, this column focuses on budget wireless speakers. At the other end of the pricing scale is Devialet's weird and wonderful Phantom. Don't let its vacuum cleaner looks put you off - this is one of the very best wireless speakers you can get. The audio quality is simply astounding for something this size.


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