Wednesday 18 September 2019

Ask Adrian: Our technology editor tackles your trickiest tech problems

 

Google Pixel 3a XL (€479)
Google Pixel 3a XL (€479)
iPhone 7 (€539)
Motorola G6 Play (€169)
HP Chromebook X2
Lenovo Ego
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Question: We're regular readers of your Saturday column and are 80 year olds and use Nokia 3310 mobile phones. Can you please recommend smartphones that are simple to use for basic texts, calls, family photos and good battery life? We have some experience with touchscreen devices - I have a Lenovo IdeaPad and my wife has an iPad. Separately, I have a standby laptop with Windows 7. - John Mullins (via email)

Answer

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You don't mention your budget, but I'm going to assume that you're not looking for the kind of flagship models that cost around €1,000, given what you say you're seeking from it. I'll advise you on decent models that cost under €500.

I'll give you three options, although I'm going to recommend something different for you and your wife.

At the budget end, it's hard to beat Motorola's G6 Play (€169 from Argos). This has a nice big (5.7-inch) HD screen, an acceptable minimum of 32GB of storage and a reasonable camera (13 megapixels rear and 8 megapixels selfie). But the reason I recommend it above other budget models is its incredible battery life.

This phone's 4,000mAh battery is almost twice that of some phones in its price range. It even breezes past most top-end flagship devices on this score. In fact, only Huawei's top-end P30 Pro (€950), Samsung's Galaxy S10 Plus (€1,000) and one or two other top models match or top it. (Huawei's previous flagship phone, the P20 Pro, also has a 4,000mAh battery and this can be bought now for €499 from Three on a tied prepay basis. But it's an uncertain time to buy a Huawei phone at present due to Google's announcement that it may soon cease providing software for Huawei phones.)

Unless you're using it an awful lot every day for photos, video and web browsing, the extra-long battery effectively means that you only need to charge it every second day.

A bonus is that it retains the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack that all phones used to have, but which has largely been dispensed with in modern models.

While the G6 Play will do the job, the next phone I'm going to recommend is a serious step up and is arguably the best phone you can buy right now if you want to maximise overall functionality for your hard-earned euro.

Google's Pixel 3A XL (€479) is new and is easily the most impressive new phone under €500 launched so far this year.

Its camera is superb, its operating system is top-notch and the overall package is something that is on par with some flagship models. I can't think of another Android phone I'd recommend under the very top flagship models I referred to above.

Its 6-inch display is superb, it feels great in-hand, it has fantastic power, it yields a good amount (64GB) of storage and it has - hands down - the best camera I've ever used in a non-flagship smartphone.

I'm not sure whether or not this is important to you, so I won't go on about it. But if taking the odd snap with your phone is even of passing interest, this is the very best you can get (by a long way) in this price bracket. For more on why, look up my recent review of this handset on independent.ie.

I also found its 3,700mAh battery life to be very good and, like the Motorola, it has a 3.5mm headphone port.

The other significant perk of choosing a Pixel phone is the 'pure' Android operation system you get. This tends to speed things up and give you a best-in-class Android experience.

All that said, I'm going to recommend something different for your wife for one reason: you say she uses an iPad.

This means that it's a good bet she will take to an iPhone quicker than an Android device. They're not actually that different, but there are some differences. If your wife is used to the names, shortcuts and terminology on an iPad, she'll recognise them straight away on an iPhone.

Unfortunately, iPhones tend to be a little more expensive than Android models. So the model I'd recommend is the iPhone 7, currently Apple's entry-level handset. From Apple, it's priced at €539, but you'll get it from a vendor like Mint (a refurbished model) for closer to €450.

The iPhone 7 has a nice 4.7-inch high definition screen that's bright and vivid. It still packs plenty of power via its A10 chip. While you'd normally expect more than 32GB of storage for €500, this shouldn't be a problem if your wife isn't downloading too many things or taking lots and lots of photos and videos.

The 12-megapixel camera on the back remains very good. It beats plenty of mid-range rivals from the likes of OnePlus while not quite being at the level of Google's Pixel 3a XL that I referred to earlier.

As a bonus, the iPhone 7 is almost fully waterproof, being able to withstand up to 30 minutes at a water depth of one metre and still come out working.

Recommendation: Google Pixel 3a XL (€479), iPhone 7 (€539), Motorola G6 Play (€169)

Email your questions to ­ caomahony@independent.ie

 

Tech Two

HP Chromebook X2

€799 from store.hp.com

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HP Chromebook X2
 

Chromebooks have always been, in my opinion, an underrated option for laptops. This model is especially nicely done, even if it comes at a bit of a premium price (for a Chromebook). The 12-inch detachable screen can either be a standalone tablet or a laptop with full keyboard. It's well powered and comes with a stylus pen.

 

Lenovo Ego

€30 from Amazon

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Lenovo Ego
 

Here's something worth looking at: an ultra-budget smartwatch. Lenovo's newly-announced 'Ego' model has a 42mm touchscreen, Bluetooth, sleep tracking, a heart rate monitor and is water-resistant to 50 metres. But it costs about one tenth the price of an Apple Watch.

Indo Review

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