Four fab phones with plenty of bite
iPhone rules the roost in Ireland, but that could change, says technology editor Adrian Weckler
LAST week, Apple unveiled two new iPhones. Both are variations of the four-inch iPhone 5, which will be discontinued.
The new, high-end iPhone 5S has a faster chip, a better camera and a fingerprint reader that aims to replace passcodes for unlocking your screen and validating iTunes purchases. It will also be offered in a new colour – gold.
The second model, the iPhone 5C, is basically a repackaged iPhone 5 in plastic, with a choice of five colours. Both are due here next month and are very pricey, at €700 (5S) and €600 (5C) respectively, without a mobile operator subsidy.
So, is there an alternative to the iPhone? What are the best that Samsung, HTC or Sony can offer? In Ireland, Apple rules the market for smartphones, bucking a global trend towards Android. But there is life outside the iPhone. Here are four smartphones that can put up a stern fight in the battle of the handsets.
Samsung Galaxy S4
If there is one smartphone that is the main counterweight to the iPhone, it is Samsung's S4 (pictured right).
It packs a huge number of features into its five-inch, HD frame. While some (excellent manual controls over its 13-megapixel camera) are superb, others (touchless swiping and eye-controlled scrolling) are either gimmicky or buggy. The screen is the brightest and clearest on the market, though it saps battery life too quickly. The phone is pleasingly light, despite its technical wizardry and top-end engine firepower (quad-core 1.9Ghz chip, 2GB Ram).
Despite the absence of a wow feature, this is high-end stuff.
Price: from free on contract, €600 unlocked
Sony Xperia Z1
Every time Sony updates its high-end smartphone, it sets a new benchmark for mobile cameras.
Its latest flagship model, the Xperia Z1, looks to have done that again, courtesy of a 20-megapixel sensor and Sony's 'G' lens that the firm usually only puts into its stand-alone cameras.
The results are very impressive: its performance in low light without a flash is especially good. Other than a quad-core processor, 2GB of Ram and 16GB of space, the phone's battery is better than average. Sony makes much of the Z1's waterproof status: this is useful for operating the phone in the rain, though I have yet to use my phone underwater.
Cons? It's a little bulky for its five-inch HD screen (10pc bigger than five-inch rival Samsung S4).
Price: €690 unlocked
It says a lot about how the phone market has raced into large screens when HTC's One, with its 4.7-inch screen, feels relatively compact.
The handset has a couple of noticeable strong points. The main one is its physical design: this is the best-looking phone on the market. It also has a relatively generous storage allocation, at 32GB. Its camera, courtesy of its extra-large pixels (which let in more light) is very good, too, despite its headline 4 megapixels.
As is now standard across the big smartphone beasts, the One has a quadcore (1.7Ghx) processor and 2GB of Ram. The battery life could be a little better, but this is a strong handset.
Price: from free on contract: €595 unlocked
Samsung Galaxy Note 3
The Galaxy Note series has become the BlackBerry of our times. It has all the high-end features of the top smartphones, packed into a larger screen (5.7 inches) and supported by the best battery (3,200mAh).
The Galaxy 3 has a turbo-charged 2.3Ghz processor, a massive 3GB of Ram, 32GB of storage and more functions for its accompanying stylus pen. It has a great (13-megapixel) camera and is slimmer and lighter than the Galaxy Note 2, despite the extra screen size. This is big enough to watch short shows on. Its predecessor (Galaxy Note 2) was the best web-browsing, email and social media phone on the market.
Price: €725 unlocked
Do the new Apples stack up?
* Fingerprint ID sensor to replace security passwords
* Improved camera with bigger sensor, bigger pixels and f2.2 lens
* The world's fastest 64-bit smartphone processor
* Gold-coloured variation
* Costs €700 Sim-free (unlocked)
* Plastic cases with a range of colours, from pink and yellow to blue and green
* Same (8 megapixel) camera, chip and graphics as existing iPhone 5
* Free iWork, iPhoto and iMovie apps to be included
* Costs €600 Sim-free (unlocked)