The Bottom Line on Top-of-the-Line Smartphones
With Blackberry finally outing its flagship models running on OS10, the die is cast and the battle for your hearts and wallets is on in earnest. There will be shakeups here and there, minor skirmishes, and major word wars between loyalists of Blackberry, Apple, Samsung, Nokia, and new player Google. Smartphone brands have become global superstars in their own right and the discussions surrounding them are filled with much emotion from die-hard fans and naysayers. Here we round up the opinions of online media’s most respected review sites — voices of reason ringing clearly above the clamour of the madding crowd.
Ahead of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on the last week of February 2013, it’s important to note what the experts had to say at the time they said it, and how these opinions change in the face of a fickle smartphone market where people vote with their wallets.
Blackberry Z10: new kid on the block, sort of
An alpha release of this device has been around for many months prior to its January 30 launch, so it’s not exactly shockingly new. In fact, to some, it’s distressingly old hat.
- Engadget: BlackBerry”s BlackBerry Z10 is genuinely a pretty nice phone. But, tragically, there”s really nothing to love. Nothing in the Z10 stands out as class-leading and, while the BB10 OS does have a lot of charm and brings all the best productivity-focused attributes of BlackBerry to bear in a much more modern package, the app selection is poor and the gestures here aren”t so good.
- C|Net: A workmanlike smart phone that will handle most of your on-the-go browsing and social needs, with a few perks in place for business folk. It”s just as expensive as high-flying rivals though, and without the refined operating system and wealth of apps those other mobiles bring to the table, this is a hard phone to recommend.
- The Verge: A safe, refined look not unlike Blackberry”s previous efforts. A modern smartphone, stocked like a modern smartphone. Blackberry is still at the top of its game with data and reception. The problem with the Z10 is that it doesn”t necessarily do anything better than any of its competition.
- Wall Street Journal: The Z10 and BB10 represent a radical reinvention of the BlackBerry. The hardware is decent and the user interface is logical and generally easy to use. I believe it has a chance of getting RIM back into the game, if the company can attract a lot more apps.
- The Bottom line: This won’t be enough to convert the Apple and Android flock, but gives the Blackberry faithful what they’ve hungered for. There’s also Q10, which is Z10 with a smaller screen and a physical keyboard.
Apple iPhone 5: the best iPhone there ever was, but not for long
Unless Apple ignores the surging sales of its rivals, there will be an iPhone 6 very soon. As it stands, the iPhone 5 may be the best iPhone ever, but not necessarily the best smartphone out there.
- Engadget: The iPhone 5 is a significant improvement over the iPhone 4S in nearly every regard. Every area, that is, except for the OS. If anything, it”s the operating system here that”s beginning to feel a bit dated and beginning to show its age. For the iOS faithful this is a no-brainer upgrade. This is without a doubt the best iPhone yet.
- C|Net: The iPhone 5 is an excellent smart phone, even if this upgrade is more about hardware refinement than introducing exotic new features. The only serious problem with this phone is its Maps app, which is a real disappointment.
- The Verge: The iPhone 5 is unquestionably the best iPhone ever made, and for the mass market, it”s the best smartphone, period. But there”s a lot more work to be done, but right now Apple seems to be in a holding pattern, too comfortable or too scared to take real chances.
- Wall Street Journal: Apple has taken an already great product and made it better, overall. Consumers who prefer huge screens or certain marginal features have plenty of other choices, but the iPhone 5 is an excellent choice.
- The Bottom line: These glowing reviews were made in September 2012, before an avalanche of high-end models from competing brands were released. The iPhone 5’s hold on top of the smartphone totem pole is not so secure at the moment.
Samsung Galaxy S3: The Android hero
iPhone took on all Android comers and beat them handily until this hero came along. Outselling iPhone 5 and selling close to or even more than 30 million units in 2012 (reports vary), it’s by and far the most serious challenge that smartphone behemoth Apple has ever had to face.
- Engadget: On the whole you”re looking at a device that is unsurpassed in terms of performance. The best thing about the Galaxy S III? That it”s more than the sum of its parts. Individually, the slightly larger and better display, stronger processor and faster camera may not sound that special, but in daily operation they score major combo points.
- The Verge: The Galaxy S III is a technological triumph. Samsung has done the overwhelming majority of things right. While neither the display nor the construction materials on the Galaxy S III are the best possible, both represent acceptable compromises that help Samsung balance out the rest of its class-leading spec sheet.
- C|Net: With its combination of form and function, the Samsung Galaxy S3 excels where it counts, and at a price that matches the features. Pumped with high-performing hardware and creative software features, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is an excellent, top-end phone.
- Wall Street Journal: The Galaxy S III isn”t a game changer, but it”s a very good phone, and a strong competitor for the iPhone and other Android models in every major feature area, such as voice calling, Web browsing, and photography.
- The Bottom line: It’s not the most aesthetically pleasing top-of-the-line smartphone out there, but it looks like millions care less about pretty and more about performance.
Dark Horses: Nexus 4, Lumia 920
While the top 3 have the highest brand pedigree, there are other players in the smartphone field that might upset the cart and send the fruits rolling.
Google’s LG Nexus 4: It”s easily the best Android phone on the market right now, and has some of the most powerful software that”s ever been put on a mobile phone. It”s an upgrade from last year”s Galaxy Nexus in every way. It”s terrific — save for one small thing. It doesn’t have LTE. In the US, a flagship phone without LTE is like a muscle car with no wheels. It’s hard to imagine buying this device when you know
it”s a generation behind in terms of network technology. – The Verge.
Nokia’s Lumia 920: It”s Nokia”s greatest Windows Phone yet. The Lumia 920 is heavy and thick, but if you want the most powerful, feature-rich Windows phone available, this is it. The Lumia 920 forges new Windows Phone ground with wireless charging support and a highly sensitive screen you can use with gloves. Moreover, Nokia helps fill in Windows Phone OS gaps with a few missing features. – C|Net.