Smartphones are getting better, slimmer and sharper, writes Jennifer Dudley Nicholson
SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE 3 $ 999 samsung. com/ au
SAMSUNG makes a compelling case to upgrade the original phablet. The third Galaxy Note, out tomorrow, has a new look with a faux leather back, a bigger screen yet slimmer body, 13- megapixel camera, faster 2.4GHz quad- core chip, 3GB RAM, 4G, and brand new skills. They include a customisable, built- in web magazine from Flipboard, an infra- red blaster for universal TV control, and Air Commands that make its S Pen stylus worth grabbing. Scrapbooker lets you circle and save web content for later, and Pen Window brings up mini apps that follow you from screen to screen. But best of all, the Note 3’ s larger 5.7- inch screen is crisper, full HD and it’s all housed in a body a tad smaller than before. Samsung’s TouchWiz has some quirks, such as fi xed homescreen shortcuts, but this phone is a clear winner.
SONY XPERIA Z1 $ 779 sony. com. au
SONY has poured a lot into its fl agship smartphone. Ordinarily, its 20.7- megapixel camera would steal the show with its large, 1- 2.3- inch sensor, f2.0 aperture for low- light photos and 27mm wide- angle G Lens. There are also special camera modes, including Timeshift Burst that captures 62 photos in two seconds and Social Live that broadcasts video live to Facebook. But the Z1 has even more to it, including a waterproof body that can stay underwater for 30 minutes, even with its headphone port open, a 3000mAh battery, full HD fi ve- inch screen, 4G and NFC connections, and 2.2GHz quadcore chip to keep the camera fi ring. Its glass body is prone to fingerprints and it’s heavier than some at 170g, but this phone breaks new ground.
APPLE IPHONE 5S $ 869-$ 1129 telstra. com. au
BIOMETRIC data isn’t used in many gadgets but Apple’s latest fl agship phone is an exception. The home button in the iPhone 5S doubles as a 500- dots- per-inch fingerprint scanner that captures a detailed map of each fingertip. Your digit can then be used to securely unlock this phone in seconds. It’s this scanner, an improved camera and a faster chip that separate the 5S from last year’s iPhone. Improvements to its 8- megapixel camera include a burst mode that can capture 10 photos in a second, a slowmotion video option, new fl ash and an f2.2 aperture for low- light photos, while its 64- bit A7 processor speeds things up and may show a noticeable boost with fresh apps. However, a 9 per cent battery improvement, the same form and a higher price hold it back.
SONY XPERIA Z ULTRA $ 799 sony. com. au
FANS of big phones are likely to be big fans of this big phone. It’s as if Sony is saying, “That’s not a phone. This is a phone!’’. The Xperia Z Ultra boasts a 6.4- inch screen, which is bound to be a boon to the short- sighted, tablet- minded, fat- fi ngered, and those with large pockets. Sony hasn’t scrimped on specs either, with a Triluminos full high- defi nition display, 4G connectivity, 2.2GHz quad- core chip, 16GB memory, waterproof body, 3000mAh battery that sees the day out, and an eight- megapixel rear camera. The camera isn’t at its best in low light, unfortunately, and its girth requires both hands, but it’s a fab phablet.
HTC ONE MINI $ 480 htc. com/ au
HTC’S latest smartphone sits on the small end of the size debate. A shrunken version of the company’s fl agship phone, the One Mini steals many of its features and fi ts them into a more pocket- friendly form. Those features include the UltraPixel camera that adapts well to low- light scenes, front- facing Beats speakers and the news- aggregating BlinkFeed homescreen. Some hardware has shrunk in power to meet the $ 480 price, however, including the 4.3- inch screen’s resolution ( now 720p), its memory ( just 16GB with no room to expand) and its power ( dual- core chip, 1GB RAM). A solid, budget-meeting, pocket- friendly option for midrange users.