A TAle Of Three PhOne

Launch­ing phones ev­ery time doesn’t mean that they have some­thing new to of­fer

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - Indulge - Rajiv Makhni

LET’S PLAY a game of num­bers. In­clud­ing fly-bynight op­er­a­tors and brands that try their luck by re­brand­ing phones im­ported from abroad (read China). How many mo­bile phone brands do you think ex­ist in In­dia? And how many phones do you think each of them re­leases in a year? Let me as­sure you that at least two new phones re­lease ev­ery sin­gle day in this coun­try. Yes, ev­ery day! Thus, for a phone to stand out, you’ve got to do some­thing wickedly out-of-the-box. You could cre­ate a supremely con­tro­ver­sial phone, or a phone that col­lab­o­rates with an­other giant brand to claim great­ness, or you could carry for­ward past suc­cess and say you’ve cre­ated an­other leg­end. That’s ex­actly the path that was fol­lowed by three phones in the last few days.

CON­TRO­VERSY’S CHILD

The ` 251 phone. Free­dom 251. Apolo­gies to all who cursed un­der their breath, and congratulations to the mi­nus­cule few who may have got one in their hand. Yes, the phone that was sup­posed to change the destiny and empower the na­tion. One that was cheaper than a cup of cof­fee, that was techi­li­cious go­ing to be in ev­ery In­dian hand – turned out to be only for the very lucky 5,000. Not crores, not lakhs – just 5,000. But let’s for­get the bro­ken prom­ises, the crores of public­ity they got for free, the sky­high claims and the sad real­ity and fo­cus on what fi­nally came out when they shipped the world’s cheap­est smart­phone. It’s a nice-look­ing phone, small, tex­tured plas­tic, 4-inch Quad HD dis­play, runs on An­droid 5, quad core pro­ces­sor. The cam­era takes okay pic­tures, it even man­ages self­ies with the front cam­era. Add a mi­croSD card and you may get away with load­ing some apps. It’s dif­fi­cult to crit­i­cise the phone as ev­ery time you do that, the ` 251 equa­tion rears its cheap head! Should you buy the Free­dom 251? That’s a rhetor­i­cal ques­tion as you can’t get your hands on one. There’s a les­son that this phone does teach you. Never buy any prod­uct from the com­pany that made Free­dom 251. The ring­ing bells logo should start ring­ing alarm bells in your head.

OP­TI­CAL GIANT

Le­ica. To any­one who knows any­thing about cam­eras, that name is usu­ally spo­ken with a hushed tone and a gush­ing awe. To hob­by­ists, Le­ica is the maker of God Cam­eras, and for pro­fes­sion­als this is holy ground. Huawei ob­vi­ously thought that bring­ing in Le­ica’s tech­nol­ogy into its phone would make them the king of cam­er­a­phones. Did it trans­late into that? Well, it starts well as they brought in not one but dual lenses from the Ger­man op­tics giant. The phone oozes el­e­gance with a supremely thin mono-bloc de­sign. Fin­ger­print scan­ner at the back, near bezel-less 5.2-inch full HD dis­play, 3GB RAM, An­droid 6.0 – it’s a top-line-spec phone. Let’s get to its main USP, the dual-lens cam­era. Im­ages were stun­ningly clear as the dual-lens tech­nol­ogy has an edge when it comes to depth of field. Plus, one lens shoots in mono­chrome and the other in colour, re­sult­ing in su­pe­rior con­trast. No 4K video record­ing and no Op­ti­cal Im­age Sta­bil­i­sa­tion are sur­pris­ing omis­sions. The phone stands out but its price of about ` 39K is a damp­ener. Still, it’s the cheap­est way to get your hands on a Le­ica!

TRIPLE CROWN QUEST

Af­ter launch­ing two very suc­cess­ful de­vices, the S7 and the S7 Edge, Sam­sung aims for a triple crown with the Galaxy Note 7. For those won­der­ing where the Note 6 is, well, it doesn’t ex­ist! Maybe Sam­sung de­cided that if the next iPhone will be a 7, then the next Note should also be a 7. Thus the 6 got skipped! Leav­ing aside the num­ber magic, the Note 7 has big shoes to fill. The fa­mous S Pen packs in some new nifty tricks. The stick’s tip is smaller, twice as sen­si­tive, and thus, far more ac­cu­rate. It lets you trans­late words on web­sites, cre­ate GIFs on YouTube and write on the screen at any time with­out turn­ing on the phone screen. Plus, be­cause the phone is wa­ter-proof, the sty­lus works un­der­wa­ter too. Won­der how many of you have got the urge to jot down a note nine feet be­low the wa­ter line? If that was on your bucket list, then the Note 7 ful­fills it. An­other add-on is the iris or eye-scan­ner to un­lock your phone with your eyes. It bor­rows the dual-curved de­sign from the S7 edge, and on the 5.7-inch Quad HD dis­play, it looks even bet­ter. The Note 7 is the world’s first smart­phone to use the su­per-tough Corn­ing Go­rilla Glass 5. Op­tics are fan­tas­tic, pro­ces­sor screams along, it looks amaz­ing, works bril­liantly and ev­ery­thing is just right. Ex­cept that noth­ing truly stands out. The Note se­ries was al­ways about push­ing the en­ve­lope. This one plays it safe. Al­most Ap­ple safe.

In a coun­try that launches more phones than so­cial wel­fare schemes, these were the three stand­outs. It’s a good tac­tic to do some­thing rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent to make a mark. What lies ahead? A phone they pay you to buy? A smart­phone in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Tesla? The Galaxy S20 that skips 12 gen­er­a­tions? In the In­dian smart­phone mar­ket, any or all of these could well hap­pen! Rajiv Makhni is man­ag­ing edi­tor, Tech­nol­ogy, NDTV, and the an­chor of Gad­getGuru, Cel­lGuru and News­net3

CLICK! Huawei’s new phone of­fer­ing op­ti­cal giant Le­ica’s tech­nol­ogy stands out in a crowded mar­ket, though at a high price

FALSE HOPE The Free­dom 251 phone promised things that never got ful­filled

Sam­sung’s Note 7 of­fers the S Pen that works un­der­wa­ter A NEW NOTE

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