The year has been very exciting for consumers of technology with almost every mobile technology company launching a new version of their existing flagship devices. In what has emerged as something of an annual race, major players such as Samsung and Apple have tried to entice users with updated versions of their most popular devices, while others opted to go for entirely new models. With all the major announcements behind us, IT News Africa takes a look at the best mobile handsets released this year.
1. Samsung Galaxy S4
The first thing users will notice is that the device is considerably lighter than the S3. However, the screen is .2-inches bigger, and of much better quality, while the front end now houses two extra sensors for air gestures and better recognition. Being lighter, faster, smarter and bigger, it is without a doubt the best smartphone that Samsung has produced so far. The screen quality is of exceptional standard, and with the new processors and RAM, it performs superbly under strenuous conditions. The added features are great in terms of the evolution of Samsung’s innovation because it shows exactly what the phone is capable of.
2. iPhone 5s
When the new iPhone 5s was launched, Apple announced that it sold more than nine million new iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c models - just three days after the launch of the new iPhones on September 20. “This is our best iPhone launch yet–more than nine million new iPhones sold–a new record for first weekend sales,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO at the time. The device makes use of a 64-bit A7 processor that has twice the amount of transistors as its iPhone 5 predecessor, while the CPU and GPU will be twice as fast. The device also includes the new M7 motion processor that gathers data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass to offload work from the A7 for improved power efficiency.
3. Nokia Lumia 1020
Raising the stakes in mobile photography, Finnish manufacturer Nokia unveiled the latest model in the Lumia range, the 1020, in September. Boasting a second generation 41 megapixel sensor, the Nokia Lumia 1020 is designed to reinvent zoom by enabling people to discover more detail than what is visible to the naked eye. The Nokia Lumia 1020′s 41 megapixel sensor features leading ZEISS optics with six physical lenses, delivering crystal clear pictures even in low light conditions. Additionally, it captures blur free videos with stereo sound thanks to Nokia Rich Recording, which handles sound pressure levels six times louder than conventional smartphone microphones.
4. HTC One
In the beginning of the year, struggling Taiwanese mobile manufacturer HTC revealed their new HTC One model, which introduced HTC BlinkFeed, HTC Zoe and HTC BoomSound, and key new HTC Sense innovations. According to Engadget, “in a bid for the top spot on the mobile totem pole, the One also bears the distinction of being (one of) the first smartphones to feature Qualcomm’s quad-core Snapdragon 600, clocked at 1.7GHz and paired with 2GB RAM.” The HTC Zoe gives users the ability to shoot high-res photos that come to life in three-second snippets, while the HTC BlinkFeed aggregated the freshest content from the most relevant and interesting sources, giving it to users at a glance, all in one place, without the need to jump between multiple applications and web sites.
5. Sony Xperia Z1
Fighting for its spot in the limelight, Sony also announced their Xperia Z1 smartphone in September. “Xperia Z1 represents a significant milestone for Sony in our continued efforts to deliver unforgettable experiences to our consumer. Not only by bringing the power of Sony to the smartphone and through close collaboration with our partners but by setting a new standard in premium smartphones,” said Kunimasa Suzuki, President and CEO, Sony Mobile Communications at the time. The newly-unveiled Z1 makes use of Sony’s G Lens for its camera, and features a 27mm wide angle and bright F2.0 aperture, custom made large 1/2.3-type CMOS image sensor Exmor RS for mobile with 20.7 mega-pixels and a BIONZ for mobile image processing engine. In terms of computing power, the device uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor with 2.2 GHz quad-core CPU, is 4G LTE capable, and includes a 3000 mAh battery for a high battery performance.
6. BlackBerry Z10
BlackBerry has had a bit of a troublesome year, but we felt that the company should at least be recognised for attempting to turn their brand around by redesigning their smartphone models in line with current players. The new BlackBerry Z10 is the first smartphone based on the company’s re-designed, re-engineered and re-invented BlackBerry 10 platform. For markets where LTE is not supported (international model), BlackBerry released the Z10 with the Texas Instruments OMAP 4470 (SoC) which has a dual-core CPU running at 1.5 GHz and a PowerVR SGX 544 GPU. The LTE version of the Z10 features the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus (SoC) which has a dual-core CPU running at 1.5 GHz, and an Adreno 225 GPU for LTE-capable units.
7. LG G2
Two months ago, LG announced their G2 model and while the company’s popularity is waning somewhat in South Africa, it continues to enjoy a massive following elsewhere, especially in their native homeland of South Korea. The company included a host of new features into their flagship model, such as a high fidelity sound system designed to produce higher quality audio, a 5.2in (130 mm) screen that would improve energy efficiency, and unique placement of its power and volume keys. The G2 is powered by a 2.26 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor with 2 GB of RAM, and includes a non-removable 3000 mAh battery which powers the 1080p IPS display.
8. Huawei Ascend P6
Chinese maker Huawei unveiled the world’s slimmest smartphone, measuring a mere 6.18mm, in August, and it immediately garnered some attention. The smartphone features a 1.5GHz quad-core processor and a sleek metallic body. With its 4.7-inch high definition in-cell display, industry-leading 5MP front-facing camera, and outstanding software, the Ascend P6 is the embodiment of elegance with an edge. According to the company, the flagship smartphone of the Huawei Ascend P series, the Ascend P6 embodies a cutting edge design for the fashion conscious. The smartphone’s brushed metallic look with a naturally curved base is both elegant and intuitive.
9. Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Samsung unveiled their latest Note model in late September as a replacement model for their hugely-successful Galaxy Note 2. The Note 3 comes with a wider 5.7inch full HD Super AMOLED display, is slimmer at 8.3mm and lighter at 168g hardware design, and more powerful and longer lasting (3,200mAh) battery than the Note 2. Equipped with a 13 megapixel rear camera with Smart Stabilisation and high CRI LED flash, the Note 3 enables users to crisply capture every visual story in their lives, even in low light and active situations. Incorporating the industry’s largest 3GB RAM, the Note 3 also provides faster and more powerful performance. At the time, the Note 3 was touted as the only device that could connect to Samsung’s Galaxy Gear wearable technology device.
10. Samsung Galaxy S4 mini
A couple of months before the announcement of the Galaxy Note 3 and the Galaxy Gear, Samsung revealed a smaller version for their Galaxy S4 flagship model. With a 4.3″ qHD Super AMOLED display, the Galaxy S4 Mini offers the same quality images and content as its parent model, and at just 107g, the lightweight and compact design enables users to carry and use the device easily with one hand. The Galaxy S4 Mini also boasts powerful performance, equipped with a 1.7GHz dual core processor and supports many of the same intuitive features as the Galaxy S4, designed to enhance different aspects of life. “Demand for the Galaxy S4 has been phenomenal since it launched in April and we hope to build on this success with the Galaxy S4 Mini. This new handset is the ideal smartphone companion for anyone who wants a compact device packed with innovation,” said Simon Stanford, Vice President of IT & Mobile Division, Samsung Electronics UK & Ireland at the time.
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor