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BW Businessworld

New Faces In A-Team

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There are many thin smartphones around. But the HTC One S manages to combine its mere 7.8  mm thickness with solidity. There's no compromise on its premium feel when you hold it, especially as your fingers caress the smooth, scratch-resistant metal back. It's designed to be understated, its 4.3-inch screen lightly bordered by a quiet grey casing. The HTC One S looks like just the phone for someone who doesn't want to flash gadgets about. The One S comes from HTC's newest series of smartphones, all of which have similar software specs: Ice Cream Sandwich, HTC's own interface, Sense, in its latest version, Bluetooth 4.0 and more in the way settings and widgets are handled. The phones are quite different in hardware and design, and make a good mid-range option. Unfortunately, there's nothing understated or mid-range about its price though: it costs Rs 33,590, placing it in the premium range. The One S has a nice easy-on-the-eye screen (though Pentile) and an 8 megapixel camera with an easy interface. Low-light pictures are grim. The One S has a dual core processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB onboard storage (not all of that is available to the user) and a 1,650 mAh battery which lasts about a day. There's no option for a micro SD card and you can't get at that battery inside the phone's unibody — an unfair trend considering Android phones drink battery juice by the second.

A Dash Of Android Hip
In a world where Android phones look like replicas of each other, the Sony Xperia U has its own style. The blackness of the 3.5 inch screen when it's asleep is offset by a bright plastic cap that fits at its bottom. There are many colours and you can replace them. When you wake up the screen, which is nice enough, you can set a theme to go with the plastic cap. Not only that, there's a translucent strip atop the cap that lights up to match the theme. The Xperia U is the smallest (so far) in the NXT line from Sony but it runs on a dual-core 1GHz processor. It's fast and responsive. Yet, instead of the Ice Cream Sandwich it should have been having for lunch, the U comes with the older version of Android, Gingerbread. That, of course, is the fate of most Android phones at the moment. An update could turn up soon as the Xperia S has just received one. Don't buy this phone for its camera. Unlike the Xperia S, the U has a 5 megapixel camera that is passable in daylight but poor in low light. But it does have a secondary camera, unlike the HTC One V with which it's often compared. Shockingly though, the Xperia U doesn't have a micro SD card, which you do need as there's only 4GB of user-allowed space on the device.  Meanwhile, the software and interface on the phone is neat, but with rather small text, a point that doesn't bother those who are young and not squinting through bifocals. In most other ways, it's a standard Android phone and a good one to consider at Rs 17,399, if one can't afford the hyper-expensive premium superphones.

3D On The Go
The LG Optimus 3D Max is a slab of a phone. Unrelentingly rectangular, it looks the epitome of Androidness. It has the same "undersigned" look as the Galaxy SII, which continues to sell, design or no design. But the 3D Max has raised edges that take away from the comfort of its being held. It has a 4.3-inch screen with  480 x 800 resolution. It runs on a 1.2GHz OMAP4430 dual core processor with 1GB of RAM, 8 GB internal storage and a micro-SD slot. It has two 5MP cameras on the back, and has a 1,520mAh user-accessible battery.  The 3D Max is, quite obviously, centered on 3D which you can shoot and view. In fact, you can also convert high quality 2D graphics to 3D with an application. You don't need glasses to see stuff in 3D. Pick a 3D video (there are some on the phone to begin with) and you can see the depth quite readily, though perhaps not altogether flawlessly. It runs the Gingerbread, but it plays video without any hiccups. It's priced at Rs 30,500.

Seven Inches Of 3G
Another 7-inch "low-cost" tab just joined the crowded space of budget Android tablets. Whether the Nexus 7 from Google will come and blow these away, we shall have to see. But it's possible that rural and small-town customers will go for whatever they find nearest at hand. That's what Zync Global is hoping will happen to its newly launched Z-999 Rs 11,990 tablet. The slim tablet's unique selling points, says Zync director Ashish Garg, is that it runs Android 4.0 (a feat that only one in 10 phones have managed so far), has 3G connectivity — in addition to Wi Fi — via a Sim card, and a 4200 mAh battery that can last through five hours of video or 10 hours of regular use. There is a 2 megapixel camera and a secondary 0.3 megapixel one. It runs on a 1.5 GHz single-core ARM Cortex A8 processor but on first impression didn't seem to be quick. Thankfully, it does have capacitive touch screen with a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. It has an onboard storage of 8 GB and runs on 512 MB RAM. There is an expandable card option.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 23-07-2012)