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Bright New Attempt

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With modern smartphone platforms having left Symbian devices far behind for a while now, I look to each update with a mix of trepidation and anticipation. With Symbianˆ3, Anna and Belle versions this year alone, Nokia is picking up the pace. How then does the new Symbian Belle-sporting Nokia 701 fare?

It's a good looking phone, no doubt about that, and the good deal of metal and premium plastics ensures that it feels much more than its asking price. I quite like the fact that Nokia has chosen a 3.5-inch screen, keeps the size small and easy to handle. Speaking of which, Nokia claims the 701's screen to be the brightest in the world, and while that may be debatable, it certainly is a worthy opponent to the SuperAMOLED Plus displays out there, besting them when it comes to sunlight legibility. Certainly not the sharpest (in terms of pixel count) displays around, though.

The Belle software that powers this phone is… how should I put it… inspired heavily by Android. A pull-down notification menu, multiple customisable homescreens, app folders - all take some design cues from Android. To be fair, the result is slick and Belle is a much refined version of the touchscreen attempts that had plagued Symbian till very recently. It helps that the device is powered by a 1GHz processor and 512 MB of system memory—using the phone is a breeze (except for some random user interface lags) and battery life is un-smartphone-ish—it lasts between 1.5 to 2 days on a single charge!

With Belle, Nokia's betting big on Near Field Communications (NFC), pushing it as a multimedia-oriented technology rather than something that's banking oriented. With the 701 and other Belle devices, you can see some of the NFC-goodness by way of tap-to-share media between devices, or pairing with special NFC enabled accessories like hands free headsets and speakers just by placing the phone on the device.

All in all, the 701 is a good bet if the words Nokia and battery life are critical to your purchase decision. For all others, the Android army presents worthier alternatives.

Rating: 7/10
Price: Rs 18,999/-

Windows Phone 7.5
It's one of the first Windows Phone 7.5 Mango devices to hit Indian shores, and boy, does the HTC Radar do a good job of championing the Microsoft cause or what? With so much happening on the WP 7.5 screen, the phone itself pursues a minimalist aesthetic with its white and silver finish. You get an aluminum chassis carved out of a single piece of the metal with the only exception being the removable cover (for the SIM slot). Yes, the battery is sealed in and there is no option for memory expansion;but you can thank Microsoft for that mandate.

With a 1GHz processor and 512MB of RAM—components that I'm sure you'd have noticed are pretty standard in smartphones these days—the device leaves little to complain in terms of performance or responsiveness. Even when I pushed it—playing music while surfing the Internet across many tabs—the device kept up. The WP7.5 optimisation to the hardware is second only to the Apple products, lending itself well to the overall experience of using the device. It's clearly the result of Microsoft working closely with the hardware guys, which is a good sign compared to the massively all-over-the-place Android situation.

Windows Phone 7.5 brings with it Microsoft's Office Suite, IE9 and tight integration with XBox, and one can only hope with the Windows Marketplace now officially accessible in India, the apps situation improves rapidly and more devices follow. For now, the Radar marks the entry of a very viable contender in the smartphone wars.

Rating: 8/10
Price: Rs 23,990

Plantronics Savor M1100
Most premium Bluetooth headsets these days pack in two microphones—one to capture your voice and the other to analyse external noise and suppress it. Plantronics Savor M1100 packs in an additional microphone which kicks in anytime there is at least 65dB of external noise. Combined with Plantronics' AudioIQ digital signal processing (DSP) technology and Wind Smart tech to reduce wind noise, the M1100 packs in quite a punch into a slim profile. It is definitely one to consider for those with noisy commutes.

Rating: 8/10
Price: Rs 4,790

New Range Of Focus
Prepare for your mind to be blown. The Lytro camera is the world's first consumer light field camera - in simple terms, the camera captures an infinite range of focus, allowing you to choose the focus of the image after the fact! Imagine the benefits - shoot images instantly, and pick the person/face/object you'd like to be in focus on your computer or on the camera instead of waiting for the camera to focus!
Price: $399 (8GB) or $499 (16GB)

technocool at kanwar dot net