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The only difference between first class travellers and first class idiots is the price they pay.

Smartphones from space

Smart phones from svelte and sassy to huge and hefty. Think GPS, push e-mail, Web browsing, multi-media and 5.0 megapixel cameras. But first, say hello to Bob. Read on.

by Vijay Verghese

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iPhone review and features The iPhone (left) has arrived in Asia in a 3G version with GPS; the HTC Touch (right) mimics some iPhone features. HTC Touch mobile phone review The all-in-one HTC TyTNII does pretty much everything and has a slide out key board. HTC TyTN II smartphone review and features

Finally, the iNcredible iPhone. It can do just about everything except fire your boss – though he will turn green with envy, perhaps enough to kill him, but not before you’ve tapped your fingers on that brilliant touch screen before his covetous eyes. And you can now plug the phone into any GPS, or global positioning system, to find out where the heck you are after that wild night out - but only if you have the new 3G phone that debuted in Asia on 11 July 2008. Well, who cares if you’re at the supermarket like you told your wife, or at the lap dance place? If you’re a sensitive touchy-feely sort whose father never hugged you, you’re going to love this phone.  The full 3G version with built-in GPS and a raft of new feature is not cheap, but hey...

The earlier quad-band Apple iPhone was neither a 3G appliance nor a stuffy PDA. It was a sleek 0.46-inch-slim four-inch-long all-in-one MP3 player (that syncs with your iTunes), a killer at WiFi using the onboard Safari Web browser (saving you wads of cash by bypassing your service provider if there’s a hotspot near), and a super 2.0 megapixel phone that delivers sharp images. It came with 8GB of onboard memory. The 4GB model has been pulled. The reduced US price was US$399 though “unlocked” versions – that could be used with any SIM card in any country – cost a fair bit more. Bear in mind though that your addresses can only be synchronised with Microsoft Outlook on a PC or Address Book and Entourage on a Mac. The SIM card numbers are maddeningly inaccessible.

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The sharp 480x320 pixel resolution screen covers almost the entire length of the face opening up lots of screen real estate to play with. And this is what makes the touch screen workable. All the icons are laid out. Tap one and get started. Send e-mail on the trot (there is integrated e-mail support for Gmail, Yahoo, .Mac and AOL) or surf the Web. Of course the best is for last. Pinch the screen to reduce images, or Web pages, and push the two fingers outwards to expand the view. The page blurs for a nanosecond before coming sharply back into focus. Fretting over the lack of GPS? Well, just use Google Maps. The one downside is the battery cannot be replaced, except by Apple. The phone is supposed to run for 400 charges, a fairly long time, but parting with your mobile office just for a battery replacement…? A sleek phone like this also requires a soft gel plastic cover to prevent it from slipping out of your grasp every once in a while. It's also sensible if you're the sort who keeps the phone in your trouser pocket along with a bunch of keys that grind everything to the bone. A pity, this. The iPhone is meant to be flaunted.

The new 3G iPhone is the one to seriously consider and while we have not as yet reviewed it, the phone packs a punch albeit without Bluetooth and video and few niggling details. You will need to sign on to long-term service packages and the like that will push the price up even though the new model itself is purportedly cheaper than the older version.  www.apple.com/iphone

The stylish and compact HTC Touch uses Windows Mobile 6 Professional that works through a 2.8-inch LCD touch screen with backlight and a fairly respectable 240x320 resolution. Expect a 2 megapixel camera, Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, all executed with the sweep or touch of a finger. The much-vaunted HTC TouchFLO system works beautifully for wandering through the phone’s innards but snags when it comes to actually using the small onscreen keyboard. At full pelt the phone can be slow to respond at times. The Windows Media Player supports AAC, MP3, WMA, WAV and MPEG4 files with a three-in-one speaker for playback. The phone measures a petite 3.9 inches by 2.8 inches with a width of just 0.5 inches. It weighs 112g with battery. The tri-band HTC Touch is rated for a standby time of 200 hours and an active talk time of five hours. The call quality is good. All in, it represents a move up for general mobile users who may wish to own something smarter, yet compact, but it is let down by the small touch screen keyboard, processing speed issues and lack of 3G. www.htc.com

The HTC TyTN II is a both a touch screen smart phone and a terrifying tongue-twister. Let’s just call it “Bob”. Bob is a truly smart phone in the sense he has features and gadgets for just about every occasion including GPS so you know where the toilet is, a 3.0 megapixel camera (but no flash) so you always look good the morning after, and a nifty QWERTY keypad that slides out as the screen swivels upright. It’s just like a mini mini mini laptop. This phone picks up where the HTC Touch left off. The keypad is a huge improvement even if Bob now ends up weighing a rather substantial 190g with battery.

Mobile phone review, HTC P3600i The HTC P3600i (left) is lighter than the Ty TNII version and with a good feature set, while the BlackBerry 8800 (right) is a solid business option. Smart phone review, Blackberry 8800 The Sony Ericsson K850i (right) sports a whopping great 5.0 megapixel camera. Smartphone review, Sony Ericsson K850i

The HTC TyTN II used Windows Mobile 6 with 128MB of memory (there’s a microSD slot that can boost storage to 2GB) so the system hums along alright. Use e-mail, or push e-mail, open Office applications, play around with Messenger, listen to music and more. Audio and picture quality are sharp and the phone works fast and responsively with 3.5G HSDPA. The slide out QWERTY keyboard and a good touchscreen are major pluses.  www.htc.com

The modestly lighter, tri-band 150-gram HTC P3600i does most of what the TyTN II does without the aid of a sliding keyboard. Yes, you’ve got to use the touchscreen. It has a 2.0 megapixel camera that takes decent pictures, a GPS receiver (you’ll need to shell out separately for maps) and support for push e-mail, POP3 mail and video streaming. Synchronise music using your PC Windows Media player and watch everything on a bright 2.8-inch LCD screen. Utilising HSDPA the WiFi access is fast, Bluetooth is onboard and the phone will run for around two days with normal talk time. Junior Bob is a good choice for an all-in smart phone for timorous first timers who’d like to graduate to big time. www.htc.com

Not all BlackBerrys are born with two left feet and a hunchback. The RIM BlackBerry 8800 is a persuasive argument for the big-is-beautiful camp with quadband, GPS, and messaging. There’s no integrated WiFi but we can live with that. There are multimedia options galore and the de rigueur QWERTY keyboard is a lifesaver if you’ve been tapping unresponsive screens with your big thumb. The RIM BlackBerry 8800 is a looker, almost. Indeed its sleek design is what sets it apart from its other siblings. It’s still bigger and heavier (4.7 ounces) but it is miles ahead in the looks department. This BlackBerry has a width of just 0.5 inches almost rivalling the slender iPhone. The 2.5-inch screen offers clear 320x240 resolution display with automatic backlighting that senses your moods and whether the wife is peering over your shoulders at those busty women on that teeny screen.

When off duty, listen to MP3, WMA, AAC or Midi formats, watch video, or play around with ringtones. Under the hood are plodding business features to cheer the suit-set from memo pads to calendars.  All in, this is a handy, not-too-hefty gadget with a five-hour talk time and excellent e-mail capability. www.blackberry.com

The quad-band Sony Ericsson K850i does what all Sony Ericssons do – it impresses hugely and doesn’t disappoint. The camera packs in an arsenal of features including a whopping 5-megapixel Cyber-shot camera with flash yet weighs just a modest 118g. The phone is easy on the palms, with a small form of 4 x 1.9 x 0.7 inches. The Sony Ericsson K850i comes in “luminous Green” and “Velvet Blue” which is to say, the phones are charcoal black with coloured piping, fun for some, distractingly twee for others. Expect FM radio, video, Music DJ, a voice recorder, and HSDPA to rev up Web connections. Streaming video is possible and for those 3G office conference calls there’s the front-facing camera to catch your every grimace. If you need news, there’s even an RSS reader. The camera is of course the killer app and it comes with 16x digital zoom (optical would have been better), ISO selection, and sharp image quality in most conditions. Picture viewing is aided by the “accelerometer” which keeps images the right way up in any orientation, horizontally held or vertical.  www.sonyericsson.com

Nokia N95 review, mobile phone comparisons The Nokia N95 (left) has a huge feature set including a 5 megapixel camera while the Motorola Q (right) is a stunning, svelte looker. Motorola Q review, mobile phone survey The Motorola Ming A1200 (right) lacks WiFi but is the Mini Cooper of the new crop of smart cell phones. Smartphones review, Motorola Ming A1200

The Nokia N95 would be a standout for many reasons were it not let down by a somewhat plastic feel and a battery that barely lasts half a day, especially if you get carried away by the phone’s many useful and novel functions. To begin with there’s a five megapixel camera onboard that produces great results. You’ll never be caught short filming Baby Ben’s drool now. There’s GPS (global positioning system), WiFi, Bluetooth, and a funky two-way slider that opens up controls for a media player at one end, and the keypad at the other. Call quality is excellent, audio is clear, the speakers sparkle and video playback in the landscape mode is cool. Unfortunately the quad-band Nokia N95 is a slothful performer. Splash out if you have the money and the moxie. www.nseries.com

Svelte and sleek is the Blackberry-meets-RAZR Motorola Q that will have heads not just turning, but spinning. This ultra-thin smartphone squeezes in a tactile QWERTY keypad, Bluetooth, a decent 1.3 megapixel camera, a speaker phone, and assorted multimedia options, into an anorexic 4.5x2.5x0.5 inch frame. Call quality is good and the raised QWERTY keypad will ensure less fumbling on e-mail messages to the boss from the beach. Integrated WiFi is missing – almost inexcusable for a smart phone of this calibre – but we can live with that. The LCD screen is a bright 2.5 inches diagonally with a resolution of 320-240 pixels. Display is pretty clear and sharp in most light situations, even in bright daylight.

While exceedingly thin, the face is wide, perhaps disconcertingly so, for those unused to PDA-style devices. It may take some getting used to, holding it up to the ear for a call, but there are tricks to make things easier. Like the side mounted jog-dial scroll wheel for easy access to menus. The 1.3 mega pixel camera with flash is mounted on the rear of the phone along with amply loud stereo speakers for a phone conference. Shoot video, or watch, using the Windows Media Player 10 Mobile. The Motorola Q is a handy entertainment centre and supports MP3, WAV, AAC, WMA, WMV and MPEG-4 files. Meanwhile for workaholics, there’s the Windows Mobile version 5 which helps synchronise data with Outlook among others. www.hellomoto.com

The Motorola Ming A1200 is a smart flip-open clam affair, a stylish and sleek smartphone that delivers quality sound even if it lacks WiFi and 3G capability. This is a small phone is the Mini Cooper of mobile phones – women will love it and pin-stripers can be coaxed to use it too. The bright red or silver phone options will aid the cause. Just 3.77 inches long and 2.94 inches across the Motorola Ming A1200 weighs 3.6 ounces and barely makes a dent in the pocket. The clear flip-open cover is a nice touch and the screen is bright. Still, the small virtual keyboard will take some getting used to. Ming’s 2-megapixel camera doubles as a card reader. Snap the business card using macro mode and the phone converts the text and stores it all in the phone book. Hoard up to 1,000 names. The card reader may fluff small text and some creative fonts but is on the whole okay. You can view Office documents but not edit. On the bright side there’s POP3 e-mail as well as MSN Messenger and e-mail. www.motorola.com

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