Reviews

Sony Xperia S mini review


The Xperia S, is Sony’s debut phone – the first to market without the Ericsson suffix. In January 2012 Sony Ericsson rebranded as Sony.

On unboxing the phone it looks and feels a lot like any other Sony Ericsson smartphone. Owners coming from an Xperia X10 will feel right at home with the new Xperia S.

The Xperia S feels extremely slim and solid. It’s a sealed unit too, the battery and storage are permanently attached. Switching on the Xperia S the first thing to notice is the incredible 4.3 inch LED display. With 720×1280 pixels it’s beyond the resolution of a full HD TV, yet it still packs all of those pixels into a 4.3 inch screen.

The review phone, supplied by Tesco Phone Shop, was pre-loaded with a trailer of the film, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which is a fantastic demonstration. The Xperia S also has HDMI out for connecting to a TV.

Android 2.3 OS is on board and Sony promise that the Xperia S will be upgradeable to Android 4.0 soon. This is a major feature of the Xperia S as Android 4.0 brings over 3200 changes and improvements compared to Android 2.3. The user interface has been completely redesigned with numerous improvements to navigation and customisation including resizable widgets. There are lots of new camera features including a panorama mode, plus significant improvements to the keyboard, cut/copy/paste, the web browser, contact management and social contact integration.

Having used the Xperia S for a short time, it became very easy to navigate through the menus and the large, vibrant display always made it a joyful experience. The 12.1 megapixel camera has touch focus, autofocus, digital zoom, red-eye reduction, 3D sweep panorama, face recognition, LED flash and much more.

The screen is fantastic as a the and photographs taken with the Xperia S look amazing on its screen. They actually lose some of their sparkle when transferred to a lesser screen such as a laptop or TV.

As well as 3G, HSDPA, Wi-Fi, GPS and all the usual connection options expected from a high-end Android device, the Xperia S has NFC technology, which is an evolving technology that allows the phone to be used like a debit card by swiping it in front of a scanner.

To summarise, the Xperia S is possibly the best camera phone available today.

Some key features worth noting are the fantastic 4.3 inch display, solid build, Android 2.3 (upgradable to 4.0), 32GB memory and powerful dual core 1.5GHz processor.

Tesco Phone Shop have some great deals on the Sony Xperia S, on all major networks.

See Xperia S deals from Tesco




HTC HD2 – a flagship worthy of the name


Free on T-Mobile, O2 or Vodafone. From £36 per month with 1000 minutes and unlimited texts.

HTC has been pushing the boat out with its recent smartphones, but its HD2 is a knock-out. While everyone has their personal preferences and little fads, it would take an Orc-like perspective on the world not to be impressed by the display that fronts its feature-rich core.

Thirteen years of working with Microsoft has certainly paid off. Essentially, the HD2 is a big screen in your pocket: 4.3 inches (diagonal) of high-resolution touch cinema, yet housed in an amazingly skinny shell. It is the world’s first capacitive touch technology to run under Windows: Windows Mobile 6.5 to be precise.

Just to be clear, capacitive is the name for a technology made famous on Apple’s iPhone. It relies on the electrical properties of the human body to detect when and where on the display you are touching. This means you can be as delicate as you like, but it generally doesn’t work effectively or at all with a stylus or wearing gloves.

Also for the first time in Windows, HTC has allied the touchscreen with its HTC Sense concept: customising the HD2 with favourite apps on the home screen, one-touch contacts, easy flipping from email to call and, should the need arise, setting up a conference call. Whether it matches your expectations of a “holistic” experience as described by HTC, it is undoubtedly impressive and user-friendly, with a logical layout and many one-touch operations to watch, browse and flip through your stuff.

It weighs in at 157g – heavy even for a top-of-the-range PDA/ smartphone – but somehow, because it is so thin, the heft of the HD2 enhances its attraction: it lets you know its there and gives you something to press against.

The sheer clarity and definition of the display is remarkable and for those of us no longer able to spot a gnat on a fencepost half a mile away, it makes Web page and document viewing not only feasible, but pleasurable. Navigation is slick, straightforward and easy to control; viewing is crisp and rich, whether or not it actually conforms to high definition in the strictest sense.

Once experienced, Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir’s culinary and sensory experience puts most eateries in the shade. In similar fashion, the HD2’s sumptuous visual experience makes it hard to return to a smaller, less striking display.

HDC has raised the bar for smartphones and with the likes of Motorola and its Android-based Milestone also emerging, 2010 should see some amazing devices on the streets going head-to-head.

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Samsung Tocco Lite PAYG under £50


We’ve just had word that this offer will end very soon.

Amazing value for money with one of our favourite touch screen phones. The Tocco Lite is available for just £49.90 plus a £10 top up. See below for our Samsung Tocco Lite review.

Our first impressions of the Tocco Lite are good; the handset is small and compact and very good looking with the 3 inch screen dominating the front of the phone; accompanied by three buttons below; make call, menu and end call.

The screen itself presents a bold and colourful display which is crystal clear. On-screen picture quality is brilliant considering the Tocco Lite is the entry level handset in the Tocco series, although, as to be expected, it cannot rival the quality found on handsets boasting AMOLED displays.

The touch screen is sensitive and quick to respond whilst also being very accurate; it is easy to navigate to the exact point needed without accidentally opening the wrong program. The user-interface itself is intuitive and easy to get to grips with, offering a simple means to select and navigate your way around the various menus of the phone.

The built in 3.2 Megapixel camera, whilst not being a class leading or particularly high quality camera on paper, produces excellent images, which in conjunction with the display, look very impressive and the 256k colours supported mean almost true to life colouring too. The face detection and smile detection both take some getting used to, but when used properly, the camera will rarely produce a blurred or out-of-focus picture, meaning that even the most novice of photographers can produce high quality looking images that could easily be mistaken for a much larger megapixel camera.

The large screen makes looking at web pages a joy, with the majority of the page shown on-screen, however the lack of 3G or Wi-Fi spoils what would otherwise be an impressive web browsing experience, but considering the phone is designed as the entry-level handset in the family, and is therefore available even to those with a low budget, this is a worthwhile sacrifice to benefit from the functionality and simplistic everyday use that the phone offers.

Overall, even without the consideration of the price, the Tocco Lite is a very impressive and good-looking handset offering simplistic, intuitive use alongside a host of features found on typically much more expensive handsets including Bluetooth 2.1, email and web browsing. The fact that this is a relatively cheap handset just further enhances the amazing value-for-money that the Tocco Lite offers.

Compare the deals here




The brilliant Nokia 1661

The Nokia 1661 is frequently one of our most popular phones. On our comparison site we sell more of these than any BlackBerry or Sony Ericsson, it even outsells the iPhone. It costs less than £10 on PAYG, or on a contract you can get 16 months free line rental on an 18 month contract, if you don’t mind claiming cash back by redemption.

The success of this phone is clearly due to its low price and widespread availability. But what I wanted to know was, is it any good? So I boxed away my N97 and put my SIM into this little fellow, to see how he shaped up.

The Nokia 1661 is a simple phone; small and neat. The battery life is good, Nokia say I would get about three weeks between charges if nobody called me. After using it for a few days it’s still going without a recharge. I’ve found no irritating bugs and I’ve not had to deal with any complicated features.

This phone is just the thing for people who want to make calls and send a few texts. Even though it’s an entry-level phone it does have a couple of nifty tricks. Such as a speaking alarm clock and a built-in torch. Nothing cutting edge but I’ve found these to be surprisingly useful features! There’s no Bluetooth or MP3 player, but it does have an FM radio and a basic wired headset is included in the box.

The Nokia 1661 has six classic Nokia games pre-loaded, including Snake Xenia, Beach Rally, Bounce and Sudoku. It would be unfair to compare them to the latest iPhone games but they do have their moments and they can be as enjoyable, even on the primitive 1.8 inch screen.

What a wonderful little phone it is.

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Free Samsung Jet with 11 months half price


Free on Vodafone with 11 months half price line rental on a 12 month contract. See below for our full review of Samsung’s latest touchscreen phone.

The Samsung Jet is a powerful, touchscreen mobile phone. With a sleek and stylish design, the feature that grabs your attention is the 3.1 AMOLED touchscreen which looks sharp and crystal clear with vivid, vibrant colours. The phone itself is slim at just 11.9mm thick and has a reassuring weight of 110 g. As well as the 3.1 inch display, the front of the Jet has 3 physical buttons positioned at the bottom, which are call answer, end and the menu button.

These fit nicely into the body of the Jet, as they do not stand out. On the back of the handset, the cameras lens and flash is positioned in the top right hand corner, again this doesn’t stand out majorly and blends in nicely with the handset. The black glossy finish and rounded edges give a simplistic stylish look to the Jet, and the streaked red effect on the battery cover give the Jet some flair.

The Jet is fast and responsive both in the touchscreen and when navigating menus and this is down to the 800MHz processor as this allows for faster response time. Not only do programs and apps launch faster on the Jet but the phone is also fully capable of multi-tasking, running multiple applications at once. When you first access the menu page, there are a lot of categories to choose from so it is pretty clear where everything is located.

Navigation of the touchscreen is very easy, as the display is very responsive so you can always select the correct icons first time round. Everything is clearly labelled which also makes navigation of the Jet user friendly. For example, ‘exit’ back to the homepage is visible, along with the ‘back’ button to get to the previous page. The picture on the display is very clear and defined, so everything you look at, either text or images, appear to be very bold which makes it more enjoyable to use.

One of the most impressive features is the 5.0 megapixel camera. When you access the camera icon on the homepage, you get taken straight to the viewfinder in landscape mode. To take the photo, there is a physical button which is positioned on the right side. The border around the viewfinder on the touchscreen has different icons you can choose to change the settings of the photo, such as flash options, timer, scene modes, smile detection, panorama, and many, many more. The quality of captured images is very high, and with 2GB internal memory there is plenty of room to store all your shots and with expandable memory your photos can be joined by all you favourite music and videos. Video capture on the phone is just as impressive with a both a normal shot mode and slow and fast motion capture adding to the impressive features.

When composing a message on the Jet, the keyboard appears on the touchscreen, which is quite easy to use due to the responsiveness of the touchscreen. Vibrating feedback confirms your actions on screen and for those feeling adventurous (or the need to show off) the Jet also has an excellent handwriting recognition feature which can recognise whole sentences at a time.

Overall, the features of the Jet work very well, at a good speed and are all very responsive. A great looking device with features to boot, the Samsung Jet is the perfect antidote for dreary smart phones and under powered feature phones.

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Hands on with the BlackBerry Storm at Vodafone

BlackBerry StormI was asked to pop along to see the new BlackBerry Storm yesterday which is Vodafone’s answer to the iPhone on 02. The guys from Vodafone and BlackBerry were there to answer any questions and of course to let me get my grubby mitts on the next potential iPhone Killer so here is what I made of it…

The BlackBerry Storm (previously known as BlackBerry 9500) needs to be directly compared to the iPhone as both are now aimed squarely at the same lucrative audience of both business users and the everyday phone users with their rich featuresets and enterprise level functionality.

The BlackBerry Storm is slightly beefier than the iPhone at 112.5 x 62.2 x 14mm compared to the iPhone’s 115 x 61 x 11.6 mm but it’s hardly noticeable in your hand. The extra 20g weight (155g) compared to the 135g of the iPhone might be a bit more noticeable though.

Where does this extra bulk go then?

Well first off it didn’t go on a WiFi chip which is the most striking omission to the BlackBerry Storm’s specifications in my opinion. No built in WiFi means you will have to rely on the all you can use Vodafone mobile Internet data policy which is bundled with all BlackBerry Storm contracts. Obviously this isn’t really an issue if you are within Vodafone’s super fast HDSPA (3.5 G) areas, which are among the UK’s fastest data networks but browsing / emailing where there is a FREE, faster WiFi connection and only GPRS network coverage would seriously annoy me!

The large 3.25″ high-resolution screen (480 X 360 pixels) screen is very clear and crisp and will definitely make journeys fly when coupled with a few movies stored on a microSD™ memory card. The screen also makes viewing the images captured from the 3.2 mega pixel camera great as you can see the extra fine details this camera picks up compared to the 2 mega pixel camera found in the iPhone. This camera has auto flash, auto focus and 2x digital zoom and coupled with the in built Flickr™ and Facebook™ applications you will be able to upload your snaps quickly and easily to share on the web.

Browsing the web using this large screen and the built in BlackBerry browser is a good experience but is maybe a shade less pleasurable compared to the iPhone’s browser and even the bundled Opera browser on the latest HTC Touch handsets which are both top notch. However one advantage the BlackBerry Storm does have over its rivals is a feature called Cursor Mode which enables you to have an on screen mouse pointer and by moving your finger around the screen and clicking on any point on the screen gives you get left click, mouse like precision for web links and editing documents etc.

Music wise the inbuilt music player is good and is tightly integrated with Vodafone’s Music Store service where you can download new tracks, albums and listen to 30 second previews of the latest songs. Also for the majority of people who use Apple’s iTunes to organise their play-lists and music collections you will be pleased to know the BlackBerry Storm can sync with iTunes however this will only be with your own ripped content not Apple DRM protected music!

The inbuilt GPS in the BlackBerry Storm uses Vodafone’s Find & Go service which is much like other GPS technologies however it does come with a nifty search and share service built in to allow you to share and view places of interest people have uploaded via their GPS phones. The downside to this native Find & Go GPS service though is you only get 6 months Find & Go Sat Nav subscription with your new contract compared to the unlimited usage of the iPhone’s Google Maps software which seems a little stingy on Vodafone’s part.

BlackBerry Storm landscape typingIn the short time I had hands on with the BlackBerry Storm I couldn’t say I like the new “tactile-touch” on screen keyboard compared to the old faithful physical QWERTY keyboards found on other BlackBerry phones.

The “easy and precise touch screen typing that is claimed via this new on screen QWERTY keyboard (full QWERTY in landscape mode only) felt a little more like clunky and cumbersome compared to say the iPhone and HTC’s Touch Diamond on screen keyboard efforts.

The primary reason for the difficulties I had getting along with the new keyboard is the fact the BlackBerry Storm’s screen is built using a unique new technology where the screen is actually spring-loaded so the whole screen effectively acts as one big button. So rather than the keys sensing my fingers like other touch screen keyboards I had to physically press the screen down down to press the keys. I suspect you would get used to this new style on screen keyboard but losing the brilliant physical QWERTY keyboard in place of this radically different, push down, on screen version might put a lot of people off within their initial contract cooling off period.

All the standard enterprise level BlackBerry email functionality and remote administration features that Research In Motion’s (RIM) success has been founded on are still present and do set the BlackBerry Storm apart from its competitors in the corporate environment. However the other large target audience of ‘normal’ end users who Vodafone and BlackBerry are going after with this handset won’t really be interested in locking down certain features and applications so I can’t see these features selling extra handsets to these ‘normal’ users.

So in summary the BlackBerry Storm is the most consumer friendly handset that RIM have released to date and a lot of new ‘normal’ end users will buy it.

Click here to order the BlackBerry Storm

The following summary table should give a good overview of the pros and cons of the BlackBerry Storm compared to the iPhone:

Feature
BlackBerry Storm
Apple iPhone
Size
112.5 x 62.2 x 14mm
115 x 61 x 11.6 mm
Weight
155g
135g
Messaging
MMS, Instant Messaging, SMS, Email
SMS, Email
In built storage
1GB
8GB or 16GB
Card Expansion
microSD™
none
Data Capabilties
HSDPA, GPRS
HSDPA, GPRS
Battery life
Standby: up to 360 hours, Talk Time: 5 hours 30 minutes
Standby: up to 250 hours, Talk Time: 8 hours
Camera
3.2 Mega Pixel (2048×1536)
2 Mega Pixel (1600 x 1200)
GPS
Built in Find & Go (6 months subscription)
Google Maps (ulimited usage)
Connectivity
USB2.0
USB2.0, TV Output
WiFi
No
Yes