On Friday, Apple’s new superphone the iPhone 6 will be formally launched in South Africa. Cue cheers and laughter and queues around Sandton City as the faithful line up to receive their annual blessing from the gods of Cupertino.
But what if all your daily workflow is set up for an operating system other than Apple, or you simply don’t want to drop R12 000 or more on a telephone handset? You might well be thinking that your upgrade Randelas will be better spent elsewhere. If not Apple, then what? here’s our round-up of the best of the rest of the high-end handsets in the country right now.
Here’s the list of runners and riders in the current smartphone race. Click through to your favourite phone:
- Apple iPhone 5S
- BlackBerry Passport
- HTC One (M8)
- Huawei Ascend P7
- LG G3
- Nokia Lumia 930
- Samsung Galaxy S5
- Sony Xperia Z2
- And the winner is…
Apple iPhone 5S
The good news is that the 64-bit A7 processor will still be able to easily keep up with modern smartphone computing requirements and Apple hasn’t updated the RAM from 1GB in the latest generation of phones. The camera is still as good today as it was when we first tested the iPhone 5s and produces some of the best pictures of any smartphone.
On every other device with a fingerprint reader, it’s a bar-type sensor that required the user to slide their finger across its surface. Apple’s TouchID uses a far more elegant approach, implementing the sensor into the sapphire crystal home button. No sliding of fingers, and consequently dropping phones. You just hold your print in place and it gets read in around half a second – it really beats every other sensor by a mile.
Critically you should start to see some incredible deals on the iPhone 5s now that the replacement is on the way, so if you were looking for the best tie to get an iPhone 5s and you aren’t interested in the larger size iPhone 6s’ coming then this is the time to be buying one.
[symple_column size=”one_half”] [symple_box style=”boxsucces”] Price: from R9 999 [/symple_box] [/symple_column][symple_box style=”boxerror”] “The last of the small iPhones.” [/symple_box]
Next page: BlackBerry Passport
Without a shadow of a doubt the BlackBerry Passport is the most polarising smartphone we have ever reviewed. There has not been a single instance where someone has seen it and it hasn’t elicited a comment. The remarks themselves aren’t those that the standard iPhone vs. Android crowd would give me about which phone is better and why, but rather the comments were more out of genuine curiosity and astonishment at the initial sight of the Passport.
The Passport is a smartphone aimed solely at the professional power user, which is to say that if your day is not spend pounding out emails, managing your calendar and browsing through presentations, spreadsheets and documents then the Passport is probably not for you.
That 4.5 inch square display makes watching video and movies a completely awkward experience with tonnes of wasted space however it also makes reading text a much more pleasurable experience with less scrolling down when compared to a candy bar phone in landscape orientation and less eye strain from small lines of text that you see on a portrait orientated phone.
By far its best feature however is its battery life which dwarfs that of almost everything else out there.
[symple_column size=”one_half”] [symple_box style=”boxsucces”] Price: TBC [/symple_box] [/symple_column][symple_box style=”boxerror”] “The first big design change.” [/symple_box]
Next page: HTC One (M8)
HTC One (M8)
Packed inside is the latest and greatest in terms of hardware specs with HTC’s Sense customisation, which is now in its sixth and, in our opinion, best iteration. It comes with BlinkFeed, the Flipboard-esque feed of stories that collates posts your social networks, calendar appointments, your reading list from Pocket and articles from your choice of news sources.
The 5 inch display of the HTC One M8 uses the same Super LCD 3 display technology as well as having the same full HD 1080p display resolution as its predecessor. Colours are bright without being over-saturated and the brightness levels indoors make sure that everything from text to pictures is beautifully crisp and easy on the eyes.
Were it not for the often less-than-average photographs that can result from the low resolution of the Ultrapixel camera we would have absolutely no problem in calling it the greatest Android phone ever made. As it is, if you aren’t too worried about taking the highest resolution photos then the HTC One (M8) is by far the best Android smartphone available right now.
[symple_column size=”one_half”] [symple_box style=”boxsucces”] Price: R9 799 [/symple_box] [/symple_column][symple_box style=”boxerror”] “One phone to rule them all!” [/symple_box]
Next page: Huawei Ascend P7
Huawei Ascend P7
With glass both front and back along with its aluminium sides, the Ascend P7 not only looks absolutely gorgeous, it brings a fantastic, premium feeling in hand as well. Whatever else it may be, the Huawei Ascend P7 is first and foremost a stunningly beautiful smartphone but thankfully it doesn’t end there.
While most smartphones are content to brag about the cameras on their backs, the Huawei Ascend P7 will brag about the incredible 8 megapixel selfie-cam it has up front. While low light conditions will make hard work of getting the best selfies the Ascend P7 has by far the best front-facing camera we’ve ever tested. That’s not to say that pictures from its rear mounted 13 megapixel camera are bad, in fact they’re right up there with our other contenders.
The Ascend P7’s impressive battery saving skills meant that it managed to get to the end of a full day’s work with 40% charge left in the handset. That’s an impressive feat that no other smartphones on test here managed to consistently hit.
And at nearly R4 000 less than the Samsung Galaxy S5, iPhone 5s et al, the Ascend P7 offers more than enough reasons to choose it over the competition. There will always be those who want the absolute best and are willing to pay a premium for it, but for those who cannot justify the added expense, the Ascend P7 is perfect.
[symple_column size=”one_half”] [symple_box style=”boxsucces”] Price: R5 899 [/symple_box] [/symple_column][symple_box style=”boxerror”] “Android excellence on a budget.” [/symple_box]
Next page: LG G3
The LG G3’s quad HD, 1 440×2 560 resolution, HD-IPS+ LCD display is the best panel we have ever seen and while at 5.5 inches it’s a bit large for our tastes, many will appreciate the size of the display. That’s in no small part to the tiny bezels on the display make it far less unwieldy that other smartphones with a 5.5 inch display that we have used in the past.
The 13 megapixel camera of the G3 comes with an upgrade version of the company’s optical image stabilisation technology and has laser autofocusing to ensure that it can focus on subjects in record time. The lasers work a treat at close distances and make sure that photos are captured quickly and with no fuss but it’s not particularly useful at longer distances although images the G3 captures still look great.
Battery life which was the killer feature that made the G2 dominate the pack last year in our opinion is the one thing that lets the LG G3 down this year and for that it may be resigned to those who don’t rely on their smartphones as much or are willing to charge the phone twice a day.
[symple_column size=”one_half”] [symple_box style=”boxsucces”] Price: R8 799 [/symple_box] [/symple_column][symple_box style=”boxerror”] “Tragically flawed brilliance.” [/symple_box]
Next page: Nokia Lumia 930
Nokia Lumia 930
The latest flagship from, the now Microsoft owned, Nokia is the Lumia 930. It’s essentially the same hardware specifications as the massive Lumia 1520 phablet but packed into a more manageable frame to appeal to a broader audience. It’s running the latest version of the Windows Phone operating system that has addressed some of our greatest complaints with it in the past and, as is customary from Nokia phones in the past, has a camera that promises exceptional photos.
As with previous Nokia smartphones, the Lumia 930 uses the company’s ClearBlack display technology that makes reading it in even the brightest sunlight an absolute pleasure. The full HD resolution makes Windows Phone’s new six-tiles-across interface work spectacularly well and the AMOLED display was as bright as the polycarbonate backing, which made pictures and video look fantastic.
The Lumia 930 is by far the best Windows Phone available on the South African market today. It’s fantastically well-built, has the specs to match the competition at the top of the smartphone ladder and has one of the best cameras on any smartphone out there.
That said however the Windows Phone platform is still short on the apps that will make it competitive with iOS and Android based smartphones. The gap is constantly getting smaller but there are still several key apps that we use day-to-day that we couldn’t find.
[symple_column size=”one_half”] [symple_box style=”boxsucces”] Price: R7 999 [/symple_box] [/symple_column][symple_box style=”boxerror”] “The best Windows phone ever made.” [/symple_box]
Next page: Samsung Galaxy S5
Samsung Galaxy S5
The Galaxy S5 is of course the successor to two of the fastest and best-selling Android smartphones ever made – the Galaxy S III and S4. There have been more than 200 million Galaxy S series phones sold to date, so there’s a lot of pressure on the shoulders of the Galaxy S5 to succeed.
The Galaxy S5 is almost indistinguishable from its predecessors from the front but the back has been replaced with a dimpled, soft-touch plastic cover that feels better to hold, but isn’t as premium as the likes of the iPhone or even the Ascend P7.
The Galaxy S5 is now also IP67 rated which means that it is both dustproof and water-resistant for depths of up to one meter for up to 30 minutes at a time and also includes a built-in heart-rate sensor that integrates into the S-Health app and a fingerprint reader which is nowhere near as good as Apple’s TouchID sensor in the iPhone 5s.
With the best warranty in the game and a bevy of new features and upgrades the Galaxy S5 is easily better than its predecessor, in fact it offers a better proposition than almost anything that has come out before or since.
Next page: Sony Xperia Z2
Sony Xperia Z2
The glass front and back might scare some but after a few months with the Xperia Z2 we can honestly say that the phone can stand up to the rigours of regular day-to-day use and even the occasional accidental fall onto the floor from a relatively mild height.
We’re glad to say that Sony has righted the ship when it comes to displays in its high-end smartphones from a quality perspective. The 5.2 inch Triluminous display is definitely one of the best we’ve ever seen with colours looking bright and vibrant something that had eluded previous Xperia Z smartphones.
As with the Xperia Z1 smartphones the 20.7 megapixel camera in the Xperia Z2 is capable of some of the most fantastic images. The standard setting will keep images down to a more manageable 8 megapixels but will use the extra data that the lens captures to correct errors and beautify the pictures it produces using oversampling.
If ever Sony had created a handset worthy of praise the Xperia Z2 is most definitely it. Every single high-end spec that could be in a modern smartphone is present in the Xperia Z2. It simply makes for a superb smartphone.
[symple_column size=”one_half”] [symple_box style=”boxsucces”] Price: R10 000 [/symple_box] [/symple_column][symple_box style=”boxerror”] “A solid upgrade option.” [/symple_box]
Next page: And the winner is…
This year no one smartphone has truly stood out head and shoulders above the rest of the pack and that’s largely due to the fact that, as we said earlier, the gap at the top has shrunk down to almost nothing.
Each of the competitors could have won our supertest and those that didn’t missed out on the top prize because of a glaring omission or problem with them. In the end though it was the HTC One (M8) that won us over because of a combination of fantastic design on both hardware and software.
That said, it’s still has a seriously flawed camera experience and if high fidelity mobile photography is your thing there are better options out there.
The HTC One may not reign supreme for long on the top of our charts either with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6+ as well as the Sony Xperia Z3 all slated to arrive in the next few days putting even more serious competition into the top end of the market.