Some of the biggest phones of 2017 were launched at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Handsets by Sony, LG, Huawei, BlackBerry (now licensed to TCL Communication), Nokia, Motorola and Alcatel were unveiled over a 48-hour period. The nostalgic favourite was the Nokia 3310, a replica of the 2000 model produced by the new licensee of the Nokia feature phone brand, HMD Global, a Finnish company made up of many former Nokia staff wanting to see the brand great again. Here are five of the top phones released at the event.
Sony Xperia XZ Premium
Its killer feature is “super slow motion”. The phone records at a massive 960 frames per second. When you playback at 30fps that’s 32 times slower. I tried super slow motion last week and you use it intermittently. So if you are filming a high diver, you’d start recording normally at the moment they jump, then invoke super slow motion to capture twists and turns. The XZ Premium also has a full 4K display, which is even finer resolution compared to the already super sharp QuadHD (2K) screens of competitors. The question is whether you can appreciate the difference between 2K and 4K on a small 5.5-inch smartphone display.
Huawei P10, P10+
Like the Sony, the P10 and larger P10+ are bullish about their cameras. They boast three Leica-branded lenses, two on the back and one for selfies. The camera on the recently released Mate 9 included post-processing: you could change the focal point and vary the depth of field after taking the photo. The P10 range adds lighting effects and 3-D facial detection technology. Huawei uses a monochrome lens on the rear to add detail to a colour image. The lens also allows for some stunning native monochrome photography. In general it’s a very fast and powerful Android phone.
LG has been struggling to define its mantra in the premium smartphone market. What does it offer that the others don’t? With the G5 last year it added “friends”, add ons such as a camera grip, 360 degree camera and battery pack, that augmented capabilities. This year the add ons have been de-friended, leaving the G6 an orthodox phone. With its thin bezel, the G6 is promoted as a big phone with a 5.7-inch screen that still fits snugly in one hand. It also has an unusual 18:9 screen format, a departure from the cinema-style 16:9 ratio that elongates the screen even further. LG is very bullish about 18:9. It trotted out celebrated Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro who dreams that “cinema will use this exact composition”.
The BlackBerry Qwerty keyboard is back but this isn’t really a BlackBerry phone. Chinese phone-maker TCL Communication bought the rights to use BlackBerry branding late last year so the announcement is a TCL rather than BlackBerry event. The phone runs the Google Android Nougat 7.1 operating system. The handset, however, includes BlackBerry software and services, and an old-style BlackBerry Qwerty keyboard with new tricks. It doubles as a trackpad. But are these keyboards a good idea in an era where the smarts is in voice-to-text communications with smartphones?
The Nokia 6 is part of the emerging story of HMD Global, a young company that includes enthusiastic ex-Nokia staff who want to restore the brand to its former glory days. Founded nine months ago, HMD Global and FIH Mobile (a subsidiary of phone-maker Foxconn) acquired the rights held by Microsoft Mobile’s feature phone business to sell Nokia-branded phones and tablets until 2024. One of its four new phones is a retro version of the Nokia 3310, but it only works in 2G markets, not Australia. The others are no-nonsense Android phones. Nokia 6 has a metal frame, 5.5-inch full HD display, Dolby Atmos sound, a 16MP camera and Google’s latest Android operating system, Nougat.
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