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Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The Top 5 Android Smartphones this DSS

Over the last couple of months, we've seen a definite uptick in the adoption of Android based devices here in the UAE.  While RIM's BlackBerry brand is still tops when it comes to smart phone sales in our retail outlets, followed by Apple, we've seen the Android platform grow steadily.

Partly, this has been because we've seen more brands throw their hat into the smartphone race (where as RIM and Apple use their own proprietary operating system software) but more and more this has been because of the improvement of the quality of products we've seen coming from a lot of the smartphone manufacturers.  The introduction of Android 2.2 (codenamed Froyo) and Android 2.3 (codenamed Gingerbread) have meant the operating system and the Apps we've seen have started to gain traction amongst many early adopters, especially since the Google Market app store was introduced in this region a few months ago.

In this summary, we discuss the 5 most successful Android-based smartphones that are currently on sale with us.

1. LG Optimus Black

This is a relatively new launch with us and one of the big advantages of this device has been its weight.  At only 109 grams, it's one of the lightest smartphones on the market which is especially impressive considering it has a 4" screen.  It has got a relatively quick 1GHz processor.  It has a 5 megapixel camera and an LED flash but comes with only 2GB storage and 512MB RAM which means you need to use a memory card if you plan on taking a lot of pictures or recording videos.  It comes standard with Android 2.2 but can be upgraded to Gingerbread (Android 2.3).  Priced at Dhs. 1,799, it certainly isn't the most expensive device but does compete with the upper-end of the smartphone market.

2. Samsung Galaxy Ace

This is largely a budget device as it comes competitively priced at Dhs. 1,099.  Unlike most of the top end smartphones which are now coming with processors about the 1GHz threshold, this comes with a 800 MHz processor from ARM and a 3.5" touchscreen.  It was designed for Android 2.2 but does have an upgrade to 2.3 (Gingerbread) available.  It has a 5 megapixel camera with an LED flash but only 158MB storage which makes using a memory card a must on this device.

3. Motorola Defy

Motorola hasn't really ever the level of success in this region as they have in the United States but when they have succeeded, it has been due to the fact that they've had a niche product.  The Defy's advantages is that it is dustproof, scratch and water resistant, which means it is great for this climate or for those who've got young kids.  It has a 3.7" touchscreen which is similar to that on the iPhone 3GS.  It has a 5 megapixel camera with an LED flash and an 800 MHz processor but runs Android 2.1 (Eclair) out of the box.  It can be upgraded to Android 2.2 but if you want Gingerbread, it isn't available on this device at the moment.  Motorola also uses their MotoBlur skin on Android devices which for someone who's been on using various Android devices for a while can feel cumbersome.  It has 2GB storage and 512MB RAM.  Priced at Dhs. 1,399, it is more expensive than the Galaxy Ace but given the fact that it is sturdier by design, may make it justify the extra premium.

4. Sony Ericsson Arc

Sony Ericsson has taken a lot of stick initially when they entered the smartphone race as they would announce devices many months before they were launched and when they came to market, they felt and looked out-dated.  A lot of their devices ran Android 1.6 when the market had shifted to Android 2.1 and  2.2.  It was a surprise therefore when the Sony Ericsson Arc came out because it was one of the first devices to come with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) right out of the box.  What's more, Sony Ericsson decided not to interfere too much with skinning the device and has kept it as close as possible to what Google would called a "stock" Android device.  It carries a whopping 8 megapixel camera with an LED flash and a 1 GHz  Scorpion processor.  The 4.3" touch screen uses a variation of Sony's Bravia engine but what has really made this device stand out is how slim it is.  For all of this though, you do pay a price and it is currently marketed at Dhs. 2,399 which makes it the most expensive of the five phones we're reviewing here.

5. Samsung Galaxy S

This has been the device that has single-handedly turned Samsung's fortunes around in the smartphone race and brought back a revival of sorts within Android handsets in general.  Firstly, this device came with a 4" AMOLED screen which was at the time one of the only competitors for Apple's iPhone Retina screen.  It was also one of the first with a 1GHz processor and had a generous 16GB storage and 478MB RAM.  It has a 5 megapixel camera with an LED flash and runs on Android 2.2 out of the box, though the 2.3 upgrade can be downloaded.  The successor to this model has now been released which has meant the price of this device dropped recently to Dhs. 1,599 which makes it a bargain given the power-packed features it has.

What about HTC?

HTC has long been regarded as one of the stalwarts of the smartphone business and is one of the fastest growing smartphone manufacturers in the world right now.  Recently they took over Nokia as far as market capitalization goes and are going from strength to strength.  They didn't figure in our sales figures though in the first half of this year as we were working out our commercial terms with HTC.  This I'm glad to say was concluded recently and we've started selling HTC devices again.

One the prima donna's in HTC's suite of Android devices has to be the Sensation.  This has all the bells and whistles that you'd expect in a top-end smartphone including a 4.3" QHD touchscreen, HD video recording, a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, 768MB RAM, 1GB memory, an 8 megapixel camera with a dual LED flash.  Out of the box, the device runs Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and has HTC's Sense skin l loaded on it.  Sense has been HTC's way of unifying the smartphone experience across their devices and whether the device runs on Android or Windows Phone 7, the idea was that it should be as similar an experience as possible.  The end result is that some people don't mind it and others hate it.  It's all down to personal preference at the end of the day.  It weighs 148 grams and it retails at Dhs. 2,599.  It should be within our top-sellers very soon we hope.

Did we forget the Galaxy SII?

The talk of the town has been the Samsung Galaxy SII.  Especially since they've plastered Dubai and the rest of the country with their advertising and impressive road shows.   Since this device has only just launched we felt it couldn't place it in just yet as we've been constrained with some initial supply issues but whatever has been coming in has been selling out immediately.  Just as the Samsung Galaxy S set the benchmark for Android devices, the Galaxy SII has done much the same.  This is a super slim device and comes with a slightly bigger screen than the original Galaxy (4.3" vs. 4.0").  It has a newer generation of Samsung's AMOLED technology called Super AMOLED Plus.  It has a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor like the HTC Sensation and a similar 8 megapixel camera with an LED flash.  It also runs on Android 2.3 like most new devices that are being released today.  The base model comes with 16GB memory built-in and with a memory card input, this can mean you can take HD quality videos without any issue.  It is also extremely slim and lightweight which is really what makes the device stand out.  With HSPA+ connectivity, it is provides one of the fastest broadband mobile connections that you can get on a smartphone.  Priced though at Dhs. 2,599, it is competing at the top end of the smartphone market where it has set the benchmark for what an Android device should be and could very well compete with the next generation iPhone's from Apple.

Concluding Remarks

Android has been a platform that has been misunderstood by many.  Part of the reason has been that it has been fragmented in terms of communication with so many brands promoting or marketing Android-based devices differently.  However, it is one of those platforms that once you get hooked into, you find difficult to abandon.  Personally, I had tried migrating once and ended up moving back to my iPhone.  I'm trying it again and am enjoying it more this time, especially since I saw a lot of what Steve Jobs presented that was coming in iOS5 for Apple devices is already present on Android.

While I do love the Apple experience, I'm myself starting to appreciate Android more as I've seen it has been revolutionizing the smartphone experience far more than any other platform lately.  There is a learning curve for sure, especially if you've come from another platform but it is worth the switch if you decide to make it.

Posted By: Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer, Jacky's Electronics
Editorial Contributions Provided By: Thomas Lobo, Buyer, Jacky's Electronics