Is the ‘best’ smartphone the best choice?

BEST MID-RANGE OPTION. The super-slim Huawei Ascend P6 offers excellent value in the mid-range smartphone market. Image supplied

One of the great ironies of the smartphone industry is that buying the “best” handset in the world is not necessarily the smartest purchasing decision you can make.

If you can afford to pay between R8 000 and R10 500 for a phone without blinking, its no problem. Or, for that matter, between R350 and R450 a month on contract. The truth of that matter, however, is that numerous phones, that are almost as good, allow you to slash the price tag by between a third and a half.

For that reason, it doesn’t tell the full story if we only anoint the best smartphones in the world, selected from the flagship devices of the major manufacturers. We also need to look at the mid-range and low-end to see where the best value is to be found. Here, then, is a personal perspective on the best value-for-money smartphones in the local market, divided between mid-range and low-end devices.

Mid-range Smartphones of the Year

1. Huawei Ascend P6: best known for being the slimmest smartphone in the world, at 6.18mm. It also happens to have double the battery of the flagships, and is available at between R5 000 and R6 000.

2. Alcatel One Touch Idol

Ultra: Held the distinction of thinnest smartphone before the P6 arrived on the scene, measuring 6.45mm. It feels great in the hand, and even greater in the wallet, at around R5 000.

3. Sony Xperia V: One of the most powerful mid-range phones on the market, with a 1.5GHz processor, waterproof, dustproof, 13 megapixel camera, and a R5 500 price tag. The 4.3″ display is the only factor that keeps it out of the top spot.

4. Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini: not quite a scaled down versionof the S4, the Mini is intended to provide Samsung with a lower-cost option in cutting edge smartphones. Starting at around R4 800, it is the wannabe smartphone of the year.

5. BlackBerry Z10: Six months ago this would have been one of the high-end phones. But marketing blunders by BlackBerry internationally (“oops, maybe we should have treated the USA as a priority market after all”) meant they had to offload these at firesale prices. You can’t go wrong at R3 700.

6. Nokia Lumia 625: A great Windows phone at R3 500

Lower-range Smartphones of the Year

Three phones dominate the smartphone lower-range in South Africa: The Samsung Galaxy Pocket from 2012, this year’s Nokia Lumia 520 and the BlackBerry Curve – both the older 9320 and the new 9720. But the value winner chooses itself:

1. Nokia Lumia 520: On one day in early December, DionWired offered this on a special at R1 000. This was evidence that even hardnosed retailers sometimes lose their minds. At its normal price of about

R1 900, it is the best introduction yet to the Windows Phone operating system at a price that won’t leave buyers with many regrets. It offers the main features of both the Lumia range and Windows on a phone.

2. Samsung Galaxy Pocket Plus: an update in hardware specs and Android functionality, its R1 050 price makes it a great back-up phone for high-end users and a good first-time smartphone for upgraders.

3. Nokia Asha 311: Using the old Nokia S40 operating system, members of the Asha range are usually not regarded as smartphones, but they are almost as open to the world of apps as any Android. The 311 touch phone recalls the Meego operating system that only ever appeared on the much-missed Nokia N9, but at a fraction of the price. At R1 100, it’s a no-brainer.

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