This month’s smartphone highlights include an affordable phablet from LG , Google’s big push into India with Android One, Huawei’s sapphire Ascend P7 for China and an octa-core stunner from Meizu.
[alert type=alert-blue]Android One[/alert]
Google has revealed the first three handsets that will roll out as part of its affordable Android One smartphone programme, starting in India.
The tech giant is partnering with local Indian manufacturers to produce a series of entry-level devices that come with the latest version of Android; KitKat 4.4.
Android One forms part of a new strategy for Google that sees it targeting so-called emerging markets, such as India, in a bid to further push its OS.
Although markets such as India already contain cheap Android devices, Google is promising a more hands-on approach. Consequently, Android One handsets – like the new Karbonn Sparkle V Red – will benefit from regular updates.
Comparing the $100 Karbonn Sparkle V Red to a standard entry-level Android smartphone, such as the slightly pricier Motorola Moto E, shows that its specs aren’t radically different to the type of low-cost phones we’re used to in the west.
The handset has the same 1GB of RAM as the Moto E, a 5MP camera and (as mentioned above) comes with Android KitKat 4.4 out of the box. It also has a good-sized 4.5 inch display with a 480 x 854 resolution – less than the Moto E’s impressive 540 x 960 pixels.
Aside from the Karbonn Sparkle V Red, Google has also unveiled the Spice Dream Uno (£63) and the Micromax Canvas A1 (£65), which come with virtually identical specs.
The Karbonn Sparkle V Red costs Rs. 6399 (£64) in India. The Android One smartphone programme is thought to be the brainchild of Chennai-born Google exec Sundar Pichai, who first revealed plans for its rollout at his company’s I/O conference in June.
[alert type=alert-blue]LG G3 Stylus[/alert]
LG has announced another handset for its core 2014 range of devices – the LG G3 Stylus. We’re used to seeing stylus-based smartphone variants coming with a larger display than their flagship sibling. What with the G3’s larger-than-average 5.5-inch screen though, the G3 Stylus keeps it at the same size. That means that the G3 Stylus gets the same wonderfully compact, slim-bezelled body as well.
Despite the screen remaining the same size though, its resolution is not. One of the G3’s main selling points – QHD – has been sacrificed in the name of cost. In return, you get a meagre 960 x 540 pixels. On a smartphone with such a large screen, that’s a real worry.
Just about every spec takes a hit when compared to the G3, for that matter. The processor is reduced from 2.5GHz to 1.3GHz, there’s only 1GB of RAM (compared to 3GB), and the front-facing camera is 1.3MP instead of 2.1MP. The G3’s 13MP rear-facing lens remains though, hopefully as capable and clear as its original incarnation.
The stylus is the main selling point though, and the smartphone will come pre-loaded with a suite of pen-optimised apps to make use of it.
The LG G3 Stylus went on sale in ‘emerging’ markets including Brazil, East Asia, the Middle East and Africa this month. With any luck the new LG smartphone will make its way West soon after.
[alert type=alert-blue]Huawei Ascend P7 Sapphire[/alert]
The Chinese manufacturer has announced that it will release a limited number of Ascend P7 handsets with a scratch-proof sapphire screen. Apple was reportedly planning the same for its upcoming smartphone but backtracked at the last moment.
The original Huawei Ascend P7 comes with a screen made of Gorilla Glass 3.
The new Huawei Ascend P7 will be available in the company’s Chinese online store in limited quantity.
The first batch of sapphire handsets launched this month, with a second batch to follow in November.
If all goes according to plan, the new Ascend P7 will be the first sapphire-screen handset from a Chinese manufacturer. Although the rumour mill is rife with speculation that Huawei’s competitors Xiaomi and Vivo are also planning similar displays for their devices.
It’s likely that the smartphone will be sold in a one-off online flash sale, as is the custom in Asia. The practice has been extremely successful for the likes of Xiaomi. Huawei has not yet confirmed whether the device will be rolled out globally.
Sapphire is thought to be the second hardest material after diamond. Aside from incorporating the new display, the Ascend P7 won’t undergo any further changes.
We thought that Huawei’s ‘group selfie’ smartphone was a solid handset. The device comes with a 1080p, 5-inch display and a 1.8 GHz quad core-processor.
[alert type=alert-blue]Lava Iris X5[/alert]
Selfie phones are currently all the rage. Sony, Huawei and Nokia have all unveiled handsets with powerful front-facing cameras in recent months. Not to mention the fact that selfie devices (such as the perfume-bottle selfie camera from Sony) are becoming increasingly popular.
Domestic Indian smartphone manufacturers have thus far resisted the trend. With the launch of the Lava Iris X5, however, India finally has its very own selfie smartphone at the kind of affordable price you’d expect from the region.
The device, which was launched exclusively through Amazon India in September, comes with a 5MP front-facing lens with an LED flash – perfect for low-light selfies. On the back of the device is a standard 8MP camera.
The handset has a 5-inch display with a 1280 x 720 resolution, allowing users to view those images in HD. Inside the device is a 1.2GHz processor, 1GB RAM and 8GB of in-built storage, which can be expanded up to 32GB via a microSD card. All pretty low-end compared to its surprisingly mid-range display.
The Lava Iris X5 costs just £90, which makes it much cheaper compared the handsets released by Sony and Huawei. Although the £175 Nokia 735, which will also be debuting in the UK in October, should give it a run for its money – especially if Microsoft decides to modify the price in order to compete in emerging markets. For now, Lava has the upper hand and – in the words of company Chairman Hari Om Rai – a shot at capitalising on that “selfie crazy generation” of young smartphone users.
[alert type=alert-blue]Meizu MX4[/alert]
Hands down the most powerful international smartphone of the month is a new beast courtesy of Chinese handset-maker Meizu. The sleek 8.9mm depth of the MX4 means its got the looks to back its power. The curved edges and round home button make it an iPhone 6 lookalike, but we can think of worse brands to emulate and copying Apple has done wonders for the likes of Xiaomi.
Inside the smartphone is a MediaTek octa-core processor, which combines a 2.2 GHz Cortex-A17 with a 1.7 GHz Cortex A7). Basically, that means that this speed demon can keep up with the likes of the Sony Xperia Z2 and Samsung Galaxy S5.
Another premium feature is the rear-camera on the MX4, which has a 20.7 MP Sony Exmor sensor. Looking at the back of the phone, you can see that the lens is considerably bigger than you will find on other handsets. This may not be easy on the eye but we can forgive its appearance as it boasts superior functionality. The camera app for the MX4 can also capture 4K UHD video and has super-fast focus speeds of 0.3 seconds, according to Meizu.
You can currently grab the 16GB MX4 for an attractive $449 and the 32GB model for $489 from the Meizu online store.