If you’re looking to give the gift of a smartphone this Christmas, you’re certainly going to be spoiled for choice. FFmag’s tech guru Jenneth Orantia covers all the main players in this handy smartphone gift guide.
Apple iPhone X
Apple has released no less than three new models to celebrate the iPhone’s 10th birthday: the iPhone 8, the iPhone 8 Plus, and the iPhone X. The first two are incremental updates on last year’s models, but die-hards are likely to skip these in favour of the flagship iPhone X.
That is, if they can afford one. Starting at an eye-watering $1,579 for the 64GB version (with a 256GB version available for an additional $250), the iPhone X is certainly not one for the penny-pinchers. Even staggering it out in monthly installments by jumping on a 24-month contract plan is likely to stretch the budget if you opt for plan with a decent amount of data.
But Apple is well within its rights to price the iPhone X as such. The seamless glass design and up-sized 5.8” screen – which almost completely does away with the surrounding border and abandons the well-known home screen button – is a wonder to behold. Using the same OLED display technology found on the most expensive 4K TVs, colours positively pop off the screen, to the point you’ll be spoiled for consuming content on any other device.
Both the front and rear cameras have also been seriously improved to produce stunning selfies and professional quality stills and video, and there’s a nifty new ‘Face ID’ technology that creates a mathematical model of your face, enabling you to unlock the phone just by looking at it. This, my friends, is the future.
Samsung Galaxy Note8
Not to be left out of the superphone race, Samsung has unveiled its own wunderkind mobile device with the Galaxy Note8.
In many ways, it offers superior technology to the iPhone X, with a larger 6.3” infinity display that curves around the edges and offers a higher display resolution, the ability to expand the internal 64GB storage with a microSD card of up to 512GB, and native support for stylus input.
The latter feature puts the Note8 in the same camp as the Apple iPad Pro, only with additional functions like the ability to create animated messages that you can send as GIFs, a live translation tool and an option to scribble down notes directly from the standby screen. It’s worth noting too (pardon the pun) that you don’t have to plump an additional $145 for the stylus as you do with the iPad Pro — it’s included for free, and there’s even a spring-loaded slot for storing it in the Note8.
Huawei nova 2i
Wish your selfies had the same image quality as the snaps taken with your smartphone’s rear camera? Huawei’s got your back with the nova 2i, the first phone that incorporates advanced dual-lens technology for both the front and back cameras. This enables you to reproduce the same pro-quality blurred backgrounds that have previously only been possible with a professional digital SLR – even for selfies.
The nova 2i is an exceptionally handsome device as well, with a seamless design and an extra-large 5.9” screen. The best part? It’s available for less than half the asking price of the latest batch of flagship smartphones.
Ever missed that golden photo opportunity because you couldn’t get the camera started quick enough? HTC is hoping to leave that in the past with the first ‘squeezable’ smartphone. By default, this launches the camera app (but can be configured to launch anything you like), and is especially handy if you’re shooting underwater, as you won’t be able to control the camera through the touchscreen.
It helps that the U11 boasts one of the best rear cameras on the market, with best-in-class image stabilisation, super-fact auto-focus and superior low-light capabilities. Music lovers will also appreciate the emphasis on excellent sound quality, with support for Hi-Res Audio active noise cancellation, and a decent set of earbuds in the box.
Google Pixel 2
It’s no longer a two-way tussle between Apple and Samsung to win the hearts and minds of smartphone power users. Google has stepped up to the plate with its own entry in 2017, the Pixel 2, which combines the software smarts that its branded smartphones have always offered with next-gen hardware that capably goes toe-to-toe with the best devices from other brands.
New this year is the addition of water resistance, an ‘ActiveEdge’ capability that launches Google Assistant when you squeeze the sides of the phone, and a new Google Lens on-demand object recognition tool that works like a visual search engine to ‘recognise’ things (such as landmarks, celebrities, book covers etc) through the camera.
As with last year, there are two screen sizes: 5” and 6”. Those who prefer a smaller smartphone don’t have to settle for second best, as the 5” model includes all of the same features of the XL version.
BlackBerry KeyONE Black Edition
A physical keyboard? On a phone? You’d be forgiven for thinking the KeyONE had perhaps been dredged up from the bottom of the old gadgets drawer, but it’s actually a new device from the brand that popularised keyboards on mobile devices way back when.
For those old enough to recall, there’s definitely a learning curve in remembering how to type with tactile buttons, but provided you don’t mind giving up the screen real estate that the physical keyboard takes up permanently, it’s quite enjoyable bashing out instant messages, email and social media updates.
Plus, you get the cachet of having a phone that doesn’t look like anyone else’s.