It's been a great week for mobile news, with plenty of new handsets being announced - and a rather important week for Apple fans, as we've finally got a good look at what very much looks like the next iPhone. Android have seen the confirmation of the UK's first Intel-powered smartphone, the incredibly cost-efficient Orange San Diego, and Windows Phone fans can choose between two new Lumia handsets: The budget Lumia 610 and the top-of-the-range Lumia 900 Batman Edition. Let's get right into the fray!
The Orange San Diego is the toast of the Android town this week. The Intel-powered device is coming to the UK for £200 on a pay-as-you-go deal. The phone has proved the equal of much more expensive smartphones in many benchmarks, as that unique 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor is incredibly efficient. The phone also includes a 4" display at 1024 x 600, 16 GB of storage and an 8 megapixel camera capable of burst shooting. The only real downside is the OS being Gingerbread instead of Ice Cream Sandwich, but as always this is coming soon.
Intel's entrance to the smartphone arena could be a strong one if this phone is as good as it looks...
One very obvious trend in smartphone and tablet computing has been the sudden uptake of high-density, high-resolution displays. While Android phones stayed on a WVGA (800 x 480) standard for some time, we've seen a massive jump to HD (1280 x 720) resolutions that have outpaced the corresponding increase in screen size, with pixel densities hitting consistently north of that Apple-defined 300 pixels-per-inch Retina border. Apple's even reportedly going to launch Retina display Macbook Pros later this month, with 2880 x 1800 pixels on a 15" screen.
It's about to get even crazier. Sharp have produced a new display technology called IGZO ("Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide"), which should provide another massive leap in display quality. Sharp showed off a couple of prototypes at a press event in Tokyo, including a 6.1" screen running at 2560 x 1600. That's equivalent to a crazy 498 pixels per inch, better even than LG's 5" 1080p display that was announced earlier this week. As well as the massive jump in pixel density, the new displays require much smaller bezels and have much less background noise for touchscreens. I can't wait until we start seeing this kind of technology in consumer smartphones.
Sharp also showed off a flexible OLED display, which wasn't quite as high-resolution: 540 x 960 at 3.4".
If you're looking for a rather affordable Android phone, then the tiny Ice Cream Sandwich-equipped HTC Desire C could be just the ticket. The budget handset has gone on sale this week and comes with 4 GB of storage, a 480 x 320 pixel display and a surprisingly decent 600 MHz processor. The phone's available sim-free for about £150 - not bad, although the One V with slightly higher price tag and a much nicer set of specs is also an appealing option.
In rather more high-end news, ZTE has most recently claimed the "thinnest smartphone in the world" crown. They've teased a premium Android handset called Athena that includes a 720p IPS display, Cortex-A15 processor and 64 GB of internal storage - all fitting inside a 6.2 mm thick frame. It's cool from a technological standpoint, but I wonder if consumers care as much about all-encompassing thinness as these manufacturers do.
The biggest news on the Apple front this week has got to be the latest juicy details on the iPhone 5. A photo of the new iPhone's shell was released by 9 to 5 Mac, showing a new smaller dock connector, a headphone jack on the bottom, bigger speakers and a much larger unibody frame overall.
There's expected to be a 1136 x 640 display that's 4.0" in diagonal width, too - this is the first time that Apple have enlarged the display on their iconic iPhone. The phone is also expected to come with a Samsung S5L8950X processor of about the same speed as the iPad. The latest word on the street is an October release - exciting stuff.
The redesigned iPhone 5 features a much smaller connector, a newly positioned headphone jack and bigger speakers.
While the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) has just approved the Apple-designed nano-SIM format, Apple is already looking to the future: Embedded SIM cards. These cards wouldn't be user removable, meaning that mobile carriers would have a lot more control over the devices that they sell. This doesn't sound great for consumers, although I suppose an embedded SIM card could make unibody designs a lot easier.
Nano-SIM (above) is 40% smaller than normal SIM cards. Crazy.
One thing Apple is expected to do in iOS version 6 is ditch Google Maps for its own custom mapping solution. Google is apparently a bit unhappy with the situation, and is planning an event just a few days before Apple's WorldWide Developer Conference that'll showcase "the next dimension of Google Maps". The June 6th event will give press a "behind-the-scenes look at Google Maps" and allow Google to demo new features. It's a bit immature, but it'll certainly be interesting to see how the two mapping systems stack up.
Nokia have finally released their most-budget Windows Phone handset yet, the Nokia Lumia 610. The handset manages to hit an extremely low price point (£150 here in the UK) through its low 256 MB of RAM and slow 800 MHz processor. The Windows Phone Tango OS update was deliberately designed to work well on slower phones like this one, and it looks like both Microsoft and Nokia have done their jobs well - the phone runs very smoothly indeed.
The only real downside to the Nokia Lumia 610 is that some Windows Phone apps don't run on the device. This means the already small Windows Phone marketplace gets even smaller, with many popular games like Angry Birds and PES 2012 being off-limits. Thankfully though, a new version of Angry Birds that's optimised for the phone's lower specifications is reportedly already in development, and other major developers are likely to follow suit. So as it stands, the Nokia Lumia 610 is a completely respectable phone and represents the cheapest entry point into the Windows Phone OS, characteristics that could make it a major hit with consumers.
The Nokia Lumia 610 also utilises an all-plastic construction, but it doesn't come off as cheap.
On the other end of the spectrum, Nokia are also releasing a limited edition version of the Nokia Lumia 900. The Batman Edition went on sale on the 1st of June for £600, and includes a pretty sweet looking Batman-logo-infused chassis and unique black-and-grey theme. The Batman edition is quite limited, so if you're intererested in picking one up then better get to it sharpish.
The Nokia Lumia 900, Batman Edition. I'd have one. But I probably wouldn't spend £600 on it.
So that's all for this week - not bad, huh? There have even been a few things that I've left out, so you know it's gotta be a good time for smartphone news.
Anyway, have a good long weekend and be sure to let me know what you think in the comments below. Thanks for reading my friends!