The dooyoo Guide to Trends in Mobile Phones - If you are thinking of acquiring a new Mobile Phone, the good news is that manufacturers of handsets and service providers are falling over themselves to offer incentives and deals on a huge range of phones to suit all budgets.
The UK market for mobile phones has long since been a mature one, which is another way of saying that the phone companies, both handset manufacturers and service providers, are having to be increasingly inventive in finding ways to get us to buy new phones and services.
The bad news is that a recent report indicated that UK consumers are loosing £8.45 billion per annum as a result of not using the tariff best suited to them, with the majority of users unclear as to how much they are being charged and for what.
The dooyoo guide to buying a Mobile Phone will take a look at some of the latest handsets and technology from Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, Siemens, Sony Ericsson and LG, from budget models to the latest must have fashion accessories and high-tech smart phones. We will also touch, briefly, upon the thorny topic of tariffs, demystify some of the jargon and, hopefully, take some of the pain out of finding the phone that is right for you.
Choosing the Right Phone (and the Right Tariff) - Most mobile phones are bought on a combination of their looks and their functionality. The question of design, candy bar, flip, twist-on or slider, is ultimately one of individual preference with each approach to basic form factor having its fans and its detractors.
When evaluating the design of a mobile it is important to be able to hold it in your hand. Its ergonomics, how it feels, the layout of its keypad and how intuitive, or otherwise, its menu navigation is, will make a considerable difference to whether your purchase will be a constant source of frustration or a discreet and indispensable extension of your connectivity.
In terms of basic functionality (at the risk of stating the obvious) make a test call to both a landline and another mobile. A shop that is unwilling to let you do this is probably not a good place to buy a mobile phone from.
We will take a look at some of the higher levels of phone functionality later but as with everything in life your wish list is best compiled in advance and should consist of what you want, what you need and what you can afford (remember those companies are hungry for your cash so with some research and a bit of luck you shouldn't need to compromise too much).
The other key factor in choosing the right mobile phone is the question of the network provider, specifically the tariff, the line rental, insurance, cost per minute and free incentives offered.
Tariffs come in two basic varieties, pay as you go (where you buy the handset and SIM card and pay in advance for a specific amount of calls) and contracts, which tie you to a particular provider for a minimum period of twelve to eighteen months.
Pay as you go tariffs typically conceal fewer hidden costs but it is worth checking that calls to Voicemail are free and that pre-purchased credit doesn't expire within an unreasonably short period of time. There should be no monthly fee and with a bit of research it is even possible to find a deal that offers some free texts and talk-time as well. The downside is that the cost per minute of calls is generally higher than with a contract, the choice of handsets more limited and when you run out of credit you cannot, generally, make calls until you have 'topped-up' your phone. You also have to buy the handset, which means no 'free' upgrades.
Contracts, on the other hand, come with all manner of incentives, not least of which is that the phone itself is free or hugely subsidized. In addition to this you can expect a certain number of free minutes and free texts. This appears to be, and often is, a great deal but the trick is to find a tariff which matches your phone usage, as line rental (and insurance) have to be paid whether you are using your phone or not and free allowances may not necessarily be transferable from month to month. This is a choice that needs to be taken with care or otherwise you will end up paying through the nose for that 'complimentary' state of the art phone.
According to a recent survey, the average British mobile phone customer uses 23 voice minutes and 23 texts above their monthly allowance, which costs them up to £130 per year. On this basis it is not hard to understand why you might be offered a £250 smart phone for free, especially given that some data services and internet connectivity, not to mention "roaming" tariffs (using your mobile phone abroad), can be charged at eye-watering rates.
In the UK market there are five major networks to choose from Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile, O2 and 3, with a number of smaller 'virtual' networks subcontracting access from the big players. In terms of network coverage there isn't a great deal to distinguish between these five companies but the exact details of the tariffs that they offer change frequently and it is always worth consulting an online phone tariff comparison tool to find the most up to date deal which best suits your likely phone usage.
Tedious as it may be, always read the small print - just ask the factory worker who managed to run up a bill of £27,322 in just four weeks as a result of leaving his phone connected to the internet day and night not realizing that this wasn't covered by his £41.50 a month contract! "Unlimited access" does not always mean "unlimited".
The other factor determining your choice of network will be their customer service. A good way of determining this in advance is to check the feedback and reviews on dooyoo.
Finally a word about insurance... given the number of phones that are lost, stolen or dropped in the toilet every year, insurance is almost certainly indispensable. It may be the case, however, that a third party might offer you a better deal - check whether you are obliged to take a specific insurance from your network provider and how this compares.
Obviously if you are looking for a budget handset then this does not apply as the cost of the premiums will quickly amount to more than the value of your phone. The best, and cheapest, form of insurance is always to back up the contents of your SIM card!
Budget Mobile Phones - Tech-savvy bargain hunters will have already figured out that the latest models of mobile phone command a premium. In common with a lot of consumer electronics, if you are determined to be at the cutting edge expect to pay for the privilege, both financially and (occasionally) in terms of reliability of the early adoption of technology that is still unproven either in terms of popularity, stability or format. A quick peak at Ebay will confirm that upgrade fever leads to second hand bargains.
At least mobile phones in general seem less prone to issues of backward compatibility (i.e., the latest HSDPA handset can still make and receive calls from a ten year old budget model) but to enjoy the full potential of video calls, push email and all the latest innovations your friends and colleagues will, of course, need to share your enthusiasm for the latest models.
For those of us cheapskates who do not find the idea of paying for the privilege of Beta testing the latest gadget appealing, the good news is that even the most basic models of mobile phone can be found with good basic functionality and a range of distracting toys.
Budget phones worth a look include: the Nokia 2600 classic , Nokia 1209 and the Sony Ericsson W350i
Mid-range Mobile Phones - If you are prepared to pay a little more for your handset, or are resigned to a Faustian pact with a service provider, then your options expand.
Organiser functionality, increased data management and storage options, Bluetooth (for wireless interaction with your PC), some form of Internet access beyond the depressingly slow experience of WAP, as well as better quality cameras and MP3 players, in addition to large phone book capacities and tri-band compatibility (your phone will work across Europe) are standard features in this class of phone.
The high data rates of 3G Internet implementation (UMTS) are scarce at this price range and HSDPA unknown but EDGE technology (2.5G Internet implementation) can still deliver impressive speeds, making these mobile phones practical, if not ideal, for surfing the net. In fact some premium phones, the highly covetable iPhone for instance, get along just fine with EDGE, but network coverage (for data services) may disappoint outside of urban centres. If you were hoping to update your blog on the fly from the middle of Death Valley you will still need a more robust solution.
Mid range models include the: Nokia 6300, the older models of Motorola's RAZR line (though not, sadly, the D&G version).
Mobile Phones That Are Also Cameras - Whilst occasionally omitted from high end smartphones focused on data implementation for business, cameras are becoming an increasingly standard feature on even cheaper models of phone but can your mobile replace a digital camera?
Well probably not just yet, sensor and lens quality, the paucity of manual options and the absence of all but the most basic image stabilization on even the highest specified mobile phone, not to mention, relatively, limited storage capacities, fall well below the standard of even budget digital cameras. However camera phones do have the advantage that you are likely to be carrying them with you wherever you go, making them an attractive option for the casual snapper.
The high-end models are certainly capable of producing stunning images for the Internet but high noise levels in low light conditions prevent camera phones from being serious competition for all but the most modest digital cameras.
The situation is likely to change however as the better models of camera phone now feature Xenon flashes and Carl Zeiss lenses, with a few even boasting face recognition technology, some versatility of settings and (limited) optical zooms. Kodak have just announced a new sensor which will massively improve the quality of mobile photographs but we will have to wait until later this year to see whether these claims will be born out.
To all but the most hardened of megapixel fetishists the latest 5mp camera phones are impressive but manufacturer's claims should be treated with some degree of skepticism as pixel count is less of an indicator of quality than the size and quality of the sensor and lens is. The small lenses found on camera phones are no match for the optical quality of the larger ones found on cameras. If what you are really after is a camera check out our buying guide to digital cameras here.
If the lure of photo messaging and the prospect of never leaving your camera at home again is irresistible then these offerings could prove diverting: LG KC910 with Contract; Sony Ericsson C905;
Mobile Phones That Are Also MP3 Players - Though 'the laughing frog' has, thankfully, been consigned to the dustbin of history, polyphonic (as well as MP3) ringtones continue to be de rigueur (at least amongst the under fifteens) and can be downloaded to just about any old mobile. Why not impress your classmates (and everyone else on the bus) by playing your grime call sign at maximum volume now, society thanks you.
Given that the ringtone is one of the few areas in which the music industry can still fleece us, it is hardly surprising that MP3 player/phone combinations have been enthusiastically embraced by both industry and consumer but can your mobile really replace an MP3 player?
The answer is yes, if you are willing to settle for relatively slow data transfer from your computer, limited capacity, less than stellar audio and negotiate DRM and file format compatibility issues. These caveats and a few gripes about battery life aside, the idea of replacing your MP3 player with a mobile phone is fast becoming a practical one (but do everyone a favour and get some headphones that don't leak!).
Cynics might suggest that the iPhone is actually just a limited capacity iPod with data and phone functionality added but strong offerings from Ericsson and Nokia indicate that the MP3 player/phone hybrid isn't going away any time soon.
The Sony Ericsson W910i Walkman, for instance, boasts not one but two digital cameras, FM radio, UMTS and GSM. In terms of its MP3 playing capacity, its software allows you to arrange your music according to album, title and performer, identify unknown tracks and sports a 5-band equalizer. Memory is expandable to up to 8GB by using Sony's proprietary memory stick cards, just as well as its baseline capacity (for all those memory hungry MP3s) remains pretty laughable. The specifications of the Nokia N73 (Music Edition) are comparable but once again its let down by its memory capacity. If money really is no object then the Nokia N91 8 GB has a capacity that makes it a truly useful MP3 player as well as offering superb audio quality that makes it one of the few genuine rivals to the Apple iPhone 8 GB.
If you want an MP3 player, however, and convergence is not a prize to be achieved at any price, then the cost of these devices might seem disproportionate to their storage capacities. It is their functionality as a phone (and mobile data hub/multimedia player) that should be the prime considerations. If you just want to listen to music take a look at our buying guide to MP3 players and possibly save yourself a tidy sum.
Other music phones include the: Nokia N81 8 GB and the Sony Ericsson W595
Smartphones: Mobile Phones That Are Also Computers (well almost) - Today's road warrior is tomorrow's road kill unless you preserve your edge when it comes to data trafficking. If the thought of being without a PDA for an instant fills you with panic then the smartphone is likely to be your weapon of choice. The biggest news of late to hit the smartphone sector is the immanent arrival of Android. Not a handset but an operating system, Android promises to deliver the Google experience to your mobile phone and, unlike the iPhone, this is a software solution that will ultimate work on a variety of hardware. How well it delivers on these promises remains to be seen but we will keep you posted.
Smartphones offer a wide range of functionality that extends to editing word documents and spreadsheets, conference calling, EDGE compliance, Opera browser compatibility and touchscreen interfaces. A later model, the Nokia E50 attempts some of these tricks in a more conventional candy bar format but fails to impress due to its unstable performance.
The iPhone's (Apple iPhone 8 GB ) implementation of touch screen technology remains, for the time being at least, unrivalled (throw away your styluses) but those with an allergy to all things Apple might well want to take a peek at the HTC Touch Cruise, a not entirely unconvincing clone.
Those looking for an alpha smart phone will insist on UMTS (the 3G standard for Internet access and data transfer) at the very least and will probably be enticed by HSDPA (its even faster '3.5G' successor). A word of caution however, many users of these 3G data services complain that coverage in the UK is not quite what it should be and that the reality of data transfer rates proves a little disappointing with their state of the art mobiles reduced to using WAP and GSM protocols to access data a slower rates.
Other PDA phones include: the Samsung SGH i780 and the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 and the Nokia E71
Convergence For The Rest Of Us: Why Data Rates Matter - Those of us mere mortals who feel some skepticism about the joys of surfing the Internet on a tiny screen and for whom round the clock access to share prices, email accounts and corporate intranets is not exactly indispensable could be forgiven for thinking that all this data speed stuff is of no importance. Here are a couple of reasons why download and upload speeds could make an important difference even if your career is more lo-fi than high-flying.
With their average revenue per user diminishing year upon year and the cost of spectrum remaining more expensive than ever, the network operators and handset manufacturers have desperately struggled to find compelling new ways for us to spend money on our mobile phones.
One such initiative is mobile TV. Whilst the initial response to this was a bemused shrug from a largely indifferent public, a combination of faster data rates and Apple's must have iPhone mean that mobile TV may yet become a compelling argument for owning a phone with the highest available data transfer capacity.
The Samsung SGH-P900, for instance, features a high resolution 2.2" TFT screen which can be easily flipped into horizontal viewing mode, making the experience of viewing mobile TV a highly enjoyable one.
Another factor which makes the issue of Internet access particularly interesting (and scares the phone companies) is VoIP. Voice over IP services such as those pioneered by Skype are slowly becoming available to the owners of phones such as 3's Skypephone.
WiFi Skype phones from Belkin, Netgear and, Linksys can't yet replace your mobile altogether (they rely entirely on access to a wireless network and whilst they support some of Skype's more advanced features, expect some restrictions on both where you can make calls and who to) nonetheless the idea of the VoIP mobile seems about to come of age.
You can find more info on the different Internet access options; UMTS, HSDPA, EDGE etc in the Dictaphone (mobile jargon decoded) section of this buying guide.
The Bling Ringer, Mobile Phones With Style - Though a sceptic might suggest that the reinvention of the mobile phone as a fashion accessory smacks of desperation on the behalf of manufacturers, the Motorola RAZR demonstrated that the concept had, and continues to have, undeniable popularity.
Choosing a phone on looks alone is still a rather risky proposition as the dazzling appearance of some models conceals poor basic functionality and somewhat less than state of the art technology. You might also want to ask yourself just how much attention do you want your phone to attract (down at the tube station at midnight) and how quickly this season's fashion statement can become next season's fashion faux pas.
These reservations aside, phone design has clearly taken some leaps and bounds since the days of the house brick disguised as a walky-talky (in fact there is now a Chinese company that produces a case for a modern mobile that turns it into a fully functional, miniature replica of an eighties handset). Fashion phones, it seems, are here to stay.
Amongst popular fashion phones are the LG Prada KE850, the Sony Ericsson W910i and the LG Cookie KP500 the HTC Touch HD
Accessories - As our love affair with our mobile phones borders on the obsessive, a vast range of accessories have flooded the market from ringtones to pouches, holster bags, socks and hands free kits available from manufacturers like Hama, Golla and Funkwerk.
Whilst opinion remains divided about the aesthetic merits of equipping your phone with its own miniature football shirt, a wide range of options are available to compliment your own personal style and, somewhat more importantly, protect your phone from wear and tear. A screen protector might also be a worthwhile investment (particularly in the case of phones with a touchscreen interface).
Hands free kits (wireless or otherwise) such as the Nokia CARK-109, or the Handspring THB Treo Car Kit 3140EU are an essential (now legal) requirement for drivers. Bluetooth options are preferable to avoid being tethered to your phone (though using these discreet headsets on the street may leave the impression that you are talking to yourself).
Music fans will also appreciate the Hama Mobile Music Kit or the Nokia Music Pack MK-3 whose various cables should resolve a variety of compatibility issues.
Spare batteries and additional memory cards are also sensible investments. Check also that your phone comes with the appropriate cable and software (or Bluetooth / Infrared capability) to hook it up to your PC. "Data kits" are often sold at a very high premium and it may well be the case that a USB to mini USB cable and some software downloaded for free from the Internet could provide a more economic solution.
dooyoo provides an extensive listing of Mobile Phone Accessories .
Dictaphone: Mobile Jargon Decoded - Those of you with a keen interest in current affairs might sometimes find yourself wondering whether the UN has a special department in charge of acronyms. The mobile phone industry runs a close second in its fondness for esoteric language and so here, by way of help, is our (by no means definitive) guide to the terminology of the mobilologists.
B1G, 2G, 3G
Back in the days when mobile phones were roughly the size and weight of a house brick and only used by people in stripy shirts shouting things like "It's Nigel, buy futures, sell oil", 1st Generation (1G) analogue phones were only capable of transmitting and receiving voice data.
Since they didn't even manage to do this particularly effectively, due to a combination of poor reception, lack of encryption (meaning calls could be easily intercepted which was bad news for Nigel) and ludicrously bulky handsets, they were replaced, in the 90s, by 2G phones which, as a result of being digital, could perform some interesting tricks (albeit relatively slowly).
2G networks (sometimes referred to as CDMA or GSM networks) increased the possibilities of data transfer and permitted the sending and receiving of text messages but they remained fairly basic in their capabilities.
GSM (Global System for Mobile communications), remains the most common standard for mobile telecommunications and (according to whether you own a dual, tri or quad band phone) operates on a frequency of 850MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz or 1900MHz. Europe doesn't use the 850MHz which is preferred in the U.S, so if you are going to be traveling with your phone this is something you will need to consider. Tri-band phones are generally fine in Europe but in the States you will need a Quad-band model.
2G phones were in turn superseded by 2.5G models, which are still very much alive and kicking. 2.5G phones allow you to browse the web and send MMS (Multimedia Message Service) meaning you can incorporate pictures and videos in messages. They use GPRS (General Packet Radio Services) to enable faster transmission of data across GSM standard frequencies and, in some cases, EDGE (Enhanced Data GSM Evolution) for even faster access.
2.5G phones deliver a level of performance analogous to a dial up modem (30Kbps to 90Kbps). Whilst EDGE improves upon this considerably the transfer rates required for mobile television and other data intensive applications saw the introduction of 3G, which uses the faster UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) protocol, analogous to a broadband modem at 144Kbps to 2Mbps.
Still not content with these speeds3.5G phones have arrived on the scene in the last year or so using theHSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) protocol which, theoretically, offers speeds of up to 14.4 Mbps. Unfortunately network availability is not yet what it should be and speeds are compromised by interference, meaning enthusiastic early adopters may still find themselves having to endure the World Wide Wait.
Bluetooth & Infrared
A phone equipped with Bluetooth allows you to connect wirelessly with your PC or PDA and transfer data to and from your phone. The same feat can be achieved using infrared but this has a much shorter range (1m as opposed to 10m) and you have to have an unobstructed view of the device you are attempting to connect to.
Generally to be found beneath the battery the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) is a 15-digit number, which uniquely identifies your GSM or UMTS mobile phone. It can also be found by dialing the sequence *#06# into the phone and can be used to block the use of stolen phones even when the SIM card is swapped out.
PAC(not to be confused with PUK, see below)
Your Porting Authorisation Code (supplied by your current provider) is your authorisation to request a transfer to a new network and retain your current telephone number. This process, whilst a lot simpler than it once was, has still been known to reduce grown men to tears.
Two important factors to remember are not to cancel your existing contract before requesting your PAC and that once provided this code is only valid for 30 days. Anyone undertaking this tricky operation would do well to do a little research on the Internet as to the correct procedure. OFTEL (the UK telecommunications regulator) is a good source of neutral advice on this and other phone and network related matters.
Enter your PIN incorrectly three times and you had better hope you can remember your PUK (personal unblocking key).
The Subscriber Identity Module, otherwise known as the SIM card, contains your phone number and the details required for accessing the network, as well as storing additional information (if you so specify) like your contacts and text messages.
An unblocked phone (i.e., one that is not tied to a particular network) enables you to exchange the SIM card, handy when traveling for instance, in that it allows you access to the cheaper rates of local networks as opposed to the outrageous roaming rates you will otherwise suffer. This is something to be arranged in advance however, as obviously your number will also be a different one.
A phone equipped with a WAP browser (and these days the majority are) can access the Internet using Wireless Application Protocol allowing access to sites designed with this usage in mind. In reality this has often been a frustrating experience for users earning it the nickname Wait and Pay, the sites available using this being relatively few and far between and still slow to load on the average phone. Nonetheless a WAP browser is still adequate for traffic and weather updates and a number of dedicated email portals.
WAP has now been largely superseded by cut down versions of familiar browsers like Explorer and Opera, as well as a plethora of others, which make accessing the web from the high end phones that run these applications a far more pleasurable (and slightly less expensive) experience.
Wi-Fi allows wireless connection to the Internet but requires the user to be in the proximity of a hot-spot (unsecured network). It is fast and it is free and is used by EDGE equipped mobiles and VoIP phones.However hot-spots are not as common as the standard mobile masts which are used for UMTS and HSDPA signals, which may lead the user to spend a lot of time hanging around at Starbucks (hopefully not for the coffee but rather the free Wi-Fi).
A phone (or PDA) featuring a cut down version of the Windows operating system, allowing you to download viruses and curse the day that Bill Gates was born.
Summary - Love them or loath them most of us have been forced to concede that mobile phones are a necessity. The bewildering range of prices and functionality of both handsets and tariffs can make the choice of model an exasperating one but as noted in our introduction to this guide, getting a good deal is not impossible.
If your contract is up for renewal and you are thinking of switching to a new network, you should try contacting your old provider and renegotiating the deal. A lot of network providers have considerably more leeway in personalizing their tariffs to your pattern of phone usage than it may first appear and so long as your demands are not unreasonable you might be surprised at how quickly and easily they can be met (they will do anything they are able to retain your custom).
When purchasing a new or replacement mobile, the key points to consider are:
* How much will you use your phone?
* What time of day will you make most of your calls? Costs of calls at peak hours may be higher.
* Which mobile network is used by most of the people you are likely to call? Costs of calls to phones using different networks maybe higher, allowances may be usable only for calls and texts to phones using the same network.
* What kind of additional services do you want on your mobile (e.g. mobile Internet services)?
* Will you make much use of the more expensive types of calls, such as calls to premium rate services or using your phone whilst abroad (roaming)?
The answers to these questions will help you to determine the correct handset and tariff but bear in mind that, in the case of a contract, you will be tied to the phone for at least twelve months. To avoid being stuck with a lemon check the user reviews on dooyoo, ask your friends for their opinions and your local retailer for a hands on demonstration.
Brand: Samsung - Dimensions: 125.3X66.1X8.49mm / Mobile Phone / Display: 4.3" / Camera: 8MP AF with LED Flash + 2MP Front / OS: Android Platform 2.3
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Brand: LG Google - Display: 4,7" 1280 x 768 Pixel / Mobile Phone / CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon™ S4 Pro / Cameras: 8 MP + 1.3 MP Storage: 16GB / OS: Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean)
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Mobile Phone / Brand: Vodafone
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Brand: Nokia / Mobile Phone / Smartphone / 4G Windows 8 / Wireless Charging
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