New smartphones unveiled at CES 2011

This year you weren’t anyone if you didn’t announce a new smart phone, the majority of which are now powered (or based upon) the Android operating system. Being “Latest Gadgets” rather than “Latest Phones” meant that we only focused on the phones that caught our eye, rather than trying to provide a complete list of all the phones launched at this year’s show. So, without further ado, here are the ones that made us sit up and take notice (and not always for the right reason!).

Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc Smartphone

 

First up is the ‘visually brilliant’ Xperia arc. This is the firm’s first phone to feature a mobile version of the Bravia engine and comes with the latest version of Android. The phone comes complete with a HDMI output to view your videos and photos on your TV as well as ‘Sony Exmor R’ for mobile which helps with low-light photography. Being in a brightly lit exhibition hall didn’t give us much opportunity to test this particular feature, but we did have a quick play with the rest of the phone.  Unfortunately our first impression wasn’t overly positive, we found the interface to be rather slow and the design of the phone (as seen in our candid snapshots above – click to enlarge) wasn’t anything to write home about.

The ‘Nexus S’ by Samsung/Google

Next up is the latest phone from Google, featuring Android 2.3, full integration (as you’d expect) with Google Mobiles Services and a Super AMOLED display. The phone’s design was perfectly acceptable and comfortable to hold. The feedback vibration when using the screen was reassuring rather than annoying. In terms of usability and speed – we initially found the phone to be extremely laggy and attempting to view a sample video resulted in a black screen. However, all of this was rectified by a Samsung employee who performed the classic ‘turn it off and on again’ routine. Having done this, we found the Nexus to be much quicker and more responsive than the ‘arc’. The Nexus S will also come with support for Flash 10.1 and HTML 5 to enable ‘full use’ of web sites.

Motorola ‘Atrix’

Motorola, ever so modestly, introduced their new Atrix phone as the “World’s most powerful smartphone”. The Atrix comes with a dual core processor which promises faster, smoother graphics and web browsing. It also comes with the World’s first qHD display and a web browser that supports Flash – something which, unsurprisingly, all manufacturers are shouting from the roof tops in order to try and get one over on Steve Jobs and Co.
The unusual and somewhat intriguing (in our opinion at least!) part of the Atrix offering is what the firm calls a ‘revolutionary webtop application’. This is basically a latop/docking station for your Atrix which gives you a bigger screen and full-size QWERTY keyboard. The idea is that you have one of these “I can’t believe it’s not a laptop” devices at home and work and then carry all your files on your phone. Unfortunately the design of the laptop appeared to be very basic and it had a distinctly plasticky feel to it. Motorola aren’t known for their laptops (as far as we know!) and we’re not sure that venturing in to this field is the way to go. However, stranger things have happened – so we’re prepared to eat our hat if this turns out to be the future of mobile computing!

‘Revolution’ by LG

Like most firms, LG announced a whole range of new smart phones at this year’s CES, but again we’ve just focused on the one that caught our eye. In this case it was the ‘Revolution’ which will initially be available on the Verizon network in the US. However we imagine that we’ll see it at some point in the future in the UK but perhaps under a different guise or product name.

The main headline offering from the Revolution is its support for full HD streaming, playback and recording. This means you can wirelessly stream content from your phone to any compatible TV – and we were told this doesn’t just include LG sets. In addition to HD support, the Revolution comes with all the features you’ve come to expect, such as dual cameras for video calling, a 5M AF camera with LED flash, WiFi, Bluetooth, etc. A nice additional touch is that the Revolution comes with a wireless charger which we didn’t see in action but imagine will become more common place in the year to come.

Google and Samsung Nexus S review of reviews

Another month, another potential iPhone-killer. Normally they fall short of grabbing the Smartphone Crown with some pretty basic mistakes – a plasticky-feel to the case, for instance, or a poor camera. Sometimes they’ll even forget to include HD video recording, or iPhone-beating features like a micro SD expansion slot. Will the Nexus S, Google and Samsung’s collaborative effort, fall into this trap? Read our review of reviews.

Google-Nexus-S

Contour Design

T3 are quick to praise Google’s new baby, explaining that “the Google Nexus S is a gorgeous phone. It sports what’s called a ‘Contour Display,’ where the glass is curved slightly to fit the contours of your face.”

Originally designed to improve the user experience, Pocket Lint think that it won’t “make any difference in daily use … [however] looking good is good enough. And look good the Nexus S does.”

There’s universal praise for the phone’s aesthetic between reviewers, but it’s equaled by condemnation of the phone’s build quality. T3 sum it up: “Pick up the phone and the build is disappointing, it just feels very plasticky – far more so than the similarly priced HTC Desire HD and Apple iPhone 4.”

4.0” AMOLED Screen

While the design may be the first thing a user looks at, the screen is what holds their attention. Luckily, the Nexus S has done well. PC Pro sings its praises: “the 4in 480 x 800 screen uses Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology, which means it’s eyeball-searing in its brightness and amazingly colourful.”

We’d elaborate, but almost everyone knows that AMOLED equals awesome screen. Is it better than the iPhone 4? That’s too big a debate for this article, but we’d say that the iPhone’s higher pixel density beats marginally improved colour reproduction (sorry, Nexus S!).

Android 2.3 – Gingerbread

If the reviewers’ consensus is that the design and the screen are much improved over the original Nexus, then the operating system is a minor tweak. On paper Gingerbread offers plenty of modifications, but in the real world our journalistic friends found three bragging points:

Tech Radar: An improved task manager means that “Android keeps an eye on which applications are running in the background and shuts them down if they step out of line.” Electric Pig adds that the new task manger also lets “you see what those [badly-coded, battery-hogging apps] are, and kill them.”

Pocket Lint: “The new keyboard makes it easier to get to numbers, punctuation and special characters using multitouch. Previously you’d have to toggle between character sets, now you simply press and hold the button to access the character set you want, as if using a “shift” or “alt” button on a conventional keyboard.“

CNET: “The Web browser in Android 2.3 seems faster than ever, and it rivals the speed of the iPhone 4’s browser. The Web pages we tested loaded quickly and accurately, and you get the bonus of Flash Player 10.1 support, so you can see every website just as it was designed to look.”

Hardware

Tech Radar sums-up the innards: “A Samsung 1GHz Hummingbird processor in the background (which offers up some fantastic speeds) we weren’t surprised to see judder or freezing kept to a minimum.” And this is with only 512MB RAM – less than the HTC Desire. It’s not all good, however – “One thing we’re very disappointed with Samsung and Google about on the Nexus S is the lack of external microSD expansion. Yes, 16GB of internal storage is good-ish.”

Camera

The first real split of opinion surrounds the Nexus S’ camera. Most people have garnered behind Electric Pig: “The five megapixel camera takes unspectacular, washy images without any of the clarity we were hoping”.  Pocket Lint disagrees: “The camera performance is respectable in good light and copes surprisingly well indoors too.” Although they’ll admit that “the flash brings a slight green cast to things, blowing out close subjects and lacking the power to reach any distance.”

Luckily, the two camps reformed in disgust of the VGA camcorder option. Electric Pig: “you’re restricted to VGA video recording – that’s right, no 720p HD for you. Oh, and notifications aren’t automatically silenced while recording.” Eep.

Buy It

Thankfully, CNET took care of this paragraph for us:

“The Nexus S will be available from 20 December for free on a £35-a-month contract, or £550 without a contract, exclusively from Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy. Either way, the phone will come unlocked so you can use it on any network.”

Conclusion

It seems like if you want the best Android phone, you know where to go – the Nexus S is mostly brilliant. Plan on storing a lot of files, however, or want to capture life’s precious moments in high-quality, and you might find yourself reaching for the HTC Desire HD or Samsung Galaxy S. Which is weird, because you’d think that Samsung would have noticeably improved on their previous product.

Nexus S: Google and Gingerbread – just in time for Christmas

While mobile phone reviewers are still pleasantly surprised when they encounter a phone that incorporates Android’s 2.2 version, the Google Nexus S is taking things to the next level, offering Android 2.3.

‘Gingerbread’ as it is called, is not the only new thing on the phone – it also boasts new hardware, NFC. NFC you ask? It stands for Near Field Communications apparently, It’s a short-range wireless technology already used in Japan and lets you use your phone as a travel ticket, to make small payments and scan over adverts to get more information about a product. You could, for example, scan a film poster and view a trailer for the movie on your phone. Nifty. You can expect to see it filtering on to the likes of BlackBerry and Nokia handsets next year.

Google-Nexus-S

The Nexus S is Google’s second foray into the mobile phone market – its first failed to set the world alight, and as Google has chosen to distribute solely through Carphone Warehouse, which doesn’t have a huge slice of the market, we wonder if history is to repeat itself.

However, maybe customers will be lured by what its makers claim is the world’s first 4in curved touchscreen display, as well as front and rear facing camera. It has been built with the help of Samsung and is part of the Galaxy S range of phones.

Gingerbread is likely to appear on most Android phones in the next few weeks and months, so if you don’t want to splash out the just-under 550 quid, you might just wait for Gingerbread to hit other Android devices.

In the UK, the Nexus S will be free on £35 per month contracts or unlocked for £549. It is likely to be available after December 20, but pre-orders are being taken now.