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2005 in Review: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

2005 was a bumper year for phones, and by and large the quality of handsets improved hugely over 2004 - not just from a technical perspective, but from a marketing point of view too. It's been very much easier to find "Good" phones in 2005 rather than "Bad" ones. Fortunately, there are still some ugly ones! For the purposes of this review, we've looked at handsets that have hit the market in 2005 rather than earlier launches or handsets yet to be released.

Feel free to disagree with our choices, or suggest your own in our forum.


The Good..

HTC Universal

The HTC Universal redefined Smartphones in 2005 - a Windows Mobile 5.0 device with a large 640 pixel wide display, removable memory, 3G and WiFi built in, it's the most fully loaded handset currently on the market (although 2006 will see some tough competition). HTC don't sell under their own brand, but you'll find the Universal bearing the i-mate JASJAR, Qtek 9000, O2 XDA Exec and T-Mobile MDA Pro names, plus many others. It's a big beast, but think of the HTC Universal as a laptop replacement rather than a mobile phone.

 HTC Universal

Nokia N70

The Nokia N70 is a feature rich 3G phone that's also designed to be very stylish. One of the first handsets in Nokias "N-Series" range, the N70 delivered broad market appeal and brought some credibility to Nokia's lacklustre 3G offerings to that point. The N70 offers a 2 megapixel camera, Bluetooth, expandable memory and the Symbian S60 OS, but it let down by a fiddly keypad and a relatively low resolution screen.

 Nokia N70

Nokia 770

It's not a phone - the Linux based Nokia 770 is a widescreen internet tablet (roughly the same size as a Sony PSP) that can be used with a Bluetooth phone or a WiFi connection. The beauty of this arrangement is that you only need to take the 770 out with you when you need it, and this is a great alternative to lugging a smartphone everywhere. The 800 pixel wide touch sensitive screen is amazing. Our review unit was faulty, however which led to the horrors of dealing with Nokia's customer service - our advice: buy the Nokia 770, but avoid dealing direct with Nokia.

 Nokia 770

Nokia 6230i

In the spring of 2005 Nokia announced an upgrade to the year-old 6230, and in doing so redefined the standard business handset. The Nokia 6230i added a 1.3 megapixel camera and a high resolution 208x208 pixel display to a compact device that already had a multimedia player, expandable memory and FM radio. It's not the most technically advanced handset around, but this handset set the standard for what features business users could expect from a mobile phone.

 Nokia 6230i

Nokia 9300

Released right at the beginning of the year, the Nokia 9300 is much smaller than the HTC Universal, but it still comes with a large QWERTY keyboard and wide screen, but this time running the Symbian OS instead of Windows. It's a simpler device that the Universal too - there's no touchscreen or 3G support, although the updated Nokia 9300i adds WiFi support. It's a flexible smartphone that's still small enough to use as an everyday handset.

 Nokia 9300

Samsung E530

In our opinion, one of the prettiest phones ever made, the Samsung E530 is a one of a range of similar handsets from Samsung. It has a 1 megapixel camera, 90Mb of internal memory and an MP3 player - which makes it one of the best specified "fashion phones" currently on the market.

Samsung Z500

One of the lightest 3G handsets around, at just 95 grams, the Samsung Z500 goes to show that you can have a fully-featured 3G phone that can be as lightweight and compact as a GSM handset. The Z500 comes with a 176x220 pixel display, TransFlash memory, video calling and Bluetooth and yet still stays below the magic 100 grams barrier.

 Samsung Z500

Sharp 902

Released right at the beginning of the year, the Sharp 902's high resolution 320x240 pixel display, 2 megapixel digital camera, expandable memory, Bluetooth and 3G made this the best specified mobile phone on the market.. and it took most of 2005 for the competition to catch up. It's a big phone at 150 grams though, larger than most 3G devices. In the middle of the year, the 902 got a fabulous "Ferrari" makeover from Vodafone and now the Sharp 903 adds improvements including a better camera.

 Sharp 902

Sony Ericsson W800i

The definitive music phone of 2005, combining the "Walkman" brand, some good software and a capable handset into an appealing and popular phone. Sure, the Sony Ericsson W800i has its faults - there's no 3G support and the screen is only 176x220 pixels, but as a complete package the W800i is hard to beat. One nice thing about the W800i is that it can take up to 2Gb of memory, making it a real rival to dedicated MP3 players.

 Sony Ericsson W800i

VK Mobile VK2000

The tiny VK2000 weighs just 48 grams and is only 8.8 mm thick, making it the smallest and lightest phone of 2005. Even for such a small handset, it still manages to squeeze in a 128x143 pixel display and a WAP browser. VK Mobile even managed to make the phone pretty good looking too.

 VK Mobile VK2000

Our verdict: The handset that we believe is the best combination of style, technical features and functionality for 2005 is the Sony Ericsson W800i. Other phones may have better features, but we feel that Sony Ericsson have pulled everything together to make an impressive and enjoyable mobile phone.

Disagree? Then let us know your favourite handset in our forum!


..the Bad..

LG S5200

LG's attempt to reposition itself as an innovative player in the mobile phone market came unstuck with the LG S5200 - a device that we understand was almost cancelled by LG because it looked too much like the Samsung D500. However, the LG S5200 isn't even as good as the year-old D500, which makes it a rather inferior device.

 LG S5200

Motorola RAZR V3

Strictly speaking, the Motorola RAZR V3 is a 2004 handset, but 2005 has seen several different variants come out, including pink and blue versions. It's a great looking handset, and one of the best selling mobile phones worldwide. The problem is that fundamentally, it isn't very good and the underlying hardware is pretty much the same as the V500 from 2003. Internal memory is limited, the camera is poor, interface slow and the keyboard is fiddy. Motorola have address many of these issues in the upcoming RAZR V3i though.

 Motorola RAZR V3

Motorola ROKR E1

The first "iTunes phones" is more a disappointing phone than a bad one, the Motorola ROKR E1 had been highly anticipated, but in the end it turned out to be a warmed over E398 from 2004, which itself was based on the cancelled E390 from 2003. Although the ROKR has expandable memory, it is deliberately limited to a maximum of 100 songs, and the ROKR was stuck with the VGA resolution camera from the old E398. The technical press didn't like it, and consumers returned the ROKR in large numbers after becoming fed up with its limitations. Despite a high-profile marketing campaign, the ROKR has been a bit of a flop.

 Motorola ROKR E1

Panasonic X700

The Panasonic X700 was a huge flop - originally announced in February 2004, it finally made it to market at the beginning of 2005.. and ended up in the bargain bucket. On paper it looks great, a Symbian Series 60 clamshell phone that you can use to work with Microsoft Office documents.. except that the screen was too small, the camera was next to useless and the phone made it to market so late that it was basically obsolete. Panasonic have since pulled out of the GSM market.

 

 Panasonic X700

Siemens AP75

The Siemens AP75 is a grim, low end phone that's a rebadged Benq M300 handset. Previous versions of this handset have been picked up by O2 and sold as the O2 X2i and O2 X2b. The screen is a lowly 128x128 pixel CSTN unit, the camera is just 352x288 pixels and the overall design is poor. Users of the O2 version of this handset will attest to how badly made it is. One the plus side, it does have Bluetooth and it's very cheap to buy.. we were just hoping for more from the Siemens-Benq merger than this sort of device.

 Siemens AP75

Our verdict: although it's not the worst handset on the market, the Motorola ROKR E1 is a huge disappointment for those people who were waiting patiently for an iTunes phone. To serve up a warmed over handset that was two years old for such a prestigious launch was a huge error by Motorola.

Disagree? Then let us know your least favourite handset in our forum!


..and the Ugly.

Nokia N91

Although it's not out until early next year, the Nokia N91 gets a mention here because of it's awful design. By all accounts, this is an excellent music phone and is very nice to use.. but from a cosmetic point of view, it's a bit of a disaster. It seems to be some sort of curse: Nokia always tend to do something that messes up an otherwise great phone.

 Nokia N91

Sagem VS1

We do actually like the concept behind the Sagem VS1 a lot - a phone that's designed primarily to be very easy to use. It's an antidote to the over-complicated feature rich devices that we see a lot of. The problem is that it's just so ugly to look at - it's a handset that you would be embarrassed to show anybody, unless perhaps you're a little old lady. Sagem tried again with the VS3 and came up with a much better looking device.

 Sagem VS1

Samsung Z130

The Samsung Z130 is a pretty standard 3G phone, but in an unappealing "bar" format. However, it has a trick.. the screen rotates so that you can make widescreen video calls. This turns the Z130 from an ugly phone into a ridiculous looking phone. In our view, people are much more likely to laugh than be impressed.

 Samsung Z130

Toshiba TS10

The Toshiba TS10 is an interesting phone to look out from the outside. Open it up though and you are faced with a sea of black plastic and a tiny little screen, with bizarre round buttons with dayglo labels on them. Toshiba have clearly tried very hard to give the TS10 a distinctive and stylish look, but in our opinion it has all gone horribly wrong.

 Toshiba TS10

Our verdict: it looks like a mobile phone designed in the 1970s.. if there had been mobile phones in the 1970s. When you open the phone up, your first reaction is to close it immediately just to make it go away. Yes, in our view the ugliest phone of 2005 is the Toshiba TS10.

Disagree? Then let us know what you think is the ugliest phone in our forum!

Discuss these handsets in our forum

 

 

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