2005 in Review: The Good, The Bad and
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.
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
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.
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.
It's not a phone - the Linux based
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We do actually like the concept behind
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
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.
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.
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
Disagree? Then let us
know what you think is the
ugliest phone in our forum!
these handsets in our forum