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2008 in Review: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

20th December 2008
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Mobile phones get better every year, and it gets more difficult to find ones that really don't have anything going for them. Our now-traditional end of year "good, bad and ugly" feature would like to present our personal view of the best, worst and least attractive phones of 2008. You can see last year's list here.

The Good..

Honourable mentions

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1 could have been a world-beater, if only Sony Ericsson could have got it to market earlier.. and it's odd that it took so long considering that it is actually built by HTC. The Samsung Omnia was announced the day after the Apple iPhone 3G, both similar phones targeting a similar market, and both equally good overall in our view. The Nokia 6220 Classic also impressed us, but seemed to lack a certain "wow" factor. The Motorola AURA's challenging design reminded us that not all phones need to look alike.

 T-Mobile G1 Runners up

T-Mobile G1: another way.

It has some rough edges, and it certainly lacks the polish of the iPhone, but the T-Mobile G1 demonstrated a different approach to making a high-end touchscreen smartphone, based on open source and close integration into lots of Google goodies.

The important thing with the T-Mobile G1 is not the phone itself, but the Android operating system.. and 2009 should see many other Android phones following suit. The second Android phone to market will be the Kogan Agora due out in January.

The T-Mobile G1 is made by HTC, and it is their first non-Windows phone. We're pretty sure that HTC will show off an own-brand Android handset in early 2009 too.

 HTC Touch HD HTC Touch HD: everything but the kitchen sink.

HTC's third mention in the "Good" category shows that HTC are probably the company to keep watching in 2009.

The HTC Touch HD is pretty much the most feature packed smartphone we have ever seen, with a huge high-resolution touchscreen, a decent camera, GPS, WiFi and everything you would want in a high-end Windows device.

One criticism of Windows phones is the interface, which simply isn't as sexy as some of its rivals. HTC have done a lot of extra work with their TouchFLO software to try to make Windows a lot more polished. Is it as good as the iPhone? Some people seem to think so.

 Samsung i8510 INNOV8 Best Phone of 2008: Samsung i8510 INNOV8

Another smartphone, but the Samsung i8510 INNOV8 couldn't be more different from the HTC Touch HD or T-Mobile G1. The i8510 is a Symbian S60 device with an 8 megapixel camera, lots of memory, GPS and a whole host of other features, in a pocket-friendly design.

Of course, Nokia is usually the manufacturer associated with Symbian smartphones, but Samsung have proved that they can do something every bit as good - if not better - and challenge Nokia on their home ground.

Because the i8510 combines a sensible format with a very impressive feature set, we are happy to say that in our opinion it is the Best Phone of 2008.

..the Bad..

The Motorola ZINE ZN5 has one of the best cameras on any mobile phone, and although the rest of the phone is pretty good too, we think that the ZN5 is an ill-judged mishmash. The BlackBerry Bold 9000 looked great on paper, but a series of operational faults led to it being temporarily withdrawn from some markets.

 BlackBerry Storm 9500 They tried.. and failed..

BlackBerry Storm 9500: was it even finished?

On paper, the BlackBerry Storm 9500 looked great - an iPhone killer that would be great for corporate use, combined with RIM's (normally) very impressive attention to detail.

But when the reviews started to come in, they were not good at all. This overview indicates that RIM lost the plot, and have produced a device that is not easy to use, lacks polish and doesn't even really appeal to BlackBerry fans.

In Europe, Vodafone have pushed the Storm with a truly massive advertising campaign. Will it be enough to shift the Storm? We'll have to wait and see.

 Nokia 5000 Nokia 5000: not as good as it looks.

The Nokia 5000 has some good points.. it's fairly cheap and it looks fantastic.. and it has one of the most memorable model names in Nokia's line-up.

So what's the problem? Well, here's a phone with a reasonably decent MP3 player.. and just 12MB of internal memory, with absolutely no way to expand it. That's good enough for 2 or 3 tracks, plus maybe a few photos from the depressingly basic 1.3 megapixel camera.. and really not much else.

The 5000 is currently widely available as a prepay phone in many shops, and it's certainly one of the best looking prepay handsets around. But don't be tempted into thinking that this is as capable as other 5000 series phones you can buy, because it isn't.. not by a long way.

What a waste of a good model name! The 5000 should have been something iconic, instead it's just rubbish.

 Samsung E200 Eco Worst phone of 2008: Samsung E200 Eco

It is rare that a manufacturer can actually make us angry, but the Samsung E200 Eco managed it. Touted by Samsung as some sort of environmental saviour due to the use of bioplastics, it appears to be more an exercise in greenwashing than anything else.

We worked out that the amount of carbon dioxide saved in this phone through the use of bioplastics was so small as to be insignificant, and the overall specification of the phone was so basic that you'd probably want to replace it as soon as you could.

Our tips? Buy a better phone and keep it for longer.. and then recycle your old one or donate it to charity. Handsets like the E200 Eco are frankly a waste of time and effort.

..and the Ugly.

Ugly doesn't necessarily mean bad.. often these cosmetically challenged phones have other strengths.

The Sony Ericsson W980 tries too hard to be fashionable, perhaps Sony Ericsson should stick to the understated design that they are good at. The Toshiba G450 is probably the most peculiar looking phone that we have ever seen.. but it's really a data dongle that can also make phone calls, so perhaps this is not surprising. The massively expensive Samsung S9402 manages to look cheap and unattractive at the same time.. it's not out yet though, so perhaps it looks better in the flesh. The Motorola AURA is a love-it-or-hate-it phone, we like it.. many people think that it looks ridiculous.

 T-Mobile G1 T-Mobile G1: Ugly.

Although it's an excellent phone in most respects, the T-Mobile G1 is a high-profile device let down by utilitarian design. As an iPhone competitor, the G1 seems to completely lack the style and polish of its Apple rival.

It's a bulky, heavy handset and many customers have commented that it feels cheaply made. On the other hand, quite a lot of people like the design as it looks a great deal more purposeful than the iPhone and its myriad of clones.

 Nokia 5220 XpressMusic Nokia 5220 XpressMusic: Uglier.

If you are a company that produces a lot of mobile phones, then one challenge is to make them look different from each other while retaining an overall "house style".

So, when the designers at Nokia needed to come up with yet another handset in the 5000 series range, they came up with the Nokia 5220 XpressMusic. They used a lot of the standard Nokia design elements to make it look like a Nokia, and then they made it asymmetrical.. which makes it look distinctly odd.

The 5220 is actually a pretty good music phone, but we suspect that most consumers are going to have a problem with the unusual shape which just looks plain wrong on a mobile phone. On the other hand, some people like the design. Still, at least Nokia have tried to come up with something interesting.

 LG KC560 Ugliest phone of 2008: LG KC560.

Again, there's nothing fundamentally wrong the with LG KC560 except for the way that it looks.. a hideous combination of fake bling and disco glitter that makes you wonder just who the KC560 is aimed at.

Unlike the T-Mobile G1 and Nokia 5220, the LG KC560 doesn't really have any notable features except for its design. So anyone who has bought one, presumably has done so because they like the way it looks.. hmmm..

..well, we suppose that you could maybe get away with it if you are Kylie, but we strongly suspect that most readers aren't Kylie. Oh well.

If you disagree or have your own suggestions, feel free to comment below!

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