2008 in Review: the Good, the Bad and
20th December 2008
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.
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
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: 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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
faults led to it being temporarily withdrawn from
tried.. and failed..
BlackBerry Storm 9500: was it even
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
5000: not as good as it looks.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
..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!