Seven snazzy smartphones for seven sorts of shoppers
How to pick the high-end handset that’s right for you
Ease of use
For the newbies
The days when Apple’s groundbreaking iPhone roamed the plains as undisputed king of the beasts are long past, but the iPhone 5 is still the default choice for people who want something that just works. And work it does. Stripping the user interface of any options to customise makes the user experience as fixed as the planets in their orbits.
The iPhone 5
And that’s exactly what many folk want: one size to fit all, and may the devil take Android with its different launchers, multiple keyboards, and manifold email and messaging apps. Familiarity may breed contempt, but it also breeds comfort.
Of course there is more to it than that. The app selection for Apple's iOS is still the best there is, if now by a much-reduced margin over Android, and the user experience is supremely polished. The iPhone 5’s UI is still a tad more fluid the the best of the competition no matter what dyed in the wool WinPho 8 and Android users may say.
The success of the iPhone has also spawned a vast selection of accessories from covers and cases to audio docks and juice packs, and because all iPhones are iPhones you don’t have to worry about compatibility. Well... you didn’t until the arrival of the Lightning connector in the iPhone 5, but at least all iPhone 5s are the same.
iOS may not be massively customisable, but it is straightforward. Yet changes (right) are coming...
The real killer feature for the newb though has nothing to do with software or hardware, it’s all about the experience you get in an Apple Store. It’s second to none, with staff unfailingly polite, helpful and eager to help the lost, confused and downright incompetent get the best from their iDevices. A near no-questions-asked replacement policy is the cherry on the cake.
I don’t know what I want, but I want it now!
Thanks to Samsung’s propensity to throw kitchen-sink levels of extra features onto its Galaxy handsets, the new S4 is perfect for the buyer who wants as many toys as possible stuffed into their new smartphone.
The Samsung Galaxy S4
Included in the list of enhancements is the ability to judge screen orientation from the position of your eyes (called Smart Rotation) and similarly to pause video playback if you look away (Smart Pause). Both features do actually work, though the lower the ambient light the less reliable they become.
Smart Pause also works with Smart Scroll which uses the accelerometer to scroll pages when you tilt your phone forward or back. If Pause sees your attention wander Scroll temporarily stops scrolling.
Like the Galaxy Note II, the S4 can run apps in separate windows. You can’t do this with all apps though, just the ones that Samsung has enabled and which you will find pinned to a collapsible dock.
The S4's UI incorporates Windows and docks, while Air view (right) lets you do all manner of interesting things with your finger
For those who’d rather not actually touch their phone’s touchscreen, the S4 has Air Gestures and Air Touch, which let you wiggle your finger or wave your hand about above the screen and still get results. Well, most of the time.
And that’s just scratching the surface: the list of bespoke features goes on and on.
The downside of all this slight superfluity is that the operating system takes up 5GB more system storage than a stock Android install. It also means having to put up with Samsung’s TouchWiz launcher, which hasn't the prettiest interface you’ll ever clap eyes on. However, if you like rummaging around in settings menus, you will feel right at home with the S4. My God, there are a lot of them. ®