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Holiday Shopping Guide: Smartphones

Unbox Holiday Shopping and Gift Guide: Smartphones

With all the new gadgets out in the market today it’s hard to find which one best deserves your hard earned cash. That’s why we’re putting together a series of articles that will cut through the clutter and just feature some of the very best stuff we’ve reviewed here on Unbox. For this article we’re doing smartphones and coming soon will be guides on tablets, accessories, audio equipment, and even digital goods. Okay, let’s get the ball rolling! Read on for our top smartphone recommendations for the holidays (either for yourself or as gifts).

Undoubtedly the best selling local smartphone today — the Cherry Mobile Flare

First up on our list is the much talked about Cherry Mobile Flare. This amazing 4-inch dual core, dual SIM Android 4.0 ICS smartphone hogged the headlines of tech blogs for weeks due to the value-for-money proposition it offered. You seriously cannot get anything better at Php3,999. This device literally wipes the floor with the entry level models being offered by international brands. It’s even competitive with a lot of their midrange offerings!

Cherry Mobile also has other notable models in their line-up including the Cherry Mobile Titan. This device sports a 5-inch screen and retails for Php6,499. What’s getting a lot of buzz though is the upcoming Cherry Mobile Omega. This device is supposed to have Android 4.1 Jelly Bean out of the box and it sports a gorgeous 5.3-inch display and an 8-megapixel shooter. There are not details yet but it’s supposed to come out in December as well.

Starmobile Astra: 4.3-inch Dual Core Dual SIM Android with a TV Tuner. Rawr!

Up next in our list is one of our favorite local handsets that came out this year — the Starmobile Astra. Priced at Php6,999, the Astra sports a 4.3-inch IPS screen, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, Dual Core CPU, Dual SIM Dual Standby, 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, and… get this… an analog TV tuner. Yes, you can watch your favorite “teleseryes” on this, hehe.

The Astra is definitely one of our top recos but if you want to wait a bit, Starmobile announced in our video podcast that the Starmobile Crystal, a 4.5-inch Android handset is set to debut in December.

Monstrous battery life is the main selling point of the CloudFone Thrill

Another local brand that really caught our attention recently was CloudFone. Their flagship model, the CloudFone Thrill 430x, offers crazy value. At just Php7,777 you get a dual-core CPU, dual SIM, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich smartphone with a 4.3-inch display. That sounds normal right? But wait… there’s more! This device packs a monstrous 4,160mAh battery! That should be more than enough to power it for at least 2-3 days of moderate to heavy use! Other than the battery it should also be noted that it has a generous serving of 768MB RAM (di pa talaga ginawa 1GB) and an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera.

As mentioned in our previous feature on the Thrill 430x, we’re trying our best to secure a review unit so we can do a full rundown here on Unbox. The good news is that someone has already patched us up with them so expect a review very soon!

P700i features a dual-core processor, dual SIM capabilities, gorgeous hardware design, and a 2,500mAh battery
Speaking of good battery life, another handset that you definitely have to check out is the Lenovo P700i which sells for Php10,999. This smartphone sports pretty competitive specs: a dual-core processor, dual SIM and dual standby, 5-megapixel shooter, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, 4-inch IPS Capacitive Touchscreen, and a 2500mAh battery. Compared to the more affordable local handsets that we just featured, the P700i has an edge with the display (it has much better viewing angles and higher pixels per inch), battery (except for the CloudFone), and the hardware design.

Other than the P700i, Lenovo also has other smartphones for different kinds of people. The most notable of course is the Lenovo K860, a quad-core Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich smartphone with a 5-inch display that retails for just Php19,999, making it one of the most affordable quad-core handsets in the market today.

Now we get to some of the higher end options. Let’s start with my personal top pick for 2013: the Samsung Galaxy Note 2.

My top pick for 2012: the Galaxy Note II.

The Galaxy Note 2 is a ridiculously powerful device that has awesome battery life. It has one of the fastest processors in the market today, a 1.6GHz quad-core Exynos Processor. Throw in 2GB of RAM and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean’s Project Butter and you get a smooth and hassle free Android experience. The 5.5-inch Super AMOLED HD Display is also stunningly beautiful. It has 1280×720 resolution, which is about 267 pixels per inch. The screen is perfect for watching videos, browsing the web, and reading ebooks. The Note 2 is the one device you’ll need and you won’t have to bring a tablet and a smartphone anymore because it can do the functions of both quite well.

Among all the accolades of the Note 2, the most underrated feature though is the battery life. The device has a 3100mAh battery and it can easily power you for a whole day of heavy use. If you’re a light-moderate user you will get at least 2 days and you can even stretch it up to 3.

The Note 2’s SRP is around Php32,000 but you can probably get it for much less. Just make sure to canvass the various brick-and-mortar and online gadget shops and I’m sure you will find a good deal for this.

Now if the Galaxy Note 2’s giant 5.5-inch screen is too much to handle, you can go for the Samsung Galaxy S3 instead. This handset has a quad-core processor, 8-megapixel shooter, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED display. The Galaxy S3’s SRP is almost the same as the Note 2 but there are stores that sell it for as low as around Php22,000-Php23,000. It also comes in different colors so just pick the one that suits you the best.

41-megapixel camera anyone?
We weren’t going to include the Nokia PureView 808 in this list but when we saw that it just got a massive price cut, we couldn’t help but put this in because of its crazy 41-megapixel camera. The PureView 808 originally sold for Php27,500, putting it up against the top iOS and Android offerings of other companies. However Nokia Philippines just announced that they’re now selling the PureView 808 for just Php16,800. That’s a pretty solid offer if you ask me. There are no handsets in the market today that can come close to the picture quality of the PureView 808.

Unfortunately we can’t recommend anymore any of the current Lumia devices in the PH market. They’re not just competitive anymore especially since you can’t upgrade them to Windows 8 OS. If you can wait ’till January before you buy your next smartphone though you might want to wait for the Nokia Lumia 920 which also has a different iteration of the PureView technology. Instead of a giant sensor it’s supposed to have image stabilization (for videos) and it can still take great pictures even if you’re in lowlight conditions.

The venerable iPhone 5. Apple fanboys get down on your knees and drool like there’s no tomorrow!

Of course another strong contender for your Christmas bonus is the Apple iPhone 5. Industry sources have confirmed that the launch of Apple’s crown jewel is set for the middle of December. The good thing about the iPhone 5 is that you don’t have to shell out a huge amount of cash in one go. You can opt for the various postpaid plans that the telcos will be offering. Both Smart and Globe will probably offer it at no cash out for their Plan 2000.

The iPhone 5 features Apple’s fastest processor, the A6 Chip, 4-inch Retina Display, stunning design (it’s insanely beautiful for a gadget), 8-megapixel camera that puts to shame the 8-megapixel cameras of other devices, and the whole Apple ecosystem including the thriving App Store.

If iOS doesn’t catch your fancy and you want to stick to Android, then another good option that’s rumored to be available this December is the Google Nexus 4.

Smart has already announced they will offer it and they even have a special promo for those who are part of their developer program. There are no details yet though on the pricing or when exactly it will be available. The Google Nexus 4 features the latest Android software and is wrapped in Gorilla Glass front and back (lol). It has a 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 CPU, 2GB RAM, and an 8-megapixel camera. The biggest drawback though is that the storage is not expandable via microSD card. You’ll have to make do with either 8GB or 16GB.

Our favorite BB: the Curve 9320!
If you’re a BlackBerry fan, our top reco isn’t actually any of their high-end models. We’re going to push for the BlackBerry Curve 9320, which is one of their entry-level devices.

We’re recommending this for several reasons. First, it’s one of the most stable BlackBerry devices we’ve used (rarely crashed, etc). Secondly it makes no sense to invest so much in high-end BlackBerry 7 devices when RIM has already announced that the new BlackBerry 10 phones will be out January 30. There’s a lot of optimism for the BlackBerry 10 smartphones and you can see this for yourself with the sudden spike in value of RIM’s stock prices.

Of course if you can wait it out, skip the Curve 9320 and just go for the new BlackBerry 10 devices in January.

And that’s that!

That’s our guide for smartphones for the holidays! There are still several good devices out there that we weren’t able to include mainly because we never got to try them. I heard that MyPhone has solid Android offerings as well so you might want to check them out.

If you guys have any questions about any of the devices in our list above just post them in the comments below and we’ll do our best to answer them. Advanced Merry Christmas!

Carlo Ople

Carlo is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Unbox.ph. During daytime he’s the Managing Director and Partner of a Digital Marketing Agency in the Philippines and by nighttime he’s living out his passion as a gadget enthusiast and story teller through Unbox.

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