The very best smartphones of CES 2013
After three days of solid work, very little sleep, Know Your Mobile's reviews editor Basil discusses his favourite handsets of CES 2013
It’s CES 2013 and I’ve been traipsing around the convention center with things literally hurled in my face. Illuminating gyroscope-toting balls undulating to Gangnam Style, 56-inch 4K OLED TVs and phones – so many phones...
You won’t see all the phones here reaching the UK, and there aren’t half as many at CES as we can expect from MWC this coming February, but boy is one thing clear - these phones just want to stand out.
A phone’s a phone’s a phone. But nowadays, there are just so many phones. And they’re all smart. And they’ve all got Android on them. And they’ve all got quad-core processors with 13-megapixel cameras and full HD displays etc. Well all the CES 2013-annoucned flagships do, at least.
Take Sony. I bleeping love Sony.
Sony = classical design in my head. Black, a lot of black, and quality, and price tags on the respectably lofty side of affordable.
Take the Xperia Z: it looks sharp with its clean lines, flush fascia glass front and backed and flat sides with no lumps, bumps, ports or grooves to speak of, save for an impressively subtle volume rocker and a beautiful, minidisc-esque power button.
This is the first Sony super phone - surely that’s good enough?
Nope. The Xperia Z isn’t just a super phone - it’s a water resistant super phone that can survive under water – at a depth of 1 meter – for 30 minutes. That, my friends, is how to differentiate a handset. Kudos, Sony. Kudos.
Another impressive device launched at CES 2013 was the Huawei Ascend D2, which has a 3000mAh battery and Huawei’s own processor in it not to mention a totally mangled version of Android that doesn’t even have an apps drawer.
The Huawei Ascend D2 is one differentiated handset. It wants to stand out so much that it even couples this with iPhone styling so that anyone aspiring to get an iPhone or moving from one can feel right at home, even though it’s different.
WAIT JUST A MINUTE. That’s not how you differentiate a phone - who cares about battery and waterproofing - that doesn’t sell devices; you buy a phone and find out about the battery after.
All a big battery is going to do at point of sale is add bulk and that’s exactly what it’s done to the Huawei Ascend D2 – it’s one beefy bit of kit. No, to truly sell phones and enjoy the spoils of standing out you have to go skinny like Sony. The Xperia Z is just 7.9mm.
Skinny? You call that Skinny? ZTE would disagree with you there – its positively bulimic ZTE Grand S LTE has managed to shave a full millimeter off the girth of Sony’s Xperia Z and measure in at an incredibly lithe 6.9mm, making it the thinnest full HD 5-inch phone on the market - and it doesn’t look half bad?!
Sporting the body of an HTC One X and a Nokia Lumia 920’s love child, the Grand S LTE is a breath of fresh air from China – and with its skinniness and design it also looks utterly stunning to boot.
Not content with a full HD 5-inch powerhouse, China’s other underdog brings to market a 6.1-inch 720p phone packing a ridiculously large display that is going to do very little not to stand out.
Side by side with the larger than life Huawei Ascend Mate - that’s the name of the behemoth by the way - even the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 quivers in its comparatively small boots.
What’s a techy to do? So many phones, so many points of differentiation, so much overlap - and this is just CES. MWC will be at least seven thousand times crazier. And that myriad of madness is just around the corner.
Pre-CES the likes of Samsung, HTC, LG and indeed Apple ramped up the bar to heights unheard of before 2012 with the Note 2, iPhone 5 and Google Nexus 4.
And if CES is the shape of things to come, we can expect 2013 to be the year that other phones, be they lithe or larger than life, HD or hardened to the elements, smart or super, just need that additional point of differentiation.
So to paraphrase Cyndi Lauper once more as we did in our title, as we gaze into the crystal ball that is our CES 2013, we can see this being yet another year that “[phones] just want to stand out. Oh-oh phones ... just a wanna staaaaaand out”.