24th December 2012
2012 was another bumper year for high-quality devices, with very
few handsets that failed to impress. This is our look at the best,
worst and ugliest phones of 2012.
The Good: Honourable mentions
There were so many good smartphones and tablets this year that
it's hard to come up with a shortlist. These are some of the devices
that didn't quite make it: The Nokia
808 Pureview is Nokia's last Symbian smartphone, but it
packs an awesome 41 megapixel camera sensor that puts almost everything
else in the shade. The HTC
One X+ is an impressive high-end Android device hasn't
quite had the market recognition it deserves. At the beginning of
the year, the Sony
Xperia S was an impressive debut for Sony's new Xperia
Although it is beginning to look a little dated, the Motorola
RAZR MAXX appeals simply because of its impressive battery
life. Another member of the RAZR family, the Motorola
RAZR i is an attractive and speedy Intel-based phone that
Galaxy Note II sits somewhere between a tablet and smartphone
and packs plenty of power. And for something completely different,
the YotaPhone packs
two screens, but we won't see it until next year.
There were some impressive Apple tablets this year too, the Apple
iPad 3, iPad
4 and Apple
iPad Mini demonstrated why Apple is so successful in this
But Samsung also came up with some impressive tablets with the
Galaxy Note 10.1 and the built-for-Google Google
Nexus 10. Another Google tablet also impressed this year, the
Windows also got a look in with the Microsoft
Surface, and Amazon pushed it's Kindle range further into tablet
territory with the Amazon
Kindle Fire HD.
Apple iPhone 5
We finally saw the Apple
iPhone 5 this year, featuring a bigger screen, a
much faster CPU and a refreshed design. The care and
attention given to most features of the iPhone
5 are awesome and it is no wonder that Apple continues
to support a loyal and enthusiastic base of customers.
It is just five years since the original iPhone was
launched, and sometimes it is hard to remember that
smartphones existing for a long while before Apple came
and shook up the market. Over half the smartphones sold
in the US are iPhones, which is an impressive achievement.
Samsung Galaxy S III
Galaxy S III is now the phone that all other
manufacturers try to beat. With a big, gorgeous display
and a powerful processor, combined with lots of sub-versions
customised for local markets, the Galaxy S III is either
the number one or number two best-selling smartphone
in most regions.
The rivalries between Samsung and Apple have been
well-documented over the years. These are both very
different types of company - Apple is purely focussed
on high-tech devices and Samsung is an industrial conglomerate.
And despite the excellence of the Galaxy S III, it seems
a bit soul-less compared to Apple's offerings.
Nokia Lumia 920
It's a long time since Nokia have featured in our
list, but the Nokia
Lumia 920 is an incredible device in many respect.
The best thing about it? The floating lens camera, of
course. It also features wireless charging, NFC and
just about every other feature you can think of, plus
a beautifully sharp and large display. The drawback?
Well, you'll have to learn to love Windows Phone 8 and
at 185 grams it is just about the heaviest phone on
The hardware is only part of the story though. Windows
Phone 8 is radically different from any other mobile
OS on the market, but it's a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it
proposition at the moment. But as far as smartphones
go, this combination of software and hardware are the
most original and impressive that we have seen this
year, and we a pleased to say that the Nokia Lumia 920
is (in our opinion) the best device of 2012.
The mobile phone market is brutal, and companies that produce
bad handsets.. well, they tend not to be in business for long. But
we've managed to come up with three devices that seem to let their
sides down in on way or another.
Apple iPhone 5
It isn't the first time that we've had the iPhone
listed as both "Good" and "Bad",
and here we are again - the Apple
iPhone 5 manages to be both impressive and
disappointing at the same time. Although the screen
is bigger than before, it's still relatively small compared
to the competition.
Apple replaced Google Maps with Apple Maps, but even
from launch this was a complete disaster, and has
generated much criticism even in the mainstream press.
Fortunately, Google produced its own Maps app for the
iPhone and Apple customers are much less likely to get
There are more problems when it comes to the hardware
- the exquisitely designed case is very easily
damaged and is a real pain for Apple's contractor's
to build. Added to this, there's no NFC or wireless
charging support, something that would have set the
iPhone 5 apart from run-of-the-mill handsetss. Really,
the iPhone 5 was utterly predictable and Apple will
need to do something remarkable with the iPhone 6 to
regain some sparkle.
BlackBerry Curve 9320
Why have we singled out the humble BlackBerry
Curve 9320 in our hit list? It's an inoffensive
device.. but that's the problem. When we compiled our
year-end list we were shocked to find that the only
new product releases this year from BlackBerry with
the Curve 9320 and 9220 phones.
No matter how many times BlackBerry "upgrade"
their operating system, it is still just like putting
lipstick on a pig.. underneath, it is still a pig. Even
with a bit of polish on top, it doesn't take very long
until you come across a decade-old interface which should
have been retired a long, long time ago.
Sure, BlackBerry have promised a new operating system
for 2013, but basically they didn't bother making any
sort of effort during 2012 and their market share has
collapsed as a result. Deservedly so in our opinion.
Samsung Galaxy S III Mini
Although it's not a bad device in itself, the main
flaw with the Samsung
Galaxy S III Mini is that it simply isn't
a mini version of the Galaxy S III at all. Where the
Galaxy S III is a superlative device with high-end specifications
that other manufacturers struggle to beat, the Mini
is just another midrange and moderately specified smartphone
from the Samsung parts bin.
Perhaps Samsung decided that the name "Samsung
Galaxy Cynical Marketing Exercise" wouldn't wash
with consumers. Anybody who buys this thinking that
they are going to get a more compact version of the
Galaxy S III is going to be sorely disappointed.
Ugly phones aren't necessarily bad phones. Sometimes they're
just a bit too unfamiliar to look at, but sometimes it shows a lack
of attention to detail.
Apple iPhone 5
Surely we can't have the Apple iPhone 5
here again? Well, yes, we have. The reason we have listed it that
the iPhone has always been a fairly consistent form factor, but
the iPhone 5 has been stretched to make it taller but not wider.
As a result, it looks rather odd compared to other phones on the
market, a bit like when a old friend suddenly turns up with a face
full of botox or a hair transplant.
We suspect that there was some design-by-committee
going on here. The unusually tall form factor of the
iPhone 5 might make sense if it could dock with peripherals
for the 4 and 4S, but it can't because the docking connector
is different and you'd need an adapter.. and that would
probably mess up the docking anyway.
Uglier: Panasonic ELUGA Power
The most featureless slab of the year (in our opinion) was the
Panasonic Eluga Power.
not being a bad device in itself, a handset like this was never
going to scream out from retailer's shelves. Panasonic mis-judged
the market somewhat, and have decided to pull-out of Europe (yet
again) and concentrate on the Japanese market instead.
Of course, there is a limit to what you can do to
a device which is little more than a screen enclosure
and a bunch of internal electronics. It takes real effort
to come up with something distinctive, but that's the
sort of effort that manufacturers need to put in to
Samsung Galaxy Camera
Perhaps it is a little unfair to list the Samsung Galaxy Camera
here when the Polaroid SC1630
looks even dafter, but the Samsung
is something you can actually go out and buy where the Polaroid
looks like vapourware.
The Galaxy Camera is basically a compact
digital camera welded onto a smartphone-sized Android tablet, if
you are thinking "camera" then it looks less
weird, but if you are used to smartphones and tablets
then it looks very strange indeed.
But despite the looks, it turns
out that this is a really good device for a certain types of photographer..
and secretly we would rather like one!