In our opinion, it’s only the latest generation of mobile phones that have cameras with anything more than novelty value. It’s now not uncommon to find a 2 megapixel camera with autofocus, light, macro mode (for shooting close-up), and low light mode. Obviously these do not match the output of a dedicated digital camera, but surprisingly good results can be obtained from phones such as the Sony Ericsson K850i and K800 and Nokia N80.
Many phones are now including mp3 (and fm radio in some cases) in their phones. Sony, for example, has a range of Walkman branded phones – but most manufacturers are including this facility these days. The sound quality varies from model to model, but in some cases is equivalent to a dedicated mp3 player. The quality that your mp3’s are encoded at will have a greater impact upon the quality of sound – better quality (or higher bitrate) files sound better, but take up more space – the amount of tracks you want to listen to and the storage of the phone/memory card will determine the best bitrate to use. Some people find 128kps acceptable, but to our ears a good mp3 encoded by something like the Lame encoder (available online) at a variable bitrate of around 192kps is noticeably better and well worth the increased file size. One thing to look out for is the connector – is there a standard 3.5″ headphone jack, to allow you to use your own headphones? Most bundled headsets are not great quality -although the in-ear models supplied with the Sony W800 is fantastic – and being unable to switch due to a proprietary input socket can be a major sticking point. (Note that not many phones currently transmit stereo to Bluetooth headsets, although this technology is now slowly starting to appear)
Storage & connectivity
With phones being used for storing music and photographs, storage and connectivity have become important considerations. Most phones will have some onboard memory for users to store their photographs, music, and downloaded content – but chances are that you’ll want more. Many phones offer expandable storage via flash memory cards -there are a variety of formats (memory stick, MMC, miniSD etc). Access speed will probably not be a major consideration (an extra few seconds when filling or erasing a card is really neither her e nor there as most of the time you’ll be moving files a few at a time). Prices change all the time
– have a look at the capacity and price of expansion cards at the time you choose your phone, and factor this into the overall cost – perhaps if you have another digital device (like a camera or games console) that uses similar media you may choose to pay extra for a card you can use in both
Manufacturers are starting to include USB cables with their phones these days, a move we wholeheartedly welcome. The internet is a great resource for ringtones, screensavers, and the like, and being able to transmit these to the phone without paying extra for a cable is a huge bonus. Most phones these days support infra-red transmission – this has a limited range, reliability, and speed; in our experience this is best avoided if you have an alternative sell my mobile home now Bluetooth (available with many newer phones) is a huge improvement. The range is much improved, and files can be transmitted between phones relatively swiftly. Modern, (expensive!) models such as the Nokia N91 actually have full wireless 802.11b Wi-Fi capability for ease of connection to computer networks, other phones, and broadband internet hotspots.
Amazing advances in battery technology have been made over the last few years, and the cells powering today’s phones are cheap, compact and powerful. However, always take the manufacturers quoted life with a pinch of salt – these are under optimum conditions and do not take into account any use of extra features. They also assume a new battery – cells degrade over their life, and eventually will hold very little charge. If you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for charging however, you should have good battery life for at least 12 months – at which point you will probably be considering a new phone!!