We’d dearly love to be able to afford every single high-end smartphone that hits the market, when it hits the market. But that presents us with some problems. First: What would we do with them all? We could, perhaps, make a dress out of smartphones that are no longer in use and sell them to a pop star — we might be able to fund a few more phones that way. Second: How would we pay for them? None of us have Batman’s resources and, if we did, we’d be out being a slower, lazier version of Batman (and would probably design our own damn phones). Heck, even affording one annual flagship is a problem.
The point is, while we’re incredibly keen on owning the sports-car versions of smartphones, we’ll typically settle for something a bit slower and less likely to catapult us into debt. And that’s the case all around South Africa — not everyone can drop several months’ worth of salary on a mobile. With that in mind, we’ve picked a handful of the mid-range offerings available and stacked them head-to-head to see which deserves to be the Corolla you buy when you stop drooling over that Corvette. Or Galaxy S6 Edge, as it were.
How a phone looks is a big factor in your purchase. You’re the one who has to carry it around, in public, after all. Last year’s LG G3 Beat, the cut-down version of LG’s 2014 flagship, has got arguably the best looks of the bunch featured here. Why? Because it looks enough like the G3 to be mistaken for one until you notice that its 5-inch 720p screen is a little smaller than the screen on LG’s big boy.
You might, however, prefer the smooth curves and slightly sharp edges found in the Acer Liquid Jade, which has a touch of Samsung’s influence in its DNA. A fresher approach comes from Nokia’s Lumia 630, which varies from eye-searing neon to a more sedate black or white. Or there’s the tried-and-tested aluminium, glass and plastic combo found in the HiSense Infinity H6. Sure, it might be a touch boring, but it’s reliable. Just like the car you’re hopefully taking to work every day.
Looks are subjective, so we’ll leave you to pick your own pocket-sized beauty queen. But our vote goes to the LG G3 Beat. It looks the most like a premium device, though it doesn’t always feel that way.
If all you were after were looks, then the smartphone world would be littered with cases that make old Nokia feature phones look like they come from Apple’s workshops. Happily, that’s not the case. You’re looking for smarts in a smartphone, more than anything else. Well, some of you are. Some people buy iPhones.
Joking aside (seriously, please don’t hurt me), your options are generally quite limited when it comes to mid-range phones. You can tell when a handset is mid-range by its processor and RAM allocation. If it’s sporting a quad-core, 1.2GHz processor then it’s a mid-range phone. It might be a budget mid-ranger but it’s still mid-range. True budget phones have single- or dual-core processors and, no, the iPhone 5 doesn’t fall under that category. RAM is generally in the region of 1GB but you will sometimes see it deviate up or down.
We’re generally not fond of tables. They’re impersonal, soulless creations that suck the life out of people in meetings and media conferences (ahem). But they can be useful. For instance, you can refer to the table above and see just which smartphone on our list possesses the brain-power you desire.
As mentioned, just about every phone here features a 1.2GHz bit of silicon (1.3GHz in the case of Acer’s contender), 1GB of RAM and a 5-inch 720p screen. The exception is the Lumia 630, the sole handset with something other than Android installed. The display is smaller, the res is lower, and it’s also the only phone with less than 1GB of RAM.
Looking for a winner here is tough. The two front runners are the LG G3 Beat (not really surprising) and the Acer Liquid Jade. The Beat is a smidge faster, in spite of Acer’s higher processor clock, but if you’re looking for megapixels over speed, the Jade is your winner. Then again, the Beat retains the G3’s laser autofocus so this one’s a little too close to call. Nokia and HiSense are trailing behind in terms of brains but not by a whole lot. There’s a lot of competition going on here.
Which brings us to: Personality. What does your phone do for you, inside, in that bit of you that’s not too worried about the performance or how it looks? If you’ve got your eye on the Acer, HiSense or LG, then they’re all going to do more or less the same thing. There are similar Android installs across all three, but here the G3 Beat is also a front-runner. Why? LG’s KnockOn feature that lets you wake the device by tapping the screen — sensible given the power button is on the back of the handset.
But the Lumia 630 is also a contender, simply because it’s something different. Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8.1 OS really isn’t as bad as people have made it out to be and the splash of colour and casual style does set this phone apart. Look, if you were taking a phone to the beach, which would you rather it be? Yeah, that’s what we though.
But there’s also the price to consider. The LG G3 Beat will set you back around R4,500, the Acer Liquid Jade is closer to the R5,000 mark. The HiSense Infinity H6 comes in at about R3,500, depending where you shop, and that’s going to boost its attractiveness a little. But then there’s the Lumia 630, again, with a recommended price of R2,000. So what if the screen and RAM are less impressive than the rest, right? Winner? The Lumia 630.
We know that this list isn’t exhaustive. It’s not even close when you consider how many handsets are duking it out in the mid-range market. Competition is, if anything, fiercer in this segment than the high-end sphere because the target market is so much larger than it is at the top. Based on this list alone, many will opt for the LG G3 Beat (till the G4 variants are shown off), if only for its resemblance to the superphones we all aspire to own.
Looks – LG G3 Beat
Brains – Acer Liquid Jade/LG G3 Beat (Photo finish)
Personality – Nokia Lumia 630
Overall – LG G3 Beat