Dubaians are obsessed with their smartphones, and the statistics speak for themselves: the number of smartphones is set to grow by around 20 percent over the next five years, while retailers saw a 50 percent surge in sales during the Dubai Shopping Festival earlier this year. With a massive choice on offer, it’s often difficult to know which phone is fashionable and which is really only for the DIFC suits. Are you a BBM fan, joining the likes of Alicia Keys, Kim Kardashian and Victoria Beckham on Team BlackBerry? Or are you a Steve Jobs Apple fanatic and firmly on Team iPhone with Tom Cruise, Katy Perry and Justin Bieber?
To divide the phones from the phonies, our team tried out four of the biggest contenders for the title of smartest smartphone.
Samsung Model: Galaxy Note II First impression: It was large, but better constructed than I’d imagined, having heard about how plastic they looked compared to others. 3/5
Setting up: Super easy, I just needed a Gmail account, then I was instantly connected to everything I needed. 5/5
Going online & YouTube usage: Instantly found the Wi-Fi and got online, but my slow connection hindered YouTube. The playback quality, however, was outstanding, obviously helped by the massive screen. 4/5
Phone reception: Top marks, very clear connection. 5/5
Battery: Even with heavy use they last at least a day and a half. 4/5
Durability: It feels sturdy, despite its plastic construction, and almost less fragile than my current iPhone 4. 4/5
Apps: The Google Play store was fantastic, so many great free apps and so easy to access. 5/5
Functions: It was very refreshing. The widgets were a great addition, something that other platform builders should definitely take note of. 4/5
Camera: The burst mode was a lot of fun, the camera quality was great especially in low light conditions, perhaps due to the large aperture on this lens. 5/5
Random comment: The size was just slightly too big and a little impractical for a man in skinny jeans. 4/5 Overall mark: 4/5 Finally, would you buy it? Yes, but the Samsung Galaxy S III is my pick – it’s the same phone but slightly smaller.
BlackBerry Model: Z10 First impression: Heavily plastic. While it was light, it didn’t feel like an expensive product. The screen was exceptional, however, and very clear. The swipe gestures which allow you to move between applications were initially unintuitive and irritating but I got used to it. 3/5
Setting up: While my phone contacts and emails were immediately updated, BlackBerry Messenger failed to transfer any of my previous BM contacts and it was initially unintuitive. 2/5
Getting online & YouTube usage: There was a pre-installed YouTube app and the phone was very fast with no noticeable lag when streaming videos. The browser was also very simple to use and incredibly quick at loading pages. 4/5
Phone reception: The phone reception was very good and it was simple enough to make calls. 4/5
Battery: The battery lasted approximately 12 hours with heavy use so it was enough to get through a working day without offering anything class leading. It was removable, though, which was useful and preferable to the iPhone’s battery. 3/5
Durability: It felt solid and durable but also very plastic and a little cheap. 3/5
Apps: While many of the expected apps were present, there were noticeable exceptions, including Skype and Whatsapp (which are important to consider if you’re an expat). There was also no Instagram application for fans of the photo sharing service and there were currently far less apps than the rival Android and Apple offerings. 1/5
Functions: While there were native cloud storage applications and the expected social media apps (minus Instagram), there was nothing to differentiate it from its rivals. BlackBerry maps were also inferior to Google maps. But the phone’s ability to multi-task and switch between live applications worked well and was an improvement over the iPhone’s operating system. 2/5
Camera: The camera was on par with its rivals and worked well in a number of conditions. There was no macro feature but it worked well with close ups and also in low light. There were only limited options to play with, though, (no smile detection, panoramic function etc.) but it was packaged with some easy-to-use filters. It fired up quickly and took five shots in quick succession, which allowed me to select the best. There was also a 2MP camera on the front for video calls. 3/5
Random comments: It was very good for typing, with a very good predictive tool that was far superior to the iPhone. The absence of a ‘back’ button seems gimmicky and annoying.
Overall mark: 3/5 Finally, would you buy it? I would definitely consider this phone although it would need to have Skype before I would fork out
Sony Model: Xperia Z First impression: I liked the thin, minimal, hard-edged design and the robust feel. It weighed in at a respectable 146g and had a large touchscreen. I also liked that the ports are hidden behind sealed flaps, which makes the Xperia Z water and dust resistant. 4/5
Setting up: The Xperia Z employs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and was a doddle to set up, transferring contacts with ease. It also has a quad-core 1.5GHz processor, which meant this phone was by no means slow. 4/5
Going online & YouTube usage: No problems here, with the usual Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity options and Chrome pre-installed as the preferred browser. The high-resolution screen played videos and displayed websites beautifully, although viewing at an angle did make images appear washed out. 4/5
Phone reception: Excellent. The phone delivered clear sound and the number keys should be large enough for most. 5/5
Battery: Charged fully in around three hours and had a power-saving Stamina mode, which meant it lasted around a day and a half. 4/5
Durability: Sony claim that the phone is water resistant, so you can always drop it in the pool and take photos. We tested it, and it worked. 5/5
Apps: There are more apps available than you’ll ever need and the collection is growing daily. But bear in mind that apps aren’t tested or approved, so the quality can vary dramatically. 5/5
Functions: The phone allows you to comprehensively track data usage (a nifty tool) and we liked the power-saving options. The walkman was also great for music, with an FM radio. 4/5
Camera: With a whopping 13.1 megapixels, the results were very good, but it did take a while for the camera to open. The video function was even more impressive, but it did result in huge files. 4/5
Random comments: The battery on the Xperia Z can’t be removed, so you have to maintain good charging practices.
Overall mark: 4/5
Finally, would you buy it? Yes. It was an excellent and powerful phone.
Nokia Model: Lumia 920 First impression: It was very big and felt well built, although I quickly realised that it didn’t fit into the pockets of a lot of my clothes. 3/5
Setting up: The interface was very similar to my laptop at home which also used Windows, so I felt quite comfortable with what I was doing pretty quickly. 4/5
Getting online & YouTube usage: Getting setup online only took a couple of minutes and was fairly self-explanatory. The screen was really high resolution and videos looked sharp and loaded quickly. YouTube looked very sharp. 4/5
Phone reception: You can quickly group together your contacts into family, friends and colleagues, which was helpful, and the sound quality during phone calls was very crisp. 5/5
Battery: The battery lasted nearly a full work day after a lot of video usage. I was fairly impressed. 5/5
Durability: It felt really sturdy and was quite chunky. If I dropped it I’m pretty sure it’d survive. 5/5
Apps: The online store had a really good selection, although nowhere near as many as Apple’s. 4/5
Functions: Facebook, YouTube and Angry Birds came pre-installed, so there was a great mix of social networking and entertainment from the word go. It also came with a Dubai Mall guide, which was a nice local touch!
Camera: It came with a Carl Zeiss lens and could take photos with up to eight megapixels, so it was comparable with a lot of dedicated cameras. It also came with loads of focus and other settings to mess about with and I could upload images to Facebook instantly. 5/5
Random comments: It synced up nicely with my Xbox 360 at home, meaning I could also get my gaming fix while I was on the move.
Overall mark: 4/5 Finally, would you buy it? Yes.
Overview: We did not receive a response from Apple to test their latest product, which is why there is no iPhone featured. BlackBerry has launched its shiny new handset, but while it is impressive, it’s still missing some key features, such as Whatsapp and Skype. From Sony, we were impressed with its ability to operate underwater, while the ever-reliable Nokia was a clear favourite for its exceptional battery life and ease of use. The Samsung was a geeky must-have and performed admirably. While our fashion set deemed it a bit too big, it was our standalone favourite, and we actually bought a smaller version after testing it.