Android mobile smart phone considerations for Australians

Written by Gary on May 21st, 2011

As much as I like my Apple iPhone 4, there are a number of really annoying limitations:

  • no SD card expansion capability – optional SD card reader only allows import of photos.
  • requirement for iTunes sync to add music files – if you are away from your home computer with the dedicated iTunes, the only option is to buy songs from iTunes via the phone.
  • no Flash web support
  • doesn’t play saved flv YouTube videos (no support in iTunes or on the phone)
  • requires internet for GPS maps – this is perhaps the most annoying feature – if I get lost it is normally in places where there is no internet access!
  • no default voice navigation
  • annoying segregated file system structure
  • a Safari web browser which doesn’t let you save documents or images from the web
  • no FM radio
  • non-removable battery – when your battery konks out, you have to return the phone for a refurbished one
  • the 2 or more hrs it takes iTunes to download a new version of iTunes or iOS
  • the potential many hours to run a backup on iTunes if you have a faulty app

The iPhone 4 is 115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3 mm and has a single core chip – 1GHz ARM Cortex-A8 CPU and PowerVR GPU with 512Mb RAM and its beautiful 3.5″ Retina display. It has a 5-megapixel camera with autofocus and LED flash that also captures video at 720p resolution.

I can’t see Apple addressing these issues any time soon, so it is now time to consider Android phones with v.2.3 Android Gingerbread installed, although perhaps we need to await v3.0 Honeycomb until the web browser is not so clunky, but at least it does do Flash, and it does multitask well.

What would I miss on the iPhone4?

  • security of knowing that if stolen, all data will be automatically deleted on failed PIN access
  • potential ability for Apple to locate my lost iPhone
  • many places such as some hotels are now geared for iPhone and have iPhone docking stations to charge your phone or use them as a music device
  • compatibility on any network including NextG, Vodafone’s new 850 3G service, and Vodafone/Optus regional 3G 900 networks (but this is available on the Galaxy II)

As a traveler, my preference is to buy phones unlocked so one can buy a pre-paid SIM in another country and get cheaper data and phone rates while there.

Living in Australia in 2011 creates a couple of other uncertainties and considerations including:

  • Telstra’s wonderful 3G mobile and data services (NextG) runs on HSPA+ on 850MHz. Most current Android phones are not compatible! Thus a phone that is not compatible using a Telstra SIM card will use Telstra’s 3G 2100Mhz GSM network but this will cease in Jan 2011 – you have been warned! See the links on this Telstra web page for list of compatible NextG phones.
  • Phones which are NextG compatible are usually not compatible with Vodafone/Optus regional 3G 900 data service and vice versa – if you need both, then you need to consider a Samsung Galaxy II i9100
  • Vodafone are rolling out a 850MHz 3G service thus most existing phones will not be compatible.
  • Telstra will be bringing out a 4G data service for CBD’s by end of 2011 which will run on Long Term Evolution (LTE) on its 1800MHz band, and none of the current phone will be compatible. Presumably the iPhone 5 will have this capability.
  • Samsung is yet to release a v.2.3 Gingerbread upgrade for its Galaxy S phones to Australia – Europe is being rolled out this month.

High end dual-core Android phones:

These phones are faster, and more powerful with their dual chips but much more expensive than 2010 technology single chip phones.

Retail price unlocked is ~A849-899.

HTC Sensation:

  • 126.1×65.4×11.3mm, 148g aluminium premium look body
  • 1.2GHz dual core CPU, 768MB RAM
  • 4.3″ 540×960 pixels LCD display better than the HTC Desire but no where as good as the iPhone 4 or Samasung Galaxy S’s AMOLED display except perhaps outdoors in the sun.
  • Sense UI v 3.0
  • “the most visually pleasing, powerful Android smartphone around” but only 1Gb internal memory, and is not compatible with Telstra NextG
  • 8-megapixel camera which captures video at 1080p and also boasts touch-focus, image stabilisation, face-detection & instant capture.
  • dual LED flash

HTC EVO 3D:

  • 126 x 65 x 12.1 mm, 170g.
  • 1.2GHz, Adreno 220 GPU and 1GB RAM
  • 4.3-inch 3D Super-LCD screen
  • 5-Megapixel dual lens 3D camera with auto-focus and dual-LED flash, 1080p video
  • not compatible with Telstra NextG unless you get the Telstra version?
  • NB. a HTC EVO 4G model is the world’s first mobile phone able to take advantage of Sprint’s 4G/WiMAX network in certain cities of the US.

Samsung Galaxy S II i9100:

  • 125.3 mm x 66.1 mm x 8.5 mm;116g;
  • Dual-core 1.2GHz ARM Cortex-A9 proccessor, Mali-400MP GPU, Orion chipset. 1Gb RAM; 16Gb internal storage + up to 32Gb micro SD card;
  • 4.3″ Super AMOLED Plus screen
  • ‘TouchWiz’ v 4.0 significantly improves the user interface over the Galaxy S
  • Swype text input
  • one of the few Android smartphones compatible with both NextG and Vodafone/Optus regional 3G 900.
  • 8mp camera, 1080 video, GPS tagging, smile capture,
  • front camera
  • FM radio
  • in addition to USB tethering, it has wi-fi hot spot function so your computer, iPad, etc can access internet via your phone’s internet connection via wi-fi.

Single chip Android phones:

These are 2010 technology and certainly adequate for most people, and give similar performance and functionality as an iPhone 4.

Where possible, these should be upgraded to Android v2.3 to address some issues including security, but also to give better performance and features.

These are generally ~$A450-700 new unlocked without a contract.

Samsung Galaxy S:

  • 122.4 x 64.2 x 9.9 mm, 119 g, lighter, plastic build than the HTC
  • stunning 4″ 480 x 800 pixel Super AMOLED display
  • 1GHz ARM Cortex-A8 CPU with PowerVR GPU (Hummingbird chipset), 512MB RAM
  • 8GB or 16GB internal memory models with microUSB card option for extra 32Gb
  • ‘TouchWiz’ user interface not as good as the HTC Sense UI – great for social networking, customisation, navigation and widgets but lacks the same overall level of quality that is found on HTC’s Sense UI.
  • Swype, a slide-to-type, on-screen keyboard system.
  • 5-megapixel camera with 720p movie capture, touch-focus, auto-focus and smile detection
  • no secondary camera for video calls.
  • no LED flash so indoor photos in dark rooms are not possible
  • there are various versions of the Galaxy S but none work on all Australian networks:
    • i9000 – the normal OEM version and has a smooth, iPhone 3GS-like shape, two soft-touch buttons and one physical home button, no NextG; 8Gb version $A499; 16Gb version $A549;
    • i9000M or i9000 NextG – compatible with NextG but excludes Vodafone/Optus regional 3G 900 band. 16Gb with secondary camera. Vibrant written on the box! Retails $A599 unlocked.
    • Captivate i897 – similar to i9000M but more square, 4 soft touch buttons only, no front camera, AT&T branding.
    • Fascinate T959D – similar to Captivate; retails at ~$A649 unlocked.
    • Vibrant T959 – i9000 shape but with the 4 soft-touch buttons; No NextG; No regional 3G 900 band; 16Gb, front camera;
    • SL i9003 – SuperLCD screen not AMOLED. Vodafone/Optus regional 3G 900 band but no NextG; 4Gb,  front camera;  ~$389 unlocked.

Google/Samsung Nexus S:

  • marketed by Google but manufactured by Samsung
  • similar to the Galaxy S but:
    • 123.9 x 63 x 10.9mm (129g) with softer profile than the more angular, smaller but marginally thicker Galaxy S
    • 16Gb internal memory but no micro SD card support
    • “Contour Display” (curved glass) 235ppi display but not much different to Galaxy S 233ppi display
    • support for Google’s SIP voice-over-IP technology which may free one from Skype eventually.
    • no FM radio
    • Near Field Communication (NFC) technology which allows you to read information off of everyday objects like stickers and posters that are embedded with NFC chip
    • no need to rely on Samsungs KIES PC sync/updating software?
  • various versions:
    • i9020 – original OEM Super AMOLED version; 3G 900 band but not NextG;
    • i9020T – as for i9020 but front camera;
    • i9020TA – NextG compatible; no regional Vodafone/Optus 3G 900 band; SLCD screen not the Samsung AMOLED screen.
    • i9023T – SLCD screen; 3G 900 band but not NextG;

HTC Desire:

  • 115×59.8×11.6mm, 130g
  • 480×800 pixels display but no where as good as the iPhone 4 or Samasung Galaxy S’s AMOLED display.
  • Sense UI v2?
  • 1GHz Scorpion CPU, 768MB RAM
  • its LED flash apparently overexposes faces in photographs
  • no secondary camera for video calls, Skype, etc.
  • minimal internal memory 1.1Gb.
  • not compatible with Telstra NextG unless you get the NextG compatible version eg HTC Desire HD for NextG of which there are 2 versions – A9192 Telus and the AT&T branded 4Gb memory version, the Inspire 4G.
  • NB. the HTC Desire Z adds a pop open physical keyboard which may suit many people,and there is a NextG compatible version.

HTC Incredible S:

  • 120 x 64 x 11.7 mm, 135.5g
  • 4-inch Sony-made S-LCD capacitive touchscreen at 480 x 800
  • HTC Sense 3.0 user interface
  • Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon chipset and featuring an Adreno 205 GPU. 768Mb RAM
  • microSD card to 32Gb.
  • 8-megapixel camera and 720p video, with autofocus, dual LED flash, touch focus, geo-tagging and image stabilisation.
  • better camera than the Desire S
  • not compatible with Telstra NextG?
  • minimal internal memory 1.1Gb
 

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