Xiaomi has had one heck of 2017 in India. Building on the success of the Redmi Note 4, Redmi 4A, Redmi 4, and the Mi A1, the company managed to surpass Samsung and become the largest smartphone vendor in the country.
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Attending Honor’s big event this week in London, I couldn’t help shake the feeling that despite their claims about innovation, and a few software tweaks aside, all they really did was copy what has already been done and make it cheaper to end users. From the 2:1 display – understandable – to a new, upcoming front camera projector and ID system, teased for 2018, that’s set to be a carbon copy of what the iPhone X does – complete with Animoji. However, like most of us, I’m all for making things cheaper, and I loved last year’s Honor 6X – really decent specs and capabilities in a premium-feeling phone that cost around £220 or so. Amazing. Can the 7X live up to the same billing?
Right up front I have to tell you, there’s nothing special to see here, nothing unique. Move right along. Unless you want a bargain Android flagship. You see, the USP here is the price. By taking imaging and durability down just one small notch from the top end, the OnePlus 5T manages to shave off many hundreds of pounds. While keeping the flagship internals and traditional OnePlus attributes and popular features. In short, it’s a hit!
Last year, Xiaomi managed to make the whole of the smartphone industry sit up and take notice of its efforts with the original Mi Mix. Wanting to outgrow its image of a Chinese company making cheap iPhone clones, Xiaomi took the help of world-renowned designer Philippe Starck to design the bezel-less Mi Mix.
“Watch, listen, play” is the opening shot of Razer’s pitch for this, the eponymous Razer Phone. We’ve seen a number of phones aimed at gamers in the past, usually with gimmicky extra controls or savage compromises, but the Razer Phone only has one – which I’ll come to in a moment. I’ve been playing with the very first retail Razer Phone in the UK, exclusively handled by the popular Three network (who also sell it on pay-as-you-go*, don’t worry).
All of Google’s ducks were seemingly lined up in a row. The industry was moving towards ‘bezel-less’ phones with 18:9 screens, its Assistant is now pretty mature, its camera image processing is second to none, its wireless audio is top notch, and so on. And as a result, the Pixel 2 XL is very nearly the perfect smartphone, the template for everything else for the next five years. As Google are inclined to do though, they arguably blew it – and not for the reasons you might suspect me of picking*. I’m talking display and pricing – read on…
And so to this year’s Google Pixels, now with ‘2’ in the name, still with the two sizes (regular and XL), with pumped up internals and stereo speakers but sadly missing a standard headphone jack. Google has put all its expertise in machine learning and image processing into these phones, making them a fascinating choice for the best in phone imaging, but arguably unremarkable otherwise.
Thanks to the excellent budget smartphones it has been launching consistently in India, Xiaomi has been dominating the smartphone market in the country. This is despite the marketing blitz from the likes of Oppo and Vivo who have plastered their ads in almost every nook and cranny of the country.
The thing about the Galaxy Note 8 is that it’s not ‘just’ a smartphone. It’s that and a stylus-centric tablet and a pocket computer, all in one. Even though there are annoyances, there’s no escaping the raw power and flexibility of the Note 8. It’s beautiful, it’s immaculately built, and it packs enormous productivity and performance punches.
The Nokia 6 is the current* spearhead of the brand’s return to the smartphone world in 2017 and follows several years of being locked out, following the Microsoft buyout of its Devices division in 2013. It’s still Nokia in terms of logo and branding, it’s still designed in Finland, it’s still made like a tank, but the actual firm behind it is HMD Global and all the manufacturing is in China. So take the ‘Nokia’ branding with just a pinch of salt.