My Phone of the Year

Now that’s a fair amount of linkbait right there, but before I reveal which handset I’m going to bestow such a high prize upon (chortle), let’s first cover off those who definitely haven’t won my phone of the year.


The first phone it’s definitely not, is the iPhone.

Before you all launch into the whole ‘iPhone is the best thing in the world’ spiel and flame me from here well into 2012, just stop and think. The iPhone was – and arguably still very much is in its 3GS form – a luxury device.

Costing at the absolute minimum £300 – £400 either on PAYG or on contract, the iPhone has priced itself out of the competition by attempting to manufacture an allure of exclusivity. Yes, the iPhone is a great handset, but phone of the year it is not.

Nor for that matter, is the HTC Hero.

An Android device heralded by some as the best yet, after having a hands-on, I must say that I still prefer the HTC Magic. Either way, the still ‘in beta’ Android OS is yet to break into the hearts and minds of the mass-market. Though I have a very strong suspicion that – what with the upcoming Nexus launch next month and the apparently awesome work that the Motorola Droid is doing stateside – Android will truly arrive in 2010.

What about the Palm Pre? Er…Not a chance.

Which of course, leaves us with Nokia.

Is it the N97?
No. The early firmware troubles playing a key factor here, leaving the mobile users of the world divided. The mini may yet turn things around, but has arrived too late for this party.

Could it be the N86 8MP?
Close, very close in fact. For me, the N86 would have snagged it, but you simply don’t see it anywhere. I know that I personally have been responsible for at least ten sales of the N86 from an extended network of friends reading the N86 review I wrote earlier this year. However, the networks didn’t buy into it and – as we all know – without operator backing, nothing sells.

So what does that leave us with?

Of course, the N900 – right? Wrong. The N900 has only just been released! So how on earth could it even be a contender? Even though Dan loves his and I love mine, here – the N900 does not win. Not this year anyway.

No, the handset that I’ve chosen as my phone of the year is…

The Nokia 5800


This phone, launched in January 2009, brought touchscreen smartphones to the masses in a way that no other handset has yet to reproduce. Two years ago, such an accolade would have gone to the Nokia N95; ubiquitous, funtional and a big step towards change in the mobile computing world. You couldn’t move for N95s when you asked anyone what phone they had.

For me, this year (and based on entirely the same science), the 5800 snags it.

I’ve had one in my possession since around March or April, and I am STILL using it. Be it as a secondary device or as an email device, this small yet functional phone is the 2009 equivalent of the N95, no scratch that – the N73. Not the best in class by any stretch, but pitched at exactly the right price, at exactly the right market, this handset has sold by the bucket load. The 5800 has repeated that success. On the tube, on the bus, in the pub and on the street, I see the 5800 everywhere.

Available for less than £200 SIM free, the 5800 is a fantastic entry level device for all ages. Featuring a surprisingly capable 3.2mp camera, Nokia’s first touch screen (and forerunner to the Xseries range), is still to this day a regular in my pocket. Its design is simple yet durable and  is perfect for the days when you just need something to last all day, without fear of crashing halfway through an important call/email.

It’s light, cheap and it just works.

For me, the 5800 is my 2009 Phone of the Year.

What’s yours?

Nokia’s N97 & 5800XM: The trouble with 16:9

Two weeks ago, in my first video diary for Really Mobile, I was talking about my Nokia 5800 Xpress Music when I said:

Two weeks ago, in my first video diary for Really Mobile, I was talking about my Nokia 5800  Xpress Music when I said:

“I’ve kind of fallen for it a little bit… the firmware update has brought transitions… there are some really nice things in there… for instance: recording 16:9 video”

At which point – at around 1min 35secs into the clip to be precise – I flipped the 5800 around and began recording and, thanks to the wonder of Ben Smith’s editing skills, you can see the transition between the two segments below.

In the shot on the left you can just about see that I am holding the phone at arm’s length and yet, on the right, you can see the EXTREME CLOSE UP that the 5800 so unnaturally provides.
Problemo, no?

Ben and I noted this at the time and had a further play – resulting in this video that I put up on YouTube just before Really Mobile launched:

The sound quality is poor but – as you might have just about heard – this is because we had put the 5800 at such a distance away from ourselves, the mic could only barely pickup the audio. Check around 18secs in when both Ben and I reach towards the phone, again – our arms at full length.

Not. Good.

The focal point is too far away and as such, no matter how cool recording in 16:9 is, dealing with this bizarre nuance can feel frustrating . As it was, not soon after we published the above footage, YouTube user ‘augusc’ commented on the video with this telling nugget of information:

“Actually the phone just crops off the up and down side of the standard HQ video recording, that’s why the focal length must be bigger – and that’s why i find this 16:9 mode unnecessary…”

So in effect it’s not ‘true’ 16:9 recording then?

That’s the 5800 covered, what about Nokia’s upcoming uber-flagship device, the N97?
This device, oft-heralded the saviour of Nokia for 2009 (I’m still betting on the N86), runs the same S60 5th edition software as the 5800 and boasts almost the exact same display specifications too.

Well, over the weekend – via Mark Guim at The Nokia Blog – I spotted Nokia rep, Chanse Arrington, Qik-ing from his own N97 and I asked:

His response?

Right. Clear as mud then.

Unofficial Nokia blogger, Mark Guim, however was another story. He and I continued the conversation offline; I explained in further detail what I meant – using the video above as an example – and he replied that he had noticed the same thing on his 5800. He even went so far as to put together this rather good compare and contrast post between said Xpress Music device and his own N85.Nice work Mark.

This morning I asked Chanse again, this time linking to Mark’s post as a reference. This time he was a touch more forthcoming with his response:

So, there you have it. It would seem that the N97 does indeed record video in the same ‘extreme close-up’ mode as the 5800.

What do you think?

Do you own a 5800, have you spotted this problem?
Or are you considering purchasing an N97? Does this bother you?

As ever, your comments are welcome.

NB: The 5800/N97’s 16:9 recording functionality is oft-referred to as ‘nHD’.

This, for the initiated among you does not mean that the respective devices record in NEAR HD, as is sometimes reported, but in fact refers to the screen-size being proportionately equivalent to 1/9 of the original HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.


Video Diary: James Whatley on planning MGoLA

Planning for Mobile Geeks of LA is well under-way. We go to the park to look in James’s mobile ‘bag of wonder to take a look at the devices as the popular meet-up heads west from its birth-place.  James also demonstrates wide-screen video recording on the new Nokia 5800 Xpress Music which looks promising.

James has all the details you need on his site.