2012 has been a busy year when it comes to smartphones. There have been many new flagship devices launched for OEMs such as Nokia, Samsung, Apple, HTC, Sony and Motorola (who have been relatively quiet on the market front since been bought out by Google). Last year FoS posted a rundown of the top smartphones and tablets of 2011. As part of the feature, we included the best smartphones available in three categories, ‘budget’, ‘mid-range’ and ‘money is no object’. This year we’re doing things a little differently, featuring only the top five smartphones of the year, with a brief description on how each made its way to the top.
5. Nokia Lumia 920
Quietly sneaking into the list in fifth place is the Nokia Lumia 920, which sports the latest Microsoft Windows Phone 8 OS. Most Nokia and Windows Phone fans were eagerly awaiting the launch of this smartphone months before it was even announced. This smartphone wasn’t given the same red carpet treatment when it was unveiled in South Africa as with the Lumia 900, despite the importance of the device to both Nokia and Microsoft. In terms of its specs, the Lumia 920 packs a 4.5” screen with 768x1280px display, 32GB internal storage, 1GB RAM, 8MP rear camera, Qualcomm Snapdragon Dual Core 1.5GHz CPU, and Adreno 225 GPU. The biggest problem that it faces is competition from its own siblings, the HTC Windows Phone 8X and Samsung Ativ S, which both have almost identical innards. If not for Apple and Samsung, this phone would have held the number one spot in terms of sales in Q3 in the States. Definitely worth a spot on our list of Top 5 smartphones of 2012.
4. HTC One X
One of my favourite smartphones of 2012 has to be the HTC One X, mainly because of its nVidia Tegra 3 chipset. The One X is packed full of specs that include a 4.7” screen with 720x1280px display, 32GB internal storage, 1GB RAM, 8MP rear camera, Nvidia Tegra 3 Quad Core 1.5GHz CPU, ULP GeForce GPU, and 1800mAh battery. With specs like these, the One X can easily compete at the highest levels, especially when it comes to gaming performance and availability. The biggest drawback with this smartphone lies in its lack of variation seen with its UI, despite offering Android 4.0, and its design; looking very similar to even its budget smartphones such as the Desire and WildFire series’. In terms of sales, HTC has made little dent in the market falling short of where it should be, which is quite disappointing, all things considered. I can only hope that HTC can keep releasing smartphones packed with high-end hardware, while working on its design and HTC Sense UI for its flagship phones.
3. Apple iPhone 5
A late entry into the local and global market, the Apple iPhone 5 was a highly anticipated piece of tech this year, in conjunction with its iOS 6 OS. South Africans, too, weren’t exempt from some of the hype leading up to the launch of the iPhone 5, although not to the levels seen around the world. The launch, however, wasn’t as smooth as Apple would have hoped, with extremely poor numbers available across many malls, at both iStores and network operators, with many reporting less than 50 units available in each of the leading malls around Gauteng. The Apple iPhone 5 does well to continually competing at the top with its 4” screen with 640x113px resolution, 16/32/64GB internal storage, 1GB RAM, 8MP rear camera, Apple A6 Dual Core 1.2GHz CPU, PowerVR SGX 543MP3 GPU, and 1440mAh battery. Despite the move to remove the Google Maps app, with Apple opting to run with their own maps, which failed quite dismally, the iPhone 5 was met with great sales across the globe when released in individual countries. Unfortunately, this smartphone doesn’t do quite enough to reach the top of the pile this year, but still finishes an impressive third place.
2. Samsung Galaxy Note II
Certainly bigger than the original Samsung Galaxy Note, the Note II is equiped with a 5.5” screen, beating everyone to the punch. Since its release, however, the Note II has lost its place on the throne as the largest smartphone available, conceding to the 6.1” Huawei Ascend Mate and a few other lesser known Chinese models. The next iteration of the Note, though, will have a 6.3” screen, hopefully moving back to the top in terms of screen sizes. Apart from its screen size, the Note II has a lot to offer in terms of its hardware, packing 16/32/64GB internal storage capacities, 2GB RAM, 8MP rear camera, Exynos 4412 Quad Core 1.6GHz Cortex-A9 CPU, Mali-400MP GPU, and 3100mAh battery. Additionally, it also comes with its own S-Pen, which opens a whole new line of functional capabilities to the user. The biggest drawback lies in its display, with a resolution of only 720x1280px with a PPI count of 267, which is less than the original. If you’re looking for a powerful, functional smartphone, and can afford the increase in price, the Note II is definitely your choice; it falls just short of making it to the top this year.
The top honours, then, go to:
1. Samsung Galaxy SIII
There’s almost no question about the top smartphone of 2012; at least not in South Africa. Based on sales alone, the Samsung Galaxy SIII would easily achieve top honours. The reason for its success, however, lies both with its hardware and software. The Galaxy SIII boasts a 4.8” screen with 720x1280px display, variants of 16/32/64GB internal storage, 1GB RAM, 8 MP rear camera, Android 4.0.4 (now upgradable to Android 4.1.2 Premium Suite), Exynos 4412 Quad Core 1.4GHz Cortex-A9 CPU, Mali-400MP GPU, and 2100mAh battery. There no wonder why there has been a great urge for smartphone users to own this device. It’s common to see someone in possession of the Galaxy SIII at every corner you pass in South Africa. Many people may have been disappointed with the lack of colour options back in the world-wide shortage in May, but this didn’t stop the phone from selling. Based on our review earlier this year, and our hands-on experience with each of the above-mentioned smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy SIII deserves the top honours for 2012 on our list of the best smartphones. Irrespective of any debates that are still ongoing throughout many a blog (or lunchtime conversions) the specs and shear volumes that have already been sold makes this a must-have, even 7 months after becoming available.
There were many companies that took quite big hits this year, namely RIM and its BlackBerry, Nokia, and even Motorola, who haven’t released nearly as many smartphones as you would have thought after being officially acquired by Google. Public perception plays a large role in the success of a smartphone, and poor marketing can see the undoing of even the greatest of phones. One can only hope the flagship updates of each of the biggest OEMs (such as the Samsung Galaxy S IV and Apple iPhone 6) can live up to all the hype, especially with release of RIM’s BB10, Motorola’s rumoured Nexus smartphone, or even a Tegra 4 powered smartphone. Here’s to a great 2013 for smartphones, without burning too deep of a hole in our pockets.