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Get smart: What makes a clever phone?

Rory Cellan-Jones | 09:18 UK time, Monday, 25 October 2010

What makes a smartphone smart? I've been trying out the latest entrants to what some call the "converged mobile device" market and pondering what the real test of a smartphone might be.

I wanted to compare three phones doing three essential tasks. The handsets were Nokia's new N8, the Samsung Omnia 7 - one of the new Windows Phone 7 handsets, and Apple's iPhone 4, probably still the yardstick against which other smartphones are measured.

First of all, I needed to work out what tasks I should set so I initiated an online debate. What, I asked, was essential in a state-of-the-art phone?

Making calls and texts, according to the veteran technology journalist Jack Schofield. Well, surely those are a given - though it's true that the iPhone 4 has had an issue with dropped calls - and we expect a lot more from a smartphone. Others agreed, suggesting an array of more sophisticated tasks: turn-by-turn navigation, social networking, web surfing, GPS, watching TV news clips, multi-tasking, recording audio, and... playing Angry Birds.

What stood out was a combination of hardware and software. For many people now, the camera is the second most important thing in a phone after its calling capabilities. But they also want the software on their phones - and increasingly the apps - to make life on the move a bit easier.

In the end I chose these three tasks.


(1) Send an e-mail, with a photo attached: E-mail used to be a specialist and mainly a business use of a phone, restricted to Blackberry users and the brave few who could fiddle with the settings on an early smartphone. No longer - it's becoming an essential.

So I sent an e-mail with a photo attached using each of the phones, then checked my inbox for a reply.

On the iPhone it was simple - go to Photos, choose "Email Photo", and as soon as you start typing in the "To:" box, the phone offers an address if the recipient is in your contacts. Off went the picture - with an option to choose the size of file - and very quickly I was able to check for a reply.

On the Samsung Windows Phone, which I'd synchronised with my Gmail account, it was just as straightforward. Go to the big Photos pane on the desktop, find the picture, choose "Share", and you get a number of options including e-mail. Once again, my friend's e-mail address was quickly recognised, and off went the photo - though I didn't have the option of sending a compressed version.

The Nokia N8 is an attractive and very well-made phone using a new version of the Symbian operating system, which is supposed to make life a lot easier. I have to say this was not my experience - every action which seemed to take a click or a tap or two with the other phones took several more on the N8. I thought I had synchronised my Gmail account with this phone; although it was receiving my messages, it did not have my contacts, so I had to remember my friend's address and type it in. It all worked eventually - but there was just too much friction in the process to make it comfortable and natural.

Cabbage on three smartphones

(2) Take a photo and upload it to Facebook: Social networking is one of the main activities on a modern smartphone - and sharing photographs is a good test of both hardware and software.

The Windows and Nokia devices both have physical buttons which activate the camera, making picture-taking a lot easier than on the iPhone, where you have to find the app. Uploading from the iPhone was a doddle: go to the Facebook app, and off you go. In fact, it is rather simpler to upload from an iPhone than from a computer because everything is so integrated.

The Samsung phone made it even easier - the whole Windows Phone 7 system is designed to integrate with Facebook so you can "share" straight from the camera roll. There is, however, no Facebook app, and I found it slightly annoying that I was given a Windows-crafted version of the social network rather than the original when I tried to go to my Facebook page.

The Nokia has a much better camera than the other two, but the interface is once again extraordinarily fiddly. Getting to the social app which takes you to Facebook seemed to take an age, writing a caption was painful - and I reckon the whole thing took me about three times as long as on the other phones.

As for the actual pictures, you can see them on Facebook if you have an account.


(3) Use the phone to check the time of a film and work out how to get there: I remember the first time I tried to get on the web with a mobile phone. It was a Nokia, and there were so many menus and sub-menus on the route to the information I was seeking that I could probably have gone to a library and looked it up more quickly. But it still seemed streets ahead of anything else.

Nowadays, despite the Symbian upgrade, the N8 is still in the slow lane. Looking for a cinema where I could see the film Despicable Me took me first to the web icon on the desktop, which then offered me another sub-menu, which then offered me Google, which then offered an old-fashioned dialler text input - until I switched to landscape mode to get a proper keyboard. After endless tapping and cursing, I eventually found the film times - and set off anew in search of information about whether the London Underground was working properly.

A complete contrast to the other two phones, which both offered speedy access to a search box - Bing on the Windows phone, Google on the iPhone. Checking up on the Tube was also simple on the iPhone with the Tube Deluxe app, and I found that, for a small payment, I could get a similar app on the Samsung Windows device.

By the end of the three tasks I was clear about one thing: it's software not hardware that matters. Or at least a shiny, touchscreen handset with a decent camera is now the minimum requirement for entry into the smartphone league - and it's the software and the apps which are the real differentiators.

Microsoft may have finally cracked it. After years of desperately trying to bring computer levels of complexity to the mobile, it has realized that big buttons, an uncluttered clean desktop and a minimum of clicks are the route to a smartphone user's heart. There is still some work to be done - no copy and paste ("coming soon - and it took two years on the iPhone" is Microsoft's rather lame response) and a very thin selection of apps in the marketplace. But Windows Phone 7 is a system which looks to have a promising future.

Can you say the same about Symbian? Three years after the Iaunch of the iPhone, it has still not come up with software which matches the usability of the Apple phone or its integration with the rest of a user's digital life.

One operating system I haven't mentioned here is Google's Android. It has proved itself as an innovative and accessible platform - and one which leading handset manufacturers are happy to offer their customers.

When I was foolish enough to suggest a few weeks back that Nokia just might consider ditching Symbian for Android, there was a chorus of abuse from Nokia fans. But the Finnish giant's new boss Stephen Elop is promising new thinking. What do you think: couldn't marrying Nokia's undoubted hardware prowess with Android's superior software be a really smart move?

Update 1500: Lots of people seem angry that I haven't tested an Android phone in this post. Perhaps they haven't read to the end where I praise Google's operating system, even going so far as to suggest that Nokia might do well to adopt it instead of Symbian

Just to be clear, I did not test an Android phone for two reasons. The post was not meant to be about the smartphone market as a whole, but about two new phones with new operating systems, and how they matched up to the competition. And if I'd had an Android phone in my hands over the weekend I would have used that instead - but I'd lent the Samsung Galaxy to a colleague who was testing it for another BBC outlet.


  • Comment number 1.

    Rory Cellan-Jones.

    "When I was foolish enough to suggest a few weeks back that Nokia just might consider ditching Symbian for Android, there was a chorus of abuse from Nokia fans."

    it's so tempting to make some flippant comment at this point. :-)

    "Nowadays, despite the Symbian upgrade, the N8 is still in the slow lane."

    well I haven't used an N8 (yet) but would think that it compares very well to BlackBerries and other devices meant to be useful to work with; you're probably right that the Nokia's s/ware isn't best suited for the leisure and light entertainment sector. horses for courses.

  • Comment number 2.

    Why on earth didn't you include an Android phone in your comparison? e.g. an HTC Desire.

    Please do it again properly.


  • Comment number 3.

    Android all the way.
    iPhone is for geeks and show offs, Symbian is awful and windows have never made a good mobile OS.
    Google make the best mobile OS out there & you chose to ignore it!!!
    Wonder why that could be.

  • Comment number 4.

    Colour me not surprised.

    The only question is why have tech journalists been giving Nokia such an easy ride for the last three and a half years?


  • Comment number 5.

    I had the choice of new phones at the weekend. In my hands I had the N8 and the iPhone 4. I went with the view to getting the latest Nokia in the hope that it was now up to iPhone's smooth usage. I felt so let down! still the same old way of Nokia. Slow, to many taps to do anything etc. If Nokia think by adding bigger and better camera's are going to win customers then they need to think again.

    Oh and I left the shop with an iPhone 4!

  • Comment number 6.

    Rory, shame you didn't have an Android phone in there for comparison, say a Desire or Galaxy S. My Desire is a great phone and I think you'd find your tasks as easy on iOS or Phone 7. Would be good to see comparison photo on FB too.

    Interesting to see that Symbian is as dire as ever. My best smartphone camera I've had was on N73 (tho Desire very good, especially compared to HTC Magic), but Symbian had to be ditched ASAP. When even Microsoft realises it's horse was dead you'd have thought Nokia might attempt to stop the van from the knacker's yard.

  • Comment number 7.

    I have an iphone 3gs 16gb. Its fairly adequate. The phone part is not as good as my ancient 6310i Nokia that I use for foreign Holidays. The battery life is awful. When you make a call, nearly always the first outgoing call always fails. I will change next year, but having 25gb of Apple formated music has tied my hands. Itunes software is awful. One compilation double CD is all over the place. Its chaotic and needs to be revisited.

  • Comment number 8.

    Everything I've read about the software side of the N8 has been very critical, which is a shame, as the hardware seems to be up to the usual (high) Nokia standard.

    If Nokia switch to Android, I'm sure it will make a lot of people consider moving back to their phones - me included.

  • Comment number 9.

    Q) What makes a clever phone?
    A) The user who has chosen horses for courses.

    If you were comparing cars would you choose a hybrid, an SUV and a mini?

  • Comment number 10.

    Why no Android handset in the line up ?? i own a HTC Legend and it would have completed these three tasks with no problems.

  • Comment number 11.

    They don't have buttons, so all these fancy touchscreen phones are hopeless for sausage-fingered users, or people who work outside in the depths of winter, such as myself.

  • Comment number 12.

    I think Rory has fallen for the same trick as some consumers where a phone is touted as having superior hardware, while lacking in its software and most importantly operating system, in his choice of models to review.

    I'm glad other people have already commented on the significance of the Android. It really should have been included considering it is the most common OS on non Apple smart phones.

  • Comment number 13.

    Like another poster I also had the chance of a new phone over the weekend and walked out with the new HTC Desire HD

    Truly outstanding piece of technology. There is not and will not be a phone on the market for quite a while that can even come close to rivalling this...if you're due an upgrade do your homework to see what you're missing and get one!

  • Comment number 14.

    Just got the new Nokia N8 - it has been quite a few years since my last Nokia and the reason I came back was because IMHO they still make the best *phones*.

    Build quality is great, as is voice/sound quality on phone calls. And the camera is superb, as is the video player format support. A great all-in-one device for travelling.

    I'm not into putting down the competition but I've had HTC phones, Blackberry's, tried friends iPhones, and researched Android features which are still missing such as Bluetooth rSAP support for car hands free. Nokia was still the best choice!

    So, Rory, to send an email attachment - open email (direct from the homepage widget if you've chosen it to be on there - it's very easy to customize). Tap new mail. Tap the attachment icon. Tap image and then tap on the image you want. What is so hard about that?!?

    And with regards to searching - you can have a search widget on the homepage if you choose to. It's not hard - honest!

    I don't get why all "tech" journalists are acting like sheep coming out with the same guff about Nokia/Symbian.

  • Comment number 15.

    Kit Green #9.

    "If you were comparing cars would you choose a hybrid, an SUV and a mini?"

    they've all four wheels, therefore we compare them like for like. ;)

  • Comment number 16.

    Without including an Android phone, this review is worthless.

  • Comment number 17.

    I'm at a complete loss as to how you can review 3 smartphones without reviewing one running the biggest-selling smartphone software in the world, Android!

    Perhaps as an update to this article, you could try the same tasks on an HTC Desire, or a Samsung Galaxy S?

  • Comment number 18.

    So on the N8...

    1) Take a photo and send by e-mail.

    Click photo, send by e-mail. Job done. Incidentally if you use a Windows PC like 95% of the population and have Ovi Suite installed then you can sync your e-mail contacts.

    2) Upload photo to Facebook.

    Install Furtiv plug in or Pixelpipe. Click photo, send to Facebook. Job done.

    3) Find a film and start time

    Install Yell. Look up cinemas. Find film. Job done.

    I mean it is OK to use apps, isn't it? You did, after all install a Tube app on the iPhone (Symbian has one as well I would point out).

    So... now we've got past that bit let's move on to...

    a) What's call quality like on the phones? How many dropped calls and general all round communication?
    b) What's battery life like? Can I use it all weekend when I'm out being 'social' or will it die on me?

    I believe the N8 will win those particular battles fairly comfortably.

    See, the point is this, Rory. I kind of agree that Symbian at the moment is a bit more clunky and doing the things you mention should be easier. I'm not going to argue with that. However, it's pretty easy to improve software - and with Nokia's announcement of the use of modular Qt and Qt Quick this will happen sooner rather than later - but hardware... eh, you're kind of stuck with that.

    As for Android. A horrible, horrible idea. Why would Nokia move to an operating system that effectively makes them a vassal of Google leaving with no option but to enter a race to the bottom with Chinese and Indian manufacturers who can make cheaper hardware? It makes no sense.

  • Comment number 19.

    On the N8:

    Send an email with photo: Photo's > Press on image > Send > By mail > Fill in contact details.

    Basic GMail doesn't sync your contacts, but if you set it up as an exchange account then it will.

    Upload to Facebook: Use PixelPipe. These are smartphones, right?

    Find times for a movie: Use a proper location based interface like Ovi Maps.

  • Comment number 20.

    Another Android user wondering why you didn't include the obviously best option in your selection. My HTC Desire would have no problems with any of the above tasks, sharing via Facebook and other social networks is all built in and near instant, as is email contact management, and the plethora of free apps makes the search/travel options a breeze, thanks to the fantastic integration of the various Google functions. And copy & paste is a piece of cake too.

    I'd also agree with Jack Schofield that the core requirements of any smartphone are still calls and texts, however - wonder if you chose to ignore that logic because the iPhone isn't very good at being a phone (allegedly)?

  • Comment number 21.

    Can you tell us why you chose these three phones and not others, Rory?

    Like others I was surprised you'd chosen not to test an Android based phone when you make the claim that it is software not hardware that makes the difference between phones.

    Perhaps these were phones that you and your friends own? Or were these phones that had been given to you by companies to review? I think the article would be improved by indicating how you'd made the decision to test these three phones and not others.

  • Comment number 22.

    I'd just like to add my comment that this is a pointless round-up of smartphones without an Android phone.

  • Comment number 23.

    I bought a Nokia Xpressmusic phone for use in Turkey this year. Nothing wrong with the phone but the PC Suite and OVi software supplied by Nokia is appalling.How a huge concern can make a blunder like Nokia have made with this software is beyond me. I tried everything I knew to make one or other piece of saftware (sic) work but just when it seemed to be OK it would fail again.Then I get an email saying please uninstall parts of it as they are discontinuing!! SHAMBLES!! This means I will never touch another Nokia phone smart or not because I simply do not trust them to get it right. No wonder their market share is declining. I use Apple iPhone and it just works whastever I want it to do.

  • Comment number 24.

    Not a surprise to anyone who has used a few smartphones. I got a Nokia E71 when that was the hot new thing. Great hardware, truly terrible software which meant it never really did what I needed. I recently got an HTC Desire. Had it working roughly the way I wanted within an hour. Nokia's issues rather remind me of IBM many years back, when their dominance in hardware meant they lost the plot on software completely.

  • Comment number 25.

    With the Windows 7 Phone, did you use the official Facebook app on the Windows Phone Marketplace or are you talking about something else?

  • Comment number 26.

    Rory has hit the nail on the head when he says that users want elegance and simplicity, not complexity. But there is another dimension to this: integration. I wouldn't disguise the fact that I am an Apple fanboy, so the iPhone is my tool of choice.

    It is amazing the way it integrates - SEAMLESSLY - my digital life with my desk top and lap top. Calendars, contacts, email, and other important stuff I use such as Yojimbo and Things. Everything acts and looks the same. It's a compelling proposition.

    That is not to say that other platforms aren't good, but I also find that as I add something to my Apple wish-list, it pops up in the next iOS version. Clever stuff.

  • Comment number 27.

    Media person picks Apple shock. Any invention there? Any interest in controlling your device as opposed to conforming to what it offers you?

    Thought not.

  • Comment number 28.

    Typical useless BBC blog. Don’t bother to compare the fastest growing OS, that would be too hard.

    Maybe Apple were paying him… Come on BBC sort it out and re-do this with Android.

  • Comment number 29.

    I currently have an X6 running Symbian, and it will be my last Nokia phone for a while. this OS it not good at all, but Rory, you cant really compare these 3 when you use apps on two and not on the Nokia?

    I would like to see Win7 vs Android as this is the question im asking myself

  • Comment number 30.

    Another Android user here, and yes, it seems bizarre that no Android phone was reviewed as the HTC Desire would have done all these tasks with ease. It's a great phone, and I've even been thinking that if it's still in good condition when my contract runs out, I may not bother upgrading, choosing instead to change to a cheaper call plan. I can't think of anything the phone doesn't do that I would want it to, nor anything it could do better. Obviously that may change, but if the next wave of smartphones can only offer better resolution/memory/processor speed, then I'll stick with what I've got, thanks.

    I find it amusing that you've ignored Jack Schofield's suggestion that calling and texting are the most important functions for a smartphone. I understand your reasoning, as you're reviewing ease of use rather than connection quality etc, but still, I've always wondered if we'll see a time where calling and texting eventually become so low on the list of priorities for phone hardware/software designers that they forget to make them perform these primary functions.

    #14: [i]I'm not into putting down the competition but I've had HTC phones, Blackberry's, tried friends iPhones, and researched Android features which are still missing such as Bluetooth rSAP support for car hands free. Nokia was still the best choice![/i]

    That's strange - my car has Bluetooth hands-free built in to it, and I've often connected my HTC Desire to it to phone people on the move. As a matter of fact, I believe I come across clearer than I used to when I used an iPhone 3G to do the same job.

  • Comment number 31.

    No Android test? It's not the best comparison. And an HTC at that would have been a great example, the HTC Sense interface improves and already good interface. I have the HD2 running on Windows Mobile 6.5 and the sense interface is by far the best I have used on any smartphone. Not to mention that HTC's are generally the quickest phones out there.

    Nokias..... Symbian isn't the best, but what compounds it is the fact that the Nokias are so slow, it's about time they started adding some muscle to the phones.

  • Comment number 32.

    I come here for a laugh, not for enlightenment.

    Android? Learn the different ways OSs work through activities? Exhaustive capability test?

    Anyone who expects to find rigour here is always going to be disappointed.

    That said, I'd agree that Symbian can be clunky and it may well be an evolutionary dead-end. But for Nokia the options are essentially to 'up Symbian's game' or face death by absorption.

  • Comment number 33.

    "iPhone is for geeks and show offs"

    I think you've got it the wrong way around. Android is for geeks. It is always the Android users who complain that a phone can't do XYZ and that they feel their freedom (to do geeky things) would be restricted if they owned an iPhone.

    iPhone and Mac computers in general are for people who just want to use a device, not spend their quality time in the evening trying to do something with the device that it wasn't intended for.

    As for what makes a smartphone it's very simple. The definition of a smartphone is a phone that can have its functionality extended by installing new software.

    A dumbphone has no provision to install additional features or software. It's a sightly misleading definition if the dumbphone has a Java Midlet run-time since you can then run additional software.

  • Comment number 34.

    As others have said, this is biased towads the iPhone when there is no Android or balckberry phone and everyone knows that Windows and Symbian are pants!

  • Comment number 35.

    Wow the Android fans are really kicking off. I'm not sure what all the fuss is about, the point of the article was to find out what defines a smartphone, not to campare them and announce the best one.

    I agree that software is important and I'm glad that Microsoft seems to have caught up (almost). Why Nokia hasn't ditched Symbian yet is beyond me.

    There are basic hurdles that the hardware must support though and I'm talking the ability to recieve BOTH calls and data. As much as I love it's software my iPhone seems to struggle with both and I'm not convinced the data errors are always the fault of my operator.

  • Comment number 36.

    " no copy and paste ("coming soon - and it took two years on the iPhone" is Microsoft's rather lame response)"

    Come on! Have a bigger go at Microoft. After the hammering Apple got (justifiably) over not having it there is NO reason Microsoft can get away with the same thing. That was used as a major issue by all suppliers to slag Apple off, time they got a bit of their own medicine.

    I agree the lack of Android is odd, but hey.
    What I would have said would also have been a better idea was use a totally virgin phone. In that it only has the apps that come with it on day one. If they don't include the app as basic then that is a fair comparison. As people have mentioned and indeed you do in the summing up, it's all about the apps. But the problem is that it's not a fair comparison unless you start from the same level, that of the default system.

  • Comment number 37.

    No hope of Mr Cellan-Jones admitting his major error in deciding not to test an android phone, because as the BBC's technology bod, he is like many in the media circus, an apple devote, and therefore cannot make a mistake, despite people pointing it out to him that he has made one...
    Android, despite being left mysteriously out of this comparison, has increased its market share 1/4 on 1/4 over the last 2 years, along with the number of manufacturers offering it, where as the iPhone's OS is only available on one phone.
    Symbian derivatives on non nokia phones are unable to access the Ovi store and the number of apps for these own store is woeful.
    Android and Apple will come to dominate because of Microsofts insistence that any phone running its OS only has 3 buttons.

  • Comment number 38.

    Really good read, especially for anyone who doesn't know much about smartphones.
    Just a shame that all we can take away from it is that Symbian OS is lacking. A review including Android would have given a clearer picture (sorry).

    I am thinking of picking up a new smartphone soon and am more interested in the sync'ing of the phones especially wrt personal information managers (PIM's) and pc's running different OSes. The easiest way would be to use the cloud. Reading what you have said about Symbian, then that is a no go.

    Any chance of including Android ? How about a HTC phone?

  • Comment number 39.

    So you want to do three things that you say a BlackBerry can do. So buy a BlackBerry...they're not just for business folk.

  • Comment number 40.

    For me the iPhone barely qualifies as a smartphone. Its not customisable enough and as standard you have no direct access to the file system. These restrictions means its an advanced feature phone, not a computer in phone form. This is what a smartphone should be. Feature phones often have better access to the file system and offer true themes. It can run apps, but thats the only thing that qualifies it as a smartphone. Its not good enough alone.
    Symbian was good once. All the touch screen versions are rubbish though. Its a real shame. I loved my N95 8GB.

    Android wins, its the best mix between freedom and power. As usual Rory ignores it because its better than iPhone and he doesnt want the public to know that.

  • Comment number 41.

    I am rather ashamed to say - with the exception of Windows - I have all of the platforms discussed - plus a couple of Blackberries!

    iPhone is great for ease of use and Android is very good too (I use Dell Streak and Galaxy S). New Blackberry is also extremely good.

    The Nokia is - I have to agree - a very poor user experience!

    I agree with Rory - there is some merit in considering Android on the Nokia. There are often comments about how Android is fragmented with each manufacturer shipping a variation on it. Not a problem in my experience, to be honest. Familiarity with it on one makes a change to another easy.

    The handset I would choose as my "single" solution? I am not a big "games" person and messaging is my main interest in a phone - so the new Blackberry would be my choice. Close call with the iPhone though. Both beautifully made.

    If you want a load of games - iPhone still wins but Android is catching up fast.

  • Comment number 42.

    Since when did Auntie Beeb start doing advertorials? Considering that 1) Windows Phone 7 has just hit the market, and 2) One of its biggest competitors, Android, is missed off the list does make me wonder if someone has just received a nice kick back...

  • Comment number 43.

    Many of these functions require access to the internet. I don't have a smartphone, but when friends have shown off theirs, I've noticed that internet connections can be decidedly flaky.

    It would be interesting to know whether there is any difference between handsets (or more probably networks) in the likelihood of getting a reliable connection.

  • Comment number 44.

    As others pointed out - it all depends on what you want to do with the phone. Nokia, like the Blackberry, is made for business use. You did not compare the mapping / GPS application, for example, which is greatly superior on the Nokia. Or the office suite - text processing, spreadsheets, powerpoint, PDF viewer, which come with Symbian smartphones. Or the ability to see Flash movies and websites.
    If you need a phone to send text messages, try a Nokia E7 on N97, with a sliding keyboard - then you don't have the trouble you seem to have at typing on a touchscreen.
    As others pointed out, sending a picture in Symbian is child's play - you just click on the picture and click Send - then you have a choice to send by text message, by email, by bluetooth, by Ovi Suite or to upload.
    I agree, the Symbian software is a bit more complicated - it's because it can do so much more than the iPhone and the rest.

  • Comment number 45.

    3. andie99UK..

    Actually id say the iPhone is NOT for geeks. Its far to limited and controlled to be for real geeks. Jailbreaking isnt geeky, its necessary. Writing apps for iOS doesnt make you a geek

    Winmo was for geeks, android is, maemo is, but iOS certainly not. Its for posers and media guys who love DRM, protected content and capitalism.

  • Comment number 46.

    What's curious is that Rory didn't try out the one thing that I use my phone more than anything else - downloading BBC programmes from iPlayer and watching on the bus or the tube.

    The iPhone doesn't do it. The best it offers is streaming over wifi.

    The Nokia N96 & N97 can. I'm assuming the N8 will. For many of us the mobile phone has become not only a communications centre but also an entertainment centre. I have heard so many complaints from friends that Apple is too Apple-focussed. No use of Flash video and everything has to be through iTunes (sorry Ping).

    It's possible I'm unique in using phones in this way but I very much doubt it.

  • Comment number 47.

    I Got to agree with most comments (especially in defence of Nokia) as well as Rory's test.

    Got myself an android whilst my wife has a Nokia.
    My wife had the Android first and I had the Nokia but we swapped after three days.

    Great pictures I don't need a small camera any more. Ok, too many menus once I took a picture (sent to, upload and so on I need to cancel).
    Same when selecting a number in contact.
    Great spell checker with a propensity to remember typos.
    OVI is very good and can read texts threads (like Apple and Android), sadly can't follow thread on the phone itself.

    No spell checker (a reason my wife will not use it), poor pictures
    but great google map apps and local amenities facilities search. Great for Facebook and sync all my accounts.
    Much more intuitive and I prefer it.

  • Comment number 48.

    Oh dear. This is going to degenerate into another Apple vs iPhone fight, isn't it?

    Meanwhile Nokia will continue to sell more smartphone handsets than either Apple or all Android manufacturers combined despite the technorati proclaiming it dead (which, of course, they've done for two years with spectacularly poor prescience).

    I shall leave this topic to its inevitable conclusion.

  • Comment number 49.

    Not the best article as I was especially keen on seeing a comparison between Android and the iPhone.

    none the wiser now,

  • Comment number 50.

    I have a Windows 6.1 mobile. It does all that I want and, in addition, my contract includes genuinely unlimited data so that I can use it to provide on-line access for my laptop.

    If I want to email a picture I select the picture, click on the email icon, and start typing the contact name whereupon I am offered the relevant choices from my contact list (which is synchronised with my PC). Job done.

    I have no great desire to access Facebook when I'm out and about, let alone at work, never mind post photos to it. And, as I don't live in London, an app that can give me tube directions to a cinema is not greatly helpful. Nor am I interested in access to games, which seems to be one of the key features of some of the latest phones.

    So, apart from the fact that my phone is ageing and needs replacement, what does this new generation of phones offer me that I don't already have?

  • Comment number 51.

    "Android and Apple will come to dominate because of Microsofts insistence that any phone running its OS only has 3 buttons."

    To be fair my X10 Mini Pro manages just fine with 3 buttons.

    In Rory's defence the point of this was to test the two new OS's against a current market leader. Personally I would have chosen an Android phone like the HTC Desire but it's a mute point as the iPhone is apparently nearly as good.

    It's a bit of a shame that Nokia has lost its way so badly in the smart phone market. I almost always had Nokia's in the past but they just don't cut it any more and it would appear little has changed. There's no point buying an expensive phone if the software it runs just isn't up to the job.

  • Comment number 52.

    I'd have to completely agree with Rory about Nokias. I made the mistake of getting a N97 when it came out and to be honest it's been nothing but disastrous. The symbian software is without question the worst piece of software I've ever encountered on any piece of technology ever. Camera doesn't seem to work or sync with the phone, the ovi suite software rather than update the phone seems to break something everytime I try to get software updates hence it's been back to the shop numerous occassions. It also misses calls or doesn't recognise numbers which are in the phone's memory which has baffled the in-store help and frankly the less said about the poorly built support apps the better as the range and quality of these is simply blown away by the iphone though some of the others are also lagging behind apple on this front.

    Personally until I've had a good play around with some of the newer android or windows 7 phones it's hard to see beyond the iphone still which is reflected in it's market share to be honest!

  • Comment number 53.

    Why would Rory need to include an Android phone? Everyone is aware of its capabilities already. He stated that this was a test of two of the latest entrants into the market (the new Symbian OS and the new Windows Phone 7 OS), and was using the iPhone as a benchmark. Seems fair enough to me.
    Why would he also need to review from default settings? You don't start off from default settings everytime you want to upload or send a photo, so surely that wouldn't really be a good test?
    I don't see why Nokia should have to ditch Symbian. Symbian 3 certainly hasn't made big enough advances to make it competitive, but don't forget that Windows Mobile was in that position not so long ago, and Microsoft haven't ditched that. So maybe Symbian 4 will be a major re-think.

  • Comment number 54.


    One of the big reasons Nokia hasn't dumped Symbian is because they spent huge amounts of money buying and developing the platform - they would have to admit to making a big error in spending a fortune developing an OS that isn't good enough

    Symbian is fine for standard chocolate bar phones, it's not really up to the task for smart phones. Nokia took a step towards open source when it added Maemo (Linux based) to it's flagship range of 'N' series. If they want to stay in the race they will have to dump Symbian or start from scratch with the OS and keep the name (might save some face doing this)

    BTW - operators keep a list of phones and dropped call statistics on an handset by handset basis, Nokia has several handsets at the top of the list. One of Nokia's most popular handsets ever was also the worst performing ever!

    It is horses for courses with phones. Just by the phone for what you need and you won't be disappointed

    WinMo7 is a lot better than the other releases and I expect it to have a decent take up in the market, but Android is still leading the pack at the moment. Apple will always be in the game because to be honest they could just put the logo on an old sock and it would sell in the millions!

  • Comment number 55.

    As many others have said, this maybe isn’t an OS comparison test but how you can leave off an Android device in this type of test seems crazy to me. As a HTC Desire owner all the tasks mentioned can be completed in a breeze. The social network integration especially between your contacts and media is spot on!

  • Comment number 56.

    According to this article my K810i Sony Ericsson, (which is about 5 years old) can be classed as a smartphone!

  • Comment number 57.

    My current phone is, in my opinion, the best phone I've ever owned! The Nokia N900. All the advantages of Nokia's hardware with the support of a really great OS. Send photos by e-mail or to Facebook(Twitter/Flicker/Picasssa, etc.) just by tapping the photo and choosing 'share' (or direct from the camera app if you want to send it immediately)! Send and receive instant messanger messages on Google/MS Messenger/Facebook/Yahoo, etc as easily as sending and receiving texts. Apps for finding film showings and planning tube journeys (in several different cities round the world). Nokia maps (or other navigation apps)for finding your way around without using public transport and loads of other features!
    It also makes good phone calls.
    The battery life leaves a bit to be desired, but you can't have it all!

  • Comment number 58.

    Since when did Auntie Beeb start doing advertorials? The week that Windows Phone 7 comes out (market share ~10%), there is a round up of smart phones. RIM (Market share ~38%) and Android (market share ~20%) are both missing from the round up - and arguably, both are the new Windows Phone 7 main competitors. Me thinks someone is getting a nice little kick back...

  • Comment number 59.

    Agree with all the posts re Android. All the tests would be taken care of easily via Android on my Nexus One.

    Great for business too - OK, you can't edit documents without using a paid-for app but you can view all office documents, pdfs etc - as much as is reasonably required on the move.

    Only problem I have with Android is with 2.2 on my Nexus One that BBC sites crash on pages where there is an option to play a video.

    Oh, and if you could mention to your colleagues to write IPlayer for Android 2.2 that would be great...

  • Comment number 60.

    It would appear that people are very loyal to mobile phone manufactures especially Nokia. When Apple raised the benchmark the industry swung into action but it has taken them time. Apple should be thanked because they made the rest of the industry sit up and take notice...we can all now benefit from huge strides in smartphone development.

    There's real choice now. As a long time Mac user there's no going back for me but Windows phones and Android phones can now match the iPhone pretty much feature for feature, so it really comes down to personal choice and which network you want to go with. So what is the lesson here? Innovate or get left behind.

  • Comment number 61.

    What phone does Rory have already? Obviously he's going to find that one the easiest to use!

    I've got a Nokia 5800 (not an N8 - not for want of trying to buy one from the nokia UK website, but that's another story...)

    If I want to e-mail a photo, I select the photo then press send. It then allows me to decide whether I want to send it by bluetooth, by MMS or by e-mail. It's very simple.

    If I want to load a photo into facebook, I go into the Facebook app, and there's a picture of a camera at the top of the page. I press that, and it asks me if I want to take a new photo or upload an existing one to Facebook. If I choose to take a new photo, it starts up the camera. If I choose to upload a picture, it shows me the pictures in my gallery. It's very simple.

    If I want to find a nearby cinema, I open maps, so that it knows where I am. I then press events - and movies are listed straight away. It's very simple.

    Leaving out Android from the analysis was bizarre! BBC - Could we please have an analysis of all smartphones, including Android, by someone who knows what they are doing? This one was more of an analysis of smartphones for stupid people.

  • Comment number 62.

    Another bemused Android user. I wanted a phone with a little keyboard and replaceable batteries. Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini pro works fine. If you want choice of hardware features you have to go Android; Apple certainly doesnt any options if you dont agree with them in what makes a good phone.

    All the above dead easy (even without adding extra apps).

  • Comment number 63.

    Rory - I follow your blog religiously and read this artiucle with some interest. I have been a blackberry user now for three to four years and have done so as I have a enmail address (from a secondary school - nothing as posh as central government!). Having yesterday bought a new iphone from I ma happy to see that the iphone still stays a distance ahead in quality with regards to the other handsets. I have taken a long time to choose an iphone and have tested considerably all of the other handsets mentioned as well as Google's offering. Although the HTC desire comes close in quality and speed of use as apples software there is no denying that the iphone is still a better piece of technology. I am just glad that I was able to buy on a twelve month contract so that a iphone 5 wont seem so far away!

  • Comment number 64.

    Where can I get a mobile phone with no camera, no apps, no games, no WAP, no internet, no GPS and is rugged enough to be dropped on the ground and has nothing but the keys needed to dial a call. And instead of investing in features, the manufacturers have put in the best possible antenna, speaker and microphone?

    Is it too much to ask for a mobile phone that does precisely that and does it very well? Now that would be a smart phone!

  • Comment number 65.

    Wow. The main conclusion to all this seems to be that consumer choice is alive and well in the smartphone arena.
    A few observations:
    1) Nokia are currently eating some humble pie and have been reasonably open in acknowledging a lack of satisfaction with their strategic development. The appointment of Stephen Elop from Microsoft as CEO would suggest to me that Android is unlikely to be the focus of their next development - if Symbian is to be ditched then a Win7 tie-in seems more likely, but equally they may be buying a piece of the reinvention journey that the Microsoft OS has had to go on and hoping that Elop can do the same for Nokia.
    2) The big boys all have very different business models and that may produce some interesting results over the next few years: Microsoft will give away OS to sell premium software (apps); Google wants to sell software and create a channel for advertising; Apple remains essentially a hardware manufacturer, making relatively little revenue from apps.
    3) My prediction is that opensource will triumph, and I expect Android to be the best OS within a few years, with the caveat that the quality of apps will be less controlled and therefore patchy. However, Apple will always have some design-based 'wow factor' up its sleeve, while Microsoft and Nokia will both struggle ever to get beyond playing catch-up.
    4) I recently spent a lot of time weighing up my choices and went for an iPhone4. Why? Well, actually I think that the new Android phones such as the Desire HD and Galaxy S may be better. But I was also buying a phone for my wife, who was upgrading from an iPhone3G. There is a lot to be said for both being on the same platform (it halves the real cost of apps, for example), and the instant usability of the iPhone remains excellent. Moreover, the vast range of accessories available for iPhone means you can always find just the very thing. I think that Android's active widgets have much more of a future than Apple's static icons, but that aside I have few frustrations. Yes, it drops some calls, but the battery life is fine and the overall experience is great - everything just works.
    5) Loving post #50 from rs24 in defence of WinMo6.1. I guess that if you've never eaten cake, bread tastes ok.

  • Comment number 66.

    #42 DOM2

    Phones differ greatly when it comes to signal reception, you can put 2 handsets side by side with the same operators SIM and have a big difference in RSL (Received Signal Level)

    Nokia and RIM have very good antennas, Samsung are not very good, HTC are better now than they were, Apple has a lot of catching up to do to keep up with Nokia/RIM in terms of antenna design and build quality

    The actual RSL will differ from operator to operator, where you live and use your phone will decide which to go with. The reliability question depends on how well your provider looks after their network and how well dimensioned it is, some networks have massive numbers of cell sites but no large capacity backhaul to a large percentage of sites, and so they restrict the throughput allowed per user to avoid bottlenecks. Some providers have not so great coverage but a good backhaul and will provide much much higher speeds than others

  • Comment number 67.

    I am very disappointed that android and blackberry was not included in this test as blackberry is in second place and android third so far with ios devices bringing up the rear (windows phone 7 has only just come out so a bit unfair to compare market presence), however I am glad to see that Nokia has been included as like them or not they are still far away in the lead yet the BBC very rarely even acknowledges that they even exist. It may be interesting to see what the Nokia is like once meego is released (early 2011) to see if the N8 improves or not. I was going to go for the nokia as the hardware is very nice indeed but after seeing the os in action I have now gone for android as I can't wait that long for nokia to finally get meego out the door. It is nice to see the windows mobile 7 standing up to testing as although the old windows mobile was clunky and unintuitive, it generally did a very good job of working on the move as long as you were willing to put up with the interface and quirks (it did badly need to be re-written though).

  • Comment number 68.

    #52 Nathan

    There is a know issue with all Nokia handsets regarding not seemingly remembering a known number:

    You need to check through your contacts and see if you have the person in your contact list twice under different names with the same number. If this is the case when they ring you will get 'Unkown Caller' (same for missed calls etc) also for some reason Nokia's can get confused with international dial codes on occasion

    The usual reason is the double contact entry - just create one contact and add different numbers for them, don't have the same number in the contact list twice!!

  • Comment number 69.

    Running the Samsung Galaxy S with Android version 2.2 which, with its support for flash, is, in my opinion, by far the best Phone/OS combination out there.

  • Comment number 70.

    "What do you think: couldn't marrying Nokia's undoubted hardware prowess with Android's superior software be a really smart move?"

    I have had the Google nexus one since its launch earlier this year, having previously used a Nokia N95. I totally agree, if you could have a Nokia running Android it would be ideal.

  • Comment number 71.

    Rory, I was about to post a comment biting your ear off for not including an Android phone in the comparison having read to your second paragraph...

    ...but then I read on and saw the pics, your dog is so cute, instead I want to come round and play with your dog :)

  • Comment number 72.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 73.

    I would say the article is the standard BBC fare - iPhone is wonderful, iPhone is great, iPhone is super, iPhone ... iPhone... iPhone ra ra ra...

    Its on EVERY BBC program, it gets mentioned 100 times an hour... the only time iPhone isn't mentioned is when iPad or iPad or iPad is.

    Lets face it they even call their play it again service iPlayer - Apple would complain about that if it wasn't such good advertising!

    The problem is that the BBC is doing product placement for free and its doing it because the reporters at the BBC are all arts graduates who think the whole world revolves around 'the arts', they can't put anything together without involving the tools they all use as 'artists'.

    I'm not knocking apple, some of their stuff is good, but frankly the iPhone has never been one of them, the interface is pretty but it can't make phone calls...

  • Comment number 74.

    On the iPhone antenna.

    Went to my 89 year-old Mum's house last night - which has a very weak 3G signal. With other phones it barely gets a GPRS signal.

    Then fired up Facetime - and let her have a flawless video chat with her grand-daughter at university over 3G. Which my mum described as "like magic - and didn't know such things were possible."

    Despite all the stupid hysteria about the iPhone 4, there's something to be said for putting a huge antenna on the outside of the phone. I seem to get a solid high-speed connection wherever I go.


  • Comment number 75.

    Using a phone to email a photo or upload it to Farcebook? Sad if these trivialities are the most important tasks for you.

    What I need is a phone that, as well as being a telephone and an email handler, will also carry my diary and address book and synchronise with Outlook without screwing up all the time. As has every Windows Mobile phone I've owned and my current Blackberry.

    Let's make phones a working tool, not a toy!

  • Comment number 76.

    The Jack Schofield question is an interesting one. Several people have commented in support of his assertion that the phone and SMS components are the key ones. But I'm increasingly finding that they are not actually the most important to me any more. The ability to send and receive emails, to browse the internet, and to use applications that access data via the internet are now more important to me. And the applications that don't depend on an internet connection (dictionaries and other reference apps, sat nav, media consumption, etc.) are also extremely important. I text a few times a day, but in fact this is just one useful application amongst many others. Of course, the ability to make and receive phone calls is essential, but I must admit I make scant use of my 600 minute monthly allowance. So, my iPhone 4 is probably more of a connected PDA than a smart phone to me. And before the cynics jump in with the obvious cheap comments, I can only remember one dropped call, and I get a better signal at home with this phone than anyone else in the household.

  • Comment number 77.

    #46 - actually the BBC banned Apple from allowing an app that could download iPlayer content.

    If a Nokia phone can do that, I'd imagine the Beeb's legal dept will be knock-knock-knocking on Nokia's door...

  • Comment number 78.

    I only ever read these blogs for a chuckle at some of (most of) the commenters' pathetic pro/anti Apple/Android comments (delete as applicable). Once again I have not been disappointed.

    Good work Rory!

  • Comment number 79.

    Another thing missing from the comparison is how well the devices cope with true multi-tasking. Try starting task 3 then whilst it's running do task 2 and compare the results then. Doing one thing at a time is no longer enough we need to be able to have several tasks running at once and to seamlessly switch between them without the device crashing.

  • Comment number 80.

    Why do we have to have a Facebook account to see the quality of the photo's?

  • Comment number 81.

    The difference is that the symbian version is created by the BBC, and the downloads are protected by DRM the BBC are happy with.
    The link you give, is of a version developed by someone else, that doesn't use any DRM.
    There are rumours (and some leaked screenshots - be them fake or not) that the BBC are making their own iPlayer iPhone app that will allow downloads.

  • Comment number 82.

    Honestly, do people even use the majority of these features? Are they necessary? Can people not go five minutes, or five yards down the street without checking Facebook? Just use your PC! That way you're only available when you want to be.

    Mobile phones are the worst thing to happen to the world, and I say that as a 22-year-old.

    I hardly use my phone. When I do, I text. I don't generally tend to call very often, so I should just have a pager or something. We ought to try going without these over-the-top gizmos for a week and see how much better life is.

  • Comment number 83.

    All my end of contract friends don't want to renew with the new what will these people get?

    HTC desire a really simple decision open source will deliver more opportunity for Apps,speed of development, and enterprise solutions for the office.Looking pritty is one thing being useful is everything!Android seems to be king for good reason!

  • Comment number 84.

    As has been said already, how can this be a clear, objective and unbiased story on the rise of smart phones when you have completely disregarded Android?

    I am only a recent convertee to the joys of Android phones, having purchased a Samsung Galaxy S just 2 weeks ago.

    Without wanting this to turn into an advert for that phone, I have to say that true converged mobile communication through this and similar products is here.

    I have my Facebook, Twitter, Email, Calendar, contacts and more all merged and joined up, in a device that fits into the palm of my hand. I no longer need my PC to tweet, check my diary. Everything syncs seemlessly through my Gmail account and we now have merged family diaries for the kids, personal and work diaries for both my wife and I and everything else I need.

    If I add a contact or appointment to my PC, my Gmail account or my phone, it is pushed out and synced with the other devices within 5 minutes, so no danger of loosing anything if one device fails.

    All I can say Rory is, go back and do this article again and try not to miss out one of the biggest players in this market...

  • Comment number 85.

    @WelshBluebird1, thanks for that info, I was not aware of that. Yes I'd heard the rumours of a BBC iPlayer app, but they seem to be dragging their feet over it. Shame as I'd certainly use it when travelling.

  • Comment number 86.

    The smartphone has now taken our online lives to a new level. But as well as the missing Android what about another smartphone which has failed to gain critical mass - the Palm Pre ? It passes all the tests you outlined in your article. You take a picture and as it directly links into Facebook you can easily share it through with two clicks or email the photo if that is easier. You can also link in with your Photobucket account to pick up or upload a picture. Equally looking up a local film on the built in browser and then find out the nearest cinema is a piece of cake. I think the Palm Pre (now HP) is a great product. Small but most importantly completely interlinked. It is a shame it has never been as trendy as the Iphone or the google isters. But those of us who love the phone just get on with using its useful features and for me it does everything I need a smartphone to do. It doesn't impose its operating system on your work - its way of working is natural and most importantly brilliantly interlinked. What a shame it never caught on.

  • Comment number 87.

    @Carniphage. It's interesting you say you used Facetime over 3G, considering Facetime doesn't work over 3G, only WiFi!

    @Blair Fontane. Because you need an account to view Facebook pages.

    @WelshBluebird1. I'm pretty the sure the BBC have officially stated they are working on an iPlayer iPhone app.

    @Ash. Yes, some features, like Facebook, aren't really needed, but others, like the Tube app, are very useful. I have an iPhone 4 and find it very handy being able to check things like train/tube delays and being able to surf the web when I'm out and about.

  • Comment number 88.

    Nokia have lost the plot in recent years. Back in Feb I bought an N900. Now, don't get me wrong - it's superb in many ways. Unfortunately, it's awful in an equal measure too.

    You're 100% spot on by saying that it's software that makes or breaks a device. The N900's hardware, IMO, is excellent but the Maemo 5 operating system is just a waste of space most of the time. Yesterday they released an update to it, but are yet again making the UK wait for no apparent reason. In any case, I'm not holding my breath as the last big update was just a big disappointment!

    It'll be interesting to see what they do with MeeGo, but I think it's too late for them to salvage my custom when I next replace my phone - it'll almost certainly be an Android device for me. But a lot can change between now and Feb 2012 when I'm next due an upgrade!

  • Comment number 89.

    Unfortunately, this comparison was symptomatic of the anti-Nokia, anti-Symbian sentiment out there.

    If you wanted to be totally fair, a good test would be to see which phone/OS gave the best free voice navigation out of the box; that would be the N8, as no other manufacturer provides such a service for free.

    It is very easy to sit there and think of a particular task which will a. make one device look good and b. make another device look bad, especially when it's clear that the person doing the comparison does NOT know how to use a particular device.

    There are many smartphone owners who have no interest in uploading photos (especially if the photos are rubbish, which is the case with many smartphones) but do want to put their phone to better use; complaining that you "can't easily upload to facebook" is totally irrelevent to many people, myself included.

    A better test would have been to see how the phones hang on to a signal in a weaker area when held in the hand without a case, unless you don't want to make the iPhone 4 look bad, in which case this is one test you don't want to do...

  • Comment number 90.

    @ 89. At 4:16pm on 26 Oct 2010, ian wrote:

    "If you wanted to be totally fair, a good test would be to see which phone/OS gave the best free voice navigation out of the box; that would be the N8, as no other manufacturer provides such a service for free."

    They do. Google provide free voice, turn by turn navigation as part of their Google Maps service with many additional layers and helpful information on top.

  • Comment number 91.


    Totally agree, the WebOS platform used on the Pre is amazing, its no wonder Apple rushed to copy loads of its functionality for the Iphone 4.

    I also love that Palm allow users to change the way their phones work by use of patches made by home developers. If you can find/write a patch you can make the phone operate exactly how you would like it to and it may be completely bespoke form another phone running the same software. While its now possible to do similar on the Iphone (as long as its been jailbroken) it still leaves me wondering why Apple always get the applause for ideas they have copied from elsewhere, multitasking for example!

    Am looking forward to WebOS 2.0 at the moment, its looking very slick!


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