The mobile phone market is a fast changing one, it was barely 10 years ago that Nokia released its 8310, one of the smallest mobile phones ever mass produced. Oh how things have changed since then.
Back when Nokia, Siemens and Ericsson were dominant manufacturers it would have been hard to imagine things as they are today. But as technology improved and consumers started demanding more from their phones, those old timers struggled to keep up and so the market was opened for someone else to take the helm. Taiwan’s HTC were arguably the first manufacturer to pick up the slack, and here in the UK Orange started offering HTC’s Windows powered SPV “smartphones” in the early 2000s.
Since then Apple’s iPhone has taken the world by storm, Taiwan’s Acer, ASUS and more recently Gigabyte have joined the market, Sony bought the rights to the Sony Ericsson brand, Google bought out Motorola Mobility, South Korea’s Samsung has risen to become one of the biggest mobile phone manufacturers in the world and LG are soon to be propelled into the limelight too when the Google / LG Nexus is released.
There’s no shortage of choice if you’re in the market for a premium smartphone, but one thing remains the same between all of these manufacturers – their top of the range mobile phones cost a hell of a lot of money.
This has opened a new gap in the market, one which China’s ZTE and Huawei have been trying to fill. Over the past couple of years in the UK we’ve seen a similar scenario to the Orange/HTC one of 2002, with providers like Orange, Vodafone and Virgin rebranding entry/mid level ZTE and Huawei Android smartphones at a much lower cost to their Samsung and HTC counterparts. Although it’s still early days for these brands in this country, the combination of some seriously bad press for both firms, and a lack of any earth shatteringly high end devices may stifle their mainstream success in our part of the world.
But if you’re willing to look further afield there may be another answer for power hungry customers on a budget. About a year ago a domestic Chinese brand named Xiaomi released their debut phone in China, the MI-One. You’d be forgiven for not having heard of it since it was never released outside of China, but Xiaomi aren’t just another dime-a-dozen phone maker like those you might see on DX. The Mi-One is (or was when it was released) a very high end Snapdragon S3 Android smartphone running Xiaomi’s own MIUI theme. Manufactured at Foxconn and Yinhuada it was briefly available in stores like Lightake and Ownta, but local demand for the phone was so high that it became very hard to get hold of. The local price of this phone was just ~$310.
Fast forward to Summer 2012 and Xiaomi are back to work creating their second device. The Mi-Two (aka Mi2 or M2 or Xiaomi Phone 2) is due to be released in late October or early November and unfortunately it will be another phone that doesn’t leave China unless you order one directly. But ordering one directly may be something you’d be tempted into after reading its specs. The phone is a monstrosity of bleeding edge technology, sporting a Quad Core 1.5GHZ Qualcomm APQ8064, 2GB of RAM, Adreno 320 GPU, 4.3″ 720p IPS display, 2000mah battery (with a slightly thicker 3000mah option), a camera apparently capable of filming at 90fps in 720p(!), and all of the other bells and whistles you would expect from a top of the line device. Xiaomi recently put up a limited supply of prototype units for sale to people willing to test for bugs, so it looks like they really are taking the phone seriously. The local price? ~$320, or ~£200 for any fellow Englishmen reading. You can read the full phone specification here and see some benchmark results here. And there are a collection of Chinese language demo videos on Youtube for your perusal.
Xiaomi aren’t the only ones though, Oppo and Meizu have their own highly specced phones too. The dual core Meizu MX has been available for a while, and whilst it seems to be a nice phone, the hardware is similar to that of the old Samsung Galaxy SII and the price doesn’t really reflect this use of older technology. There is also a quad core version of this phone available, a review of which you can read over at Engadget, but at roughly £300 it’s at the higher end of “budget” for sure.
Oppo’s Finder lays claim to the worlds thinnest smartphone at barely over 6mm thin, and although the specs are a comparatively mediocre affair I did find this highly amusing video of a DIY maniac using it to hammer nails into a plank of wood.
and a video demonstration of it here.
This one looks to be around £400, which is barely budget, but I thought I’d include it here for completeness sake as I believe the Meizu, Oppo and Xiaomi are three of the best phones out of China currently.
My ageing HTC Desire needs replacing, and I am very tempted to replace it with the Xiaomi Mi2 when it’s available. I’d be interested to hear if anyone else is keeping their eye on this one, and even better if anyone has managed to snag one of the prototypes I’d love to hear your impressions.
P.S. Sorry that this isn’t about gaming machines, but it’s been a little quiet on that front recently. Somebody needs to give JXD and Yinlips a shake.