|How We Tested|
One of the most subjective tests of them all, testing cell phones is never easy. Specifications can be noted down, but there are just so many impressions, so many facets of a cell phone that cannot be numerically represented. We received 47 cell phones for testing. These ranged from the very basic phones to the high-end PDA's, with prices ranging from Rs 2,500 to Rs 60,000. Now that is a very large price band, which is impossible to compare head-to-head.
To start off, we divided the cell phones into 5 categories, based on price and features. First, we classified the basic and mid-end phones into two different groups, with the basic group consisting of phones up to Rs 5,500. The mid-end phones were those that cost between Rs 6,000 and Rs 10,000. These categories were considered budget categories, and the weightage was on basic features and functionality here.
The phones that cost between Rs 10,000 and Rs 22,000 were considered the feature-rich and multimedia cell phones, these were awarded points for expansion, multimedia playback, presence of a camera and its quality, as well as the functionality. In case some phones lacked basic features, we were more severe with our point deductions-after all, a costly phone should have all the features of a cheaper model, and more.
The phones that fell under the Lifestyle category weren't pitted against each other, because of the fact that people who buy such phones are looking to make a fashion statement, and such tastes are very personalised. The phones that made it into this category, did so because of their sheer flaunt value.
The Business category was made up of five phones that offered PDA-like functionality, such as the ability to create and edit office documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) and PDF files.
We tested all the phones for their ergonomics and ease of use, if there were any quirks-such as a hard keypad, un-intutive menu structures, etc.-were noted down, and points were deducted. Even finer nuances, such as the body structure, build quality, keypad backlighting, etc., was all taken into account. The actual phones were tested for menu layout, and ease of use of the features present, besides the usual signal quality and integrity tests, which were carried out simply by dialing the mobile from a landline number, the mobile was carried around to places of weak reception and the voice quality was judged and points awarded. The final score was the aggregate of the max and min signal areas.
The feature-rich category was also tested specifically for camera quality, multimedia playback quality, screen quality, as well as additional functions such as ability to work with office documents. These phones were also awarded points for the expandability they provided. The usual gamut of signal reception tests were also carried out.
The Lifestyle series were also put through the same rigorous testing procedures as the others, but they weren't pitted against each other. Any peculiarities were however noted, and in case of any essential functionality found lacking, this was included in the article.
Finally the PDA/business category of phones, these were tested for office productivity and connectivity like Wi-Fi, the regular multimedia tests done on the feature rich phones wasn't carried out on this category simply because the target audience for such phones will not be likely to go on a photo clicking spree. However music and video playback was tested, as well as the usual call and voice clarity tests.
|SYMBIAN Or NOT|
|"Symbian is addictive", said a user, very recently on a popular forum. What is Symbian? Symbian is the operating system used by most smartphones these days. This replaces the typical firmware, with an actual OS, which supports installation and removal of compatible applications, to improve usability and productivity of the cellphone.
There are different series of operating systems for different phones. The Symbian 60, 80 and 90 series are open-ended platforms used exclusively by Nokia. Similar is the Symbian UIQ platform used by Sony Ericsson, for their high-end P series smartphones. Some bestselling examples of Symbian devices are the Nokia 7650, 6600, 6630, 7710, N70, and Sony Ericsson's P800, 900 and 910 cellphones.
Symbian based smartphones could very well replace the PDA in the near future. A typical 'road warrior' manager, has to be productive in office as well as in the back seat of a taxi. To do so he typically needs three gadgets, his laptop, his PDA and his cell phone. While on the move, a laptop becomes an encumbrance of sorts, and could actually hinder productivity. The PDA typically alleviates this problem, while losing out on the ability to stay connected. This is where the cell phone, or rather smart cell phone scores.
One of the major reasons why Symbian enjoys advantages like much speedier interface and improved security over even a PDA OS like MS Windows Mobile, is the use of the Symbian C development platform as compared to the .NET framework that Windows Mobile uses. With support for features like multi-threading, memory protection and pre-emptive multitasking Symbian is not only faster, but more robust for day to day mobile needs also.
One of the reasons for insufficient penetration of Symbian in the handheld market is the dearth of Symbian C programmers. The learning curve of Symbian C is such that even C and Java professionals have to spend a lot of time learning its ins and outs. This isn't the case with Windows Mobile as the .NET development environment is very programmer friendly. Another limitation of Symbian is that the OS was designed for use on the ARM series of processors.
One of its biggest merits is the support for third party applications. The Symbian OS is so flexible that keeping a series in mind applications can and have been developed for use on Symbian phones. The best possible example is perhaps the Nokia 6600, one of the first series 60 smartphones. Applications developed for it range from Web browsers to even applications that allow your cell phone to act as a remote control for certain TVs and DVD players. In fact, more applications were developed for Symbian OS phones than all other OS-based cell phones combined! Symbian has another very significant advantage-it's very stable, more so than Windows Mobile, and infinitely more so than firmware phones, which are prone to errors and freezeups.
We must also keep in mind that Symbian was designed not for high-end PDAs but for handheld devices with limited resources, (like smartphones), this makes Symbian the near perfect platform for multimedia phones and smartphones.