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Phone Wars 5.5: Entering Phablet Territory

Phone WarsPhone wars 5.5: Entering Phablet Territory

Introduction
Bigger. Better. More bang for the buck. That seems to be the trend of late as all major phone manufacturers are shifting their flagship devices to the ‘5 inch plus screen’ phone category.
Background

From the ‘iPhone’ which was launched in 2007 with a now minuscule 3.5 inch screen, smart phone screen sizes have steadily grown with each passing year. It seemed to stabilize around the ‘5-inch’ mark in 2013 with notable flagships sporting displays in this size range (HTC One (M7), Huawei’s P6 and the LG G 1(Optimus) from the year before, all had screens sized 4.7 inches).
However, shortly after this in August of the same year, the LG G2 pushed the bar with its 5.2 inch display and following its success the HTC One also became available in the ‘5-inch plus’ category with it ‘M9 Plus variant’ and the story goes on from there.
Even Apple wasn’t left out of the fray as the iPhone 6’s 4.7 inch display was an alarming deviation from the 3.5 and 4 inch screens of the iPhones 4,5 respectively and their incremental iterations, the 4s and 5s.
The real stunner however was the iPhone 6 Plus. Apple shocked the world with a true life phablet, establishing 5-inch plus devices not only as increasingly popular, but also relevant.
Today we see an increasing number of entrants into this device range as most phone makers pitch their flagships or top of the line phones in this screen size category (examples are the Samsung Galaxy Note and the Huawei Mate). With improvements in hardware design and reduction in component sizes, phone makers can comfortably shave off ugly bezels from the 5-inch Elder brothers to allow for more screen space and BAM! You have a ‘plus 5-incher’.
Ratio Decidendi
Why would people want bigger screens? We’ve highlighted just one reason:A Larger Working Area
Well, believe it or not ‘5 inch plus’ phones are way more comfortable to use than their 5-inch counterparts. These devices depending on their proximity to the 6-inch mark are actually a comfortable substitute to a Tablet and boy are they a delight for gaming.

This is proven no better than by the iPhone 6 Plus’ cannibalization of the IPad. Many iOS users gleefully ditched their iPads for this big boy as the screen was large enough to do serious work, with the device still fitting into the pocket (hopefully without bending, sorry apple :)).
The name ‘Phablet’(From ‘Phone’ and ‘Tablet’), which is what these category of phones is called reflects how they are supposed to rid the owner of the dilemma of carrying 2 devices, which in many cases they do.
Watching movies or reading on your iPad or even your 7 inch tab is definitely way better than on your phablet, but the average 4.5-5 inch is awkwardly unsuitable for either so the Phablet sports a much welcomed middle zone.
While people complain about the phone not fitting comfortably in one hand (people who have small hands can find using them tacky at first), its obvious advantage in larger screen real estate seems an adequate compensation. After all, no matter how inconvenient it may seem to hold one phablet, it certainly is less arduous than either owning 2 devices(a phone and a tab) or enduring the awkward ordeal of using a tab as a phone(Gosh people look odd putting tabs over their ears :D).
So yes, this device category makes sense, plenty sense.

The Review

Leaving the comfort of the robust background above, the write-up forges ahead into a comparative analysis of this device category, taking all the entries from the Phone makers with adequate representation and support in the Nigerian phone market and pitching them head to head against one another.

Phone Rater 5.5 Table

 

Infinix Zero 3- Batosai…The Giant Slayer
Position: No 1
Score: 73.38%
Pros: Mad Processor (2.0GHz Mediatek Helio X10)
Mad Shooter (20.7 MP Sony sensor)
Cons: Cliché Aesthetics

X552_HD-PICTURE_CHAMPAGNE_FRONT
Infinix’s most recent effort blasts the ceiling off of its competitors, pulling through on raw processing power with its Mediatek Helio X10 Processors clocking in at a deafening 2.0 GHz. It accommodates such computing torque with a roomy 3GB of RAM, giving its animal of a CPU room to operate without lag.
All this machinery is put use in the Camera department with the Zero 3 sporting a stunning 20.7 MP Sony sensor. These cats were not playing when they put this phone together. They meant war! This phone boasts of 4K picture and video recordings.
While the phone wins on its performance features, it scores pretty low in the fundamentals sub category losing points due to Carlcare’s declining customer service experience (10 working days to pick up a device is totally unacceptable). It also sheds considerable points in the ‘beauty’ department because of Infinix’s evident lack of design creativity. The design team seems to have reverted to the Zero one design, only with a bigger screen. So at the first impression it’s like you’ve seen it before, only you haven’t.
Its lack of an AMOLED display like it’s immediate predecessor was also initially a source of concern (it sports an IPS Full HD LCD though), however a wholesome consideration of the other specs of the phone show that Infinix pulled nothing short of a miracle putting this device together as comparable specs are only found in the flagships of well reputed Manufacturers.
All Hail the King!

 

The Gionee M5… The Pretty, Plus sized Lady

Position: No 2
Score: 72.41%
Pros: Huge Battery Life (6,020 mAh)
2 GB Ram
Super AMOLED Display
Cons: Heavy. Weight.

gionee-marathon-m5-1

Before the Zero 3’s release late last year, the Gionee M5 defiantly topped this chart with a battery life that is simply larger than life. Gionee’s commendable quality and the M5’s above par performance features keep it chasing hard on the heels of the Infinix Zero 3 and well ahead of its peers with a battery score that doubles that of every other phone except the Infinix Note 2.

While the rating model doesn’t take into consideration the GUI’s of the phones beyond the OS iteration, Gionee’s interface is so well designed that it is worthy of note.
The Amigo 3.1 is very well done, increasing accessibility by separating Notifications from quick access settings using the ‘slide from the top’ gesture for Notifications and the ‘slide from the gesture’ for quick settings. It also comes loaded with a plethora of High-contrast HD themes to flaunt its super AMOLED display.
The phone itself is a beauty to behold as its face boasts of proper detailing with Chrome trimmings set against a white background(it is available in white) and very slim side bezels. However, it scores low in the Aesthetics and Ergonomics department because of the sheer bulk of its 6020mAh battery which pushes the phone’s weight to an unsexy 212Grams, weighing 33.33% more than its contemporary (the S-Plus) with the same screen size.
Something noteworthy is the fact that the dimensions of the M5 are comparable to a phone with half its battery size (the Gionee S-Plus), with only a 1mm disparity in their width.
This phone aesthetically reminds you of a very pretty plus sized lady and if you don’t mind the weight, it’s worth the buy.

 

The Gionee ELIFE S Plus… Powerful. Beautiful. Balanced.

Position: No 3
Score: 70.86%
Pros: Good Pricing
2 GB Ram
Super AMOLED Display
Cons: Still Checking…

 

gionee-splus_blue_front3_base

Here’s the category favourite. The S Plus excels into the Top 3 Position, not because of superlative performance in any one particular performance feature or sub category. The secret to its success is in a very well rounded performance across all indices. It is the most balanced value offering in the category. Sporting a very good, but not spectacular processor, which clocks in at a decent 1.5GHz across its 4 largest cores, the S Plus is set to deliver enjoyable performance with an ample RAM of 2GB(though there is an international version which has a 3GB RAM, the Nigerian Version is advertised as 2GB and is found to be rightfully so)
In the Aesthetics and Ergonomics sub category the phone also doesn’t do too badly. While it doesn’t have a face as pretty as the M5, the S-Plus is a beauty in in its own right with a 70.4% screen-to-body ratio. It flaunts a delicious HD Super AMOLED display and with Gionee’s reputed Amigo GUI the phone offers a delightful user experience.
While the fact that the side bezels on the screen are discretely concealed (only apparent when the screen is lit up) may not sit too well in the overall appearance, it doesn’t seem to affect the phone’s aesthetic appeal to the point of earning a listing as a ‘con’.

 

Asus Zenfone ZD551KL(The ASUS ‘Selfie’)

Position: No 3
Score: 70.86%
Pros: 13MP Front Camera
3GB RAM
Full HD Display
Cons: Aesthetically Awkward
Pricey

asus-zenfone-selfie-2

Asus’ entry ties in with the Gionee S Plus for 3rd position.
The most obvious feature on this phone is its 13MP front facing camera, hence it is unsurprisingly called the ‘selfie’. From the first glance, Asus leaves no room to wonder what the phone’s priorities are.
The Performance features on the ‘Selfie’ are pretty decent. It surprisingly sports an above par Snapdragon processor, the 615, which clocks in at 1.5 GHz on its 4 fastest cores, and with 3GB of RAM to work with, the ‘Selfie’ isn’t found wanting in the performance department.
While it may be arguably pricey as it is the second most expensive phone on the list, the greater source of concern for this phone would be in the aesthetics department.
With the selfie, ASUS prioritizes function over aesthetics to the point where it may be a source of concern. Apart from the sheer awkwardness of having such a huge sensor in the front of the phone, ASUS exacerbates an already delicate situation by displacing the earpiece from the sacred Centre-top spot, to fit the 13MP shooter and its double LED flash. All In front!
ASUS boldly displays a component on the face of the phone that others are discrete about in a bid to emphasize a feature that other devices do pretty well. It feels a bit superfluous, overkill maybe.
Other phones sport 5MP cameras that are pretty decent, one is therefore left to wonder how much detail a 13MP camera can take in considering the limitations of distance when shooting selfies.
But the phone is in the top 5 because of other things (Thankfully), notably performance and ASUS’s quality support (@ Ensure).

 

The Infinix Note 2(2 GB)

Position: No 5
Score: 70.02%
Pros: Larger Screen Area
2 GB Ram
Good Pricing

Infinix Note 2-2

Cons: Declining Customer Support Quality

This is the largest entry that makes it into the top 5. It is another beautiful entry by the makers of the ‘Zero 3’. It packs the same processor as the Gionee S-Plus, and has a HD display sprawled over 6 diagonal inches. This 2GB RAM version only loses out to the Gionee S Plus because of the S-Plus’ superior AMOLED display, and Carl Care’s declining Customer Service(A 10 working day repair period is totally unacceptable for a computing device of any sort).
However, just like S-Plus, the Infinix Note 2 does everything well and has a very balanced score across all categories.
It’s aesthetics are appealing as the wider viewing area is adequately compensated for by really slim side bezels and it’s availability in Gold, White, Dark Grey and Light blue make it a delight for either gender of users.

 

Honourable Mentions

The Samsung Galaxy J7

Position: No 7
Score: 67%
Pros: Super AMOLED Display
Samsung’s Quality

Cons: 1.5GB RAM?
Cliché Aesthetics(Design Replicates Galaxy Note 2 Exactly)

Samsung Galaxy J7

This phone is meant to be Samsung’s attempt at a Mid-Ranged phone but Nigeria’s declining exchange rate and market forces have forced it up steadily and as at the time of this writing, it cost N70,000. The phone is worthy of mention because it started out(initially priced at N48,000 November last year) as a remarkable attempt by the South-Korean manufacturer at a Mid-Ranged phone and it is noteworthy because of its Processor, an Exynos CPU which clocks in at 1.5GHz and a Super AMOLED HD display. Why Samsung choose to use a 1.5GB RAM on this device is left to them to tell us, but 512MB couldn’t have cost so much more.
Aesthetically it’s boring, it looks like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 reincarnated. It tries to be appealing to behold with a Faux Chrome mid frame, but its still so ‘Samsung-ish’.
All in all, it would definitely have been a force to contend with if it wasn’t so pricey.

Conclusion
It’s pretty awkward that none of the big 6(Samsung, Sony, LG, Sony, HTC, Huawei) feature on the top 5 phones in the Mid range phablet review. This either proves that they reserve phones with comparable specs as these for their High End devices or that the upcoming Phone Makers are the kings of these category.
The Infinix Zero 3 attempts to slays all contenders with it’s top of the line specs, but the Gionees weren’t to be pushed aside with the M5 and S-Plus coming in hard on its heels in 2nd and 3rd position respectively.
Asus’ Selfie is an impressive entry, the huge camera in front  nonetheless, though a bit on the pricey side.

The Big OEM’s need to understand the Nigerian consumer market and the importance of proper pricing. While there’s the dilemma of their having to maintain a consistent price regime globally, the Nigerian Socio-Economic situation is the primary dictator of its Consumer buying patterns. Majority of Nigerians don’t have the flexibility of eased payments available in other markets, most purchases are cash, upfront, thus pricing is very, very important.
Samsung’s attempt in the J7 is commendable (it was released last year at N48,000). But forces of demand and supply steadily etched the price up, the dollar exchange rate hasn’t helped. Hence they are once again without a formidable competitor in this category of mid-ranged phones.

 

At the end of the day, the consumer always wins, there are more than enough entrants in this category to satisfy the most diverse of tastes.

 

Credit: GSMArena.com for Phone Specs and Photos