The tech gift guide: Smartphones for all

6 Dec 2012

The holiday season is upon us, and for those of you seeking the best tech gifts for under the Christmas tree, you’ve come to the right place. Considering the booming smartphone growth Ireland has seen over the past year, we expect plenty will have one of these gadgets on their Christmas wish lists. But which one to choose?

First things first, if you want to ensure you get the device you want this Christmas, there are ways of dropping a not-so subtle hint. O2 has redesigned its online shop to include a new ‘Hint Hint’ feature, which sends an email so you can let someone know exactly what you’d like to see in your stocking this Christmas.

O2 are also giving away a free €25 gift card for Elverys Sports, A|Wear or Easons with selected prepay phones over €129, while eMobile are offering an accessories starter pack for new smartphones for €19.99. Each pack includes a premium leather flip case, screen protector and car charger.

For n00bz

Some people will probably get their first smartphone for Christmas 2012, and not everyone wants to dive straight in with a high-spec device. Luckily, for just €79 (or free with certain operator plans), you can pick up a Sony Xperia Tipo – an ideal smartphone for novices.

This basic Android Ice Cream Sandwich handset comes with everything a new smartphone user will need, without overwhelming them with new features to become accustomed to. You can even get one in a Christmassy shade of red exclusively from eMobile.

Sony Xperia Tipo

Another smartphone suitable for beginners is the Samsung Galaxy S III Mini, available from eMobile, Meteor, Three and Carphone Warehouse at about €59 or free with certain operator plans. The little sister to Samsung’s flagship smartphone, the S III Mini sports a 4-inch WVGA Super AMOLED display, a 5MP rear camera and an NFC chip. It runs on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, contains a dual-core 1GHz processor and features many new Samsung technologies introduced with the S III to optimise the user experience.

Samsung Galaxy S III Mini

For adventurers

Smartphones can be delicate devices, but not all users are going to treat theirs with kid gloves. If you’re picking up a smartphone for a wayward adventurer, you might want to go for a rugged handset, like the ‘life-proof’ and durable Motorola Defy Mini (from €129.99), or you could opt for better specs with the (pricier at around €260) Sony Xperia Go – though we’re more likely to refer to it as water-resistant than waterproof.

Sony Xperia Go

For creative types

Samsung have released a number of devices in 2012 that target creative types – those that need a handset that can enable them to do far more than just make calls, send texts and browse the internet.

Take the Samsung Galaxy Beam, for instance. This smartphone comes with a built-in 15 lumens projector capable of beaming 780p HD movies up to 50 inches wide on any given surface. If that floats your boat, you can pick one up on the Vodafone MyWay Complete Plus plan at €65 per month.

Samsung Galaxy Beam

But if multitasking and copious note-taking is what you’re looking for, then the Samsung Galaxy Note II might be the smartphone to float your boat. This enlarged smartphone, or ‘phablet’ as we’ve come to know it, features a 5.5-inch display and a stylus for additional input and control options, and users can have up to three apps open on-screen at once. Vodafone has the titanium grey model from €49.99 to €349.99 depending on the plan selected.

Samsung Galaxy Note II

For power users

Then, of course, we have the big ones. This year’s most in-demand smartphones; the ones with specs and features bursting out of every well-designed pore. For Android, the Samsung Galaxy S III was this year’s darling, and you can pick one up in titanium grey exclusively at Three from €49. I think Android has a new king, though, which comes in the form of the recently released HTC One X+ – my favourite phone of 2012.

HTC One X+

HTC are also onto a winner for Windows Phone users, with the HTC Windows Phone 8X. If you’re buying for a Windows Phone user and they like this device half as much as our own Adam Renardson, you’ll have a happy Christmas indeed. Available from Three, Meteor, O2 and Carphone Warehouse, this phone will set you back nothing up front or up to €529.99 depending on where you buy and what plan you select.

And then, of course, there is the iPhone 5, possibly this year’s biggest release and, in my opinion, the best Apple offering to date (as long as you ignore the mess that is Apple Maps). Depending on the specs or contract you choose and where you decide to buy, an iPhone 5 will set you back anything from zero to pay up front up to about €600.

iPhone 5

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic