The tech gift guide: smartphones for all, from silver surfers to power users

15 Dec 2013

Smartphones are tipped to be a top gift this Christmas – but how do you pick the right one? Check out our guide to the year’s best smartphones for a variety of users, from the demanding power user to the silver surfer.

Best for bling: iPhone 5s

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a bit of sparkle and your smartphone gift will have some glitz if it’s the iPhone 5s gold edition, which has the substance to match its style.

Available SIM-free from €699 up to €899 depending on storage capacity (16GB, 32GB or 64GB), the 5s features Apple’s new Touch ID fingerprint identity sensor, plus a 64-bit A7 processor for faster CPU and graphics performance and an M7 motion co-processor to handle specific tasks, making the device more power-efficient.

The 8MP iSight camera comes with a larger sensor than previous models and a wider f2.2 aperture, and it’s capable of shooting slow-motion video.

iPhone 5s gold

Best for power users: Xperia Z1

For a powerful smartphone that can withstand the daily grind, Sony’s Xperia Z1 is the way to go. It’s water and dust-resistant so you don’t have to be precious about it, and its 3,000mAh battery in conjunction with its power-saving Battery Stamina mode gives you long-lasting usage from a single charge.

The most striking aspect of the Z1 is its 5-inch display that incorporates Sony’s Triluminos Display for Mobile technology and the X-Reality for Mobile engine for vibrant, clear picture at a resolution of 1,080 x 1,920 pixels. Though the size can take some getting used to, viewing content on this stunning display makes the adjustment worthwhile.

What’s more, you also get one of the best smartphone cameras on the market (narrowly beaten by the Lumia 1020, below). The Z1’s 20.7MP rear camera makes use of components used in Sony’s compact digital cameras to capture great photographs and HD video. There are also a number of unique camera apps to have fun with, like visual search using Info-eye and live broadcasting on Facebook using Social Live.

Sony Xperia Z1

The Xperia Z1 is 4G-ready and features a 2.2GHz Qualcommm Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor, 2GB RAM and up to 16GB storage (plus a micro-SD slot for 64GB more). It’s available in black, white and purple from free on contract from Three, Carphone Warehouse, eMobile, Meteor, O2 and Vodafone.

Best for photo fanatics: Lumia 1020

With a 41MP sensor, you simply can’t find a better smartphone camera than that on Nokia’s Lumia 1020. In fact, the camera on this device is so important that it almost takes over, giving you what looks like a smartphone-camera hybrid.

Nokia Lumia 1020

The bulge on the back of this Windows Phone 8 handset packs six lenses and the camera is capable of high-resolution zoom. Using the Nokia Pro Camera app, users can capture high-resolution images with manual controls for focus, white balance, ISO, shutter speed and exposure.

Captured images are stored in two ways: the large, full-resolution files are uploaded to SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud facility, while a smaller version is stored on the phone for easier sharing. A 64GB model provides plenty of space for all these snaps and the handest is available from O2 from free on bill pay or €639.99 on pre-pay.

Best for silver surfers: Doro Liberto 810

Swedish phone-maker Doro makes handsets targeted at senior users who want to stay connected with modern technology. The new Doro Libero 810 is an Android 4.1 smartphone made just for these silver surfers to help overcome the digital divide this Christmas.

This easy-to-use device is Doro’s second smartphone and comes with the likes of Google Play, Search, Maps, YouTube and Gmail pre-loaded, plus a year’s free licence for AVG AntiVirus PRO v3.3 for Android.

Doro Liberto 810

The Liberto 810 features three physical keys for Home, Menu and Back, and the Android operating system is overlaid with Doro’s own user interface to make it simpler to use. The touchscreen keypad is powered by SwiftKey so it can adapt to the way the user types and large, clear icons are used for easy navigation.

A soft-touch coating provides a better grip while the 1,500mAh battery offers up to 11 hours’ talk time. The 5MP rear camera is equipped with a flash and capable of video recording. The 4-inch display has a resolution of 800 x 480 and contrast and font size can be adjusted as needed.

Doro mobiles are available in Ireland from O2, Tesco, Meteor, eMobile, Harvey Norman, Postfone and, as of recently, sight-loss charity NCBI.

Best all-rounder: HTC One

Finally, just about the best smartphone you can get this Christmas is the HTC One. Widely acclaimed as the phone of the year, the HTC One was awarded Best New Mobile Device at Mobile World Congress back in February and both Gadget of the Year and Phone of the Year at the T3 Gadget Awards 2013.

Its zero-gap aluminium unibody holding a 4.7-inch full-HD screen is light in your hand, and its front-facing stereo BoomSound speakers have a dedicated amplifier as well as Beats Audio integration to deliver a punch of crystal clear sound.


There’s a front-facing 2.1MP camera and a 4MP rear camera, both capable of capturing 1080p video. The rear camera doesn’t sound like much, but when you add HTC’s UltraPixel technology to maximise each and every pixel, photographs from this phone should rival those from high-spec competitors.

The One also introduced HTC’s all-new live home screen experience, BlinkFeed. HTC struck deals with over 1,400 media sources in order to deliver potentially 10,000 articles a day to the home screen, merged with updates from Facebook, Twitter and other accounts.

The One is available in black and silver, and in blue exclusively from Carphone Warehouse. Alternatively, you could pick up something just short of the phone of the year in the form of the HTC One Mini, a leek and compact device with a 4.3-inch HD screen and aluminium finish.

HTC One in blue

HTC One blue edition, available exclusively from Carphone Warehouse

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic