Despite Apple's (and then Google's) attempts to quosh the humble wired 3.5mm audio jack on modern smartphones (and copied by many others), plenty of decent smartphones are still sold with jacks and with DACs feeding whatever wired headphones you care to plug in. Potentially higher quality, and certainly no issues with drained batteries or lost AirPods (etc.) In this update of an article from 18 months ago, I test some of the 'jacked up' smartphones that I've had in for testing in 2020. Any conclusions, any winners?
Recent Features - Android
A few days ago I pitched the new Sony Xperia 5 ii against the familiar Lumia 950 XL and I did promise an imaging head to head at the time. This is lockdown Britain and weather conditions haven't been ideal, but I do have enough comparison images and crops below to be able to deliver thoughts and a verdict. Tldr? The Xperia 5 ii wasn't quite as impressive as the specs and hype would suggest.
Cross posted here to AAS as well, because the Sony Xperia 5 ii is possibly the Android phone that most closely matches how I'd hope a classic Nokia smartphone would have turned out after half an extra decade of evolution. Think of it, perhaps, as a modern day Nokia N8 or how the Lumia series might have ended up if it gone down the multi-camera route. From display to multimedia to overall performance, the Xperia 5 ii is a bit special. Here's my initial impressions and specs round-up, watch this space for an imaging head to head as well.
Something a little different here, with a three way test - just because I have the very latest from Google and Apple here. Pitched against the classic Lumia 950 (from 2015), because this is AAWP, after all, I've taken a number of test scenes in all light conditions - which will be the purest of PureView cameras? Do note that the 'big one' on the iPhone 12 imaging front is November's 12 Pro Max, so that'll have its own camera showdown in due course...
It's a fair cop, the Lumia 950/XL wasn't the very first smartphone (or indeed device of any kind) to use USB Type C, but it was in the first handful. A 'LeTV' phone got there first, a few months earlier, then the Google Nexus 5X and 6P pipped the Lumias by a month. But, for a change, back in 2015, Microsoft's Lumias were just about on the cutting edge. And now Type C is back in the headlines, controversially so, though the adjective 'courageous' is possibly apt... this time around.
A week ago I compared the relatively small, brand new £350 Pixel 4a to the favourite Lumia 950, with quite a bit in common - now I do the same at a larger scale to the 4a's sister device, the (still mid-priced) 4a 5G, more equivalent in feel and size to the larger 950 XL. The Pixel 4a 5G goes get several component upgrades, mind you, over the smaller 4a, see the specifications below, and ends up hitting the sweet spot for most people, I think. Just the lack of Qi charging stands between this device and perfection at the price. Video review coming very soon!
It's true that I've done a fair number of shootouts that include Google Pixels in the past - and the hardware here is the same as the main camera on the last few generations - but the software continues to be tweaked and, besides, the Pixel 4a is brand new to the UK (and compared generally to the Lumia 950 here), so why not pitch it against the natural single-lensed competitor from the Windows world? Neither of these camera set-ups are as flexible as the triple-lensed solutions available elsewhere, but they both still take great as-is photos...
I last gave some smartphone choices in February 2020, but a lot has changed in the last seven months! I've pitched this as my top picks for smartphones to replace a Lumia 950/930 or perhaps an IDOL 4 Pro or Elite x3, going forwards into 2021 as Windows 10 Mobile is now long unsupported and as services gradually start to wind down. I've tested just about everything on the market and here's my updated verdict in terms of functionality, future viability, and value for money. Four of the five are new from the last selection!
The POCO X3 (NFC) - to use its full title - is the mid-range smartphone of the moment, offering flagship features in most cases, at under £200 (for the 64GB version), brand new and inclusive of VAT, in the UK. It's a stunning phone and I featured it last week in a head to head with the Lumia 950 XL, by way of something AAWP-relevant to compare it to. But imaging was an unknown at that point. So, how good is a £200 2020 Android phone's camera system compared to the champion/classic from 2015?
It's brand new and it sets new boundaries for high specifications and low price in the smartphone world. £199 (inc VAT) for the 'POCO X3 (NFC)' in the UK is all it costs to get something which all but competes with other smartphones costing three times its price. But where are the compromises, if any, and how does this Android newcomer compare with the classic Lumia 950 XL, still the benchmark for many here on AAWP?