I want to buy my family fancy new phones for Christmas. I know the iPhone is popular, but I don’t want to get everyone the same gift because I feel that would be boring.
So what phones would you would recommend for a little boy, a surly teenager and a young (at heart) wife and mother?
Alan Jennings, Milton Keynes, via email on 5 December 2011
Thanks for your question Alan. It’s a timely one - smartphones are among this year’s hottest gift ideas, but with so many to choose from it can be difficult to know where to start looking. I’ve put together a guide that should provide some useful pointers. It covers some general age groups and personality types. Hopefully it’s enough to ensure your family have a merry Christmas!
Many parents prefer to give their children a cheap handset with a pay-as-you-go plan, to help them learn about the cost of calling from a mobile. The Nokia 1800 is perfect for this purpose. Cheap and cheerful is a pretty accurate description. It’s basic as phones go these days, offering basic call and texting services, but it’s solidly made and easy to use.
The great thing about the Motorola DEFY+ is that it’s ruggedised, which basically means it can take a beating and still work. A sturdy phone like this is attractive because, let’s face it, young kids can be rather destructive. Their day to day lives are packed with hazards for their poor phones - devices can be dropped on playgrounds, knocked around while kids are playing or splashed with food and drink to name but three. The DEFY+ is built to be a survivor, making it a good choice for children.
HTC 7 Trophy
The HTC 7 Trophy, while one of the cheapest HTC phones, is fully featured, making it a good investment. The phone comes with software called “HTC Sense”, which lets parents remotely monitor the location of the device, lock it if necessary, and wipe its memory if it’s lost or stolen. Depending on the network, parents can download parental control applications like Vodafone (www.vodafone.co.uk) Guardian, which blocks kids from accessing specific features, such as access to the internet.
The BlackBerry Torch is a feature-rich smartphone with a quality screen, camera and music player. It also has Blackberry Messenger (BBM), which allows users to send private instant communications to each other - a very popular feature among this age group.
There’s no getting around it - for teenagers, “cool” counts for a lot. And no phone is cooler right now than the Apple iPhone 4S. It has an intuitive interface, a good camera, tons of applications available - including games and social media tools like Facebook - and the ability to download and listen to music.
The sheer range of applications available to download means the iPhone has become a great tool for organising your life. Whatever you need to do, from scheduling meetings to booking trains, there’s likely to be a tool available to help you. Be aware that while some are free, others may cost money. The 4S also comes with Siri - a “virtual” personal assistant. Used by simply speaking into the phone, the Siri software recognises and carries out voice instructions to do things like set reminders or automatically send basic text messages.
BlackBerry is hugely successful in the business world for a reason - they’re great tools for busy people. The Torch is one of the better handsets, combining a touchscreen for easy navigation of the phone’s menus with a slide-down keyboard to make typing easier - it’s a great phone for managing email. BlackBerry offers downloadable applications to help users organise things more efficiently, and while the quantity of software available is markedly lower than in Apple’s App Store, there’s still plenty to choose from.
The Nokia 500 is an entry-level smartphone that packs quite a punch. It’s powerful enough to run most software smoothly, and comes with plenty of attractive features, including a good music player, an FM radio, decent camera and a web browser. The battery life is good for a smartphone too.
HTC Sensation XL
For music fans, phones don’t get better than this. The audio quality is fantastic, especially when coupled with the impressive Beats Audio headphones (high quality headsets endorsed by rapper Dr Dre). Its quality isn’t limited to music - it’s also one of the best Android smartphones available.
Unfortunately, all this aural excellence does come with a cost - literally. It’s rather expensive, and the battery drains annoyingly quickly during heavy use. Even so, if you’re looking for a gift for the music lover in your life, this will have them singing your praises for weeks.
Before the iPhone there was the iPod. When it comes to music, Apple’s a big player, and as you’d expect, the iPhone doesn’t disappoint. It’s easy to add new music through a computer with Apple’s iTunes software, and thousands of songs and music videos are available to download too. Music playback is essentially the same across all iPhone models, so pick the option that suits your budget.
LG Optimus 7
If you’re looking for a gift for a gamer, check to see if they’ve got an Xbox 360 games console. If they have, a phone that uses the Windows Phone 7 operating system - like the LG Optimus 7 - is a good choice, as it allows users to synchronise their phone with their existing Xbox account, and enjoy a unified gaming experience. The list of interactive entertainment available for Windows 7 phones is growing by the day too, so there’s plenty for gamers to get their teeth (or fingers) into.
Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY
Ask a long-time gamer what their biggest problem with smartphone gaming is, and they’ll point to touchscreens. Although great for some games, more traditional games tend to suffer from the lack of physical buttons. That’s where Sony Ericsson’s Xperia PLAY has the edge. It’s “PlayStation Certified”, and has a slide-down control pad specifically for gaming. With a number of original Playstation games already available, it’s a great gift idea for long-term gamers.
I hope that helps, Alan, and, once you’ve decided which handsets you want to get your family for Christmas, compare mobile phone deals with Mobilechoices.co.uk to get the best deal for you.