Which? Mobile 2010 Awards

by , Phones 13/12/2010
Which Mobile awards

As the year draws to a close Which? Mobile takes a look back at an eventful 12 months in mobile. Who screwed-up the worst? Who filed the most lawsuits? Find out in the Which? Mobile 2010 Awards.

Best comeback

Winner: Microsoft, Windows Phone 7

Ok, so Microsoft’s launch of Windows Phone 7 was relatively low key. But the operating system itself is a massive step in the right direction for the software giant, which has spent the last few years pushed into irrelevancy by the likes of Apple and Google. Next year will be a crucial one for Microsoft, and could see the beginnings of its re-emergence as a major player in the industry.

Biggest mobile phone fail

Winner: Apple, ‘antenna gate’

The iPhone 4’s antenna problem probably didn’t quite merit the level of media coverage that it got, but it did spark off one of the best press conferences we’ve ever seen, with CEO Steve Jobs managing to peeve off a number of manufacturers by claiming their phones all have the same problem. The aftermath of ‘antennagate’ saw a top Apple exec lose his job, but tellingly no real damage to iPhone 4 sales.

 

Sony Ericsson Vivaz

Sony Ericsson Vivaz

Best feature phone

Winner: Sony Vivaz

The Sony Ericsson Vivaz is at the very high-end of the feature phone category and manages to pack a quality 8.1Mp camera and music player, as well as 3G and wi-fi connectivity. However, with a new breed of budget Android smartphones proving extremely popular, the feature phone is a slowly dying breed.

Most expensive phone

Winner: Stuart Hughes-designed iPhone4

Five hundred diamonds, gold plating and a five million pound price tag, makes this iPhone 4 surely one of the most lavish and expensive handsets in history. We’re pretty sure all that customised bling has invalidated the warranty and for five million pounds you could have probably hired Steve Jobs to personally fix the antenna problem himself.

Most inventive mobile phone TV advert

Winner: LG Optimus 7

LG aren’t exactly known for their inventive mobile phones, but this kooky ad for its Windows Phone-powered Optimus 7 wins the best mobile phone TV ad by a wide margin in our books. Who knew a phone could kick so much ass?

Best smartphone operating system

Winner: Android

Although Windows Phone 7 grabbed most of the headlines in the latter half of the year, 2010′s major success story has been Google’s Android, which has gone from strength-to-strength since its roll out last year. Market growth of Android phones has been explosive, and unless Nokia starts to get its act together it looks like Google is all set to dominate the budget smartphone space.

 

Best smartphone

Winner: iPhone 4

Despite the antenna problems, it’s very hard to give the award for the best smartphone of 2010 to anything other than the iPhone 4. The original iPhone pretty much set the standard for what a smartphone should do and whether it’s web-browsing, apps or multimedia, the iPhone 4 continues to lead the way.

Weirdest phone feature

Winner: JCB Floating phone

We’ve seen a number of waterproof phones in the past, but the JCB Toughphone is the first floating phone we’ve come across – perfect for making hands-free phone calls while in the bath. A weird but, we guess, welcome development in mobile phone technology.

The lawsuit-filer of the year award

Winner: Nokia

The mobile phone industry is currently bogged-down in patent lawsuits, with nearly every big name manufacturer allegedly indulging in patent infringement. But when The Guardian compiled a chart of ‘who’s suing who’ the level of this legal quagmire was truly exposed. With 8 lawsuits currently filed against everyone from Apple to Motorola, Nokia was the most sue-happy company of the year.

 

Alcatel-OT-808

The Alcatel 808 – make-up case or phone?

Ugliest phone of 2010

Winner: Alcatel 808

Oh dear, poor Alcatel. The 808 really does set new standard of ugliness in the mobile phone world. We can only guess that a focus group full of 14-year old girls are to blame, but you would think that, being a French company, Alcatel would know something about style…

Executive rant of the year award

Winner: Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs is never one to shy away from confrontation. Back in October the Apple CEO conducted an epic 5 minute rant against Google and BlackBerry makers RIM, concluding with the claim that 7 inch tablets are “useless unless you include sandpaper so users can sand their fingers down to a quarter of their size.” The best thing about the rant? Apparently Jobs was eating a sandwich while doing it. What a guy.

Best mobile phone product placement

Winner: ?

Everyone may be talking about the Nokia N8’s multiple appearances in Tron, but this year saw an even more audacious example of cinematic mobile phone product placement. A manufacturer managed to travel back in time and get its phone featured in a 1930s Charlie Chaplin film. Unfortunately the picture quality isn’t good enough to reveal who was behind the stunt, but we reckon Apple is the only company ballsy enough to tamper with the space-time continuum.

Cheapest phone

Winner: Alcatel OT-209

At 99p The Alcatel OT-209, as far as we can tell, is the cheapest mobile phone around. It won’t win any awards for its specs or looks, but for the price of the diamond-encrusted iPhone 4 above, you could buy 5 million OT-209s. And you know what that means? Yep, a house made out of phones.

Best ‘dumbphone’

Winner: Nokia C3

Not many phones offer a Qwerty keyboard, Mp3 player and wi-fi for under £50, but the C3 shows that Nokia still knows how to keep the lower-end of the market happy.

John's Phone frontBest really really ‘dumbphone’

Winner: John’s Phone

We can’t decide whether the pencil and paper contacts book is supposed to be ironic, but we do like the gall of  releasing a mobile phone that can’t even send a text message. John’s Phone is like some weird protest against the current smartphone explosion – all you can do is call, receive calls and hang up.

Biggest disappointment

Winner: Nokia N8

When we unboxed the Nokia N8 and held it in our cynical little hands we felt a flash of hope: ‘perhaps this really is a new beginning for Nokia’, ‘maybe the N8 really can take on the iPhone’. We liked the weight, the feel, the design… and then we turned it on. Despite its expertise in hardware, Nokia’s Symbian operating system is still the elephant in the room and if Nokia wants to challenge Android and the iPhone next year it will have to radically rethink its gameplan.

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9 comments

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Mark, London

You make some interesting points and I have no objection to the inclusion of a few intentionally humorous remarks. But is it really necessary to pad the article with quite so much trendy American slang, and business jargon?

For example:

…who screwed up the most…who filed the most lawsuits…biggest mobile phone fail…kooky ad….who knew a phone could kick so much ass…unless Nokia starts to get its act together….dominate the budget smartphone space….wierd but, we guess….epic 5 minute rant…what a guy…only company ballsy enough….yep….dumbphone…really dumbphone….is like some weird protest…elephant in the room…rethink its gameplan…

I don’t mind the occasional trendy word or phrase in an article, but when taken to excess the overall effect becomes jarring. Your piece was written in the language of the management consultant and the American teenager. I could be wrong but I suspect the vast majority of Which? readers don’t speak like this.

I have been a Which? subscriber for over 30 years and until quite recently it has always been a British publication written for a mostly British readership in clear, plain English.

Or, what I’m really trying to say is:

…you Which? guys like so totally need to pump yo’ brakes on this awesome new terminology thing (not!) because you’ve just jumped the shark and if you don’t leverage your legacy base going forward you’re toast and you know what I’m outta here!

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Sheila Drake

I couldn’t agree more with Mark’s comment. On reading the article I thought it was a slightly embarrassing attempt to compete with the free, comprehensive reviews available online – or possibly ‘The Gadget Show’. Dumbing down from a most unexpected quarter!

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Christopher@Which?

Thanks for your comments Mark, Sheila, Rowland – and constructive criticism. When we launched this blog 3 months ago we wanted to reach out to a wider audience, using a less formal tone and more humour in our posts (given the lack of a pay wall on the blog we’re open to a much more international audience). But of course we don’t want to alienate our traditional readership. It’s a learning process for us, and we’re keen to strike the right balance – with your help we can do that. So please stick with us!

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Simon Birch

I bought the Nokia N8 phone a month ago having waited in vain for a long time for a full review from Which? Even now, several months after its launch, you still appear to have just the ‘First Look’ review on the site along with the Desire HD. Now the Nokia N8 appears in your 2010 awards with a conclusion about the Symbian 3 without even the results of your own testing of this phone being published yet. Unless I’ve missed something, shouldn’t you improve your own operating system before you criticise Nokia’s?

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Christopher@Which?

Hi Simon. Really sorry you’ve been waiting for the Nokia N8 review for so long. We’ve had some issues at our lab, which have held our tests up. But thankfully the results are now in and our N8 and HD Desire reviews will hopefully (hopefully) be online by the end of this week.

Our above views on Symbian^3 are based on around 3 or 4 days of practical use, away from the lab. We’re not saying the N8 is a terrible phone, but given the amount of hype surrounding the handset – and given our high hopes – we found it’s operating system quite disappointing.

As an N8 owner, what do you think of the phone?

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Simon Birch

Hi Christopher, thanks very much for your quick response which I appreciate. I bought the N8 as I had noticed the very favourable review that the Nokia Xpress 5800 had received (your top best buy) which is now becoming dated. This is the first time that I have bought a smartphone and previous phones have been budget models (just about all Nokia except for a Sendo). I have found the operating Symbian system adequate and have had no real complaints about it. Then again, I am new to smartphones. However, I get the impression that those who have experienced phones with Android or iphone systems have been frustrated by Symbian feeling that it is a step down. I guess it could boil down to expectation and this should be reflected in reviews of operating systems. Interestingly, your positive view of the Nokia Express 5800 did not seem to be shared by other magazine reviewers but your analysis seemed more thoughtful and measured. Rather than focussing entirely on matters such as operating system, touch screen and the other more ‘cool’ criteria it looked also at its hardware including its apparently impressive sound quality. So without a full review of the N8 I went ahead and bought it as the hardware matters more to me than software. The software can always be replaced or updated in the future but the hardware is what a phone is really about and will always define it.

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Christopher@Which?

Hi Simon, yes I think you nailed it when it comes to Symbian^3 – it depends on your expectations. For someone who hasn’t experienced the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, then Symbian^3’s flaws may not be immediately apparent.

When it comes to hardware Nokia makes great phones – which is why they frequently score highly in our tests. But Nokia is rapidly losing ground to Apple, Google and RIM in the smartphone market. This is largely because they’ve been struggling with Symbian and the Ovi app store, while the iPhone and Android goes from strength-to-strength (after all Apple and Google have historically been far more software-focused). In fact Nokia had to dissolve the Symbian Foundation last month due to manufacturers, such as Sony Ericsson, abandoning the OS in favour of Android.

I was hoping that, with the N8, Nokia would come out fighting and address all the criticisms over Symbian. But while they made a solid handset (great camera, sound quality etc), Symbian^3 still lags behind its peers, which is why it was such a disappointment.

Hopefully things will get better, Nokia will be releasing a brand new OS next year, in cooperation with Intel, called Meego. It’s also trying hard to simplify app development, which should result in more apps appearing on the Ovi Store (more info here: http://blogs.which.co.uk/mobile/smartphones/nokia-simplifies-symbian/).

Most of the people criticising Symbian^3 (including me) are doing it from the basis of having used Android or an iPhone for some time. I’d be really interested to hear if anyone has been using an N8 and then gone on to use an iPhone or Android phone, and what they thought.

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Simon Birch

Hi Christopher, thanks for the info and link. I’d be very interested to see the Nokia OS updates next year (if they come about as suggested – sounds like Nokia are becoming a bit desperate now!). Further to your interesting suggestion to other users, it would be great if Which? tried the various operating systems out on some members of the public (of varying mobile phone experience) to get a vox pop as with some of your other popular category (as opposed to expert) surveys.

I’ve tried your link and it is giving me a ’404′ error. Would you give me the updated link?

Something I forgot to suggest in my last post is that where you have a ‘First Look’ review it would be great if there was an estimated date of the full review given with it (updated when necessary) to manage expectation.

Thanks

Simon

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Christopher@Which?

Hi Simon. Sorry, here’s the link again

http://blogs.which.co.uk/mobile/smartphones/nokia-simplifies-symbian/

Both of your suggestions are really good ones, especially the one on estimated review dates – we’ll look into that immediately.

As an aside, one of the reasons we are a bit slow at getting our phone reviews live is because – unlike other review sites – we don’t accept review samples from manufacturers, which are usually sent out early to the press. We always buy the phones ourselves when they hit retail. Plus we send all our handsets to an external lab for testing, which again slows things down. This isn’t to excuse the N8 and Desire HD’s late reviews, they unfortunately suffered at the hands of ‘unforeseen circumstances’!

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