Welcome to the Coolsmartphone Award Ceremony, coming to you, prerecorded from Coolsmartphone Towers.
Our team of experts (and Simon) got together yesterday and decided on the best and worst bits of 2013 in order to entertain you and reward/shame those responsible. As with all good awards ceremonies we’re leaving the big awards until last, so if you just want to know the winner of the best phone award you can jump to the end, but there’s some interesting stuff coming up, so don’t be too hasty!
Unfortunately we couldn’t get Mick Fleetwood and Samantha Fox, so you’re stuck with me.
Winner – Chromecast
A USB dongle running Android doesn’t sound so hot on the face of it, but Chromecast is an inexpensive media streaming dongle that anyone can write apps for. It’s cheap, easy and the growing number of apps means that there is good developer support as well. All in all, a nice little toy. Shame it’s not officially available in the UK yet…
Honorable Mention – Sony DSC QX-10 and the DSC QX-100 Smart Shots
You could be forgiven for thinking Sony had gone a bit bonkers when it released the Smart Shot cameras. They’re basically a digital camera without a screen that you clip on your existing phone, then pair by way of an app to upgrade the phone camera you already have. OK… Well, that’s what I thought until I played with one. They’re exceptionally well built, they pair easily and are intuitive to use, give proper optical zoom and, best of all, they produce outstanding quality photos on any Android or iOS device.
Winner – Three
There really wasn’t much competition when voting for the best network, and that’s because we’re all data hungry piglets, and Three fills our troughs to the brim! Truly unlimited all you can eat data tariffs at very reasonable prices, plus the promise of access to their 4G network at no extra cost really is like music to the coolsmartphone team’s ears. Of course, if their customer service were bad, or their reception unacceptable then it would be a different story, but 2013 has been a great year for Three, and this award is well deserved.
Winner – Swiftkey
Third party replacement keyboard apps are a big deal on Android, and there’s no bigger name than Swiftkey. This keyboard app that predicts what you’re going to say next has been around for many years, and has just got better and better. This year the big feature they introduced was cloud syncing, so that the profile it ‘learns’ from you on one device can be picked up by another device without having to start the learning process from scratch. This is great for people with an Android phone and tablet or, from a Coolsmartphone perspective, people who change their phones all the time!
Honorable Mention – Candy Crush
Candy crush is a game that’s should have a narcotics classification it’s so addictive. Good fun, but try it at your own risk!
Winner – Motorola
When Motorola was bought by Google a huge swathe of the tech press predicted a Motorola Nexus phone. This hasn’t happened (yet), but after a long period of silence they’ve brought out two fantastic phones in quick succession. The Moto X and Moto G have proved that Motorola are back from the wilderness and if they continue to bring out phones like these then they’re going to be a major player once more.
Honorable Mention – Oppo
I’m to blame for this one. When Oppo released the Find 5 in Europe earlier this year it was the first time anything from the Chinese manufacturer had made it to the UK. I took a punt and bought one of the first to come into the country without seeing it. I was blown away, and everyone who saw it was similarly impressed. Oppo not only make great phones, but the company ethos is different to all others too; whereas most try to lock down their phones and resist the creation of third party ROMs, Oppo encourage it and even provide an app to unlock the phone! This has lead to their partnership with CyanogenMod, which is another nice surprise that we’re all watching with interest.
Loser – Google Play Edition phones being US only
Android enthusiasts have been begging manufacturers to supply vanilla Android on their flagship phones, rather than cumbersome skinned versions like Sense and TouchWiz for years. 2013 saw a response to that with Samsung and HTC bringing out ‘Google Play Edition’ phones, which were exactly what the enthusiasts wanted. Then we were told that they were going to be for the USA only. We are now hearing of more and more devices having Google Play editions, but they will all be US only too. Come on Google, let see some non-Nexus vanilla Android devices this side of the pond.
Dishonorable Mention – Samsung Galaxy Gear
A Samsung smartwatch running Android sounded like it was going to take wearable tech to the next level. Unfortunately what we got was a severely overpriced accessory for the Galaxy Note 3. OK, it’s now compatible with some other devices, but it’s not a stand alone smart communications device some people were expecting. Let’s hope the Galaxy Gear 2 can be more affordable and more useful.
Most innovative use of technology
Winner – Google Auto Awesome
If you upload photos or videos to Google + you may have noticed little icons with stars on them appearing. That’s because a piece of software on Google’s servers is looking at your photos and videos and making them ‘more awesome’ by adding effects, removing obstructions, reducing blur and even making montages out of them. All automatically, without any intervention at all. It’s sort of worrying, in a way, that this is happening, but it’s damn clever and very funky!
Honorable Mention – Apple TouchID
Take a fingerprint scanner and put it on a phone, then use it instead of inputting a PIN. So simple, so useful, so cool. Well done Apple.
Needs a kick up the butt in 2014
Loser – Blackberry
Blackberry was betting on 2013 being its comeback year. It released a new range of phones and a new operating system, then ditched the name RIM. Rebirth, it seemed, was their best hope. Alas, it failed. Stocks are falling, BBM is now available on Android, and the corporate market (Blackberry’s bread and butter) is now dominated by Apple. Kicking them in the butt seems a bit harsh, but most people are stabbing them in the back, so the team at Coolsmartphone have voted for a kindly, encouraging kicking.
Dishonorable Mention – Microsoft
On the other hand, where do we start with Microsoft? Well, out of everything we could have kicked Microsoft for, we decided that their ‘Scroogled’ advertising campaign was the one that deserved the full Jonny Wilkinson. Basically, Microsoft have set up a website, web store and full video advertising campaign purely to point out the negative things about Google. As one of the team eloquently said, “Microsoft and their utterly shoddy advertising campaigns which were put together by jealous idiots”. I need say no more.
Best tablet under £200
Winner – Nexus 7 2013
The love for the Nexus 7 2013 is still outgrowing that of its predecessor (which won the Coolsmartphone tablet of the year award last year). In fact it was almost a clean sweep from the voters. It’s a winning formula, after all. The 2013 edition took everything that was good about the original Nexus 7 and made it better. To pack a full HD screen, better processor and vanilla Android 4.4 KitKat, yet still stay firmly in the affordable price bracket is something Google and Asus should be very proud of. James’ Nexus 7 2013 review shows just how much he likes his.
Honorable Mention – Tesco Hudl
The Hudl was the sub £200 tablet that stole the clean sweep away from the Nexus in this category. This little budget tablet certainly deserves a mention, mainly because it brings a certain quality to its meager price bracket that no-name cheapo tablets just don’t have. Here’s Mark’s Hudl review
Best tablet overall
Winner – Apple iPad Air
There’s something about an iPad that sets it apart from the rest of the tablets on the market. Maybe it’s the shape, the build quality or just the sheer amount of tablet optimised apps that are available for them. There have been few criticisms of the iPad throughout its various guises, beyond the anti-Apple tittle-tattle, and those that have been leveled against it, namely the weight and thickness, have been addressed. Add a 64bit processor into the mix for future proofing and if you’ve got the cash you can’t go far wrong.
Honorable Mention – Apple iPad mini with retina display
The iPad mini has proved a popular companion to its bigger brother. The form factor is lighter, easier to hold and better for typing, making it an ideal tablet for on the move, whilst the ‘full size’ iPad sits on the coffee table! Now we finally have the retina display to gaze at, it looks like Apple have tablets nailed this year… again.
Best phone under £200
Winner – Motorola Moto G
Motorola’s flagship Moto X is a fantastic phone that has yet to hit our shores. Many of us were (and still are) drooling after one. Instead we got the the budget Moto G. This seemed like a bum deal, but the Moto G was a shock to most people. No phone has ever brought the sort of specs, looks and function that the Moto G has, for what can only be described as a budget price of £135 (£99 on launch from Tesco!). Here’s Leigh’s guide to the Moto G
Honorable Mention – Nokia Lumia 520
The budget baby of the Windows Phone 8 world. This little wonder is a fantastic introduction to Windows Phone without breaking the bank, and we highly recommend that if you have even the slightest interest you give one a go. Here’s what I thought of my Nokia Lumia 520
AND NOW TO THE MOST COVETED AWARD OF THE NIGHT…
Best phone overall
Winner – Well, it’s a dead heat actually! – iPhone 5s and HTC One
Who’d have thought that with a writing team the size of ours and the scores of phones that have been released in 2013 we’d end up with a draw?
On the face of it these phones couldn’t be more different: the One is significantly bigger, not only because of its much bigger screen, but also because of the stereo front firing BoomSound speakers; the operating systems are different, of course, but Apple favour a simple UI with a grid of icons, whereas HTC’s Blink Feed is an ever changing montage of live information. Even the technology inside is different.
Take a step back though. They’re both superbly built handsets with metal chassis from longstanding companies with great reputations. The fanbois from both sides will scoff at our collective indecision, but I think it’s fitting that two undeniably premium products have taken this year’s main award.
What do you think of our award winners? What would you have voted for? Let us know in the comments section below.