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Best phones of 2004. Version of Mobile-Review.com

One more year has passed and mobile phones became cleverer and combine much more functions now. The year was interesting and gladdened with novelties that stuck into memory. And traditionally we make conclusions in January but not in December or November since that seems wrong. Fortunately we aren't chained by preparing for printing and the weeks that usual editions wait for a prepared issue of a magazine.

This is the second year we follow the rule to announce only the best from the best. Many awards in various editions make a reader get in a loss about what really deserves his attention. We try to avoid the problem and fully concentrate on the most interesting products.

In 2004 we tested about 200 GSM models and less than a half was reviewed on our site. All the conclusions are based on real experience of dealing with the phones but not their paper specifications.

The awards differ in colors and all the second or third positions (if we may call them this way) are encouraging (silvery and white icons). They only show between which models the competition for being the first took place but only the first place is a real award. The only and the main award is marked in yellow and a nomination is indicated.

The models stuck into the memory and the ones that passed by are marked with cheerful or sad faces.

When creating nominations we considered the things that bother a usual man and the things he is aimed at. And a Bestseller nomination comes to our minds. The models are evaluated very easily in this nomination since that's enough to look at the sales rates in every segment and choose the maximum functionality of the devices. Here users voted with a ruble and we only will announce the results. We left the low-end models behind the category since they have much higher sales than the devices of any other segment. In our turn, we tried to evaluate all the parameters and the way the model was accepted in the market (press reviews, users' feedback and the expectation of the device) and the way its sales grew or not after its appearance.

It would seem the word bestseller means the best price/quality ratio. And that's the reason users do buy the devices that become bestsellers. But this is true only in limited terms since the market rules play their roles. The models are usually not announced the way they should since the manufacturers sometimes lack production power. On the other hand the price/quality ratio is excellent. Due to the absence of any marketing efforts the models do not become bestsellers. And they are interesting for their classes from engineering point of view and considering a set of functions. Thus a Price/Quality nomination appeared. Here we commit our expert judgment and distinguish the best in all the parameters and price. Creating a model close to the ideal is possible but it'll cost like a sport car.

Leaving cheap models out of the Bestseller nomination we have crossed out many models at once. The nomination called Mass and Innovative is created for them. On the one hand we considered that innovation the models brought into the market (exclusively our estimation of the technologies) and compared our evaluations with the sales of the model. In difference to the first nomination that is not that much the analysis of a current market situation but our evaluation of new functions of this or that model that played its role. And they were confirmed with the sales.

The last nomination is Image. The name tells for itself, the most interesting fashion models stressing the owner's status are evaluated in this category.

Our devices may be divided this way according to the device segments:

  • Bestseller - business or fashion segments, maximum set of functions.
  • Price/Quality - the optimal set of functions.
  • Mass and Innovative - mass presented devices though having a raisin, innovations in their class.
  • Image - fashion, stylish phones.

Also the main and the most memorable models are indicated with smiles. It may be cheerful or sad, dull depending on our appraisal. We refused rewarding smartphones in a separate nomination again. Their number in the market certainly grew but the segment is still a niche one. Users select a device of two-three models and choosing the best one from this small list is not as interesting and right.

And now let's pass to rewarding after the description of the nominations.

Bestseller nomination

In 2003 Sony Ericsson T610 was an obvious leader of the nomination but in 2004 being as popular it certainly gave its positions away and got outdated morally. That's curious the model is one of the most popular in its segment even now. That year brought interesting changes, users started paying attention not only to the functionality of the device but such things as style, design and the status it gives became the main. Following this changes the business segment got some frivolous notes and became less strict.

Nokia 6230 (despite its endless problems even today) and Nokia 7610 (the first mass device with a megapixel camera) may be undoubtedly called bestsellers. Sony Ericsson K700 didn't distinguish in a stable work in the beginning but was improved rapidly and now the device is very popular and interesting functionally. Motorola took a spurt using its triplets and Motorola v600 was popular in the first half of the year but despite all its attractiveness the model lack something to achieve the success of the models described above. Siemens S65 comes from Siemens in this segment but this device is popular thanks to the 45-series and S55 partly. The model became potentially interesting but is hard to be called a successful one considering its problems and disadvantages.

This is the first time Samsung managed to achieve extremely high popularity of a new product (its E800 series sliders). These models got the most popular and had the highest sales rate. Users were attracted by a qualitative screen, polyphony and a new form-factor. These products demonstrated many users were interested not in functionality but in the novelty, style and status more.

Samsung E800 takes the first place in the Bestseller nomination. Despite it's an exclusively fashionable product it influenced the whole mobile phone market and pushed other companies to manufacturing similar products. D500 was not evaluated since naturally it appears in 2005 and 99.9 per cent of users will see it then. Thus we have no right to say it's the best device or a bestseller.

The second place belongs to Sony Ericsson K700.

And the third place is given to Nokia 6230.

Price/Quality nomination

In 2004 the majority of manufacturers decided to focus their efforts on producing middle-segment models and also the prices of many models fell down and the phones came into this segment also. Alcatel concentrated its efforts and offered renewals for Alcatel 535/735 that were the winners of the previous year. Unfortunately, Alcatel 556/756 became interesting but not the best models of 2004. Samsung also pressed hard and having released C100 a year ago the company proved its position with producing X100 with an effort on polyphony, the screen and design. Siemens offered the only interesting device in this segment that is C65 that really distinguishes in the maximum set of functions and a good price/quality ratio. Motorola C650 became the closest rival of Siemens C65 but it is different in less memory, not as bright screen and the absence of IrDA. That's curious Motorola managed to produce another interesting offer that is Motorola v300. An excellent screen and a good material of the body made a well-balanced phone that became a well demanded one in its segment. Sony Ericsson Z600 was popular also. And thus we found no trouble in choosing the first place device that is Siemens C65.

The second place is taken by Motorola v300.

And the third one belongs to Samsung X100.

Image nomination

That's not a secret that Samsung production has become a synonym for a word style thought those are mostly mass models and that is proved by the example of Samsung E800. A year earlier E700 won in this nomination, not only the design of the model was unusual but various materials of the body stressed the main idea of the device. Having concentrated on new market segments and new products the company manufactured many interesting models with unusual design in 2004. The problem is that the phones became interesting, original but moderate if that's possible to say. And thus they didn't impress greatly. The main models with unusual design were transferred to the current year and that may be right.

Sony Ericsson impressed users with several models in 2004. In the beginning that was a middle-class device Sony Ericsson Z200. That was the first time for many years that the design of a middle-segment phone was elegant, unusual and ergonomic. Also an attempt to create an unusual fashion product in a new form-factor that turned into Sony Ericsson S700 looks very interesting. We think the device lacks some charm though.

Motorola started the year with soul-searching and V80 became the result of the approach. This unusual fashion device with a Haptics function and son of lumiere has no any rivals even now. But due to the marketing errors the model haven't become very popular.

The second announcement in a fashion segment is a stylish Motorola V3 Razr. Extremely thin clamshell of metal that distinguished in a large screen but the main thing is its thickness. The product is interesting in the fact it uses the idea of Nokia 8910 but on another level. For instance, if Nokia had released the renewal for Nokia 8910 in the end of 2004 but not in 2005 the question "who is the best?" would certainly raise. But now Motorola holds a firm position in the segment with its V3.

On the other hand Nokia didn't allow itself resting and produced three fashion solutions in an art-deco style. Nokia 7280 distinguishing in the absence of any number keypad and an unusual appearance of a small rectangle roused the main interest. The device became a very eclectic solution for those who like distinguishing. The model is essentially one of the best in the fashion segment.

I'd admit that was hard to select the best in the category. The choice fell on Motorola V3 and Nokia 7280. And as a result having considered all the pros and cons (and comfort while calling first) the first place was given to Motorola v3.

The second place is held by Nokia 7280.

The third place is given to Motorola V80.

Mass and Innovative nomination

The manufacturers have been increasing quality characteristics of the models, the number of polyphonic tones rouse, and the screens showed more and more colors and the cameras got finally similar to the ones they should. That's natural the cameras became the main point of the discussion since the main innovation of the year is the appearance of a megapixel camera and they attracted the user's attention. These devices were relatively mass and, for example, Sharp GX30 distinguished in a perfect camera but was represented in the market poorly. Nokia 7610 having all the possibilities of a Symbian-smartphone became the first mass device. Sony Ericsson S700 also became a good offer. It combined all the possibilities of a usual phone, a good camera and (what is for the first time) a dual interface (a camera and a phone, duality will be popular in 2005). Another model Sony Ericsson K700 is interesting in supporting 3D games, qualitative increase of characteristics, radio and mp3. These many functions were represented in the market separately and this device collected them all. Motorola E398 became the main rival of the model. This device has become a real innovation, judge yourself, there is a support for memory cards of a new format providing a fully functional mp3 player, one of the best screens with toning of a protection glass, two stereo loudspeakers and a haptics function, integrated lighting indicator (controls the keypad backlighting), a possibility of a straight call of the internal memory using a cable (something like a USB memory).

That's curious the manufacturers like to offer innovations in a youth segment. Nokia 3220 became interesting mainly for an extra panel that allows writing messages in the air (in the darkness). Unfortunately, the fact the accessory is not included into a package prevents from considering the device in this category.

An obvious winner of the category is Motorola E398. On the one hand the model includes some innovations and on the other hand the model is popular and that means mass.

Sony Ericsson K700 takes the second place having less innovations and mainly that is a quantitative increase of characteristics that makes the popularity of the device.

Nokia 7610 is given the third place as being the most popular model with a megapixel camera and by the way being a smartphone. Many users bought the device because of the camera and only then got acquainted with its smartphone functions.

Now let's pass to the separate events that influenced our impression of mobile terminals, in a good or bad sense. A smooth growth of smartphones number got clear to everybody and the leader position in functionality and capabilities still belonged to Sony Ericsson. Having renewed P900 the company made one more step forward; the new model differs slightly from P900 though like the last one differed from P800 in its time. But the stored up changes are not bad and make the device excel rivals in its class.

Nokia is traditionally active in this segment. We think that the development of the 60 platform brought its first results. GSM/UMTS smartphone Nokia 6630 is one of the best in a class of devices without a touchscreen.

Nokia 9300 is a good offer but unfortunately the communicator will appear only in 2005 and thus we do not consider it.

Motorola has made its debut on MS-smartphone market with MPX200. The device was accepted reservedly but every month with the fall of the price it grew in the users' eyes. The price got extremely low in the end of the year and became about 200 USD. This smartphone became the first for many people and that's what Motorola should be thanked for.

Besides successful discoveries the companies had very unusual experience. For instance, Nokia 7200 cost rather much for a fashion device but the characteristics were on the level of the previous year. As a result the device became one more product on distributors' shells and the realization lasted for months.

Nokia 6260 roused an ambiguous reaction. The idea was good but the size of the device was too big and the ergonomics too poor.

The year 2004 became a great misfortune for Siemens. In the beginning of the year we wrote the company was to announce its reorganization and the change of its management (I remember many people considered it an invention, and what will you say now?). Our prediction didn't come true so fast and the company could do this only in the second half of the year and its fate is still uncertain. Having released a remake of Siemens SL55 with an excellent design solution (the third place in 2003) but a poor filling the company decided to repeat it once more. Siemens SL65 has pushed away the ones who loved SL55 for its design and attracted no new users. Siemens S65 is mainly taken as a leader of the company and that was the only reason for its having high sales. The device brought many problems on a beginning stage and the characteristics do not impress much.

Other events didn't stick into memory so much, though if a nomination "the most useless and unnecessary function" existed then Pantech GI100 would surely win it. I can't understand what for the device needs a finger-print recognizer, they'd better teach it to transmit all the photos at the same time but not one after another via a cable. In a word, the device is for those who like wasting time in long winter evenings.

Here are the results of the previous year rewarding>>>

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
Translated by Maria Mitina (maria.mitina@mobile-review.com)

Published - 15 January 2005

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com



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