August 2011 mid-level smartphone buyers guide

What do we consider mid-level these days, basically phones priced at Php15,000 to Php23,000, although the best choices are really priced at about 18K. What do you expect to get for this amount. What do expect to get at this price range, a phone with a single 1GHz processor, a decent camera and is capable of 720p video recording and playback.

For Google's Android, you have plenty of options available. Many of the Android 2010 flagship phones are still available, and you have the 2011 mid-level Androids with 2010 technology upgraded with a front camera.  My favorite mid-level Android is the LG Optimus Black P970. It is the perfect example of a mid-level Android phone.

LG Optimus Black P970

Inside you will find 1 GHz Cortex-A8 processor, PowerVR SGX530 GPU, TI OMAP 3630 chipset, which by 2010 standards was not even top of the line, but which most users will find sufficient. Some of the newer games, or higher end versions of the newer games designed to run on dual core platforms will not run on the Optimus Black. Video recording is limited to 720p, and not the higher 1080p resolutions that the new dual-core Android phones are capable off. Other than that, it has enough power to do pretty much everything else.
Outside, it has what you expect from a 2011 Android. A better screen, slimmer form factor and front facing camera. The Optimus 2x has a large 4-inch screen capable of producing 700-nits brightness NOVA display, so it can be easily viewed even in bright sunlight. The phone is just 9.5 mm thick. The front camera means that it will be able to use apps the require a front camera, for things like video calling and facial recognition. A front camera became standard equipment when Google updated the Android OS to Gingerbread, so we expect more and more apps to take advantage of it.

With a suggested priced at Php19,900, and a market price of Php17,990 it is hard to beat.

Other options at this price range are Samsung i9000 Galaxy S and HTC Desire HD, the top of the line offerings from these two companies in 2010. They will cost you 4-5K more than the Optimus Black and the Desire HD does not have a front camera. Some Galaxy S phones do not have a front camera, so you should check the particular unit for that feature.

Update: One of our readers found the Samsung Galaxy S, available for Php18.600 at CMK Cellphones. At that price it would be a better choice than the Optimus Black, unless the absence of a flash on the Galaxy S is a deal breaker. The Galaxy S would have a better display, faster graphics and more internal storage. We have not found stocks in the retail stores in our area (the south) at that price, but if you can snag one at 20K or less, it would be a good deal.

You also have HTC's new for 2011 HTC Desire S which comes with a smaller 3.7-inch S-LCD screen. It is a very nice phone, but selling for Php21,500 the Optimus Black looks like the better deal. If you like HTC Sense UI, that would be a good reason to get the Desire S instead.

The other option at this price range is the new for 2011 Samsung i9003 Galaxy SL, which sells at Php16,900 these days and the older 2010 HTC Desire at Php17,000. Both are about 1K less than the Optimus Black, but the NOVA display and slimmer form factor make up for the higher price.

If you have been thinking about trying out Windows Phone 7, now might be a good time. The HTC 7 Mozart is available for just Php20,500 these days. Back in February I was looking at the 3.7-inch HTC 7 Mozart or the 4.3-inch HTC Desire HD, they were at the same price point. I went with the HTC Desire HD. If the Mozart had been a few thousand cheaper I may have gone with that. 

Windows Phone 7 is the new player, and is not well established, but it is coming along nicely. If I was looking at a HTC 7 Mozart versus a HTC Desire S, which are now at similar price points. I think I might pick-up the Mozart instead.

If you are a Nokia fan, the Nokia N8 is still the best camera phone ever built. It's not just the 12MP that makes the N8 camera special, it is the large sensor behind it. I don't think we will be seeing a better camera phone till 2012. You should be able to get it these days for about Php18,000 with the improve Symbian Anna operating system.

For BlackBerry users, you have the Torch and the Bold 9780, at this price range, but I would really recommend holding off till QNX, or investing in a BlackBerry Playbook and get a taste of QNX today.

Apple really has nothing at this price point for now. 

If you have no preference on operating systems, between the Android powered LG Optimus Black P970, the Windows Phone 7 HTC 7 Mozart and the Symbian powered Nokia N8, the LG Optimus Black P970 offers the best bang for the buck.