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Shootout: 4G LTE Smartphones Below S$600

By Sidney Wong & Vijay Anand - 15 Jul 2013


Modern Compact Smartphones You Can Count Upon

It goes without saying that the trend these days are ultra large smartphones and they've been steadily increasing in size for the past two years. While Apple increased the display size of its iPhone from 3.5-inch to 4-inch last year, Android OS vendors are increasingly pushing the boundaries by blurring the lines between smartphones and tablets.

Just recently, we've seen display sizes on large smartphones (phablets) swell as large as 6.44 inches across (Sony Xperia Z Ultra), while the current standard for a flagship/premium Android device is at 5 inches (ASUS PadFone Infinity, HTC Butterfly SSamsung Galaxy S4, Sony Xperia Z). 

But those are just the top-tier devices costing close to S$1000. Don't forget that a significant number of phone options are available below the 5-inch screen size mark that's targeted at the mid-range segment. These phones may not be as powerful as the high-end models, but they often offer most of the important features while having a distinct advantage over their larger counterparts - one-handed usability.

According to a Strategy Analytics report published on 30 April 2013, the most preferred smartphone screen size in the second half of 2012 is between 4.2-inch and 4.7-inch, with 4.5-inch as the most preferred size. With this in mind, we decided to round up various mid-range smartphones based on the following criteria:

  • Screen sizes between 4.2-inch and 4.7-inch
  • Mid-range model and pricing
  • 4G LTE support to embrace high speed connectivity

This led us to these five smartphones - the HTC One SV, the LG Optimus F5, the Nokia Lumia 820, the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini and the Sony Xperia SP. Now, let's check out how the phone specs compare across the board:- 

Overview of the Smartphones
  HTC One SV LG Optimus F5 Nokia Lumia 820 Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini Sony Xperia SP
  HTC One SV LG Optimus F5 Nokia Lumia 820 Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini Sony Xperia SP
Launch SRP
  • From S$688
  • From S$498
  • From S$699
  • From S$698
  • From S$598
Operating system
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean with HTC Sense 4+
  • Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean
  • Windows Phone 8
  • Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core 1.2GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core 1.2GHz
  • Snapdragon S4 1.5GHz Dual-core
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 dual-core 1.7GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro dual-core 1.7GHz
Built-in Memory
  • 1GB RAM
  • 1GB RAM
  • 1GB RAM
  • 1.5GB RAM
  • 1GB RAM
  • 4.3-inch / 800 x 480 pixels resolution / Super LCD 2 touch screen with Corning Gorilla Glass 2
  • 4.3-inch / 960 x 540 pixels / IPS
  • 4.3-inch / 800 x 480 resolution / AMOLED, ClearBlack
  • 4.3-inch / 960 x 540 pixels / Super AMOLED
  • 4.6-inch / 1280 x 720 resolution / TFT with durable tempered glass
  • 5 Megapixels / Autofocus with LED Smart Flash, HTC ImageChip, f2.0 28mm lens with BSI sensor, 1080p HD video recording
  • Secondary: 1.6 Megapixels / f2.2 BSI lens
  • Rear: 5 Megapixels / Autofocus with LED flash
  • Front: 1.3 Megapixels
  • 8 Megapixels / Dual LED flash, Autofocus with two-stage capture key, 4x digital zoom, 28mm focal length
  • Secondary: 640 x 480 pixels
  • Rear: 8 Megapixels
  • Front: 1.9 Megapixels
  • Rear: 8 Megapixels / 16x digital zoom, Sony Exmor RS for mobile
  • Front: VGA
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth with aptX enabled, DLNA, NFC (Google Wallet compatible), micro-USB, 3.5mm stereo audio jack
  • Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, AGPS with GLONASS
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth v3.1, NFC, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi Channel bonding, Micro-USB 2.0
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth v4.0 LE, NFC, IR LED (Remote Control), micro-USB 2.0
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth v4.0 with A2DP, DLNA, NFC, micro-USB 2.0, 3.5mm audio output jack, MHL support
Storage Type
  • 8GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 32GB
  • 8GB internal storage
  • micro-SD support up to 32GB
  • 8GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 64GB
  • 8GB internal storage
  • micro-SD support up to 64GB
  • 8GB internal storage
  • micro-SD support up to 32GB
  • 1800mAh
  • 2,150mAh
  • 1650mAh
  • 1,900mAh
  • 2,370mAh
  • 128 x 66.9 x 9.2mm
  • 126.04 x 64.46 x 9.30mm
  • 123.8 x 68.5 x 9.9mm
  • 124.6 x 61.3 x 8.94mm
  • 130.6 x 67.1 x 9.98mm
  • 122g
  • 131.1g
  • 160g
  • 107g
  • 155g

Here's the 5.5-inch LG Optimus G Pro on the left compared with the much more pocket-friendly 4.3-inch Samsung Galaxy S4 mini on the right. And yes, handling smaller phones are a lot easier too. 

The premise of this shootout article is not to discredit large smartphones with displays 5 inches or larger, but rather, we would like to help the many consumers who find such large phones too big for easy handling and are deciding between the slightly more compact smartphone choices. Indeed we too share the same sentiments after having reviewed numerous phablets. When we returned to reviewing these five compact smartphones (comparatively speaking), our hands and fingers were relieved as needn't perform hand-gymnastics to operate these devices!

It's surprising how fast standards evolve as just a year ago, devices with a 4.3-inch screen were considered a norm for the upper-range of phones and today, we've so many models pushing the 5-inch screen size and thus relegating the smaller screen variants as second-class mainstream affair. Fortunately, many of these upper-class mainstream phones are crammed with good functionality (such as a good imaging sensor and 4G LTE support among others) that you would be hard pressed to pursue to pursue the premium models unless you need the bigger and higher resolution screen. So without further ado, let's check out what the five phones have to offer in the following few pages and find out who's the best among them.