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To buy or not to buy

In this section we review new products to help you sort the best buys from the worst. This time we look at mobile phones and their tariff plans.

In this section we review new products to help you sort the best buys from the worst. This time we look at mobile phones and their tariff plans.

Category: Mobile phone

Brand: HTC Hero

Price: Rs 31,990

Features

  • Weighing 135 gm with the battery, the Hero offers 288 MB RAM, 512 MB ROM and an expandable MicroSD memory.
  • A 3.2-inch HVGA display, 5 megapixel auto-focus camera, GPS, gravity sensor and a 3.5-mm stereo headset jack.
  • It comes with the Google Mobile Suite software and a dedicated Gmail+IM client.

Why Buy
In a nutshell, the Hero is the first device to bring the Android Market to India. For the uninitiated, this is an application store that enables users to fully tailor an Androidpowered phone to their interests. Be it instructing the phone to view all images with your favourite application or uploading videos to YouTube directly from the phone, this system gives Apple a run for its money.

The mobile also earns plenty of brownie points for its appealing shape. Featuring bevelled edges and an angled bottom—you could call it the chin—the HTC Hero is contoured to fit snugly against your face while you’re on a call. In addition, it’s equipped with an antifingerprint screen coating for improved smudge resistance and a longer lasting, clearer display.

USP
The Hero’s new, fully customised user interface, called the Sense UI, is unparalleled. To begin with, it integrates a variety of applications, ranging from e-mails to Facebook status updates and Twitter feeds, into a single view. So keeping in touch may never be as easy. Add to this a new profile feature called Scenes, which enables you to create customised content profiles around specific functions or times in your life. Innovation is the name of the game here.

Inaugural Offer
The Hero comes with a special offer exclusively for Airtel users— free data download of 100 MB per month for six months. All in all, this phone is pure value for money.

Category: Mobile tariff

Brand: Tata DoCoMo Diet SMS

Features: Pay for the exact number of characters used in the SMS, excluding spaces. This applies to messages of up to 15 characters and is limited to the DoCoMo network.

Price: One paisa per character.

Why Buy: An SMS typically costs 50 paise, but this flat fee was hardly in sync with the evolving SMS lingo. This service ensures that a crisp ‘hw r u’ will no longer cost as much as a 160-character SMS. You can always turn to the regular SMS option if you want to text an ode.

Category: Mobile phone

Brand: Samsung Omnia Pro

Price: Rs 16,500

Features

  • It has a 2.4-inch display, 3.2 megapixel camera, VGA for video telephony and weighs 110 gm.
  • The well-endowed 1480 mAh battery gives about 10 hours of talk time.
  • It operates on Windows Mobile 6.1 standard and supports a Qwerty keypad.
  • The in-built 100 MB memory is expandable to 16 GB.

Why Not to Buy
Given a choice between Windows 97 and Windows 2007, would you opt for the former? A similar argument holds when you compare Samsung’s latest offering with its earlier model, i780. Far from raising the benchmark, the Omnia Pro has proved to be a huge letdown.

What’s Wrong with it
Since this phone operates on the Windows Mobile 6.1 standard, it does not support a touchscreen. This is a step down from the i780’s Windows Mobile Professional platform that provided a touch interface along with a Qwerty keypad. In fact, the Pro’s keypad is so cramped that it’s difficult to use. The icons that have been added on the home screen to facilitate quick access to various applications are helpful but hardly an innovation— it’s a mere throwback to Samsung’s long-patented TouchWiz user interface. Also, the other basic connectivity options and multimedia functions can be found in any model available in the same price bracket, making it easy to give this one a miss.

Design Bloopers
If you rate the Pro with the leading comparable smartphones, say, the Nokia E71 or Blackberry Bold, you’ll see that it ranks pretty low on sex appeal. Also, given that the microSDHC expansion slot is tucked behind the battery, hotswapping is impossible. This detracts from the cool-on-paper expandable memory feature.

Last Word
Rumour has it that Samsung is gearing up to launch an upgraded version of this phone, Samsung Omnia Pro B7330, within the next two months. Once again, the changes are expected to be cosmetic rather than substantial. You have been warned.

Category: Mobile tariff (calls)

Brand: Tata Teleservices (TTSL)

Features: Pre-paid customers can pay per call, not by duration.

Price: Re 1 for a local and Rs 3 for an STD call.

Why Not to Buy: The scheme is not sustainable. Says Pankaj Mohindroo, president of the Indian Cellular Association: “TTSL can’t afford calls longer than five minutes on this plan.” So it might interrupt longer calls—no, there is no law protecting you here—or move customers to a different plan.