Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Back in 2012 we wrote a piece on phones you’ve probably never heard of. At the time, brands mention included Xiaomi, Blu, THL, among others. Something big has happened in the Android world since then: many of these names are actually reasonably well known these days, thanks to growth in global sales and websites like ours that help bring lesser known devices to there’s still a host of devices that are largely unheard of for those in the Western markets. While not all of them are winners on the spec front, many stand out either due to aggressive pricing, unique designs, build materials or even just having massive batteries. With that in mind, we take a look at seven devices that you may have never heard of, or at the very least they aren’t the first devices or brands that come to your mind when you think of Android.

Sharp Aquos Crystal X

Ron Amadeo / ArsTechnica

Historically speaking, Sharp hasn’t been a brand that we associate with the mobile world, at least not outside of making displays. Of course, this isn’t the same case in Japan, where the company uses its display prowess to develop unique devices in the Aquos family.

Recently, thanks to Sprint, we got our first taste of the Aquos line with the Sharp Aquos Crystal, a mid-range device with ultra-thin bezels. While the phone didn’t pack the most impressive specs (720p display, Snapdragon 400 CPU, etc), in Japan there’s a higher-end model, dubbed the Crystal X, that packs the same ultra-thin bezel design but touts flagship level specs.


5.5-inch S-CG-Silicon LCD display with 1080 x 1920 resolution2.3GHz Qualcomm quad-core Snapdragon 801 CPU2GB of RAM16GB, microSD (SD, SDHC, SDXC) expansion12.8MP rear cam, 1.2MP front cam2610 mAh Li-Ion battery73 x 139 x 11 mm, 157gAndroid 4.4.4 KitKat

As you can see, while not carrying the latest processing package available, the Sharp Aquos Crystal X has pretty decent specs. Of course, the Sharp Aquos Crystal X’s biggest call to fame is its ultra-thin bezels. That said, thin bezels aren’t all sunshine and rainbows, as some folks may not care for the design. Additionally, thin bezels could also make the phone more susceptible to cracks and damage if dropped.

Getting your hands on the phone will set you back around 23000 Japanese Yen, or roughly $194.14, on Amazon Japan. Keep in mind that’s a Softbank model, and likely requires a contract.


While the Crystal X stands out for solid specs and ultra-thin bezels, the Fairphone’s call to fame isn’t in the spec sheet. Instead, the Fairphone aims to be the first “ethically sourced” smartphone on the market. In other words, Fairphone does its best to make sure the materials used for its phones are from conflict-free resources and that the workers involved are paid reasonable working wages and are treated as fairly as possible. We’ve actually reported about the Fairphone in the past, though our last article was nearly two years ago!

Fast-forwarding to today, the phone produced limited runs in 2013 and 2014. For 2015 they aim to reportedly create a newer model with refreshed specs, and so until that happens it will be nearly impossible to get ahold of one directly through Fairphone. Thankfully a number of partnering retailers in the UK still offer up the original phone model for those interested.


4.3-inch IPS LCD display with 960 x 540 display1.2GHz quad-core MediaTek MTK65891GB of RAM16GB, microSD up to 64GB8MP rear shooter, 1.3MP front cam2000 mAh battery126 x 63.5 x 10 mm, 170gFairphone OS (based on Android 4.2.2 KitKat)Compatible networks GSM 850 900 1800 1900

Spec-wise, this is far from the ‘best’, but we felt its goals were admirable enough that it should still be highlighted as one of the “best ideas” that most of us have never heard of. Here’s to hoping that in 2015 they are able to continue their goal of creating an ethically sourced device, while also bringing us a bit more impressive specs.

Wondering how “fair priced” the Fairphone is? At least through one UK site we found it for 250.00 British Pound Sterling, or about $384.44. That alone would be a hefty price for a Mediatek phone, but it is even worse when you consider that this price is for a 24 month contract! We suppose getting parts for an ethically sourced phone simply doesn’t come cheap.

Lumigon T2 HD

Sharp stands out for bezels, Fairphone for its goal of creating a device that’s made from conflict-free materials. So what makes the Lumington T2 HD stand out? Besides the fact that probably few of you have ever heard of the phone or the brand, the Danish handset maker boasts that its phones are not only extremely premium, but highly durable.

The T2 HD is made from stainless steel and features Gorilla Glass 3 to protect the screen. Whether you find its design appealing is probably a matter of taste, though it certainly stands out due to the stainless frame and the inclusion of a unique charging dock.


4.3-inch display with 720p resolutionQualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro with Andreno 3202GB of RAM32GB or 128GB storage13MP rear shooter with flash and backside illumination sensor, 2.4 MP front cam6.4 Wh built-in Li-ion batteryAndroid 4.4.2Compatible networks: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz, 3G/UMTS 900 / 2100 MHz, 4G/LTE 800 / 1800 / 2600 MHz, LTE 100Mbps download / 3G / HSDPA+Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, NFCWater- and dust-resistant design (IP55)Dimensions and weight: 127 x 64 x 8.7 mm, 148gInfrared receiver and transmitterFM receiver

While it’s still more than capable of providing a decent Android experience, the Snapdragon S4 Pro inside is more than a little dated. Processor and 720p 4.3-inch display aside, most of the specs are still pretty solid. There’s also several stand-out features like an encrypted software “Vault” for file storage, a universal remote app that works with the integrated IR blaster, an IP55 water/dust resistant design, and a display that works even with gloves.

The T2 HD is available through its official website for 3559 Danish Krone, or what translates out to about $545.23. Finding it stateside is a much more pricier affair, however, with one Amazon listing selling the phone for $819.

Desay Magical Mirror X5

Sapphire screens are said to provide improved levels of protection from scratches and even drops, and despite be offered by few mobile devices, they have certainly be hyped up quite a bit in recent years. Now Chinese-based Desay is getting into the sapphire screen ring with the Magical Mirror X5. Aside from the inclusion of sapphire glass protection, everything else about the Magical Mirror X5 is fairly ordinary. The phone has a 5-inch 720p display, a Mediatek quad-core CPU, 1GB RAM and 16GB internals.


5-inch display with 720p resolutionMediaTek quad-core CPU1GB of RAM16GB storage13MP rear shooter, 5 MP front cam2050mAh batteryAndroid 4.4 KitKatSupport for 4G LTE

While Desay isn’t a well known brand, at least in the western world, the use of Sapphire glass protection makes the device above pretty novel, even if it’s far from a power house. Even more impressive, is the fact that Desay managed to give the phone a fairly aggressive price tag equivalent to just $160.

Pantech Vega Iron 2

When we think of Korean smartphone companies, LG and Samsung are the names that come to mind. One of less popular players these days is Pantech, despite the fact they actually build pretty solid devices. In fact, recently AA’s Matthew Benson wrote an article describing his time with the Pantech Vega Iron 2 and going so far as to say that the product is “the Galaxy S5 he wished Samsung had built”.

The Pantech Iron Vega 2 has Samsung-like aesthetics, including a plastic back with a chamfered, striped metal frame. You’d be forgiven if you thought Pantech had simply copied the Galaxy Alpha and Note 4 design language for the Vega 2, but in reality the phone arrived a few months after the Galaxy S5, but before the arrival of the Alpha and Note 4. The Pantech Vega Iron 2 doesn’t only look like a solid device, it has the specs to match. The phone has a Snapdragon 801 CPU, an Adreno 330 GPU, 3GB RAM and 32GB storage. The rest of the specs are equally decent, and the entire package is ran on Android 4.4 KitKat with Pantech’s custom UI on top.


5.3-inch display with a 1080p resolutionSnapdragon 801 CPU with Adreno 3303GB RAM13MP rear cam with OIS, 2.1MP front camBluetooth 4.0LTE-ANFC3220 mAh battery

As you can see, the Vega Iron 2 may not be “unique” as many of its features are quite similar to what we’ve seen with recent Samsung devices, but it did make the move to metal before Samsung and offers up pretty solid specs that make it worthy of being pointed out in this list. The price tag for the phone is also pretty reasonable, with the device being offered up on Amazon for $564.49.

THL 5000

Battery size is the name of the game for the THL 5000, which packs a 5000 mAh battery into a reasonably compact body. With its big battery and official talk times of 47 Hours for 2G and 30 Hours for 3G, it’s pretty obvious what makes the THL 5000 stand out as unique.

Aside from the battery, we have a pretty stereotypical Chinese phone with fairly uninspiring aesthetics and a MediaTek MTK6592T octa-core processor underneath, paired with 2GB of RAM. While most of the specs are “high-end” as far as MediaTek goes, the phone certainly isn’t anywhere at the same level as modern flagships rocking chips from companies like Qualcomm, Samsung and even arguably Intel.


5 inch IPS display with a 1080p resolution2.0GHz MediaTek MTK6592T octa-core2GB16GB storage, microSD expansion up to 32GB13MP rear cam, 5MP front cam5000 mAh batteryConnectivity : GPS, microUSB 2.0, Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, NFCNetworks: GSM 850, 900, 1800, 1900MHz for 2G / WCDMA 850, 2100MHz for 3GAndroid 4.4 KitKat145 x 73 x 8.9 mm, 170g

Unlike the vast majority of the phones on this list, getting the THL 5000 in western markets like the US isn’t particularly difficult with places like Amazon offering it up for $259.99 and similar (or even more aggressive) pricing can be found through various Chinese import sites. For more details on the THL 5000, be sure to check out our review of the device. 

Saygus V2

The Saygus V2 stands out for a few reasons, first its looks are a bit bizarre and as a result the phone can’t be accused of being a “carbon-copy” of devices from bigger name OEMs. Second, the phone brand is relatively unheard of, hitting CES 2015 out of nowhere and generating a fair amount of hype. Finally, the phone offers just about everything expect for the kitchen sink.

The biggest call to fame for the V2 is the fact it offers up two microSD slots, both capable of excepting 128GB cards. Combining this with the 64GB internal storage, that means you can potentially store up to 320GB of data. Beyond this, you’ll find the Snapdragon 801 CPU with 3GB RAM — not the most bleeding edge package in 2015, but more than enough to provide a solid Android experience.


5-inch display with 1080p resolutionSnapdragon 801 CPU3GB of RAM64GB storage, two microSD slots for expansion20.7MP rear shooter, 13MP front cam3100mAh batteryAndroid 4.4 KitKatSupport for 4G LTEInfrared and other standard connectivity (NFC, Bluetooth, etc)Water and dust resistance137 x 67 x 9.7 mm,141 g

As you can see, the phone is every bit as capable as most flagships from mid-to-late 2014. While the devices of 2015 will easily trump it, there’s plenty of extras thrown in here such as dual microSD, waterproofing and more. At $599, the phone isn’t ultra-cheap, but still pretty reasonably priced for a phone with the above specs. It’s also worth noting that the software experience is essentially stock KitKat, with an upgrade to Lollipop in the works.

Okay, so many of you may have heard of this phone, but globally speaking, its still pretty new to the game and very much worthy of being the last entry in this list.

7 unique smartphones you’ve likely never heard of

Late last year Facebook hosted the first Internet.org Summit in New Delhi, India. The Summit, and keynote from Mark Zuckerberg, addressed barriers to internet connectivity and explored ways to provide internet access to more than a billion people in India who aren't yet connected.
Today, Facebook and Reliance Communications are making the internet available to millions of people in India through the launch of the Internet.org app and free basic services. This is the first time the Internet.org app will be available in the region.

Reliance customers in six Indian states (Tamil Nadu, Mahararashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, and Telangana) will now have access to more than three dozen services ranging from news, maternal health, travel, local jobs, sports, communication, and local government information.
The full list of free services includes:
Aaj Tak - Read news in Hindi
AccuWeather - Get updated weather information
amarujala.com - Read news in Hindi
AP Speaks - Engage with local government
Babajob - Search for jobs
BabyCenter & MAMA - Learn about pregnancy and children
BBC News - Read news from around the world
Bing Search - Find information
Cleartrip - Check train and flight schedules & buy tickets
Daily Bhaskar - Read local news
Dictionary.com - Search for meanings of words
ESPN Cricinfo - Get cricket updates
Facebook - Communicate with friends and family
Facts for Life - Find health and hygiene information
Girl Effect - Read articles and tips for girls
HungamaPlay - Listen to music
IBNLive - Read news
iLearn - Learn from Women Entrepreneurs
India Today - Read local news
Internet Basics - Learn about the basics of the Internet
Jagran - Read local news
Jagran Josh - Get education and career information
Maalai Malar - Read news in Tamil
Maharashtra Times - Read news in Marathi
Malaria No More - Learn about malaria
manoramanews.com - Read local news
Messenger - Send messages to friends and family
NDTV - Read news
Newshunt - Read news in English
OLX - Buy and sell products and services
Reliance Astrology - Read your horoscope
Reuters Market Lite - Get farming and crop information
Socialblood - Register to donate blood
Times of India - Read news
TimesJobs - Search for jobs
Translator - Translate words and phrases
Wikipedia - Find information
wikiHow - Find information
Reliance customers in India can access these services in the Internet.org Android app, at www.internet.org, from the start screen of the Opera Mini mobile web browser, and using the Android app UC Browser for Internet.org. Most of the services will be available in English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Gujarati and Marathi.
This is a big step forward in our efforts to connect everyone to the internet, and to help people share their ideas and creativity with the entire world. We’ll continue to improve the experience and roll it out to other parts of the world

Internet.Org Now available in India

There are reports of a massive project at Apple, with hundreds of executives working on an electric minivan. Additionally, an Apple self-driving car has been spotted on the roads.

Elon has been very public in saying that in order to complete the mission at Tesla he needs to get the third generation car out.

Jason believes Apple would be desperate to buy Tesla between when the Gen 3 is announced but before it is delivered, because once the Model 3 hits the road Tesla’s market cap would make a deal with Apple a merger -- not an acquisition.

Nextbigfuture agrees that it would be good for Apple to buy Tesla and Apple could offer to buy it. 

Nextbigfuture sees little reason for Elon Musk to agree to do it. 

Calacanis predicts that Apple will buy Tesla Motors

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