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IFA 2014: A look at the hottest smartphone launches so far

samsung galaxy note 4
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is official and packs a punch

From Sony’s successor to the flagship Z2 that was launched earlier this year to Microsoft’s affordable flagship rivaling the iPhone 5c and the likes, the first day at the IFA had exciting new smartphones to show off. However, one of the biggest highlights of the trade show was Samsung’s trump card Galaxy Note 4, which is set to take Apple’s upcoming phablet head-on. Samsung also threw in a surprise package with the Note Edge, which puts the Youm flexible display to use. We bring to you a quick recap of all the smartphone announcements at the IFA, so far.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4
Without much ado, Samsung has officially announced the Galaxy Note 4, the next iteration in its Note series and successor to the Note 3. It comes with a revamped S Pen stylus that offers better grip and more functions. The accompanying software has been spruced up for a cleaner, dare-we-say Android L-like look. Snap Note turns photos of printed documents and text into editable text, like an OCR editor. In terms of processing speed, expect two powerful variants; one with Snapdragon 805 chipset, which brings LTE Cat 6 support and another with Samsung’s Exynos 5433 chipset and LTE Cat 4 connectivity. The Note 4 runs Android 4.4 KitKat at launch and with the proprietary interface on top.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 4 during the launch event. Reuters

The cameras on the Note 4 have been enhanced too. The 16-megapixel back camera sports enhanced optical image stabilization or OIS, while the front-facing camera is a 3.7MP sensor with a fast f/1.9 aperture lens. Samsung will let users shoot 120-degree selfies thanks to a panorama-like Wide Selfie mode.   There’s a 3,220mAh battery, which can supposedly be charged up to 50 percent in just 30 minutes. Samsung will supply an optional Qi wireless charging panel, along with a host of covers and accessories sold separately.

Samsung Note Edge
Finally, Samsung has put to use the Youm display that bends the screen and stretches it beyond the bezel. In terms of specs, the Note Edge is very much like the Note 4, and also has the same 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display, but it features an extra 160 pixels on the X axis and as a result Samsung can get away with calling it a QHD+ display. The resulting resolution is a scarcely believable 1,600×2,560, the highest resolution on a smartphone currently. It’s not just a fancy bend for the display though. When locked, the curved side will show Quick Glance info such as the time and pending notifications and upon waking up the main display, the side displays shortcuts for timer or the flashlight shortcuts.

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Big surprise: The Note Edge

The Note Edge has a slightly smaller 3000 mAh battery, but it shares much of the other internals with the Note 4. This includes the choice of either a Snapdragon 805 or Exynos 5433 chipset, depending on the market Android 4.4 KitKat with all the TouchWiz extras and the same 16MP OIS camera and S Pen stylus as in the N4. It’s the first Note phone to feature a QHD display and at 5.7 inches, the display is suitably large.  The pixel density goes from a stunning 386ppi to an astounding 515ppi.

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony announced the flagship Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact at its pre-IFA event in Berlin. The Sony Xperia Z3 runs on the same quad-core 2.5GHz MSM8974AC Snapdragon 801 chip that is featured in the HTC One M8, LG G3 and the Galaxy S5. The powerful SoC with 3GB of RAM and Adreno 330 graphics means Android 4.4 KitKat should have no issues running on the Z3 even with Sony’s customisations. The display though is not a late 2014 flagship-like 2K panel, but instead Sony has opted for a 5.2inch 1080 p display with the Triluminos and X-Reality mobile engine for enhancing colours and image quality. The Xperia Z3 is a waterproof and dust-proof device with an IP65/68 rating.

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Sony’s Xperia Z3 is PS4 Remote Play compatible

Battery life should be great thanks to the 3100 mAh battery, which Sony claims to offer up to 2 days of usage. It comes with either 16 or 32GB of storage which can be further expanded to up to 128GB thanks to the microSD card support. Connectivity options are top-end too, with Wi-Fi ac, USB on-the-go, GLONASS and NFC all packed in.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
The Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact are almost identical in specs, except for a few differences. The Z3 Compact has a smaller display at 4.6 inches and sacrifices the full HD panel for a 720p display. It eschews the metal frame of the Z3 for a lighter plastic build, while the battery is also smaller at 2,600mAh, but slightly larger than the last-gen model. The biggest commonality is the rear camera. While the sensor on the new phones is the same 20.7 MP unit as the last-gen models, Sony has added a new lens and some key Cyber-shot elements to the camera firmware.

Sony Xperia E3
Along with the premium devices, Sony has jumped on to the entry-level bandwagon. Keeping with the current trend, it latest entry-level device dubbed Xperia E3 runs Android KitKat. The Xperia E3 has a 4.5-inch IPS display but with an average 480×854 pixel resolution, which seems outdated in days when phones in the sub-$100 range have qHD displays or even higher. Like its predecessor, it houses a 5-megapixel rear camera, which will let you play with features such as HDR and Timeshift burst. The specs sheet includes quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 clocked at 1.2GHz, a gig of RAM and the Adreno 305 GPU. Internal storage is 4GB, but there’s a microSD card slot for expansion up to 32GB. The best part about the phone could be its battery life as the 2330mAh battery coupled with Sony’s excellent Stamina mode.

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Once again, Sony has picked great new colours for its phones

Microsoft Nokia Lumia 830
Microsoft has launched the Lumia 830 and calls it the ‘affordable flagship’ to take on devices like the iPhone 5s. Priced around €330 in Europe – translating to approximately Rs 26,200 – it will be available in orange, green, white and black colour options.

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Lumia 830, Microsoft’s affordable flagship

The device runs Windows Phone 8.1 and the new  limited to the Lumia Denim update for the OS  promises improved speed and camera abilities. Unlike the rumoured 4.7-inch display, the device goes the phablet way with a 5-inch display. On the camera front, it gets a 10MP Pure View rear snapper that is capable of recording 4k videos. Other specs include quad-core Snapdragon chipset, 16GB, expandable up to 128GB via microSD card slot, Zeiss optics with its thinnest OIS module yet and Rich Capture that lets you expose darker areas of an image and add an LED flash effect after you’ve taken an image. All of this is fuelled by a 2,200mAh battery.

Microsoft Nokia Lumia 730
Microsoft’s Nokia ‘Selfie’ phone is now official and called Lumia 730. Thanks to the focus on selfies, Nokia and Microsoft are talking up the front camera of the Lumia 730, which has a f/2.4 22mm wide-angle lens and a 5 megapixel sensor. It will come with a Lumia Selfie app preloaded, that lets users tweak images with beautification effects, filters, and teeth whitening.

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The Lumia 735 variant has LTE, while the dual-SIM 730 has 3G only

It runs Windows Phone 8.1 and will get the Denim update when launched. The display is a 4.7-inch HD ClearBlack OLED with a 1280×720 pixel resolution, while a Snapdragon 400 SoC with the CPU clocked at 1.2GHz and the Adreno 305 GPU will take care of the processing duties, along with the gig of RAM. On the back there’s a 6.7-megapixel rear camera with a f/1.9 lens, but not much else is known about its specific features. We expect to see the various Nokia Camera apps to enhance the experience. There’s 8GB of storage with microSD support.

Design wise the Lumia 730 mirrors many of the past Lumia phones, with brightly coloured plastic shells.   A Lumia 735 variant will have 4G LTE, while there’s also a dual-SIM version planned for primarily 3G markets like India.

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