Smartphones and Tablets with Superpowers

By Rob Enderle December 10, 2013

I was at a briefing at Qualcomm a few weeks ago where they showcased a number of unique capabilities that were showing up in smartphones and tablets this quarter that are far beyond those of earlier offerings. Some of the capabilities, like much better battery management and far better signal reception and broadcast, should allow the phones to function far better than earlier offerings.

Having spent the last several days attempting to get a phone using an earlier technology to connect and stay connected I figure I’m likely not the only one that would like a much better smartphone and tablet connectivity experience. So here is a list of the phones that are in market that have these semi-secret super-powers.

Snapdragon 800

The Snapdragon 800 solution from Qualcomm is their elite package, it is the equivalent of an exotic engine in a car and it only goes in the best phones.  As a result it gets special and unique features that range from more powerful processors and stronger graphics (think games) to better radios and support for newer or more technologies. From a user perspective, depending on carrier loading (if the network is old or over capacity it will limit some of this) you’ll get far faster data speeds (up to 150mps), better ability to roam between 4G carriers and networks, and far better/faster Wi-Fi performance.  An unlocked phone with this capability is far more portable because it will work where older or other technologies don’t and it will work at full speed where older technologies do not when moving between carriers.

For instance, most phones won’t move between Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile easily or at all. These should if unlocked, giving you flexibility you otherwise might not have.   The 800 is wrapped with Qualcomm’s most advanced technology to assure a signal as well, so these phones should be able to connect better than older or competing offerings.

Now the phones and tablets that have this part tend, with some interesting exceptions to be the halo products from each of the phone OEMs.   That means these are the products the firm is the most proud of but they are also the phones that are the most expensive.

LG G2

For instance the LG G2 is just such a phone.   With a stunning titanium finish and a large 5.2” beautiful 1080p 423 ppi display, this is a showcase of just what LG is capable of producing.   As noted, this has the Snapdragon 800 with 16 or 32 GB of storage.  It has a 13 megapixel camera in the Sprint version but AT&T opted for something a bit more modest, but it will actually tape in 1080p HD giving you a powerful HD video camera in your hand.   To get these big files off your phone it supports 802.11 AC Wi-Fi and if connected to the right Wi-Fi access point or router files should move blazingly fast.   I’d suggest using Wi-Fi for this as HD movie files can do ugly things to a 4G data plan with regard to data charges.   They put a decent sized battery in the phone which, combined with the Snapdragon 800s superior power management should give it really decent battery life. 

Kindle HDX

I’ve been using both versions of the Kindle HDX since launch and this value priced product also, amazingly, uses the Snapdragon HDX.   In a comparison the larger version kind of kicks the iPad Air’s butt in everything but size and weight.  The mayday support alone is worth the price of admission (though the woman I got when I used it wasn’t perky and happy, she was frumpy and grumpy).  This means that in Wi-Fi version it performs surprisingly well and in the 4G version even better. I’ve been incredibly impressed with the battery life, video performance, and design and experience with these tablets, and they are noticeable faster than older versions that didn’t have the Snapdragon component. These aren’t premium offerings, showcasing you can often get really good value for not a lot of money.   

Nokia 2520

At the other end of the spectrum is the Nokia 2520, which more aggressively targets the standard sized 1Pad.   A showcase product from Nokia only sold connected to a WAN network through a carrier, this product is designed to be more of a halo offering.   It has inductive charging, photo editing capability, and one of the most beautiful screens I’ve ever seen on a table.    It also has one of the better optional keyboards in the market (particularly when integrated into their custom designed case).   Of the Windows 8 RT products this is the most iPad like.   The sound out of this thing is amazing and it has a fast charge battery (80 percent in 30 minutes) which can be a god send.   

Nexus 5

While these phones tend to be more value priced and featured than premium they are also most often sold unlocked, which means the portable capability between carriers is the most readily available.   While they used to be leading in other areas, Google has shifted Nexus to a value play but even so the new ones use Qualcomm’s most powerful processor and are often unlocked making then an interesting alternative for folks on a budget. You’re looking for the new Nexus 5. 

Other Phones

Other phones that have this part are the Sony Xperia Z1 and Z Ultra, Nokia Lumia 1520 and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (LTE).  I’m lusting after the Nokia Lumia 1520 and I’ve always admired the Apple like design of the Sony lines. The Samsung has a near 6” display and is he but there are several versions so you need to make sure you get the good one.  In each case these have the more powerful Snapdragon 800 that can give the experiences I’ve highlighted.

Wrapping Up: What’s Inside Matters

We are increasingly living off our phones and tablets and what’s inside does actually matter in terms of connectivity and performance.   You should at least try one of the Snapdragon 800 products just to see what you are missing because you may find, as I did, you don’t want to miss out anymore. It is worth it to have a smartphone or tablet with superpowers!  Good hunting and happy holidays!




Edited by Cassandra Tucker

President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group

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