Buying Guide: Multimedia Handsets

Portable media is ‘in’ these days. The ability to cart your music, movies and what have you with you on the go is becoming easier all the time. Mobile phone manufacturers are thankfully launching multimedia enhanced handsets very frequently as that IS becoming one of the very valid reasons for owning a mobile in the first place. Plus let’s not forget, a singular device with all the multimedia trimmings negates spending money on additional devices. The MTV generation came, saw and conquered. That being said, here are a few tips to keep in mind when selecting a multimedia handset.

Format Support and Enhancements
It’s important to know what kinds of file formats the phone can read for video and audio. The most common are of course .MP3, .AAC, WMA and .WAV. Other formats could include AAC+, .OGG and FLAC as well, not that too many people use that these unless you’re serious about your music quality. Also look for audio enhancements like EQ presets. More importantly, if you’re a stickler for personal preferences, a customizable setting that let’s you manually adjust the audio with graphic EQs is essential. Other enhancements like Bass Boost or Stereo Widening, Dolby Mobile or 5.1 Surround options are extras that will definitely provide you with a better audio experience.

When it comes to video it’s always better to have a handset that supports popular PC video codecs. What that means is they should read your .AVI files that you’d play on your desktop. Look for a handset that complies with – DivX and XviD formats. Standard mobile video formats include MP4, H.264, 3GP and WMV file formats. A preinstalled YouTube application is always handy for streaming videos but with Smartphones that don’t have it, just get one from the respective app store.

Also, and this especially applies to us, the Indian audiences, make sure that the handset comes with an FM radio. Whether it's with a recording option or not is not really important, but reception is the key factor.

Something else to keep in mind is AV out compatibility. If your handset supports AVI files, you could use it as an external media player and hook it up to a TV via the AV out. Most higher end devices support Composite AV out and newer handsets like the Nokia N8 and Motorola MILESTONE XT720 come with HDMI support. Also check if the package includes AV cables - composite or HDMI.

Most importantly you’d need to make sure that the earphones that are provided with the phone are comfortable. First off while selecting a phone, make it a point to check and see what kind of earphone socket the phone has. Essentially there were 3 types – Propriety, 2.5mm and 3.5mm sockets. Propriety meant you could not use any other earphones except the one’s ‘prescribed’ by that phone’s manufacturer. If something goes wrong with these, good replacements aren’t always easy to find. Thankfully the days of the 2.5mm sockets are in the past as most manufactures are incorporating a standardized 3.5mm socket. This way you can use any earphones, the choice is open. Sometimes you may just want to use your own set of earphones that you’re used to just make you feel more comfortable. This way if a company bundles a canal (in-ear) type handsfree that you’re not comfortable with, you can easily switch to a standard type option.

Another option that’s quite popular these days is a support for Bluetooth with A2DP compatibility so you can use a wireless headset and do away with the wires altogether. Just keep in mind, this is also a sever strain on your battery.

A multimedia handset should also support more than just the basic Java based games, which, in their own right are quite entertaining. In this day and age though it’s all about better graphics, a 3D-ish feel and motion sensors. So motion based gaming is also a point to consider. You’ll need a handset with an accelerometer for this obviously.

These days a good multimedia handset should also come with a built-in camera that can provide you with at least decent, if not great image quality. You can’t expect too much from a 2MP camera, one options would be the Sony Ericsson Naite, that covers all basis as well and manages to deliver on the picture quality as well. 3MP camera phone are also available and they go right up to devices that are equipped with 12MP cameras like the upcoming Nokia N8.

A cheaper option, if your ‘focus’ is the camera, would be the Spice S-1200 that also comes with a 12mp camera and 3X optical zoom. Features like scene modes, face/smile detection and geotagging are also things to look for. In the 5MP camera segment you could consider the Android powered HTC Legend. An pre-loaded image editor could also come in handy.

This is a major factor when it comes to choosing the right multimedia mobile. Most phones allow you to use external memory in the form of microSD. What you need to make sure of is what capacity card can the phone actually support. At the moment 32GB is about the highest that’s easily available and quite a large number of smartphones are capable of handling them. The lower end devices would go up to 8GB and lower. Also keep in mind that there are handsets like the Nokia X6, Apple’s iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy S that come with 8GB or 16GB or even 32GB capacities of built in memory. These days companies tend to bundled devices with memory cards, irrespective of the amount on internal memory it may already comes with.

And now the final component to consider – battery power. Of course this is an important aspect to keep in mind irrespective of what kind of phone you’re in the market for. But if you’re looking for a mobile phone to serve your portable media needs you’re going to want to make sure your battery isn’t always used up for just movies and music on the go, there’s got to be some left for calls, message and social networking. Look for a battery that offers a minimum of 4.5 hours to 5 hours of talk time and one that doesn’t need to be charged for at least two days with nominal usage.

There you have it, these are some of the things to look for when you’re looking to get yourself a mobile phone/portable media player. Of course the price will also play an important factor. But there are plenty of phones out there within any budget that are equipped with most, if not all the features discussed here.

If you have any more points you want other readers to consider when looking for in a multimedia phone go right ahead and share them us in our comments section below.

Published Date: Oct 07, 2010 09:20 am | Updated Date: Oct 07, 2010 09:20 am