Standing out: five smartphones with differentiating hardware features
The eternal race for display sharpness on our smartphones was brought into its next stage by Sony in early September when the manufacturer announced the world's first smartphone with a 4K display, the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium. The 5.5-inch IPS display runs a resolution of 2160 x 3840 pixels at a PPI of 808. Compared to the Samsung Galaxy S6, the handset that currently the holds the second position in the PPI density charts, the Xperia Z5 Premium crams in 40% more pixels per square inch.
It should be noted that the Xperia Z5 Premium only runs at the 4K resolution while rendering media (pics and movies). In other places, such as other apps, or the Android menus, the display will run at 1080p, a resolution that's much gentler on the battery.
Although iPhones are the very embodiment of the term "generic smartphone", the all new iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus come with a unique hardware feature in the form of their pressure-sensitive displays. By being able to recognize between a tap, a press, and a hard press, the 3D Touch display technology on the new iPhone generation opens the door for a more complex - but still very intuitive - way of interacting with smartphones.
Note that although Huawei's recently-unveiled Mate S also comes with a pressure-sensing display, this feature isn't expected to be more than a parlor trick on the Huawei handset. While Apple's fanatic developer community will certainly be very quick to adopt this new input technology, and some the big-name apps are already starting to offer support for the 3D Touch system, we don't expect to see special versions of the Facebook, Instagram, or Dropbox Android apps that make use of the pressure-sensing display on the Huawei Mate S.
Out of all the smartphones that we've tested at the PhoneArena labs, the Blu Studio Energy is the one that currently tops our battery life benchmarks, a feat that the manufacturer accomplished by pairing up a 5000mAh battery with power-efficient hardware components. In our battery benchmarks, the Blu Studio Energy lasted for 14 hours and 53 minutes. For comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S6 lasted for 7h 14 min.
Unfortunately, however, the impressive battery life of the Blu Studio Energy is probably the only reason to recommend the handset. The rest of the hardware is a run-of-the-mill experience: a 5-inch display with a resolution of 720 by 1280 pixels, a 1.3GHz quad-core Cortex-A7 CPU, a Mali 400 GPU, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of expandable internal storage, an 8MP primary camera, and a 2MP secondary shooter on the front.
If you're looking for a very powerful smartphone that can take a beating and offers all-day battery life, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Active is your top choice. Essentially a ruggedized version of the standard Galaxy S6, the AT&T-exclusive Active version retains most of the hardware components but adds a larger battery inside a water, dust, and shock-proof body.
Powered by a 3500mAh battery, the Galaxy S6 Active lasted for 12 hours and 9 minutes in our grueling battery life test. That's quite the performance from a smartphone that comes with a 5.2-inch QHD display and is based on the Exynos 7420 chipset with 3GB of RAM, which is a blazing-fast combination.
For those about to rock, the Marshall London is definitely the phone to consider. While most other smartphones are focused on blazing-fast internal specs, ultra-sharp displays, and long-lasting batteries, the Marshall London is the best music-centred smartphone currently available.
Right off the bat, it should be mentioned that the Marshall London comes with mediocre specs that include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 chipset, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of expandable internal storage, an 8MP primary camera, and a 2MP selfie shooter on the front. Despite this, however, audiophiles will surely appreciate that hard work that has gone in the audio department.
On the hardware side, the Marshall London comes with a Wolfson WM8281 Audio Hub, two large ACC stereo speakers, a volume wheel, a dedicated mute button, as well as a pair off MEMS microphones with active noise cancellation. Also, the London also comes with two headphone jacks, which can be used to output two different tracks at the same time. Furthermore, the Marshall London comes bundled with London's highly-rated Mode in-ear headphones. On the software side, the London comes with a range of custom music apps, as well as a global EQ.