Craft Phones: Small brand phones making big leaps

The new hipster era has heralded the dawn of the craft beer and we here at Goos3D can’t complain. We’re quite partial to an auld I.P.A, ice cold Hoegaarden or Galway Hooker, some lesser known brands allowing their creative juices to flow while the larger industry does what it does best. Believe it or not, the same is actually happening in the smartphone world.

While Samsung, Sony and Apple release perpetual annual handsets with slight modifications, the new wave of geniuses hoping to become the next Steve Jobs are creating products that really put some of the better known brands to shame. Here’s a look at a couple of our favourite craft phones that you are sure not to find in any network or high street store.

Craft Phones: Fairphone 2

You might already be familiar with Google’s Project Ara which has roots in Kickstarter Phonebloks. This was to be the first modular smartphone on the market. It hasn’t worked our as such as the project is still at the incubation stage. Enter the heroic Dutch as company Fairphone are out to take over.

fairphone_designFairphone is a slightly different kind of smartphone manufacturer. It’s not out to make the prettiest or the most powerful handsets, but the most ethically responsible. They launched its first rendition in 2013, built solely with materials that could be traced back to conflict free mines and carrying a commitment to reducing the worlds e-waste. Year one sales topped out at 60,000 units, owing largely to pre-orders, providing much needed capital to further develop their agenda with the Fairphone 2.

The Fairphone is built in the same manner as the original, using material which is ethically sources and in created in an incredibly transparent manner (they break down exactly what your paying for) and it is modular, MODULAR!  The expected lifespan of the phone is  5 whopping years. We’d like to see any other handset on the market achieve that. That’s Nokia-esque.

They also intend to keep the same model availbale for at least two years, so as not to be pushing for an upgrade in half that time while remaining responsibility produced and goes against the endless upgrade cycle we have become accustomed too.

They won’t achieve their goals if the specs are not up to lasting the distance. Sporting a  5-inch, 1080p HD screen, a Snapdragon 801 with 2GB RAM, most will admit the Fairphone 2 is not bad at all. The camera is a bit of a let-down at a meagre 8MP, but here’s the beauty of it all. If 8MP doesn’t cut it for you, buy another and fit it yourself. The same goes for the screen and the battery.

Fairphone 2 GIFSimple, thanks to some well thought and clever engineering. The phones body works as a case and can be pulled free of the device itself, revealing the goodies inside; somewhat like a kinder egg minus the chocolate. No tools are required undo a couple of clips and any component can be swapped out in seconds, in fact the phone itself can be completely disassembled and the reassembled in under 5 minutes. Meaning the handset is upgradeable and repairable two of which are rarities in today’s mobile industry, in fact the operating system can be modified, coming with Android 5.1 installed with a skin over the top to make it more simple and appealing to the less tech familiar , but they offer a standard Android ROM while they are also in talks with Mozilla, Jolla & Ubuntu so every possible user is catered for.

The Fairphone 2 has an adequate 32GB of storage, a MicroSD card slot, dual-SIM support, and connects to 4G LTE networks. Unless you’re a real spec snob, there’s little to get upset about here. The device is compelling enough to make this a realistic prospect for more people than the original enticed, and will appeal to the geeky thanks to the cool modular design.

Yes, the OnePlus 2 costs less than that and has a stronger specification, but it doesn’t boast the eco-credentials. Also, don’t underestimate the cool-party-trick factor of stripping down your phone without any special tools, then putting it back together again in just a few moments. Try doing that with any other phone and have it still work afterwards.

You can pick up the Fairphone 2 on their website for €525.

Craft Phones: Kyocera DuraWX

ScreenHunter_03_Sep._27_12.26If you are planning on driving along treacherous roads and making unnecessary journeys you’ll need a pretty tough phone. The Kyocera DuraXV is a rugged waterproof and basically bombproof clamshell. If you’re in the market for a high spec smart phone your looking in the wrong place because the DuraXVis al about the basics.

This phone is built for the extreme, thanks to its reinforced housing- Military Standard 810G rating which is essentially means the phone is able to withstand anything from drops to extreme temperatures, including an IPX68 waterproof rating which means 30 minutes in upto 6 feet of water, if that’s what your into and all that.

Design Features include tactile keypad for simple use even if the use is wearing gloves, the phone also uses a high contrast, Black and white external display and internal colour display, for improved readability in any condition, tough phone but easy to use.

They have also made massive strides with Smart Sonic Receiver Technology that will transmit sound as vibrations direct to the eardrum, essentially by passing background noise allowing much greater call clarity. Side features include Mobile Web, GPS, built in flashlight and Voice command.

You can check out more about the DuraXV on their website.

Craft Phones: Marshall London Phone

This one is hard to figure out as the specs to be honest are utter shite, but it looks so god damn good.

marshall-london-phone-6_3800.0It’s rare we see a completely out of context company take a stab at creating a handset, but guitar amplifier specialists Marshall did in creating the London. It’s stunning to look at, with a textured rubber feel and white line surrounding the screen which will resonate with anyone who has spotted their iconic amps at a concert. Further detail includes a lovely brass scroll wheel doubles as the volume key while at the top there is not one but two auxiliary ports so you can share your music while not disturbing anyone around you (are you listening everyone on Dublin bus) while between the two ports is the dedicated music player button.

Ok its sexy, but the specs are a little disappointing so I will make this quick, 720p 4.7” display which is low even by mid range standards. Using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 running at 1.2Ghz  the same stuff found in the Moto G which is €200 ish and the Marshall will set you back just over twice that which is a lot of cash for something that’s not high spec or unibody which is so hot right now. Really the only spec that gives any credibility is the battery  a 2500 mAh. I guess That’s the benefit of it having a small chip, small screen, and ordinary resolution.  The camera is only an 8mp that uses the standard Google camera app which is not great. Its just a shame because this costs about as much as an iPhone 5s, so thank god for the music features on the London they save the day.

marhasllBasically its hard to suggest the London to real smartphone fans, the screen, the processor and the camera are just bland and truly uninspiring. If I consider the Marshall London as a cool music player with a bonus phone function, rather than an average smartphone with a flashy music app, it makes a lot more sense. I’m also happy it exists at all, because it looks so fantastic. However, if you want to buy a mid-range smartphone, don’t buy the London, because there are much better models for much less money. However, if you want a great sounding mobile device with a cracking design, and don’t mind spending out, then you’ll probably love it.

Craft Phones: Xiaomi – Mi 4i

51201553211PM_635_xiaomi_mi_4iXiaomi is another privately owned company from the Asian market with the remit of knocking Samsung of their perch.  They develop, design and sell android based OS smartphones as well as other consumer electronics such as fitness trackers, TVs, air purifiers & tablets etc. They even build their own skin for its phones called MIUI, and sell most of their phones through flash sales in India. The Mi4i is only Rs 9,999 or €140 to you and me before delivery and for the specs that this delivers it’s pennies.

For a flagship phone a 1080p display is the minimum requirement and the Mi 4i delivers with a premium 5 inch full HD 1080p display, with NTCS 95% colour gamut. To put in perspective the iPhone 6s has an NTSC rating of 72%, which means vivid contrasts and colours that are enhanced with the full lamination technology. The Mi 4i also includes a Sunlight display, a real time pixel modifier for improved readability in all light conditions. All this is wrapped up in the super tough Corning Core glass.

No point having this high performance screen without the battery to run it, and the Mi 4i does this by fitting in the highest capacity battery possible while remaining a slim profile,  meaning a 3120mAh 4.4V 700Wh/l lithium-ion polymer cell,  a similar battery to the Sony flagship range who are renowned for their high performance batteries. Then something amazing happened, to get the most from the battery the Mi 4i was redesigned to include a double sided circuit board which results in a frame that’s only 7.8mm, not bad for a handset with all that power within.   Add a 13MP camera with a 5MP front facing camera, a 64-bit performance system and a 2nd generation Snapdragon 615 along with quadcore 1.7GHz processor. But it doesn’t stop there the Mi 4i is paired with a Adreno 405GPU and support for OpenGl ES 3.0 which is the latest standard in 3D gaming this phone can run anything one throws at it.

The Mi 4i also looks the part is finely textured and matte –sprayed for resistance and grip. The back cover fits just right and bends seamlessly across the sides to meet the front display, simple and elegant. Available also in white, blue and pink , a serious piece of kit or under €150, available from their website.

Ads To Pay The Bills
Previous articleMaking a Murderer: Anonymous Account a Fake
Next articleWho will play who in the Making a Murderer Movie
Junior Editor and host of the Goosed Podcast, Jon is passionate about phones, design and everything tech. Having joined the team in 2015 he now leads the entire Goosed podcast channel. Ask him about 3D printing or Disney movies. Read more by Jon.