We live in an age of unprecedented choice, and this is especially true of smartphones.
The choice of operating systems may have dwindled from the days of Symbian and BlackBerry OS, but modern handsets come in an exotic array of designs.
The market has been further enriched by a number of specialist smartphones, targeting niches not served by mainstream manufacturers.
Whether you need a hard-wearing handset, something with style or a phone to help save the planet, these specialist smartphones provide intriguing alternatives to mainstream brands…
Blue Planet II introduced many people to the shocking consequences of consumerism, while Extinction Rebellion dragged the topic of climate change into the headlines.
Buying plastic hardware suddenly seems less appropriate as we approach the 2020s, which is why some manufacturers are launching environmentally friendly smartphones.
Sony’s Xperia ZR is mostly assembled using recycled materials, while the Fairphone 2 uses sustainably sourced materials from parts of the world free of conflict and war.
Its components are also modular, extending the handset’s lifespan – something LG tried with its futuristic G5 handset. Other manufacturers are expected to follow this path in future, too.
Whether you’re an Iron Man participant or a construction site worker, there are numerous rugged smartphones to choose between.
Consumer devices are IP68 protected against pools and sinks, whereas the superior IP69 protection can withstand a jet of water and fine dust particles created by sawing and drilling.
Rugged phones may be operated through gloves, during sandstorms, or while balancing on vibrating platforms.
Kyocera smartphones double as walkie-talkies, clad in shockproof plastic casings capable of shrugging off treatment that would destroy most two-way radios.
Status symbol phones
It may surprise you to learn that the iPhone X doesn’t represent the height of luxury in the domestic smartphone market.
The elite end of the specialist smartphones sector features names like Lamborghini, whose collaboration with Tonino incorporates materials from its Huracan and Aventador supercars.
The marble-clad Mobiado Grand Touch is available exclusively at Harrods, while Sirin’s Solarin was the first phone to offer cryptocurrency storage and military-grade encryption.
These ostentatious status symbols cost up to £10,000 – an indecent amount of money for Android-powered handsets which can still be accidentally dropped down a toilet…
It’s often claimed there’s an app for everything, but you won’t find apps for thermal imaging or air quality monitors in the Google Play or Apple iOS stores.
Some specialist handsets incorporate electrostatic monitors, atmospheric pressure meters, gyroscopes and other tools which reduce the need to carry additional equipment.
This is ideal for people already laden with specialist equipment, or performing roles where rapid sharing and distribution of data is important.
People who work in noisy environments might welcome the Sonim XP8’s 100dB speakers, which compare favourably to the puny sub-five watt outputs of many mainstream handsets.