What is the Best Smartphone You Can Buy Today?

One of these is the best smartphone available today. Which one is it? [Phone sizes adjusted so they appear uniform]


Since this article was first written, an updated version has been posted here. Check it out. A lot has changed.

Evaluating the Hardware

Who makes the world’s best smartphone? Most people would probably say the iPhone 4S, since it seems like everyone has one. But is it really the best? Let’s find out. I started by making a chart of the specs for all currently available smartphones from U.S. carriers.

The Top Five Finalists

Next, I narrowed down the list of candidates to the best five phones based on hardware specs. I was surprised that some of the most popular phones did not not make this list. I’ll discuss this more below, but first, the top five finalists based on hardware specs are:

HTC Evo 4G LTE

HTC One X

LG Nitro HD

Motorola ATRIX HD

Samsung Galaxy S III (U.S.)

Processor

1.5 GHz dual-core

1.5 GHz dual-core

1.5 GHz dual-core

1.5 GHz dual-core

1.5 GHz dual-core

RAM

1GB

1GB

1GB

1GB

2GB

Storage

16GB

16GB

20GB

16GB

16 or 32GB

Screen size

4.7”

4.7”

4.5”

4.5”

4.8”

Resolution

1280×720

1280×720

1280×720

1280×720

1280×720

Pixel density

312ppi

312 ppi

329 ppi

326 ppi

306 ppi

Rear cam

8MP

8MP

8MP

8MP

8MP

Front cam

1.3MP

1.3MP

1.3MP

1.3MP

1.9MP

Network

LTE

LTE

LTE

LTE

LTE

5GHz WiFi

No

No

No

No

Yes

Bluetooth

4.0

4.0

3.0

4.0

4.0

NFC

Yes

Yes

No

No

Yes

Thickness

8.9mm

8.9mm

10.4mm

8.4mm

7.6mm

Weight

134g

129g

127g

140g

133g

Battery

2000 mAh

1800 mAh

1830 mAh

1780 mAh

2100 mAh

OS

Android 4.0.3

Android 4.0.3

Android 2.3.5

Android 4.0.4

Android 4.0.4

Carrier

Sprint

AT&T

AT&T

AT&T

All

There are big differences between the above phones in terms of screen size and thickness [Chart: Phone Arena]

Creating the above list was not easy because there are phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note, HTC Rezound, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, HTC One S and Motorola Droid Razr Maxx which excel in some areas, but lag in others. However, in the end all of those were dropped because the above phones were better overall.

And the Winner is…

As you can see from the chart above, when it comes to specs, the Samsung Galaxy SIII beats or ties the best smartphones in all areas except pixel density and weight. Even in those areas, it’s no slouch. Most reviewers would probably give second place to the HTC One X, but the LG Nitro HD wins in both lightness and pixel density. The HTC Evo 4G LTE and Motorola ATRIX HD are also very good phones.

Based on specs alone, the Samsung Galaxy SIII is the best smartphone available today

Smartphones That Didn’t Make the Cut

There is a fairly long list of smartphones which are good, but don’t deserve to be on the “best” list because they are flawed in one or more areas. You can view these in the chart below.

Click on the chart below to make it larger and more readable.

Red-faced text shows areas where these phones under-performed. Blue-faced text indicates areas where some phones did well.

Although iPhone 4S sales continue to be strong, it no longer competes when it comes to most specs.

 

Why the iPhone 4S is No Longer One of the Best

Some of you are probably wondering why the iPhone 4S is no longer listed in the chart of best smartphones. The answer is easy; The iPhone 4S hasn’t been competitive for a long time when it comes to hardware specs. In fact the iPhone 4S no longer beats the best Android phones in any of the benchmarks or specifications listed in this article. If you’re a hard-core Apple fan, you’ll probably buy an iPhone 4S anyway — just don’t say you weren’t warned. Two years is a long time to own an under-performing 3G phone that doesn’t support 4G LTE. I’m not saying the iPhone is a bad phone — it’s not, but I was surprised to find that Android phones now outperform it in almost every way. For example:

  • The best Android phones are capable of data speeds which are up to 30x faster than iPhone 4S
  • The best Android phone has 4 times the memory than the iPhone 4S (Galaxy S3 2048MB vs. 512MB)
  • The best Android phones have processors which run almost twice the speed of the iPhone 4S (iPhone runs at 800MHz, all of the best Android phones run at 1.5GHz)
  • Several Android phones have quad-core processors, while the iPhone 4S only has a dual-core processor. I didn’t include those in the above chart, because they’re not available in the U.S. yet.
  • The best Android phones have browser performance that is 96% faster than the iPhone 4S (Galaxy S III Intl. BrowserMark benchmark scores)
  • The best Android phone has a screen which is over 50% larger than the iPhone 4S (Galaxy Note 5.3” vs. 3.5”)
  • The best Android phone has a screen which has 66% more pixels than the iPhone 4S (Galaxy Note 1,024,000 vs. 614,000)
  • The best Android phones have 41% faster GPU performance than the iPhone 4S (Galaxy S III GLBenchmark 2.1 – Egypt Offscreen 720)
  • At least 3 Android phones have greater pixel densities than the iPhone 4S (HTC Rezound 342 ppi vs. 326 ppi)
  • The best Windows phone has a rear camera with twice the resolution of the iPhone 4S (HTC Titan II has 16MP vs. 8MP on iPhone 4S)
  • Almost every Android phone has a better front camera than the iPhone 4S (Galaxy Note has 2.0MP vs. 0.3MP on iPhone 4S)
  • The best Android phone is 24% thinner than the iPhone 4S (Droid RAZR 7.1mm vs 9.3mm). At least 8 other Android phones are thinner than iPhone 4S.
  • The best Android phone is 15% lighter than the iPhone 4S. This is surprising because the best Android phones are much larger than iPhone. (HTC One S 119g vs. 140g)
  • Many Android phones have microSD slots, so consumers can easily and cheaply exceed the 64GB internal memory of most expensive iPhone 4S.
  • The best Android phones support NFC for easy purchasing and LTE for lightning-fast data speeds up to 30x faster than iPhone 4S. The iPhone 4S has none of this.
  • The best Android phone has a battery with more than twice the power of the iPhone 4S (Droid RAZR Maxx 3300mAh vs. 1420 mAh). This translates to over 21 hours talk time versus 14 hours talk time).
  • The best Android phones have Javascript performance that is 37% better than the iPhone 4S (Galaxy S III SunSpider Javascript benchmark scores)
  •  
    There is hope for Apple however. An iPhone 5 is rumored to be coming this fall. After it is released, I’ll update this chart and see how it compares to the other smartphones available at that time.

    The One Benchmark the iPhone 4S Excels At

    It is surprising that the world’s most popular phone gets beat in every single spec listed above. This didn’t used to be the case. It used to be the other way around with iPhone dominating smartphone specs. There is still one thing that the iPhone 4S can beat Android phones at: cellphone radiation. The iPhone 4S has over 300% more radiation than the Samsung Galaxy SIII. That’s very surprising because the Samsung Galaxy SIII has more radios and is capable of much higher data speeds than the iPhone 4S. If you own an iPhone 4S, you might want to get a Bluetooth earpiece if you don’t have one already.

    The iPhone 4S has over 300% more radiation than the Samsung Galaxy SIII

    If you think I missed a phone that should be considered here, please let me know.

    - Rick

    P.S. Some of you are probably thinking this article relates to only hardware — not software. You’re right. Read this to see how Android compares to the newest version of iOS.

    Copyright 2012 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.

    Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

    Ten Reasons You Should Dump AT&T Broadband Now

    Last update: April 22, 2014

    This article has had over 40,000 views! Thanks for reading it.

    Over ninety percent of AT&T’s 11.3 million U-verse TV subscribers also pay for AT&T’s high-speed Internet services. While the U-Verse TV service is very good, their DSL service is bad. Read on to find out why.


    Ten Reasons You Should Dump Your AT&T Broadband Service

    1. You’ll Save Money for at Least a Year

    Broadband speeds vary, but there is a good chance you’ll save money for a least a year when you switch broadband providers. That’s because you can take advantage of special introductory offers. By switching from AT&T’s Elite DSL to Time Warner’s Standard Internet, we are saving $10 a month. But that’s just the first of many reasons to switch.

    Netflix ranks AT&T DSL speeds next to last place

    Netflix ranks AT&T DSL speeds next to last place

    2. DSL Speeds Are Slower than Cable

    We paid AT&T extra for 6Mbps, but rarely saw speeds that high.


    Cable modem download speeds are typically two times faster than DSL.That’s because DSL providers like AT&T cap speeds at 3Mbps. To get faster data rates, we decided to pay extra for AT&T’s 6Mbps Elite plan, but Speedtest tells us AT&T’s is slower than 75% U.S. broadband providers. They give AT&T a “D” grade during peak usage hours. Our data speeds weren’t always that low, they sometimes peaked around 5-6Mbps, but the data rate jumped around so much, the average was often lower. A recent government study found that AT&T only delivers 87% of the speed they advertise, while Cablevision, Comcast, Mediacom, Verizon and ViaSat all deliver speeds that are greater than advertised. Netflix also rates ISPs and unsurprisingly, AT&T DSL ranks near the bottom of their ratings shown above. U-verse also underperformed cable-based broadband from Time Warner and others..

    A recent government study found that AT&T only delivers 87% of the speed they advertise

    A recent government study found that AT&T only delivers 87% of the speed they advertise

    3. AT&T Seems Unable to Provide Consistent Data Speeds

    DSL speeds should be more constant than cable speeds, but we found the opposite to be true. In the beginning, AT&T delivered speeds close to 6Mbps most of the time, but over the past four years we’ve seen our average speed drop dramatically. As you can see from the chart on the right, we’re not getting near the amount of data we’re paying for. Worse yet, AT&T’s data speeds frequently drop to almost zero.

    Notice how our download speeds used to vary from zero to 3 Mbps

    We wanted to believe the problems we were seeing were caused by a defective piece of equipment, but we’ve had techs from AT&T in our house three different times. The AT&T techs replaced our home gateway, DVR, set top boxes, connectors, splitters and other hardware, but none of the changes fixed our problems.

    The Wall Street Journal recently confirmed my assertion that AT&T delivers Internet speeds that are worse than advertised. In fact, they along with Verizon, are the worst offenders in this area.

    4. AT&T’s Customer Support is Horrendous

    AT&T has the worst phone support I’ve ever experienced. They hide the customer support phone number on their site and then make you jump through hoops to get it. The site asks: Which of these four customer types are you? What is your Zip code? What type of support do you need? Then you finally see a ‘Call Us’ button. Now you enter AT&T phone tree hell. “I see you’re calling from 858-731-5252,” says the computer voice. “Is this the phone number where the problem is occurring?” “No,” I say. “Please say the 10 digital account number on your bill?” I say “I don’t know it.” “What type of service do you have? says the computer voice.” I answer.

    Be prepared to jump through hoops on their website before you’re given a customer support phone number

    I spare you the rest of the poorly written script. Often you’re presented with options that don’t apply with the problems you’re having and there is no way to go back — without hanging up and calling back again. I’ve had AT&T’s customer support line hang up on me before as well. The bottom line is that it can easily take 15 to 20 minutes before you’re able to talk to someone. Some of the AT&T Tier 1 techs are clueless. Be prepared to be asked to power cycle your hardware — even though you tell them you already did this before you called. Several times their network has been so bad they weren’t able to even analyze my hardware. In the end they always end up rolling a truck anyway because there is rarely anything they can fix over the phone.

    5. AT&T Has One of the Lowest Data Caps & Throttles Those Who Exceed It

    If you stream a lot of video, you are very likely to have your data speeds limited by AT&T. Most cable companies have limits of around 250GB, which isn’t that easy to reach. AT&T throttles users after 150GB a month. Although that seems like a lot of data, it’s not. If you stream movies or TV shows, or have kids who love YouTube, your family could consume more than this amount of data. Verizon doesn’t impose any type of cap on its FiOS and DSL lines. Time Warner has no specific limits, but can respond to excessive usage.

    6. AT&T’s Network Has More Latency Than Others

    We live in a new home that is hundreds of feet from the central office, so the quality of our broadband connection should be great, but we see horrible latency often. Occasionally these delays make it seem like we have to wait 15 to 30 seconds before web pages update. I used a site called Pingtest.net to prove the quality of the AT&T network in my area is poor.

    Pingtest gives AT&T a “D” grade for line quality

    The ping measurement tells you how long it takes a “packet” of data to travel from your computer to a server on the Internet and back. Whenever you experience delayed responses in Internet applications this is due to a higher than desired ping. A ping below 100 ms is expected from any decent broadband connection. You’ll notice I sometimes see delays as high as 150ms. That’s why AT&T gets a “D” grade here as well. Again, these results vary. Sometimes I see faster ping times, but this result shows how serious AT&T’s problems can be.

    7. AT&T Doesn’t Allow You to Purchase Your Own Equipment

    AT&T provides their subscribers with a home gateway or cable modem. As far as I can tell they do not allow consumers to select their own hardware from a list and use it with AT&T services like Time Warner and other service providers do.

    We decided to purchase our own cable modem

    This policy limits your options. Time Warner supports cable modems from Arris, Motorola, Netgear, SA, SMC, Thomson, Ubee and ZyXel. We decided to purchase our own DOCSIS 3.0-ready cable modem from Motorola after reading a large number of reviews on Amazon. This prevented us from paying a monthly rental charge, and will give us access to much faster speeds if we decide to upgrade our service plan in the future.

    8. You Don’t Need DSL to Keep U-Verse TV

    For the past two years we’ve wanted to cancel our AT&T DSL, but were told by their phone support reps that we needed to keep our DSL in order to get AT&T U-Verse. It turns out this is completely untrue. I wish we would have figured this out earlier. It would have saved us much frustration.

    9. AT&T Hardware Doesn’t Support Advanced Wireless Technologies

    If you’re a U-verse customer, you must use AT&T’s home gateway. The 2-Wire gateway that we were provided with has a built-in wireless router that doesn’t reach some of the rooms in our house. It also doesn’t support provide 5GHz 802.11 wireless support which is supported by our iPads and Samsung smartphones. This allows us to use a network that is much less congested than the normal 2.4GHz network all of our neighbors use. More info. The AT&T home gateway also doesn’t support advanced wireless features like 802.11n or wireless bonding (which increases data speeds).

    After switching we saw our speeds go up dramatically

    After switching we saw our speeds go up dramatically

    10. The AT&T U-Verse Home Gateway Limits the Quality of Third-party VOIP-based Phone Systems

    In order to get the best quality with VOIP-based phone systems like Ooma or Vonage, you must connect directly to a broadband modem or to a router that can prioritize voice over data. The home gateway which AT&T provides only allows this when you pay extra for AT&T’s VOIP service. Even without changing the settings on our router, our Ooma phone system already sounds better because it’s not starved for data all of the time.

    Was It Worth Switching?

    It’s been well over a year since we cut the AT&T DSL cord. Was it worth it? YES! Switching was fast and easy and saved us $120 in the first year.

    After switching to cable modem, we saw our speeds go way up and all of our problems go away. Here are some more details:

  • Our download speeds increased more than 800% to over 16Mbps over Wi-Fi. Our download speeds over Ethernet are up to 27Mbps — even though we only pay for a Standard plan that is supposed to cap out at 15Mbps.
  • Our upload speeds now range from 1 to 3 Mbps.
  • Our latency decreased 80% from 150ms to 21ms.
  • Our data speeds are much more consistent and rarely jump around the way they used to.
  • We’ve seen a dramatic improvement in the quality of our OOMA VOIP telephone service.
  • Our cable service has been very reliable. We’ve experienced only a few hours of downtime over the past 18 months.
  • It’s Time For You to Switch

    You owe it to yourself to investigate the alternatives to AT&T in your area. There’s a good chance you’ll save money and end up with faster data speeds. In less than a week you can switch. Installation is often free, and only takes about an hour. There is no configuration you have to do on your end. Just connect the cable from the new modem to your wireless router, and you’ll be enjoying faster speeds in minutes. Of course your mileage may vary, you might want to check with others in your area to see what their speeds are before making a change. In our case, switching was a smart thing to do.

    - Rick

    Note: This article isn’t intended to be a plug for Time Warner Cable. They are used for comparison purposes, because they are the only cable provider in our area. Make sure you look into all options in your area – including fibre-based broadband solutions like Google Fiber and Verizon’s FiOS.

    Copyright 2013 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.


    Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

    How United Airlines makes flying a miserable experience

    United Airlines works extra hard to make flying a miserable experience. That’s why I stopped flying them about ten years ago. To use up some previously acquired miles I recently used United to fly my family to Europe. Every step of the way United and their employees did everything possible to make our experience a negative one.

    How United made our recent International flights a miserable experience:

    Everything listed below happened on a recent flight from Los Angeles to Europe and back.

    Notice there are no restrooms in the rear of this United 767.

    1. Oversell the flight and then offer passengers $300 (on a $1750 ticket) to take a later flight. Make sure there are no flights until the next day.
    2. Change planes so that some passengers who upgraded to Economy Plus no longer have seats. Try to sell an upgraded seat to the same person who already paid for an upgrade and then tell them no upgrades are available.
    3. Make sure there’s only one gate agent available when there are 20-30 people in line with seat problems.
    4. Do not help the passenger you screwed over and fail to refund the $340 they paid for their seat upgrades. We were told they couldn’t do this at the airport and we needed to fill out a form on their website.
    5. Remove all of the rear restrooms so you can sell more seats. This isn’t the case on all United flights, but we encountered this on our 767 flight from Paris to Houston. I checked SeatGuru and found the seat configuration for our plane. Apparently United got those planes from Continental. They might be O.K. for short flights, but should NEVER be used on a sold-out 11 hour international flight.
    6. Remove any standing area around the restrooms in the center of the plane so people have to either block the aisle or stand in the bulkhead aisle seating area.
    7. Make sure all of your flight attendants working in coach are old and grumpy.
    8. Allow the coach seats to recline so far that passengers can hardly view a movie when the asshole in the front of you reclines.
    9. Have people at the gate who have no idea how to board an airplane.
    10. Board passengers from the front of the plane to the rear to ensure a massive traffic jam in the aisle.
    11. Make sure families are not allowed to sit together. We were scattered all over the plane. Two of our three passengers were forced to sit in middle seats, even though we paid extra for aisle seats.
    12. Turn up the pre-flight announcements so loud that deaf passengers can hear them.
    13. Pride yourself in creating the worst meals in the air. Our meal on this flight was unbelievably bad.
    14. Move the headphone jack to the headrest in front of you so the cable dangles in your food (This is a Boeing 767 flaw)
    15. Use a touchscreen to save money so passengers have to bang the headrest to change channels (Other airlines including British Air and Virgin allow you to change channels from the armrest. (Another Boeing 767 flaw)
    16. Do not serve free alcoholic beverages with meals on International flights (British Air and Virgin continue to do this along with most other airlines).
    17. Don’t offer Wi-Fi on 10-12 hour flights (in regions where it is available)

    United was bad before they merged with Continental, but they seem even worse now. I will never fly them again and I recommend that you think twice before doing so.

    Note: A week before publishing this article United was contacted and given a chance to try to address some of these issues, so far, no response.

    - Rick

    Copyright 2012 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.

    Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

    From CDs to Spotify – A Bleak Future for Musicians

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