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

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    About Rick E. Schwartz
    Rick Schwartz is successful mobile blogger from San Diego. He is currently working on next-generation mobile hardware and software. You can learn more about Rick by clicking on the "About" tab at the top of this page.

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