Will the iPhone 5 Put Apple Back on Top?

Last update: September 6, 2013

The iPhone 5 is a longer, thinner 4G iPhone 4S with twice the memory


Until recently the iPhone dominated worldwide smartphone sales, but now Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S III are outselling both the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 combined. Does the iPhone 5 have what it takes to hold back the Android onslaught and return the iPhone to its place of former glory?

Let’s start by going over the major changes in the iPhone 5 and compare each of them to the best Android phones. We’ll look at the areas each platform is leading in. It’s important that Apple leads in many areas, because new Android phones are released every month, but the next iPhone won’t be released for another 8-10 months.

Although I wrote this article four days before Apple’s official launch, all of my predictions about the iPhone 5 except one turned out to be true. Read on to find out what I got right, and what I got wrong.

The HTC One X was one of the first smartphones avaiable with a quad-core CPU

CPU

The iPhone 5 was rumored to have a quad-core processor. That would have been impressive, but it didn’t pan out. The new iPhone only has a dual-core CPU with a clock speed which is 50% slower than the best Android smartphones. Although it does well in some benchmarks, in side-by-side tests, it’s not much faster than an iPhone 4S. To make matters worse for Apple, quad-core smartphones from HTC and others became available back in February. This means Apple is more than seven months behind in processor technology. We won’t know exactly how far behind they are until an iPhone with a quad-core CPU ships. That probably won’t happen for a least another year.

Advantage: Android
Lead: Android is 17-19 months ahead, if Apple stays on their current release schedule.

Memory & Storage

The iPhone 5 has 1GB of RAM and is available with 16, 32 or 64GB of storage. Android phones like the Galaxy S II have been available with 1GB of RAM for 18 months. Newer Android phones, like the Samsung Galaxy S III, have 2GB of RAM which is twice as much memory as the new iPhone has. You can never have too much memory because it speeds up the phone and improves multitasking performance.

Android phone owners can increase their storage to 64GB for less than $20


Although Android phones are available with the same amount of storage as the iPhone 5, many Android phones also include a microSD slot which let users convert a 32GB phone to a 64GB phone for less than $20. A 64GB Android phone can be expanded to 128GB — although it’s not cheap to do so. That’s twice as much storage as the iPhone 5 has.

Advantage: Android
Lead: Android phones had 1GB of memory at least 18 months before the iPhone 5 was announced.

Network

Perhaps the biggest change in the new iPhone is 4G LTE support. LTE phones are capable of much higher data speeds than 3G phones. Unfortunately, Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy Indulge had 4G way back in February of 2011. Nineteen long months later, Apple finally got around to adding 4G support to the iPhone 5. Apple has also confirmed the iPhone 5 can’t do simultaneous voice and LTE data on Verizon’s CDMA network like Android phones can do. This is a big limitation.

Advantage: Neither – Both platforms now support LTE
Lead: Android is 19 months ahead in this area

Wi-Fi Connectivity

Mobile devices with dual-band Wi-Fi support can communicate over either 2.4GHz or 5GHz Wi-Fi. This is important because the 5GHz band is capable of faster speeds and is not as susceptible to interference from cordless telephones, microwave ovens, baby monitors, Bluetooth devices and wireless keyboards as the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band. Android devices like the Samsung Galaxy S II have had dual-band Wi-Fi support for 19 months. The iPhone 5 is the first Apple smartphone to get 5GHz Wi-Fi support.

Advantage: Neither – Both platforms now support Dual-band Wi-Fi
Lead: Android is 19 months ahead in this area

The Droid RAZR MAXX has over twice the power of the new iPhone’s battery

Battery

Battery life is the single biggest complaint about the iPhone 4S. In fact, a recent survey showed that 93% of those interested in the iPhone 5 want longer battery life. The addition of 4G in the iPhone 5 will consume larger amounts of power than before, so it’s important the new iPhone has a more powerful battery. Does it? Although Apple hasn’t given specifics, there are reports the iPhone 5 has a battery which is only slightly more powerful than the battery in the iPhone 4S. If this is true, battery life will continue to be a problem. The Droid RAZR MAXX has the most powerful battery in a smartphone today. At 3300mAh, this phone has a talk time of 21.5 hours, while the iPhone 5 only has a talk time of 8 hours. The iPhone 5 has a battery with less than half as much power and can’t come close to the talk time of the eight month old RAZR MAXX. The Samsung Galaxy S III also easily beats the new iPhone 5 in both talk time and standby time — even though it is only 1mm thicker.

Many Android phones have easily removable batteries which can be cheaply upgraded. This isn’t possible with the new iPhone because the battery is not removable.

Advantage: Android
Lead: Android batteries with twice the power of the new iPhone have been available for eight months.

Camera

The iPhone 5 has a camera with an 8-megapixel sensor and specs which are almost identical to the iPhone 4S, but it’s thinner and has a few enhancements. Apple says it has a dynamic low light mode which evaluates nearby pixels to give up to 2 f-stops greater low-light performance. A new image processor in the A6 is also supposed to reduce noise and includes a so-called “smart filter” to do better color-matching. However Apple’s claims appear to be over-stated. Some side-by-side comparisons between the cameras in the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S have show little difference between the two, while others show improvement. The iPhone 5 gets killed by other top cameras when it comes to low-light performance. As you can see in photo below, which was taken by a Samsung Galaxy S III, the image is sharper and less noisy than photo taken by the iPhone 5. The S III’s photo also has more accurate colors — capturing the true purple of the flower, while the iPhone’s photo looks pink and yellow. The 41MP Nokia PureView camera does even better in low-light situations. Another problem the iPhone 5’s camera is its tendency to over-sharpen photos, which adds distortion.

The Galaxy S III performs better in low-light than the iPhone 5


How does the camera in the iPhone 5 compare to other smartphones? Nokia’s PureView cameras are miles ahead the camera in the new iPhone. The PureView camera has a 41MP sensor, while the iPhone 5 still uses an 8MP sensor. Other smartphones come with 13-16MP sensors. The Nokia Lumia 920 which includes PureView technology, also includes a sensor which is larger than the one on the iPhone. Generally larger sensors result in better image quality.

Apple made a big deal about the new panorama mode and ability to take quick photos with the new iPhone 5s camera, but both of those features appeared in the Samsung Galaxy Nexus camera nine months ago and are included with Android 4.0. Other new iPhone 5 features like ‘Shared Photo Streams’ have been available to Galaxy S III users since May of 2012.

The screen on the new Samsung Galaxy Note II dwarfs the one on the new iPhone 5

Screen Size

Some people say Anroid phone have screens that are too big, but a recent survey found that 90 percent of people want their next phone to have a large screen. The new iPhone’s 4.0″ screen is impressive when compared to the iPhone 4S, but it is 16% smaller than the screen on the Samsung Galaxy S III, and 27% smaller than the upcoming Galaxy Note II.

Advantage: Android
Lead: >18 months. Android phones with screens larger than the new iPhone have been available for at least 18 months.

Screen Resolution

The 1136×640 pixel screen on the new iPhone is impressive, but has 29% less pixels than the Samsung Galaxy Note which was announced back in September of 2011. Although the new Retina display has better color saturation with full sRGB rendering, it has only has a resolution of 326 pixels per inch (PPI); That’s considerably less than the 342 PPI display on the HTC Rezound. That phone came out way back in November of 2011. To make matters worse, better Android phones are just around the corner. In fact there are a total of seven different smartphones with higher resolution (PPI) screens than the iPhone 5. For example, the Sony Xperia V has a PPI of 342; But the best is yet to come, the HTC Droid Incredible X is rumored to have a 1920×1080 display with a mind-boggling pixel density of 480 PPI. The display on the iPhone 5 doesn’t even come close to the display on this phone.

Advantage: Android
Lead: 19 months. Android phones with higher pixel densities than the new iPhone 5 have been available for over 19 months.

Screen Shape

Since the new iPhone doesn’t have a 1280×720 screen, it can’t play HD video content without scaling it. Often, devices that don’t have a 16:9 ratio display black bars when playing HD video. A device like that the Samsung Galaxy S III which sports this ratio will have smaller black bars (or no black bars).

There is some controversy over the new iPhone’s strange shape. iPhone user Henry Blodget says “Who cares about having a taller screen? I certainly don’t want to have to turn the phone to landscape view every time I want to look at something. But the screen thing is really annoying. I’m not a watch-movies-or-play-video-games-on-my-phone guy. I’m a do-email-and-tweet-and-read-the-Internet-on-my-phone guy. So the idea of having to turn the phone to landscape to take advantage of the screen being slightly taller sounds more annoying than anything.”

But the biggest problem with the strange shape of the iPhone 5 is that none of the current apps will occupy the entire screen of the new iPhone until after they are updated. In the meantime, Apple will place two black strips along the top and bottom in portrait mode, or the left and right in landscape mode, just like a letterboxed film.

Advantage: Android
Lead: Android phones with true 1280×720 HD screens like the HTC Rezound have been available for at least 10 months.

Screen Accuracy

When it comes to display accuracy, the iPhone 5 is second to none in most areas. The iPhone 5 has excellent brightness, contrast rating, readability in bright light, reflectiveness, color gamut and color shift. The Samsung Galaxy S III gets a B+ rating vs. Apples A, and beats the iPhone 5 in black level and contrast ratio.

Advantage: iOS
Lead: The iPhone had had better screen accuracy since the beginning.

Case Thickness & Overall Weight

The iPhone 5 is 7.6mm thin and said to be “the world’s thinnest smartphone.” unfortunately like so much Apple hyperbole, it’s not even close to being true. At least five other smartphones are thinner than the iPhone 5. You’d think that Apple would have Google’d this claim before making such a big deal about it.

Phones which are thinner than the iPhone 5
1. Oppo Finder is only 6.65 milimeters thick
2. Huawei Ascend P1 6.8 millimeters
3. Motorola RAZR XT909 7.1 millimeters
4. Motorola RAZR XT910 7.1 millimeters
5. Motorola DROID RAZR 7.1 millimeters

Advantage: Android

The fact that the iPhone 5’s screen is much smaller than some Android phones helps it when it comes to weight. The iPhone 5 is lighter than most other popular Android phones! It weighs only 112 grams, while the HTC One S weighs 119 grams and the Samsung Galaxy S III weighs 133 grams.

Advantage: Apple

Extras

The new iPhone comes with a digital wallet called ‘Passport’ which can hold digital boarding passes and coupons, but it doesn’t support NFC which is required to buy things at any of the 300,000+ PayPass cash registers. A digital wallet which can’t buy things? Only from Apple.

Wireless charging is another feature expected on the iPhone 5. Even if this rumor was correct (it wasn’t) the iPhone 5 would have still been four months behind the Samsung Galaxy S III which first launched back on May and includes support for wireless charging. Other smartphones that include wireless charging support today include the HTC Droid DNA, HTC Windows Phone 8X, LG Nexus 4, LG Spectrum 2, Nokia Lumia 822, Nokia Lumia 920, Nokia Lumia 925 and the Samsung Galaxy S 4.

Advantage: Android
Lead: NFC support has been available for 21 months on Android devices like the Samsung Nexus S. Wireless charging has been available on the Android platform for at least 4 months. That feature won’t appear for at least another 14 more months on the iPhone.

I expected the new iPhone to have an edge-to-edge display like new Motorola Droid RAZR M

What is the New iPhone Missing?

Nokia’s Lumia phones are available in seven different colors


No Digital Payments (NFC) – Early on there was talk about the iPhone having NFC support or using Bluetooth 4.0 for near-field communications. Somehow this was cut from the list of supported features. This is a really big deal because NFC support is required to purchase things at one of 300,000+ NFC-enabled PayPass cash registers. The new iPhone comes with ‘Passport’ which is a multi-function “wallet” that can hold digital boarding pass and coupons but it doesn’t allow you to buy things

No State of the Art Camera (e.g. 13-16MP) – Nokia’s Pureview cameras are miles ahead the iPhone 5’s camera. They include a 41MP sensor while the iPhone 5 still uses an 8MP sensor. Other smartphones come with 13-16MP sensors. Side-by-side comparisons between the cameras in the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S have show very little difference between the two.

No True HD Screen – Since all high-definition video content is either 720p or 1080p, it’s surprising that Apple didn’t choose one of those resolutions. 720P HD displays became the standard for high-end smartphones starting back in 2011. The new iPhone only has a 640p screen.

No HDR video capture – Phones like the new HTC One have video cameras that have the same real-time HDR processing that is found in most phones today. This makes it possible to have images with bright light sources and dim backgrounds.

No 60fps Video Recording – Phones like the new HTC One and Asus Padfone 2 have video cameras are capable of recording 720p video at 60fps. This is essential for smooth motion with action sports. Here’s a good simulation of the differences between various frame rates.

No Touch-to-Share – Most newer Android phones, like the Galaxy S III, can share media by touching one phone to another with NFC support. This allows you to share photos, videos, contacts and Web pages, as well as information between apps.

No International LTE Roaming – In the past one of the best things about having an iPhone on a carrier like AT&T was that you could take it to Europe and still enjoy fast data speeds. None of the U.S. carriers is offering LTE roaming outside the United States.

Very Limited Carrier Interoperability – Apple is doing away with the dual-mode GSM/CDMA support that the iPhone 4S had. Instead, it’s selling three different types of iPhone 5s: one CDMA-based model and two GSM-based models with different LTE bands. Having separate versions will make carrier interoperability difficult.

No Simultaneous Voice and Data on Some Carriers – The iPhone 5 doesn’t support simultaneous voice and LTE data on carriers like Verizon and Sprint. More info. Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S III do support simultaneous voice and LTE data on carriers like Verizon. Apple could have easily supported this, but decided to not add a third antenna — which would have allowed its CDMA iPhones to support simultaneous voice and data.

No microSD Card Slot – Most Android phones let you easily and cheaply expand your memory by adding a microSD card. Sadly Apple still refuses to add this important feature. The new iPhone also has a proprietary USB connector so you have to buy a special Apple cable instead of a standard and much cheaper microUSB cable. Thanks Apple!

Limited Color Choices – Black and white are not really color choices. The new Nokia lumia phones are available in seven eye-popping color choices including purple, turquoise and yellow. Samsung’s popular Galaxy S III phones are now available in six great-looking — although more subdued colors. It blows my mind that Apple still offers only two colors.

No Affordable Unlocked Price Option – The official unsubsidized price for a iPhone 5 is $649. You can buy an unlocked Nexus 4 for less than a third that price, and it has better specs than the iPhone in most areas. Sure you could sell your soul to a carrier and get an iPhone for less, but two years is a long time to use a phone with specs like that.

No Fingerprint Reader – Fingerprint readers have been available on Android devices starting with the Motorola Atrix 4G, which was released back in February of 2011. Newer Android phones like the HTC One Max have fingerprint readers as well.

No Wireless Charging – In the future you will no longer have to plug in your phone to charge it. The Samsung Galaxy S III, Nokia Lumia 920, HTC Droid DNA, LG Nexus 4, Nokia Lumia 822, HTC Windows Phone 8X and the LG Spectrum 2 all include wireless charging support today.

Wireless changing is another feature missing from the new iPhone


No Edge-to-edge Display – The Motorola Droid RAZR M was one of the first phones with an edge-to-edge screen with almost no bezel. The new Samsung Galaxy Note III has even a smaller side bezel. I expected the iPhone 5 to have an edge to edge screen, but it does not.

Screen doesn’t work with gloves – If you live in a region where winters are cold and long, you’ll appreciate phones like the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and Huawei Ascend Mate that work well even when you are wearing gloves. This requires special touchscreen technology that Apple doesn’t use in any of its products.

Limited Stylus Support – Although you can use a stylus on an iPhone 5 you don’t get the same level of expression that you get on Android Phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note II which has 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity. A stylus gives you much more expression and exposes some very interesting new features.

No 16:9 Display – Apple says the iPhone 5 is closer to 16:9 but the movies still need to be letterboxed and all apps will need to be resized or they will also appear letterboxed.

No OpenGL 3.0 ES support – Android smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Note III included support for OpenGL 3.0 ES which makes possible much better looking graphics.

No Voice-over-LTE Support – Phones like the Samsung Galaxy S III support VoLTE today. Once the carriers roll-this out next year voice will be sent over the fast 4G network and voice-quality will dramatically improve. VoLTE has twice the frequency-range of 3G and HD-level audio. More info.

No Fast-charging Chip – Many of the best Android phones now include a fast-charging technology from Qualcomm that helps them charge up to 40% faster than older phones. Supported phones include the following and many more: HTC Droid DNA, HTC One S, HTC One SV, HTC 8X, Google Nexus 4, LG Optimus G, Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx HD/RAZR HD, Nokia Lumia 920, Nokia Lumia 820 and the Samsung Galaxy S III. The Samsung Galaxy Note III supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 feature that charges up to 75% faster than conventional USB charging technology.

No Front-facing Stereo Speakers – Android phones like the new HTC One have two front-facing speakers. The iPhone 5 only has one mono speaker that points down so it’s sometimes covered by your hand.

Its AV adapter doesn’t support 1080p – Another big downside to the iPhone 5s use of a proprietary “Lightning” cable is that its Digital AV adapter (which connects to the HDMI jack on your TV) doesn’t support 1080p today. It’s capable of supporting 1080p, but Apple has chosen to hold back support for this feature.

No Face Unlock – All Android phones running the 4.0 or 4.1 OS use facial recognition to allow user to access to their phone by looking at it. Other cool options like swipe are also available. iPhone users are still swiping their screens with their fingers to unlock their phones.

No Replaceable Battery – Many Android phones have batteries which are removable and easily replaceable. This is important because all rechargeable batteries have a limited life span and need to be replaced.

No Dual MIMO Smart Antennas – Smartphones like the Moto X have 2 antennas dedicated to 4G LTE, which should deliver faster data speeds and better reception. Other phones use the same antenna for 2G/3G and 4G. The iPhone 5 only has a 1×1 MIMO antenna.

Not Water-resistant – Android phones like the Motorola Defy, Defy+, Defy XT, Defy Pro, Sony Xperia Z, Sony Xperia Acro S, Samsung Galaxy Xcover, Samsung Rugby Smart, Sony Ericsson Xperia Active, Casio G’zOne Commando and others are all highly water-resistant. The iPhone is not water resistant. I have several friends that have ruined their iPhones by dropping them in water. Android phones like the Cat B15 go further by surviving 6 foot drops, submersion over 3 feet in water, and the ability to run in temperatures as low as -4F to as high as 122F. The enclosure on the new Sony Experia Z1 has an IP code rating of 58, which is even better.

No USB 3.0 support – Android devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note III include USB 3.0 support. This allows you to transfer files between your phone and PC up to 10 times faster than a traditional USB port.

No high-resoution audio support – High-resolution audio is going to be pushed heavily at the 2014 CES show. CEA research suggests nearly 40% of consumers are willing to pay more for high quality audio electronics devices. That’s why it’s important Android phones like the LG G2 and Samsung Galaxy Note III support 24bit/192kHz music.

Doesn’t use the most scratch-resistant screen – The Samsung Galaxy S4 is the first smartphone with a Gorilla Glass 3 screen. This screen is much more durable than the Corning screen used on the iPhone 5 and almost impossible to scratch. Watch this video to see just how durable it is.

No Infrared Transmitter – Phones like new HTC One and LG Optimus VU II have built-in IR-transmitters so you can use your tablet to control devices in your home like your TV without using Wi-Fi and special apps. This is a very useful feature.

No LTE Advanced Support – Phones like new Samsung Galaxy Note III have Category 4 LTE support which will allow your device to download data at much faster speeds in the future.

Why Consumer Reports recently said the iPhone 5 is the worst of the top smartphones

Even if the iPhone wasn’t missing all of the above features which are found in other phones, it still wouldn’t be a contender, because it just can’t compete with phones like the Droid DNA, or even the Samsung Galaxy S III, which is much older. I’m not the only one who feels this way. Consumer Reports recently said the iPhone 5 is the worst of the top smartphones. They ranked it below the LG Optimus G and Samsung Galaxy Note II, as well as older phones like the Droid RAZR MAXX, Droid RAZR HD, Samsung Galaxy S III and HTC One S. You can read more about this when their February issue hits the newstands and Internet.

Will People Still Buy It?

Of course they will buy it! Most iPhone fans upgrade every time Apple releases a new iPhone. If Apple fans were to compare the new iPhone to other smartphones, they would see that it’s not competitive in all areas except weight, but Apple fans don’t question Apple. The iPhone 5 is sure to be the best selling smartphone in history. Analysts are projecting sales of 10 million in the first month. Over time it is sure to outsell the iPhone 4S, which was very similar to the iPhone 4, yet it sold an amazing 50 million units.

Post Launch Update:
– Apple missed some analysts sales estimates for the opening weekend.
– Samsung’s Galaxy S III had four of its five best-selling weeks in the U.S. after the iPhone 5 was unveiled. That’s very surprising, given the fact that the GS3 has been on the market since July.
– Samsung shipped 57M smartphones in Q3 after the iPhone 5 was released. That’s twice as many phones as many as Apple shipped.
– Apple is continuing to see sales decline in both Europe and Asia-Pacific.
– In Q3, Android manufacturers shipped over 5 times more smartphones than Apple did.

In just three years, Android has crushed the smartphone competition

How Google Reversed Apple’s World Domination

In the first four years after the iPhone was released, Apple not only outsold individual smartphone from companies like Samsung and Motorola, it sold more phones than entire platforms did. Unfortunately for Apple, those days are gone.

  1. First Android started outselling the iPhone worldwide. Then, back in May of 2010 IDC reported Android began outselling Apple in the U.S.
  2. Next, Samsung over took Apple on worldwide sales of smartphones.
  3. Then, individual Android phones started outselling the iPhone worldwide.
  4. And now, for the first time ever the Samsung Galaxy S III is outselling the iPhone 4S in the United States. Four easy steps to Samsung’s worldwide mobile domination. More about Samsung’s rise to number one.

In the past quarter, the Samsung Galaxy S III outsold the iPhone in the U.S. and abroad


Now Google is widening it’s lead. In the second quarter of 2012, IDC reported that 68% of all smartphones shipped were Android. That’s four times the 17% market share currently held by Apple. When the iPhone 5 was launched, there were over half a billion devices running Android in the world. Most of those are smartphones. That’s over 100 million more devices than Apple has running iOS today. More than 1.3 million new Android devices are activated every day now, but next year over 1 billion Android smartphones are forecasted to ship. To make make matters worse, consumers are now more excited about the iPad than the iPhone, so Apple’s marketing people have their work cut out for them — especially now that Samsung is now generating more buzz than Apple with both “early tech adopters” and the broader group of consumers aged 18 to 34.

Update (11/15) – Even after the launch of the iPhone 5, Android now has 72% of the market, while Apple only has 16%.

Android is Raising the Bar High

Consumers used to be able to buy the newest iPhone and know they were getting the best phone on the planet. Those days are over. Apple is playing catch-up with Android when it comes to both specs and features. If the iPhone 5 were announced as an Android phone, it would probably be classified as a upper mid-range device. Apple is now two years behind Android in some areas and this gap is likely to increase because new Android phones are coming out every month. Apple fans have to wait an entire year to get higher performing hardware. This is a big problem that Apple is going to have to change if they are going to remain competitive. It’s not just hardware that is a problem. As others have pointed out, Apple hasn’t touched a single significant element of their UI since they added multitasking back in iOS4. The look and design of the iPhone hasn’t fundamentally changed since the first iPhone five years ago.

Is it Fair to Compare a Single Phone to an Entire Platform?

Some of you are probably thinking: Hey wait! You can’t compare the iPhone 5 with an entire platform of phones. That’s fair, but here I compare the iPhone 5 directly with other top Android and Windows phones and it’s very clear the iPhone 5 is still behind the competition in most areas. My point is that Apple doesn’t build any of their own phones (or computers for that matter) they use Foxconn, who has access to every technology listed on this page. Apple choose to ignore great technologies like NFC. Apple has a long history of holding back technologies, because it forces their users to buy their next product. It’s amazing to me that Apple fans never catch on to this game. That’s one reason Apple has over $120 billion dollars in cash.

Will the Apple Empire Strike Back?

The new iPhone will help Apple to stage a comeback


Yes! The new iPhone will initially outsell every other smartphone in the U.S. and abroad. One analyst says over 10 million new iPhones will be sold in the first week. Another analyst expects Apple to sell 50 million new iPhones in the U.S. alone. Will this explosion of sales be enough to turn the Android tide? Experts say Android will continue to widen it’s lead in the second half of 2012 – even after the new iPhone ships. A year from now, it’s highly likely that another Samsung phone will overtake the new iPhone again in sales. Experts say even Windows Phone is on pace to pass up Apple’s iOS in 2015. But you never know what Apple has up their sleeve. That’s what makes it so much fun to watch this battle of two great tech titans.

– Rick

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


Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1
 

Why Android Sometimes Gets a Bad Rap

There’s a reason most people think the iPhone is better than Android phones, but it’s not what you think.

Most People Prefer iPhone

Surveys show most consumers prefer the iPhone to Android phones. Although consumers who have switched will tell you it was because the iPhone is a better phone, there is strong evidence against this. The best Android phones are faster, thinner and lighter than the iPhone 4S. They also have bigger screens, higher-resolution displays, more powerful batteries and data speeds that are up to 30 times faster than the iPhone 4S. As far as hardware goes, it’s hard to find much the iPhone does better than the best Android phones. [Scroll to the bottom of this article for more details]

Software Superiority?

Software superiority is another thing you’ll hear iPhone users tout over Android, but the quality of Android apps has dramatically improved over the past few years. In some cases, popular Android apps are actually better than their iPhone equivalents (e.g. Facebook, Google Maps, etc.). What about stability? Recent studies show that iOS apps crash more than Android apps. What about the operating system? Although you’d think iOS 5.0 would have more advantages over Android 4.0, it’s the other way around. Here’s proof. So, why does everyone think iPhone is better than Android phones? You’ll hear fragmentation mentioned a lot, but I don’t think that’s the biggest reason. There is a strong argument that the biggest problems facing Android today are caused by those who sell it. I’m talking about the retailers, carriers, salespeople and handset manufacturers.

Too Many Choices

As far as the retailers go, I believe the carriers and big box retailers are one of the biggest reasons consumers think Android phones are inferior. When a consumer goes into a retailer like Best Buy they are often overwhelmed by the number of different Android phones the store carries. Most are the phones are old and should have been removed from the shelves. Some of the phones were bad phones the day they were released. Gizmodo just printed a list of the worst phones you can buy and you’ll find many of these in carrier stores and big box retailers today. I looked at last week’s Best Buy newspaper ad and saw that two of Gizmodo’s “worst phones” were being advertised in it. The odds of a typical consumer picking one of the best Android phones in a big box retailer is slim.

Apple displays no more than four phones on each side of a table

The Apple Experience

When you go to an Apple Store there is almost always only one type of iPhone on display. It’s always the newest iPhone and it sells for $199 to $399 (with a two-year contract). The only decision you need to make is what color case you want, and how much storage you need. It’s impossible to purchase a bad iPhone in a retail store. The contrast between the Apple and Android shopping experiences is dramatic.

You Get What You Pay For

When most consumers shop for a new Android phone the number one thing they look for is price. They want a deal and most of the time the deals are on older phones, which are slower and are not running the newest version of Android. Cheap Android phones have low-quality displays and slow processors. Most of the time, they look and feel cheap. There is a reason these phones are not being sold for list price. You get what you pay for. You’ll never see an iPhone 4S for free. They cost $199 to $399 (with a service plan) and they are worth it. Just like the best Android phones are worth $199 to $299. The bitter irony is the fact that you can often find great Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus on sites like Amazon for as little as $49. Deals on old iPhones exist as well, if you know where to look.

Few People Run Android 4.0

Fragmentation may not be the biggest problem, but it is an important issue. Studies show 80% of all iOS users are running the newest iOS software (iOS 5.0 or later) while only 5% of all Android users are running Android 4.0. Update: As of July, this number is 11%, but it’s still too low. Most smartphone owners have never even seen Android 4.0 in action. The majority of Android users (64%) are running Android 2.3, which was released way back in December of 2010. Google has made hundreds of improvements to Android since then.

Here’s a list of Android phones which are running Android 4.0.

Good Advertising is Essential

The Quad-core based Asus Transformer Prime was a revolutionary tablet when it was released back in December of 2011, but it was never advertised on TV. I don’t remember seeing it in any print-based ads either. How did it sell? I should not come as a surprise that the iPad 2 eclipsed it in sales, even though the Transformer Prime is much faster, thinner, lighter and has many other advantages.

While Android tablet ads are rare, it’s impossible to watch TV without being bombarded by Apple’s ads. Apple advertises far more than any other mobile device manufacturer. They teach consumers how to use their products feature by feature, and they make you feel like you must purchase their products or you’ll be left out. And it works like a charm. Millions of people line up to buy every new Apple product – even the ones which aren’t that great.

Google’s Nexus phones provide a more iPhone-like experience

Every iPhone is a Nexus Phone

Once a year Google releases a new Nexus phone with the newest Android OS, state of the art hardware and no carrier bloatware. Since Google and other developers use this phone to test their own software, these phones tend to be very reliable. You could say that every iPhone is a Nexus phone. Apple comes out with one new phone a year and they have all of the advantages of a Nexus phone.

Don’t compare apples to oranges

Comparing Apples to Apples

The bottom line is you can’t compare apples to oranges when you’re shopping for a new phone. If you’re prepared to spend $200-300 on an iPhone, you should look at Android phones in the same price range. It’s not fair to compare a $300 iPhone that’s only been out for a few months with a two year old Android phone that’s free. Never buy an Android phone that isn’t running the newest OS, and take the time to learn which are the best smartphone before you go into a store. You owe it to yourself to get the best phone your money can buy — even if that means buying an Android or Windows phone.

Fixing Android’s Perception Problems

There are some things Google (along with those who manufacture and sell Android devices) could do to be on a more level playing field with Apple.

  • Google should open up their Nexus phone program to any phone that meets strict guidelines (no carrier bloatware, newest OS, quality components, etc).
  • Google should raise the bar on their Nexus program so it includes things like minimum battery life requirements.
  • Google should insist that carriers make all OS updates available immediately. Verizon has caused big problems in this area.
  • Google should start an Intel Inside-like marketing program like where they provide marketing dollars to those who meet strict guidelines. This would make it easier for manufacturers to advertise their products on television.
  • Retailers should reduce the number of Android phones they carry, and stop advertising bad phones.
  • Retailers should color-code phone signage so it’s more clear what the best phones are from each carrier.
  • Handset manufacturers should focus more on quality — and not quantity, and advertise their products more.
  • Everyone should produce commercials that appear to typical consumers. It’s amazing how many bad Android commercials there are. This is one thing Apple does very well.

Will Google change? There are signs they may be changing already. Expect to hear more at their Developers conference in June.

Android Phones that are Superior to the iPhone 4S

Here are some examples where Android phones beat the iPhone 4S in side-by-side hardware comparisons:

  • Android phones that have faster CPUs than the iPhone 4S include the HTC One X, HTC One S, HTC Rezound, Droid RAZR Maxx, Samsung Galaxy Note, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket, Droid 4, HTC Vivid and many others.
  • Android phones that are thinner than the iPhone 4S include the Droid RAZR, Droid RAZR Maxx, HTC One X, HTC One S and others.
  • Android phones that are lighter than the iPhone 4S include the Droid RAZR, HTC One X, HTC One S, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and others.
  • Android phones with higher-resolution displays than the iPhone 4S include: HTC Rezound, LG Nitro HD and others.
  • Android phones that have bigger screens with more pixels than the iPhone 4S include: HTC One X, HTC One S, HTC Rezound, Droid RAZR Maxx, Samsung Galaxy Note, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket, Droid 4, HTC Vivid and too many others to list here.
  • Android phones with more powerful batteries than the iPhone 4S include the Droid RAZR Maxx, Droid 4, LG Nitro HD, HTC One S, HTC One X, HTC Rezound, HTC Vivid, Samsung Galaxy Note, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and too many others to list here.
  • Android phones with much faster data speeds than the iPhone 4S include the Droid RAZR Maxx, Droid 4, LG Nitro HD, HTC One X, HTC Rezound, HTC Vivid, Samsung Galaxy Note, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and too many others to list here.

In the end, the decision which smartphone to purchase is yours. Since there is a good chance you’ll have to use it for at least two years, make sure to choose wisely.

– Rick

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

Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

Today’s Best Smartphones (December 2011)


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

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past six months looking for a new smartphone. It hasn’t been an easy process because there are so many great phones available today. To make it possible to compare specs, I made the following chart:

 

Apple iPhone 4S

HTC Rezound

HTC Vivid

LG Nitro HD

Motorola Droid RAZR

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket

Processor

800MHz dual-core

1.5 GHz dual-core

1.2 GHz dual-core

1.5 GHz dual-core

1.2 GHz dual-core

1.2 GHz dual-core

1.5 GHz dual-core

RAM

512MB

1GB

1GB

1GB

1GB

1GB

1GB

Storage

16-64GB

16GB

16GB

16GB

16GB

32GB

16GB

Screen

3.5”

4.3”

4.5”

4.5”

4.3”

4.65”

4.5”

Resolution

960×640

1280×720

960×540

1280×720

960×540

1280×720

800×480

Pixel density

326 ppi

342 ppi

245 ppi

 329 ppi

256 ppi

316 ppi

207 ppi

Rear cam

8MP

8MP

8MP

8MP

8MP

5MP

8MP

Front cam

0.3MP

2MP

1.3MP

1.3MP

1.3MP

1.3MP

2MP

Video

1080p @ 30fps

1080p @ 30fps

1080p @ 30fps

 1080p @ 30fps

1080p @ 30fps

1080p @ 30fps

1080p @ 30fps

Network

HSPA

LTE

LTE HSPA+

LTE HSPA+

LTE

LTE

LTE/HSPA+

Dual-band

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Bluetooth

4.0

3.0

3.0

3.0

4.0

3.0

3.0

NFC

No

No

No

 No

No

Yes

 Yes

Thickness

9.3mm

 13.65mm

11.2mm

10.4mm

7.1mm

9.47mm

9.40mm

Weight

140g

170g

177g

128 g

127g

150g

132g

Battery

1420 mAh

 1620 mAh

1620 mAh

1830 mAh

1780 mAh

1850 mAh

1850 mAh

Operating System

iOS 5.0

Android 2.3.4

Android 2.3.5

Android 2.3.5

Android 2.3.5

Android 4.0.2

Android 2.3.4

Carrier(s)

AT&T, Verizon, Sprint

Verizon

AT&T

AT&T

Verizon

Verizon

AT&T

I suggest you start by deciding what matters the most to you.

  • Are you an Apple fan that has just got to have an iPhone?
  • Are you dying to get a phone that supports LTE for fastest possible data speeds?
  • Are you looking for the largest display, or the thinnest phone?

You get the idea. This chart should help you to narrow your decision down.

I should mention that I cut two phones from the chart due to space restrictions. I debated including a second chart, but decided against it because the specs of both of these phones, while good, are not as good as the other phones here. In case you’re wondering, the phones I cut were the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Titan (a Windows Phone). There were also several other great phones I omitted because they are not yet available in the U.S. including the HTC Sensation XL, Samsung Galaxy Note and Samsung Galaxy S II HD LTE. Watch for the Galaxy Note to cross the pond next year.

Since great new smartphones are coming out every month, I’ll be posting frequent updates to this chart. Expect to see the first one after I return from CES in 2012.

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

- Rick

Note: An update to this article was recently published here.

Copyright 2011 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.

Ten Things You Should Know About Mobile Specs

Specifications are helpful when you’re trying to compare two different mobile devices, but the devil is in the details — especially when you’re looking at unreleased products. Here are some tips that will help you better evaluate phone and tablet specs.

1. Most Apple rumors are bogus

Real leaks from Apple employees and their suppliers are rare. Go back and read all of the Apple rumors last summer, and you’ll see most of the predictions turned out to be wrong. Sadly, tech blogs print these rumors to increase their page views – even when they don’t have an accurate source.

2. Phone specs vary by carrier

It’s not unusual to see differences in the specs listed by a handset manufacturer and different carriers. Carrier customization is quite common. Expect to see differences in the network type (HSPA, HSPA+, LTE, WiMAX), operating system version, device thickness and weight. Sometimes even screen size and processor speed varies. For example, the official Samsung website says the Galaxy S II has a 4.3” screen, but T-Mobile’s version of the same phone has a 4.52” screen and more powerful battery. It’s also taller, thicker and has a faster processor.

3. LTE devices are thicker

As you can see in the image above, the LTE version of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is thicker than the GSM version of the same phone. The reason for the .57mm difference is the addition of a slightly larger battery, needed to power the juice-hungry LTE radio.

4. Not all specs are standardized

There are different ways to measure brightness, viewing angle and battery life. Because of this lack of standardization, we have to accept what manufacturers tell us. Specs like battery life and brightness are often exaggerated. Screen density (PPI) is another spec which is sometimes suspect. Was it provided by the panel manufacturer, or calculated using a formula?

5. Your phone may not be as thin as you think it is

Speaking of truth in advertising, let’s talk about thickness. Most manufacturers use the thinnest part of a device for this spec. As an example, the 7.1 mm Motorola Droid RAZR is the world’s thinnest 4G device. But the RAZR has a large hump at the top, which is at least 11 mm. Shouldn’t that be mentioned on the spec sheet?

The Droid RAZR has a hump at the top which increases its thickness.

6. Not all 4G phones are created equally

There’s a big difference between the data speeds of HSPA and LTE or WiMAX devices. Just because a manufacturer claims a phone is a 4G, doesn’t mean you’re going to get WiMAX or LTE speeds. 3G Phones like the iPhone 4S, operate at speeds that are 5 to 10 times slower than 4G LTE phones. More info

7. Specs on the Web are often incorrect

The specs listed for unreleased devices on sites like Phone Arena are often incorrect. Not all of them are wrong, but errors are common and some specs aren’t available until after a device has been released.

8. Beware of OS upgrade promises

Don’t assume your phone will get new software updates right after they are available. It took HTC 9 months to release an Android 2.3.4 update for the Droid Incredible. Some devices will never be able to upgrade to Android 4.0.

9. First is not always best

Some handset manufacturers will do anything to release the newest handset technology first – even if it means rushing it to market (e.g. AT&T). Others, like Verizon seem to take forever. For example, the Droid Bionic was announced at the 2011 CES, but wasn’t released until 9 months later.

10. Numbers lie

And last, but certainly not least, processor speed isn’t the only indication of performance. The iPhone 4S only has an 800MHz CPU, but outperforms the Samsung Galaxy S II in some benchmarks – even though it has a 1.2GHz CPU. The OS, mobile chipsets and especially the graphic coprocessor can have a major impact on performance.

- Rick

Copyright 2011 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.

How to Evaluate Smartphone Cameras

The Motorola XT928 (Dinara) is the world's first 13MP camera phone

A 13 Megapixel Camera Phone?

Today’s best smartphones have 5 to 8-megapixel (MP) rear-facing cameras  which take surprisingly good pictures. 8MP is impressive, but 13-megapixel camera phones like the Motorola XT928 are available today in China (and soon in the U.S). Unfortunately, most tablets are way behind smartphones when it comes to camera technology. The iPad 2 has one of the worst cameras, while the iPhone 4S has one of the best. Both of the cameras in the iPad 2 are less than one megapixel and take horrible looking photos and video. What were they thinking? The good news is, cameras in tablets are starting to improve. The HTC Jetstream has an 8MP camera.

The HTC Jetstream was the first tablet with an 8MP camera.

Newer phones also have front-facing cameras which are used for video chat and other applications. For example, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus uses its front-facing camera to unlock the phone after it recognizes your face. Today, most front-facing cams are only 1.3 to 2.0 megapixels, but there are some exceptions — like the BlackBerry PlayBook, which has a 3MP front-facing camera.

Where are the Xenon Flashes?

The camera flash is another area which is improving. Some mobile devices have dual-LED flashes which put out more light than a single LED. A Xenon flash puts out even more light than a dual-LED flash. Although no smartphones have Xenon flashes today, a Xenon flash was first seen on a Sony Ericsson camera back in 2009.

Phones like the HTC Evo 3D have dual-LED flashes

Face detection is another feature which is present on many newer camera phones. It ensures the selected face is in focus. What’s needed now is image stabilization and an optical zoom. Optical zoom is a must for both photos and video. That’s why it’s so surprising none of the popular smartphones available in the U.S. have it. A company called Altek has a 14-megapixel camera with a 3x optical zoom that could rival some point-and-shoot cameras.

Now that’s a lens!

Although 3D cameras may be a gimmick, they’re fun to play around with. Phones like the HTC EVO 3D can take 2-megapixel 3D photos today.

More than Megapixels

There’s evidence that megapixels alone aren’t the best indicator of photo quality. The iPhone 4 only has a 5-megapixel camera, but takes higher-quality photos than some Android phones with 8-megapixel cameras. One reason for this could be the fact it has a better lens. Let’s hope manufacturers pay attention to this important detail.

One of the most talked about features of the Galaxy Nexus and Android 4.0 is its lack of shutter lag. With this feature, you can take pictures as fast as you can touch the shutter button. Keep in mind this only works when auto-focus isn’t needed.

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus has a stellar light sensor and almost no shutter lag when taking photos in rapid succession.

Easy Panoramas for All

Although panorama apps have been available for years, this feature is now standard on all devices with Android 4.0. After panorama mode is enabled, you just need to press the shutter button while you pan to the left or right. When you’re done, the images are automatically stitched together. Now Anyone Can Take Great Looking Panorama Shots

Making Movies

Video recording is another area which can be improved in smartphones. The iPhone 4 records video at 720p, but displays it on a 640-pixel screen. The iPhone 4S and most of the new Android phone phones (e.g. HTC Rezound, Motorola Droid RAZR, all Samsung Galaxy phones) record video at 1080p. 3D video recording is improving as well. The HTC EVO 3D can record 3D 720p videos. In the not so distant future, phones and tablets will also support Dolby Digital.

The iPhone 4S can now record 1080p video

Microphone quality is another area that can be enhanced. The Droid X’s camcorder has three microphones and four different audio recording modes.

Running Out of Space?

Storage can be a problem for those who take lots of pictures and movies. Some phones on have 16 or 32GB of storage and that’s not enough for some users. Expandable storage is available today on most Android devices, but many limit this to 32GB. Those who need more than this, should consider devices with hybrid or solid-state disk (SSD) drives which provide up to 250MB of storage. Because SSD drives have no moving parts, they are up to 2 to 5 times faster than conventional hard drives. Because these devices are larger, initially, they will only be available with tablets.

The Last Word

The cameras found in the best mobile devices take photos in good light which look surprisingly good. In some cases, they look similar to those taken with a point-and-shoot camera. Although a good DSLR still has it’s place, you can’t beat the convenience of camera phones and the quality of their photos continues to improve.

Thanks to @rossrubin for pointing out that camera phones with optical zooms are available in Japan.
Copyright 2011 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.

How to Evaluate Mobile Processors


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

The Need for Speed

The HTC Rezound has a 1.5GHz processor making it one of the fastest smartphones

The processor is the engine behind your mobile device and determines its speed. Mobile processor speeds have been increasing quickly over the past few years. Today, most of the best smartphones have processors which are either 1.2GHz or 1.5GHz. The HTC Rezound and Samsung Galaxy S II HD LTE both have dual-core 1.5GHz processors. Processor speed isn’t the only thing that matters. The number of cores is important as well. Back in February, we saw the first smartphones ship with dual-core processors. Dual-core processors allow your mobile device to do more things at once without slowing down. They are also faster than single-core processors and this can result in a more responsive user interface. Over the next year, dual-core processor speeds are likely to top out around 1.7GHz. Although processor speeds will continue to increase, there are limits to how fast they can get. Mobile processors are beginning to face the same performance and power challenges desktop CPUs faced a few years ago. Demanding applications such as HD video playback and advanced gaming are stretching their capabilities. In order to further increase performance and stay within the available power limits, mobile devices will migrate to processors with more cores.

Apple iPhone 4S

HTC Rezound

HTC Titan

Motorola Droid RAZR

Samsung Galaxy S II

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket

800MHz dual-core

1.5 GHz dual-core

1.5 GHz single-core

1.2 GHz dual-core

1.2 GHz dual-core

1.2 GHz dual-core

1.5 GHz dual-core

Chart 1: A comparison of the processor speeds of popular smartphones

Four Can Do More

Like PCs, mobile devices will migrate from dual-core to quad-core. Quad-core makes even more sense on platforms like Android which allows multiple apps to run in the background. Having four different cores allows your phone (or tablet) to do more at once without slowing down. Tablets will be the first mobile devices to get quad-core processors.  The NVIDIA Tegra 3 will be the first quad-core processor available on mobile devices. NVIDIA says it has 2 to 5 times the processing power and 3 times the graphic performance of the Tegra 2. This will result in smoother graphics and better gaming performance. The Tegra 3 is also capable of 1440p video playback. That’s higher quality than you can watch on your HDTV. The Asus Transformer Prime will be the first tablet to ship with a Tegra 3 processor, but rumors are also circulating about quad-core tablets from Motorola and others. Smartphones won’t be left out of the party; phones with quad-core chips will be announced at CES in January.

The Asus Transformer Prime will have the first quad-core CPU

Most quad-core processors are more efficient and generate less heat than today’s dual-core chips. That will result in better performance and longer battery life. How much longer? NVIDIA says a Tegra 3 tablet should be able to provide 12 hours of HD video playback.  The first quad-core processor will be 1.3GHz, but speeds will increase to 2.5GHz next year. Those chips will be faster than some of the CPUs that ship with mid-priced home computers today. Of course, NVIDIA isn’t the only company making quad-core processors, Qualcomm, Apple and others will also launch products containing quad-core processors next year.

Amazon Kindle Fire

Apple iPad 2

Asus Transformer Prime

B&N Nook Tablet

HTC Jetstream

Motorola Xoom 2

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

1.0 GHz dual-core

1.0 GHz dual-core

1.3 GHz   quad-core

1.0 GHz dual-core

1.5 GHz dual-core

1.2 GHz dual-core

1.0 GHz dual-core

Chart 2: A comparison of the processor speeds of popular tablets
 

The Importance of the Graphics Co-processor

Some of the fastest phones have separate graphics co-processors, which can have a big impact on performance. Even though the iPhone 4S has a slower processor, it outperforms the Samsung Galaxy S II in some benchmarks. This occurs mainly because the iPhone 4S has a faster graphics coprocessor. See the chart below for details.

Even though the iPhone 4S has a much slower processor than the Samsung Galaxy II S, it outperforms it in some benchmarks. Chart courtesy of AnandTech

 

Final Thoughts

In summary, the speed of the CPU and GPU in your mobile device has a major impact on its performance. Dual-core processors almost always outperform single-core processors, and quad-core processors outperform dual-core processors. Although dual-core processor speeds are starting to slow down, quad-core speeds will improve substantially next year.  By the end of the year, quad-core processors will be found in most high-end tablets and smartphones due to their improved performance and extended battery life.

In case you’re wondering, my next post will discuss the importance of 4G on data performance speeds. Stay-tuned…

- Rick

Copyright 2011 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.

How to Evaluate Mobile Displays


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

In my last blog post I talked about the best mobile devices on the market today. This will be the first in a new series of posts that will help you evaluate each part of a smartphone or tablet. Since the display is the main interface to your mobile device, let’s start with it.

Bigger is Better

Three main parameters are used to specify the size and quality of a mobile display:

  1. Screen size measured diagonally in inches
  2. Screen width and height in pixels
  3. Screen density measured in pixels per inch (PPI)

The Samsung Galaxy Note has a much larger screen than the iPhone 4S

Today’s best smartphones have displays which are 4.3″ or larger. The largest screen available on a smartphone in the U.S. today is 4.7″ and can be found on the HTC Titan. Think that’s big? It is, but mobile displays are going to continue to get larger. The Samsung Galaxy Note, which was recently released in Europe, has a 5.3″ screen.  As screens get 6″ or larger, the line between smartphones and tablets will begin to blur and these devices may no longer fit into your pocket. Is it worth it? If you spent lots of time browsing the Web, playing games or working with business documents the answer could be yes.

Screen Size

Pixels (H x W)

Screen Density

Apple iPhone 4S

3.5”

960×640

326 PPI

HTC EVO 3D

4.3”

960×540

256 PPI

HTC Rezound

4.3”

1280×720

342 PPI

HTC Titan

4.7”

800×480

199 PPI

Motorola Atrix

4.0”

960×540

275 PPI

Motorola Droid 2

3.7”

854×480

264 PPI

Motorola Razr

4.3”

960×540

256 PPI

Samsung Galaxy S II

4.3” or 4.52”

800×480

217 PPI

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

4.65”

1280×720

316 PPI

Samsung Galaxy Note

5.3”

1280×800

285 PPI

Chart 1: A comparison of popular smartphone displays

Quality Matters Too!

The HTC Rezound has the highest resolution display available today.

Screen width and height is another popular measurement. Today the best smartphones have 1280×720 pixel displays. The Samsung Galaxy Note has an even larger 1280×800 display. Although the total number of pixels is important, it’s not the best indicator of screen quality. The density of pixels is what really matters.  The higher the pixel density, the more detail a screen can display. Although most people think the iPhone 4S has the highest pixel density, they are wrong. The HTC Rezound has a display with a higher pixel density than the iPhone 4S (342 vs. 326 ppi). Even better screens are on the way. Earlier in the year, Toshiba announced a 4-inch screen with a 367 PPI resolution. Pixel densities are likely to hit at least 386 in 2012.

It’s worth mentioning there is some debate over the ideal pixel density. Steve Jobs once said a device with a pixel density of 300 exceeds the limits of the human retina. However, some photographic experts say that number is too low. They believe the ultimate pixel density is 477 PPI. At that point, it’s said the pixels become invisible to an unaided human eye.

What About Tablets?

Screen resolution is one area where tablets can improve. The best tablets have screen densities below 200 while some smartphones have pixel densities higher than 300. Apple is known for their great displays. How does the iPad 2 compare to Android tablets? Let’s see: The iPad 2 has a 9.7″ screen with 1024×768 pixels. The Motorola Xoom has a 10.1″ screen with 1280×800 pixels. Which is better? The Motorola wins on all three categories: screen size, total number of pixels and screen density (with a pixel density of 160 PPI vs. 132 PPI). If you refer to the chart below, you’ll see there are five other Android tablets with even higher screen densities than the Motorola Xoom. Will we see higher resolution tablet screens next year? Definitely! The Lenovo LePad S2007 will have a 216 PPI display and tablets with 2560×1600 screens will be available some time in 2012. These tablets will have a screen density of at least 300 dpi.

Screen Size

Pixels (W x H)

Screen Density

Amazon Kindle Fire

7.0″

1024×600

169 PPI

Apple iPad 2

9.7″

1024×768

132 PPI

Asus Transformer

10.1″

1280×800

160 PPI

Asus Transformer Prime

10.1″

1280×800

149 PPI

B&N Nook Tablet

7.0″

1024×600

169 PPI

Motorola Droid XYBOARD 8.2

8.2″

1280×800

184 PPI

Motorola Xoom

10.1″

1280×800

160 PPI

OGT Eros Tablet

7.0″

N/A

188 PPI

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0

7.0″

1024×600

171 PPI

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

10.1″

1280×800

149 PPI

Chart 2: A comparison of popular tablet displays

That’s Not All

Of course pixel density isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes to screen quality. The color accuracy, color vibrancy, brightness, contrast ratio, black level and viewing angle are important as well. The durability also matters. Gorilla Glass screens are more damage resistant than regular displays. Gorilla Glass 2 screens are on the way, so watch for those.

Well, that wraps up my review of mobile screen technology. In my next post, I’ll write about the heart of every mobile device: Its processor.

Thanks for stopping by.

- Rick

Copyright 2011 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.

The Ultimate Mobile Device (Updated Feb.)


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

Although there are lots of great mobile devices available today, there is no one single device that is best at everything. It is possible to say which phone (or tablet) has the best display, processor and so on. After reading this article, you should be better prepared to purchase the ultimate mobile device based on your needs.

Best Mobile Display

Since the screen is the main interface to your mobile device, it’s very important. Although the size and total number of pixels matters, it’s the pixel density which determines the amount of detail you’ll see. More info.

The Galaxy Note is the the only smartphone with a 5.3" display

  • First place: The HTC Rezound has a 4.3” screen with 1280×720 pixels and a higher pixel density than the iPhone 4S (342 ppi vs. 326 ppi). The Windows Phone Lumia 900 is the most readable under bright light. More info.
  • Runner-up: The Samsung Galaxy Note has the largest screen you’ll find on a smartphone today. It’s an amazing 5.3” and has a record setting 1280×800 pixels. The reason it doesn’t come in first is because its pixel density is lower than the HTC Rezound. When it comes to tablets, the Samsung Galaxy series have some of the best displays available today, and pixel densities which are almost 30% higher than the iPad 2.
  • What to look for: A tablet with a 2560×1600 pixel screen will be available in 2012. Smartphones will get screens with pixel densities near 400 ppi as well. Also expect to see displays with polarized filters, that make screens more visible in direct sunlight.

Best Mobile Processor

The processor in your mobile device determines how fast your apps will run. Today’s best mobile devices have multi-core processors, which allow your device to do several things at once without slowing down. More info.

The Asus Transformer Prime was the first quad-core powered mobile device

  • First place: The ASUS Transformer Prime has an NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor which out performs every mobile device on the market today in most benchmarks.
  • Runner-up: The HTC Rezound, LG Nitro HD and Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket all have 1.5GHz dual-core processors. The HTC Jetstream tablet also has a 1.5GHz dual-core processor.
  • What to look for: Quite a few quad-core smartphones will be announced in Q1. Dual-core CPUs in smartphones will hit speeds of 1.8 GHz in 2012. Tablet processors will hit speeds of 2GHz in 2012, and could go as high as 2.5GHz.

Fastest Data Speeds

4G LTE devices are at least 5-10x faster than 3G devices

Data speeds have a significant impact on the perceived speed of your mobile device. Verizon claims 4G LTE speeds that are at least twice as fast as AT&T’s 4G HSPA+ phones and up to 12 times faster than 3G speeds. More info.

  • First place: LTE phones like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy S II HD LTE win because they work on LTE networks and support both 2.5GHz and 5.0GHz Wi-Fi.
  • Runner-up: The HTC Rezound, Motorola Droid RAZR, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, HTC  Jetstream and all other mobile devices which support LTE or WiMAX.
  • What to look for: Expect Apple’s iPhone to finally get LTE support in 2012.

Best Camera

Today’s best mobile devices have 8 megapixel rear cameras which are capable of taking surprisingly good-looking photos. Most have LED flashes and front-facing cameras for video conferencing.

The HTC Titan II will be the first phone with a 16MP camera

  • First place: Too close to call. The 12MP Nokia N8 wins on specs with its Carl Zeiss optics and a xenon flash, but it’s on a Symbian phone which is more than a year old. When it comes to smartphones with 8MP cameras, the iPhone 4S, HTC Amaze, HTC Sensation, HTC Titan, Samsung Galaxy S II and T-Mobile MyTouch Slide all take photos which rival some point-and-shoot cameras. The Samsung Galaxy 10.1V tablet comes in first because of its 8MP camera. Unfortunately, this model is only available in Europe.
  • Runner-up: The Samsung Galaxy Nexus has a stellar light sensor and almost no shutter lag when taking photos in rapid succession. The BlackBerry PlayBook and HTC Flyer also deserve recognition because they have 3-MP front-facing cameras.
  • What to look for: The HTC Titan II will be released in March with the first 16-megapixel camera! Fujitsu is also releasing a 13.1MP camera capable of ISO 25,600. Expect to see a camera with a xenon flash and optical zoom later this year as well. Future tablets will also be capable of 1440p video playback.

Most Internal Storage

The Archos 70 has 250GB of storage

Today most mobile devices have only 16 or 32 MB of internal storage. Unfortunately that is not enough storage for a large media library.

  • First place: The Archos 70 tablet has an internal 250GB hard drive.
  • Runner-up:  The Apple iPhone 4S, Nokia N8 and Nokia N9 are all available with 64GB of internal storage.
  • What to look for:  Expect to see more tablets which have lightning-fast solid-state drives like the Asus Eee Slate.

Most Powerful Battery

Today’s fastest mobile devices require more power than ever. Especially those with high processor speeds and power-hungry LTE radios. That’s why we’re seeing mobile devices with more powerful batteries.

The HTC Jetstream has a 7300 mAh battery

  • First place: The HTC Jetstream has a 7300 mAh battery, which is the most powerful battery available in a stock mobile device today.
  • Runner-up:  Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (7000 mAh). The Droid RAZR Maxx has the most powerful battery in a smartphone today. At 3300mAh, this phone has a talk time of 21.5 hours and a standby time of approx. 15.8 days.
  • What to look for in the near future:  Expect to see even more powerful batteries in mobile devices, and the ability to add a second battery to some tablets.

Thinnest Case

Today’s best mobile devices are incredibly thin and light.

The Droid Razr is the World's Thinnest LTE Smartphone

  • First place: The 6.68mm Huawei Ascend P1S is technically now the world’s thinnest smartphone. It’s effectively tied with the Fujitsu Arrows F-07D which comes in at 6.7mm. Too bad neither phone is available in the U.S. and both don’t support LTE. The 7.1mm Motorola Droid RAZR is the thinnest LTE smartphone. The 7.0mm OGT Eros is supposed to be the world’s thinnest tablet but it has yet to be released.
  • Runner-up:  The 8.3 mm ASUS Transformer Prime is the thinnest tablet available in the U.S today.
  • What to look for in future cases:  Expect to see more mobile devices which can be submerged in water. Fujitsu’s new quad-core phone can be submerged 1.5 meters for up to 30 minutes.

The Final Word

It’s a given that technology will always get better over time, but we’ve seen unprecedented improvements in mobile devices over the past year. Today’s best smartphones blow away some of those which were released earlier. If you’re eligible for an upgrade, you should consider some of the devices covered in this article. As you can see, there isn’t a single mobile device that is best at everything. You should pick your next smartphone or tablet based on the things which matter most to you.

Update: Since this article was last updated, a chart listing the best smartphones was published here.

Copyright 2011-2012 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.

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