The True Cost of Owning An iPhone 5

The Huffington Post recently did a story on the true cost of purchasing a smartphone from your carrier. Although that article was based on the iPhone 5, other carrier-offered smartphones cost similar amounts.

original

You can save thousands a year, by purchasing an unlocked phone and using it with a prepaid phone plan. You will be surprised just how much these plans have changed. They now allow the best smartphones and use the major carrier networks. More info.

- Rick

What Is The Best Smartphone of 2012? (Q4 Update)

Last updated: January 5, 2013


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

These were the top six phones back in September. Only four make the cut this time.


A lot has changed since I last compared smartphones back in September. Back then, the top six smartphones were the Apple iPhone 5, LG Intuition 4G, LG Optimus G, Samsung Galaxy Note 2, Samsung Galaxy S III and the Sony Xperia V. Surprisingly, four of these phones retained their place on the list of finalists, but they were joined by four new phones which were introduced earlier this month.

The Runners-up

To create the list of candidates for smartphone of the year, I made a spreadsheet containing the specs for the best smartphones on all platforms. I then separated the chart into finalists and runners-up – which you can see below.

Click on the chart below to make it readable

Blue text indicates the winner in each area. Red text indicates areas of weakness

In case you’re wondering why none of the phones above made the list of finalists, each of these have a deficit in one or more areas. I want to stress that many of the above phones are good phones. Some, like the Huawei Ascend D1 Quad XL, LG Intuition 4G, Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX HD, Nokia Lumia 920, Sony Xperia T, Sony Xperia V, and Samsung Galaxy Nexus are great phones, but they are not the best phones of 2012.

The Finalists

Each of eight phones below have significant advantages over the phones in the above chart. Our finalists are Apple’s iPhone 5, HTC’s Droid DNA, HTC’s Windows Phone 8X, HTC’s One X+, LG’s Nexus 4, LG’s Optimus G, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 2 and the Samsung Galaxy S III.

Here are the best smartphones of 2012

You can see all of the key specs for the top eight finalists below. Items which appear as blue-faced text show the winner in each area. Items which appear in red-faced text indicate an area of weakness compared to the other phones in this chart.

Blue text indicates the winner in each area. Red text indicates areas of weakness

Before we try to pick a winner, let’s go through each component, starting with the processor.

The Processor

The processor is like the engine in your car and plays an important role in its speed. Today, most of the best smartphones have quad-core processors running at 1.5GHz or higher. Having four different cores allows your phone to do more things at once without slowing down. Quad-core processors are also more efficient and have better battery life than some dual-core CPUs. When it comes to the fastest processor speed, the HTC One X+ wins, with its overclocked 1.7GHz quad-core processor, However, it’s running a year old Tegra 3 processor while the Droid DNA, Nexus 4 and LG Optimus G are running a more advanced Snapdragon S4 Pro processor. The Exynos 4412 processor in the Galaxy Note 2 is also overclocked to 1.6GHz and comes close to the S4 Pro in performance. It’s worth mentioning while the S4 Pro-based phones win when it comes to processor, the Galaxy Note 2 and HTC One X+ also perform very well. Apple is clearly behind when it comes to the CPU alone. It has a much slower processor speed and it’s a dual-core processor, instead of quad-core processor. Although the iPhone 5 has a processor clock speed that is 70% slower than the HTC One X+, it does pretty well in some graphics-related benchmarks. You shouldn’t read too much into mobile benchmarks however, because they rarely translate into real-world performance.

Winner: Tie: Droid DNA, Nexus 4, LG Optimus G

The HTC One X+ has the fastest processor speed (1.7GHz), but uses an older quad-core CPU

Memory and Storage

Both the Samsung phones and the iPhone 5 are available in 16, 32 or 64GB sizes. Five of our finalists have 2GB of RAM, which can speed things up when multiple apps are running. But, only the Windows Phone 8X, Galaxy Note 2, and Galaxy S III can have their memory expanded because they have a memory card slot.

Although this category is close, the LG Optimus G wins because it is the only phone here that starts with 32GB of memory and has 2GB of RAM.

Winners: LG Optimus G

The Droid DNA has the world’s first 1920 x 1080 display

The Screen

When it comes to overall specs, the 5.0″ inch screen in the HTC Droid DNA is second to none. This screen is an inch bigger than the iPhone 5′s, but easier to hold than the Galaxy Note 2, because it’s not as wide (70.5mm vs. 80.5mm). The Droid DNA easily beats the iPhone 5 in both total pixels (1920×1080 vs. 1136×640)) and resolution (441 PPI vs. 326 PPI).

However, the iPhone 5 does have a high-quality screen which does well in areas like color accuracy and brightness, but it get beat by the Galaxy S III in areas like color gamut. Color gamut is the range of color a display can reproduce. IHS says the iPhone 5′s display only reaches 72% of the NTSC color gamut, while the SIII sits at 100%.

Winner:
Size: Samsung Galaxy Note 2
Resolution: Droid DNA
Color accuracy: iPhone 5

The LG Optimus G is the only phone here with a 13MP camera

The Camera

When it comes to megapixels, the current leader is the LG Optimus G which has a 13-megapixel camera. Although all of the other phones here have 8 megapixel cameras, the cameras in the Apple iPhone 5, HTC One X+ and Samsung Galaxy S III are quite good, but each have issues. For example, the camera in the iPhone 5 has issues with noise in low light situations and over-sharpening which adds distortion. The Galaxy S III beats it in both of these areas. The camera in the iPhone 5 often beats the others when it comes to color accuracy in good light. When it comes to front cameras, the iPhone 5 and Nexus 4 are the worst performers here.

Winner: LG Optimus G

You can beam almost anything from phone to phone using NFC

Connectivity

When it comes to connectivity, every phone here has 4G LTE support, although the Nexus 4 only supports this feature in some areas.

When it comes to Wi-Fi support, every phone here but the HTC One X+ and LG Optimus G support dual-band 2.4GHz/5.0GHz Wi-Fi. The 5GHz band is not near as susceptible to interference from cordless telephones, microwave ovens, baby monitors, Bluetooth devices and wireless keyboards. It’s also a much less crowded band which should be used when possible.

Every phone here except the iPhone 5 has support for Near Field Communications or NFC. NFC allows two devices to communicate when they’re moved close together. This allows you to buy things at over 300,000 MasterCard PayPass-enabled terminals as well as beam, music, photos, web pages, contacts, maps, YouTube videos and more, from one phone to another. NFC is a very important feature which will one-day change the way we shop and transfer data from phone to phone.

Winners: Tie: HTC Droid DNA, Windows Phone 8X, Samsung Galaxy Note 2, Samsung Galaxy S III.

The new iPhone 5 is incredibly thin and light

The Case

When it comes to the case, the iPhone 5 does well. It’s thinner and lighter than all of the other finalists here and constructed entirely out of aluminum and glass.

Winner: iPhone 5

The Galaxy Note 2 has an incredibly powerful battery

The Battery

When it comes to the battery, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 easily wins. Its battery has over twice as much power as the battery in the iPhone 5.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 2

The Operating System

When it comes to the operating system, you can make strong arguments for iOS 6, Android 4.2 and Windows Phone 8. You can read more about how Android and iOS compare in my other blog posts.

Winner: Tie: iOS 6, Android 4.2 and Windows Phone 8

And the Winner is…

Back in September, the best smartphone award went to the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. This time around it’s not so easy to pick a winner. Best is a subjective term. What I’m really talking about is the smartphone with the best overall hardware specs. Based on that definition, neither the iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S III can be considered the “phone of the year.” Both are great phones, and both are extremely popular, but they are not the best phones available today. So what is the gold medal winner? For me, it’s a toss-up between the Droid DNA, LG Nexus 4 and LG Optimus G. The Droid DNA wins when it comes to the display. The Optimus G wins on paper when it comes to storage and its 13MP camera — however not all reviewers love its camera. And last, but not least, the Nexus 4 is the only phone here which runs Android 4.2 and has a new-gen quad-core processor — however you shouldn’t buy it if you live in the U.S and LTE support is essential to you.

What About the iPhone 5?

Some of you are probably wondering why the iPhone 5 wasn’t a more serious contender because it’s so popular. As you can see above, the iPhone 5 lags is almost every area. 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.

How to Pick Out the Perfect Phone

In the end, your definition of the perfect phone depends on what’s most important to you. This article should help you narrow down your options to only a few phones. Since most of us are on two-year contracts with a carrier, you need to determine which of the phones you are intereted in are carried by your carrier. I suggest you then read the full reviews for each phone you are considering. Finally, it’s essential that you go to a retail store and actually try the phone before you buy it. Happy shopping!

- Rick

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


Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

What Samsung & Google Don’t Tell You About Beaming

Last update: October 17, 2013

This article has had over 100,000 views! Thanks for reading it. Although this article refers to the Galaxy S III, S Beam also works with the Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy S 4 and most of Samsung’s other Galaxy products — including tablets.

Beaming Is Not New

By now you’ve probably seen the Samsung TV commercial where the wife sends a video to her husband by simply touching phones.

Samsung promotes video sharing in their newest ads

Samsung promotes video sharing in their newest ads

Both Google and Samsung refer to this process as beaming. Beaming multimedia is very cool, but it’s not new. I helped create patent-pending software back in 2009 that sent music, photos or video from a web browser to a connected TV, stereo, game console or mobile phone. That was the first software that used the term “beam” to describe the wireless transmission of multimedia from a computer to a connected device, but an astute reader has pointed out Palm Pilots were beaming contacts, notes, to-do items and calendar entries more than a decade ago. Beaming of multimedia from one phone to another has been possible for over a year using this and other apps, but few knew this was possible before Samsung started running their commercials for the Galaxy S III. The technology which makes beaming possible is called NFC, which stands for Near Field Communication. NFC has been available on Android devices for almost two years. You can learn more about NFC and its many uses here. The technology used to beam the music playlist in Samsung’s TV commercial is called S Beam. It uses NFC and Wi-Fi Direct and has been available since May.

Beaming Isn’t as Easy as It Looks

The Samsung commercial makes beaming look easy. Google claims Android Beam lets users share with a single tap. Is it really this easy? No. Beaming only works after both mobile devices have been setup properly. Before I wrote this article, I couldn’t even get beaming to work between my Samsung Galaxy S III and a Nexus 7 tablet. But once I setup both devices properly and learned a few tricks, beaming now works almost 100% of the time. This article will teach you how to beam like a pro.

You need to configure several settings before you can beam

How to Beam Like a Pro

The section will teach you how to setup your devices and use Android Beam.

  1. In order to beam items from one phone to another, you need two Android devices that have NFC support. Here’s a list of all of the phones with NFC support.
  2. Before trying to beam you must go to Settings/More Settings and make sure NFC is checked and Android Beam is enabled on both devices.
  3. Now you’re ready to beam, but before you can do so, you need to open the app you wish to beam from. A list of supported apps is displayed later in this article.
  4. Next, you need to locate the item you want to beam. You can beam web pages, contacts, maps, YouTube videos and much more.
  5. Finally, you need to hold the backs of your two mobile devices together until you hear a chiming sound. If this doesn’t happen in a few seconds, move your devices apart and then back together.

Troubleshooting Tips: Beaming won’t work unless the screen on the destination device is unlocked. You do not need to tap the two devices together, but they do need to be very close. When beaming from a phone to a tablet, you may need to move your phone around on the back of the tablet to find the spot where the NFC module is located.

  1. After you hear the chime, you need to quickly touch the item you want to beam. If you do this correctly, you’ll see the screen shrink and hear a two-tone confirmation sound.
  • If you press too long, you’ll hear a fast four-part tone that goes from high to low and you’ll need to beam again.
  • If you wait to touch the screen until after the image grows back, you need to move the two devices apart and beam again.
  • If you touch outside of the shrunken item, it won’t beam.
  • You may need to click OK to accept beamed media

    1. After performing all of the steps above, the beamed item should appear on the other devices’ screen. Although this may seem like a lot of steps to follow, once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy and you’ll want to beam all of the time.

    In order to accept a beamed You Tube video on devices like a Samsung Galaxy S III, you need to touch “OK” when you see this message:

    Good Luck Trying to Beam a Music Playlist

    Want to beam a music playlist like you see in the Samsung commercial? What about a photo or video that you took with the camera on your phone? You can’t do that with Android Beam (running on Android 4.0-powered devices). Fortunately, there are several solutions to these problems.

    1. Use S Beam running on Two Galaxy S IIIs — NFC is great for transferring things like contacts or URLs that point to maps or YouTube videos, but it’s not ideal for large files like videos. That’s why S Beam uses NFC for device pairing and Wi-Fi Direct for high-speed data transfer. Wi-Fi Direct is capable of data speeds around 250 Mbps, but because the Galaxy S III supports Wi-Fi channel bonding, files can be transferred at speeds up to 300Mbps. Of course your mileage may vary, depending on the distance from your wireless access point and the amount of interference in your area.
    2. You can see S Beam in action here. Real world speeds are good, but not amazing. The actual transfer time for a photo is 1 to 2 seconds, but it takes an additional 4 to 6 seconds to establish a connection using S Beam.

      Another thing to be aware of: When you touch the back of a Galaxy S III to another S Beam-enabled device for the first time, it takes about 10 seconds to make the connection. For security, the connection times out after 10 minutes.

    3. Use Android Beam on Two Mobile Devices Running Jelly Bean — Android Beam now allows you to send photos and videos from one device running Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) to another. Just select a photo or video in the Gallery app, and then hold any two NFC-enabled devices back to back. When prompted, tap the screen to send the file as described above. File are now send using Bluetooth, so transfer speeds are faster than earlier. However files transfers are not as fast as S Beam — because Bluetooth is only capable of data transfer speeds up to 24 Mbit/s. Performance isn’t too bad. It takes about 7 to 9 seconds to send a photo, and 15 seconds to send a short video.

    Beamed photos don’t automatically appear

    After you beam a photo from the Gallery app, you’ll see the photo downloading in the Notification bar. After the download is complete, you have to swipe down, and select the photo you wish to view. Beamed videos automatically appear after the download is complete however and are ready to play.

    Cool observation: Bluetooth does not need to be enabled before you beam a photo. Android Beam will automatically turn Bluetooth on and off as needed. This should reduce battery usage.

    Most people don’t know Android Beam can now send multiple files from one Android 4.1 device to another. To do this, long press on a photo or video in the Gallery, select the items you want to transfer, and then hold the devices back-to-back to start the beaming process. Because Bluetooth is being used, you should avoid trying to send too many files at once.

    Which Apps Work and Which Ones Don’t?

    Apps that work with Android Beam
    Here is a list of apps that work with Android Beam followed by any issues they may have.

  • aCalendar
  • Any.Do – This task management app lets you beam assignments to co-workers
  • Chrome
  • Clover Pay
  • Contacts (Android 4.0) – This app seems to be a little temperamental. Wait until the screen gets small before you tap it. This takes about four seconds. Then tap near the photo area.
  • Financial Times
  • Gmail
  • Gallery – only works when Android 4.1 is installed
  • Google Play – Android Beam pushes a link to the app’s details page in Google Play. On the other device, Google Play launches and loads the details page, for easy downloading of the app.
  • Google Earth
  • Google I/O 2012
  • Google Maps
  • Internet (stock Android 4.0 browser)
  • Just Player
  • Kingsoft Office
  • Local – Maps, but nothing else
  • MonTransit
  • Navigation
  • NFC Reader
  • Paper Camera
  • Pattrn
  • People (Android 4.1)
  • Shazam
  • Shazam Encore
  • Songkick Concerts
  • StumbleUpon
  • WiFiBeam – This app can pass WiFi setup info from one device to another
  • YouTube – Can’t beam ads, skip any ads before beaming.
  • This is a partial list of the apps which work with Android Beam. As I find more apps that work, I’ll add them here.

    Apps that don’t work with Android Beam

  • Calculator
  • Currents – Loads app, but not selected article
  • Gallery
  • Google Now – Cards can’t be sent
  • Google+
  • Play Music (appears to work on Android 4.0, but music is not transferred immediately)
  • Samsung’s Calendar
  • Street View on Google Maps
  • Most other Android apps
  • The Pros and Cons of Android Beam and Samsung’s S Beam

    Android Beam – Pros

  • Works with all NFC-enabled Android devices running Android 4.0 (or later)
  • Works on devices that do not have Wi-Fi Direct support
  • Requires less configuration than S Beam (because Wi-Fi Direct does not have to be enabled)
  • Very safe because NFC only works at distances of 4cm or less.
  • More power efficient than S Beam because it uses NFC and Bluetooth
  • Android Beam – Cons

  • Only works with Android devices that have NFC support
  • Has data transfer rates up to 10x slower than S Beam
  • Can only send photos, videos and playlists if you’re running Android 4.1 (or later)
  • Beamed photos don’t automatically open
  • Doesn’t use Bluetooth for transfers unless you’re running Android 4.1 (or later)
  • S Beam – Pros

  • Capable transfer speeds up to 10x faster than Android Beam
  • Supports music playlists, photos and videos on Android 4.0 devices
  • Once a transfer in started it’s capable of working at greater distances than NFC-only transfers
  • Safe when good Wi-Fi security practices are followed.
  • Can be used to transfer documents from one Galaxy Note 2 to another
  • S Beam – Cons

  • Only works with a limited number of Samsung devices (like the Galaxy S III)
  • Only works on devices running Android 4.0 (and later)
  • Wi-Fi Direct draws so much power that it’s turned off after only a few minutes of inactivity
  • Only works on devices that have with NFC and Wi-Fi Direct support
  • S Beam works with fewer apps than Android Beam
  • You can now beam files from Android to iOS devices

    You can now beam files from Android to iOS devices

    How to Beam Files to an iPhone or iPad

    S Beam isn’t the only game in town. I’ve been using an app called Bump for years. It started as a way to exchange contacts on iOS devices, but now can transfer any file you have on your device (videos, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, etc). First install the Bump app on both of your devices. Next, launch the app on both devices and select the type of file you want to exchange. Then touch your devices together lightly until you feel them vibrate. You need to press the blue Connect button on both devices, before your file can be transferred. Like Android Beam, Bump can be a little temperamental and often requires several tries before it works. Also be aware that all music metadata and album art is lost when you transfer music files.

    Cross-platform Beaming Issues

    In theory, you should be able to tap an NFC-enabled Windows Phone 8 to a Galaxy S III or Galaxy Nexus and share anything. However, I’m told that sharing of web pages and contacts work fine, but sharing of files and photos does not. Let’s hope Microsoft and Google get together to address this issue soon.

    The Final Word

    While it’s true that Samsung and Google may have oversold beaming, once you know how to use it, it’s a powerful feature. As more devices support these two features, I’d like to see both companies enable these by default so no setup is required. Also, Samsung should find a way to automatically toggle on and off Wi- Fi Direct (like Google does with Bluetooth beaming), so you don’t have to turn it on every time. I’m glad that Samsung has made this concept something that everyone now is aware of. We live in a wireless world, and you should never have to connect a cable to transfer files.

    Have fun beaming!

    - Rick

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


    Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

    Getting the Most Out of Your Samsung Galaxy S III – Part One

    Last update: December 15, 2012

    This article has had almost 10,000 views. Thanks for reading it.

    Things To Do First

    You’ll need to increase the brightness to make the S III’s screen look its best


    This is the first in a three part series which will help you to get the most out of your new Samsung Galaxy S III. Let’s start with some simple things to make an already good phone — even better:

    1. Increase the screen’s brightness – Some reviewers have complained that the Galaxy S III is not as bright as other top smartphones. This is easy to fix. Go to Settings > Display > Brightness and turn ‘Automatic brightness’ off. Then, move the brightness slider to the right and press OK. The screen should now be much easier to read. I run my brightness at about 70% and battery life is still fine.
    2. Change the screen timeout – Another easy to fix annoyance is the time before the screen goes to sleep. Go to Settings > Display and change the ‘Screen timeout’ to 2 minutes. This will keep your screen awake much longer, without having much of an affect on battery life.
    3. Here is an example of a customized home screen

    4. Clean up your home screens – Every one uses their phone differently, that’s why important that you customize your home screens to meet your needs. Here are some suggestions for new Samsung users:

      a. Make shortcuts on your home screens for all of your favorite apps. To do this touch ‘Apps’ and then touch and hold an app and then drag it until it appears on the desired home screen.

      b. Create folders for different categories of apps (e.g. Games, Utilities, etc.) and move all of the related apps into those folders. If you’re not sure how to create folders, there are details below in the section called ‘Cleaning Up Your Homescreens.’

      c. Uninstall any unnecessary apps and widgets. To do this, simply touch and drag them into the trash can in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.

      d. Remove any extra home screen panels after you’ve created shortcut for all of your most-used apps. The SIII comes with seven home screen panels, but you can speed up the time it takes to get to your apps if you delete all blank home screen panels. To do this pinch the home screen with two of your fingers. Then drag any blank panels into the trash can. You can add them back later if you want to.

    5. Clean up your app locker
      a. Start by hiding all of the carrier-installed apps you don’t plan to use. To do this touch Apps and press the Settings button. Then touch ‘Hide applications.’ Touch the black box next to any app you want to hide. When you’re finished, press ‘Done’ in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
      b. Next, uninstall all of the apps you don’t plan to use. Details below.
    6. Improve your on-screen typing – If you have any problems typing on the Samsung keyboard you may need to do one of these three things:

      a. Go to ‘Language and input’ and enter words into your ‘Personal dictionary.’
      b. Customize your predictive text settings (details at the bottom on this post)
      c. If you’re still not satisfied after the above two steps, download SwiftKey 3 keyboard and use it instead of the stock Samsung keyboard.

    7. Download the drivers for your phone – If your phone doesn’t mount after you plug it into the USB port on your computer, you may need to download drivers. You can find the USB drivers for the Verizon version of the Galaxy S III here. Check the Samsung website to find the drivers for other carrier’s phones.
    8. Expand your memory – If you don’t have an extra 16 or 32GB microSD card laying around, you should purchase one, and copy all of your media to it. You can double the storage in your Galaxy S III for less than $10. This will free up valuable space on your internal memory.
    9. Replace some of your Samsung apps with stock ones – Samsung replaces many of the stock Android apps. In some cases, the replacements are better than the originals. In other cases, they are not. Here are 20 stock apps which you may want to consider.
    10. Read the manual – There is some valuable information in the Samsung Galaxy S III User’s Guide. You can view it here.
    11. Learn how to use the special features which are exclusive to this phone – The “Guided Tours” app has videos which will teach you how to use special features like one touch sharing, pop up play and more. Most of these appear in the “Additional videos” section. Even more videos can be found by searching for “Galaxy SIII” on YouTube. These tips and tricks videos are also worth watching.

    Where to Find More Great Tips?

    You can find 30 more great tips and tricks for the Samsung Galaxy S III here. If case you’re wondering why I left out S Beam, I’ve devoted a whole post to that feature.

    Cleaning Up Your Home Screens

    How to create folders

    You can no longer drag and drop and app on another to create a folder.

    1. To create a folder, click on the Menu button in the lower-left hand corner.
    2. Then touch ‘Create Folder’
    3. You should see a white folder appear on your homescreen.

    Note: Make sure you only try to do this on a homescreen that has room for the folder to appear. Otherwise it won’t work.

    How to uninstall unused apps like ‘Media Hub’

    1. Touch the Apps icon.
    2. Press the Menu button in the lower-left hand corner and touch ‘Uninstall’.
    3. Click on the red minus sign to delete an app.
    4. Confirm and press the Back button when you’re done uninstalling apps.

    Note: You can only delete certain apps. If there is no minus sign, you cannot delete them.

    This list view allows you to quickly find apps alphabetically


    How to fill in the spaces after hiding apps

    After you hide a lot of apps you’re going to see spaces where the old apps used to be. The easiest way to fix this is to follow these instructions:

    1. Touch the Settings button in the lower-left hand corner and touch ‘View Type’.
    2. Touch ‘Alphabetical grid’ or ‘Alphabetical list’ shown to the right.

    How to customize predictive text
    If you’re having problems with the keyboard inserting wrong words, you may want to disable or customize predictive text. To do this, follow these instructions:

    1. Go to Settings > Language and input > and click on the gears to the right of Samsung keyboard.
    2. Then touch the words ‘Predictive text’. next, scroll down and touch ‘My word list’ and press “+” to add non-standard words that you type often.
    3. Next, touch the trash can icon and delete any words from the list that appear to be gibberish.
    4. I found that changing the ‘Word completion point’ from 2 to 3 letters seemed to help as well.
    5. If you find ‘Word completion’ to be distracting, turn it off. If you leave it on, don’t fight it. Keep on typing even though it has picked a wrong word. Most of the time it will correct itself later.

    Tips for those upgrading from a Samsung Galaxy Nexus

    If you’re moving from an Android 4.0 phone like the Galaxy Nexus, there are some things you need to know to get the most out of your incredible new phone. Although the Galaxy SIII runs Android 4.0, there are some differences between Touchwiz and the stock Android 4.0 GUI. This isn’t intended to be a comprehensive list. I’m focusing on the features that I find to be the most useful.

    Dedicated Buttons are Back

    The first thing you’ll probably notice is that there are now three buttons below the massive 4.8” screen on the Galaxy S III.

    1. The left button is a menu button which lights up when you touch anywhere below the bottom of the screen. Instead of clicking on the three dots like you can see on the galaxy Nexus screenshot below, you’ll click on the S III’s dedicated menu button.
    2. The center button is a real physical home key which does three different things: Pressing it normally takes you to your Home screen. Pressing and holding it, displays a list of recent apps. Quickly pressing it twice launches Samsung’s S Voice, which is similar to Apple’s SIRI.
    3. The right button is the back button. This works the same as it did on stock Android 4.0 phones.

    Where to Find MyApps

    Instead of viewing your apps by touching the menu button in the upper right hand corner of the Google Play app, you’ll now touch the menu in the lower left-hand corner.

    There are other differences between the Samsung Galaxy S III and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Checkout my next article to learn how to turn off 4G or capture your screen. You’ll find answers to those questions, along with twenty five more tips. If case you’re wondering why I left out S Beam, I’ve devoted an entire article to that alone. You won’t want to miss that one.

    - Rick

    Copyright 2012 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

    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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