Cage Match: Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus vs. Apple’s iPhone 4S

The Galaxy Nexus (shown in orange) outperforms most other Android phones

Round 1 – Product Specifications

Many reviewers have heralded the Samsung Galaxy Nexus as the best Android phone ever. It supports LTE, has a 1.2GHz dual-core CPU, a 4.65” 720p display and is the first device to run Android 4.0. As you can see from the chart above, the Galaxy Nexus does well when you compare it to other Android devices, but how do its specs compare with the iPhone 4S? Read on to learn the answer.

 

Apple iPhone 4S

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Processor

800MHz dual-core

1.2 GHz dual-core

RAM

512MB

1GB

Internal storage

16, 32, 64GB

32GB

Screen size

3.5”

4.65”

Display resolution

960×640

1280×720

Pixel density

326 ppi

316 ppi

Rear cam

8MP

5MP

Front cam

0.3MP

1.3MP

Network

HSPA

LTE

Dual-band Wi-Fi

No

Yes

NFC

No

Yes

Thickness

9.3mm

9.47mm

Weight

140g

150g

Battery

1420 mAh

1850 mAh

There is a clear winner when you compare the specs of these two devices. The Galaxy Nexus beats the iPhone 4S in 10 out of 14 specs. The specs the iPhone wins are important however: screen density, camera (MP), thickness and weight.

Round 1 Winner: Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Specs Can Be Deceiving

On paper the iPhone 4S doesn’t look that great. Its dual-core CPU runs at a clock speed which is 33% slower than the Galaxy Nexus (800MHz vs. 1.2GHz). But clock speed isn’t the only thing which determines the speed of a device. The graphics co-processor can have a big impact on performance, especially when running games. The mobile operating system and chipset can also have an impact on performance.

Software benchmarks are used to compare the performance of different devices? One of the best sources of this type of data is AnandTech. Unfortunately some of the best mobile benchmarks do not run on the iOS platform (e.g. Rightware BrowserMark, Quadrant, NenaMark, AnTuTu and Vellamo).

Fortunately there are some good benchmarking apps which run on both platforms. Let’s run a few of them and see how these two phones compare.

Round 2 – Browser Performance


SunSpider is one of the most popular tests for browser performance. It’s designed to compare different browsers to each other. Although the chart above shows the non-LTE version of the Galaxy Nexus, I ran SunSpider on my LTE Nexus and got an even better score (1907). That’s 15% faster than the iPhone 4S. The first round is over and we have a winner.

Round 2 Winner: Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Round 3 – Graphics Performance

Let’s move on to round 2. This round will test graphics performance. GLBenchmark is an app which measures the graphic and computation capabilities of a mobile device. The majority of the tests it runs focus on things like high-level 3D animations.

I was expecting the iPhone 4S to beat the Galaxy Nexus in this test, but I wasn’t expecting such a big difference in scores. One possible explanation might be the fact the Galaxy Nexus has 50% more pixels to process than the iPhone 4S (921600 vs. 614400). In the real world, graphics on the iPhone 4S aren’t 3 times faster than the Galaxy Nexus. Both phones are great for gaming, and it’s unlikely you’ll see much difference in real-world use. In fact, in many real world tests the fastest Android phones kill the iPhone 4S in side-by-side speed tests. If you want to see just how much faster the Droid RAZR is than the iPhone 4S watch this video. Still, I’d be remiss to say this round was not a knock out — according to this benchmark.

Round 3 Winner: Apple iPhone 4S

NOTE: Since this article was written the iPhone 4S has lost it’s advantage in most benchmarks. Phones like the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy SIII beat it badly in most benchmarks. More info.

Round 4 – Wi-Fi Performance

Wi-Fi performance is important to many users. In the test the Galaxy Nexus did better than the iPhone 4S, but the difference was only 16%. Perhaps a bigger difference between the two devices is the fact that the Galaxy Nexus supports dual-band Wi-Fi, and the iPhone 4S only supports 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. The 5GHz band is much less prone to interference, and can be faster than the 2.4GHz band.

Round 4 Winner: Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Round 5 – 3G/4G Data Speeds

The best way to compare data speeds on two different phones is to run the same bandwidth test software on both. I use a popular app called Speed Test, which is available for both Android and iOS. It’s important to realize that data speeds vary by carrier. PC Magazine ran a good article recently which found iPhone 4S data speeds on AT&T’s network top out around 3-4Mbps. Verizon’s 3G network averaged 700kbps down, with peaks of 2.5Mbps; Sprint’s only eked out 480kbps on average, with peaks of 2.22Mbps. I was an AT&T customer for over 3 years and I never saw speeds on my iPhone approaching anywhere near 3Mbps, but I’ll give Apple the benefit of the doubt here.

The Galaxy Nexus is capable of data speeds 20-30x faster than the iPhone 4S

Even with PC Mag’s generous results on the AT&T’s network, a Galaxy Nexus on Verizon’s slower network, absolutely kills the iPhone in data speed tests. The reason for this is obvious: The iPhone 4S doesn’t have LTE support yet, and LTE speeds (even on Verizon’s slower network) blow away regular 3G HSPA speeds. In this test the Galaxy Nexus was 33 times faster than the iPhone 4S! So this round was a knock out.

Round 5 Winner: Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Round 6 – Battery Life

There is a price to be paid for the lightning-fast data speeds LTE phones like the Galaxy Nexus have. The price is poor battery life. Even though the Galaxy Nexus has a more powerful battery than the iPhone 4S (1850 mAh vs. 1420 mAh), its battery life is still worse. There are other factors for this as well, Apple underclocks their A5 processor, and Android’s true multitasking consumes more power than Apple’s approach, which suspends apps in the background. Nonetheless, the difference is clear in the charts below.

As you can see, the iPhone 4S kills the Galaxy Nexus in web browsing battery life over both 3G and Wi-Fi. The only bright spot for the Nexus is acting as a Wi-Fi hotspot over 3G. In those tests, the Galaxy Nexus operated 1.5 hrs longer than the iPhone 4S. That can probably be attributed to the larger battery in the Galaxy Nexus. [Note: This test was done with the European version of the Galaxy Nexus, no test data was available for the U.S. LTE version.]

Round 6 Winner: Apple iPhone 4S

Fight Results

Round 1 – Winner: Samsung Galaxy Nexus
Round 2 – Winner: Samsung Galaxy Nexus
Round 3 – Winner: Apple iPhone 4S
Round 4 – Winner: Samsung Galaxy Nexus
Round 5 – Winner: Samsung Galaxy Nexus
Round 6 – Winner: Apple iPhone 4S

The Victor

It was a long fight but the final round is over. If I was on the panel of judges, I would rule the Galaxy Nexus victor because it won 4 out of 6 rounds, but it was a close fight. Would you rule the same way?

– Rick

Copyright 2011 Rick Schwartz (text only). All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged. All charts are courtesy of AnandTech.

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About Rick E. Schwartz
Rick Schwartz is blogger from San Diego. You can learn more about Rick by clicking on the "About" tab at the top of mostly-tech.com.

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