Why You Shouldn’t Buy an iPad Mini

Last updated: March 6, 2014

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Why You Shouldn’t Buy an iPad Mini

There are certainly some good qualities about the new iPad mini with Retina display. It’s thin, light and runs iOS 7. Unfortunately, it’s missing more than forty important things you’ll find in other tablets and costs much more.

A 32GB Nexus 7 costs $230 less than a 32GB iPad mini with Retina display

A 32GB Nexus 7 costs $230 less than a 32GB iPad mini with the same quality display

  1. It’s much more expensive than other tablets – You can now buy a 32GB Nexus 7 for only $269. To get the same amount of storage in a iPad mini, you’d have to spend $499. That over 46% more, for a product with worse performance. The 16GB Nexus 7 is only $229. Apple charges $399 for exactly the same amount of storage. That a 43% price premium. Apple charges $529 to $829 for a mini for cellular support. Amazon charges only $329 for a 16GB Kindle Fire HDX with LTE support. Google charges only $349 for a 32GB Nexus 7 with LTE support. That’s a savings of a $280. You can literally buy a second Nexus 7 with the money you save.

    Apple charges much more for a mini with LTE support

    Apple charges much more than other companies for tablets with LTE support

  2. Apple products almost never go on sale – Apple rarely allows discounts on their products. When products like the iPad do go on sale, the discounts are very small. I just purchased tablets for my family members for Christmas and was surprised to find most of the tablets in Best Buy were on sale at discounts between $50 and $100 off their already low prices. I picked up a great 8″ tablet for my dad for only $249. Even better discounts are available online from Amazon and other online merchants and you’ll almost always get free shipping as well. Even the brand-new Kindle Fire HDX was on sale for $50 off it’s already low price.
  3. The Kindle Fire HDX has a much higher-resolution display than the iPad mini

    The 8.9″ Kindle Fire HDX has a much higher-resolution display than the iPad mini with Retina display

  4. Other tablets have higher-resolution displays – Don’t be mislead by the Retina label. Tablets like the Nexus 7 have a display that’s every bit as good as the iPad mini. Tablets like the Kindle Fire HDX have a display that is even better than the new iPad mini. How much better? The 8.9″ Kindle Fire HDX has almost a million more pixels than the iPad mini (4,096,000 pixels vs. 3,145,728 pixels). It’s worth mentioning the iPad mini doesn’t even fit the definition of a true retina display.

    Screen resolution isn’t the only problem with the new iPad mini. It comes in last place in this small screen review where they said “the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is the best performing tablet display that we have ever tested.” Here’s why the Nexus 7 and Kindle HDX beat the iPad mini.

  5. It’s easily breakable – The Apple iPad mini has been declared to be the single most breakable mobile device in the world by SquareTrade, who performed a battery of tests on it and other devices. To make matters worse, it’s very difficult to repair when it’s broken.
  6. It’s not expandable – Tablets from Asus, Barnes & Noble, Samsung and others come with a microSD slot, so you can easily expand your storage. You can double your memory for only $12, to $19. To double the memory of an iPad mini, you have to spend at least $100 more.
  7. Because it doesn’t have a microSD slot, you can’t quickly copy media to an iPad mini without using a computer. Tablet owners with removable media slots can take the memory card out of their Go Pro or D-SLR camera and pop it directly into their tablet. No computer is required to copy video, or other media. This is a real time saver.

    The iPad mini runs out if power two hours faster than the Nexus 7

    The iPad mini runs out if power two hours faster than the Nexus 7

  8. Inferior battery life – Even though the iPad mini has a much more powerful battery than other tablets, this doesn’t translate into better battery life. The Nexus 7 has much better battery life when browsing the web. That means you’ll be surfing the Internet two hours longer on a Nexus 7 than an iPad mini.
  9. It doesn’t have a quad-core processor – Even though the Nexus 7 is only $229, it has a powerful quad-core processor. Having two extra cores allows the Nexus 7 to do more things at once without slowing down. The iPad mini only has a dual-core processor that runs at a much slower clock speed than the Kindle Fire HDX (1.29 GHz vs. 2.2 GHz). Before you make a comment about Apple’s benchmark performance, you need to read this article.
  10. When it comes to specs, the iPad mini lags in many areas

    When it comes to specs, the iPad mini lags in many areas

  11. It’s thicker and heavier than other tablets – Apple brags about the thinness of the iPad mini, but tablets from Samsung and Sony are thinner. Much much thinner? The Sony Xperia Z is only 6.9mm. That’s 9% thinner than the iPad mini. The Nexus 7 is 14% lighter than the new iPad mini (290g vs. 331g). The Kindle Fire HDX is lighter than the iPad mini as well.
  12. The Nexus 7 does much better than the new iPad mini on display tests like contrast and brightness

    The Nexus 7 does much better than the new iPad mini on display tests like contrast and brightness

  13. Much worse brightness and contrast ratings than other tablets – The iPad mini has a much lower maximum brightness than the Google Nexus 7 (370 vs. 583 higher is better). The iPad mini also gets a contrast rating of only 804, while Nexus 7 gets a contrast rating of 1273 (higher is better).

  14. It has less memory than other tablets and this causes problems – The best Android tablets have either 2GB of RAM or 3GB of RAM. The iPad mini only has 1GB of RAM. This translates to worse multitasking and slower app load times. How much slower? The game “Asphalt 7″ loads in only 18.5 seconds on a tablet with 3GB of memory. The same game loads in 45.0 seconds on the same tablet with 2GB of memory. iOS 7 has made matters even worse. Many iPad owners have reported memory-related problems like only having enough memory to open 6 tabs in Safari, or have 4 apps open at once without reloading tabs or restarting apps. By contrast, Android 4.4 has been optimized so it runs well on devices with as little as 512MB.
  15. Poorer color accuracy than other tablets – Color accuracy on the iPad mini is only 63%, while the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is 100%. That means what you see on the Kindle is what the content creators intended you to see. This is also important if you use your tablet to edit photos. The Nexus 7 beats or ties the iPad mini in 7 out of 8 display tests. The Nexus 7 has more accurate color reproduction, better color saturation and as mentioned above, a much better contrast ratio and much better brightness than the iPad mini. The iPad mini also does not have sRGB coverage, while though the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 do. This means they display a wider range of colors
  16. You can use Google Wallet anywhere you see these images

  17. No NFC digital wallet support – NFC and Google Wallet lets Nexus 7 tablet users buy things at over 300,00 PayPass-enabled cash registers in places like Best Buy, CVS Pharmacy, Einstein Bros Bagels, Home Depot, Jack in the Box, McDonald’s, Peet’s Coffee, Pinkberry, Rite Aid, Sports Authority, Whole Foods and many more places. You can learn more about NFC here. The iPad mini has something called Passbook, but it only works at Starbucks (and the Apple Store).
  18. GPS support is only available cellular models – The iPad mini is small enough to take with you anywhere, so it certainly makes sense that you’d want it to have a GPS so you could use it for directions. Unfortunately, you have to spend $130 more for a cellular model to get GPS support. Tablets like the Nexus 7 have full GPS support on their Wi-Fi only models.
  19. It doesn’t appear on your desktop as a drive – It’s a major hassle to get anything (but photos) on or off of an iPad mini. Android devices don’t need iTunes or iCloud to copy media. Just connect a USB cable, and your device will appear on your desktop like a hard disk. You can then drag and drop any file (or folder) to it. This is really useful.
  20. It doesn’t work with standard cables – Many Android tablets use exactly the same micro-USB jack, so you can easily connect them to any charger or peripheral without purchasing an expensive cable. The iPad mini uses all proprietary connectors so Apple can sell you cables for $20 to $50. If you want an extra charging cable for an iPad mini, it will cost $19 and is hard to find. You can buy an Android power cord almost anywhere for as little as $2.
  21. Its AV adapter doesn’t support 1080p video – Another big downside to Apple’s 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 video today. It’s capable of supporting 1080p, but Apple has chosen to hold back 1080p support for now.
  22. The size of the letterbox displayed when movies are played on the iPad mini is much larger than other tablets [Photo: Gizmodo]

  23. No 16:9 screen, Reduced-quality movies – Tablets are great way to watch movies, but all movies are formatted to fit on a 16:9 display. Because the iPad Mini has a 4:3 aspect ratio, all 16:9 movies need to be letter-boxed with only 1024×576 resolution, which is getting pretty close to standard definition video rather than true high-definition 1280×720 video found on tablets like the Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7. As Gizmodo points out, “when you watch a movie in landscape there’s almost more letterboxing than actual video. Seriously. It. Looks. Ridiculous.”
  24. It has ineffective parental controls – Apple finally added Parental Controls to iOS 6, but they are buried is Settings and disabled by default. Even if mom is smart enough to find and enable them, her kids will still be able to read the copy of “50 Shades of Grey” she bought earlier, because Apple’s Parental Controls do not hide explicit books that are already in a library. The iPad mini is a single-user device and this prevents a good solution to this problem. By contrast, Nook tablets allow multiple users to share a single tablet using separate accounts. Each users content is hidden from other family members automatically, and profiles can be password protected. Parents with a Kindle Fire HDX can also give access to appropriate content for each child. The Nexus 7 also supports user-profiles.
  25. You can share media by simply touching two NFC-enabled Android devices together

  26. No touch-to-share – Newer Android tablets like the Nexus 7 can easily share media by touching another device with NFC support. This allows you to share photos, videos, contacts, Web pages — as well as information between apps. You can see it in action here.
  27. No wireless charging – Tablets like the Nexus 7 include support for wireless charging, so you can just sit them on a charging pad and charge them without connecting a cable.
  28. Nano-SIM makes it harder to use with other carriers – When you buy an iPad from Apple’s site with the cellular option, you’ll find Apple forces you to pick a carrier. Other unlocked tablets from Google and others don’t force you to do that. To use your iPad mini with most international carriers you will also need a SIM cutter because the iPad mini uses a nano-SIM. Most Android tablets use standard or micro-SIMs.
  29. The Kindle Fire HDX is easier to use and has a media-centric interface

    The Kindle Fire HDX is easier to use and has a media-centric interface

  30. It’s harder to use and doesn’t have a media-centric user interface – If you compare the Kindle Fire HDX and an iPad mini side by side you’ll see the Kindle Fire is much easier to us. It only has 7 app icons on it’s home screen because that’s all that most people need. The remaining space is devoted to things that matter including your favorite books, magazines, music and movies. This makes sense and is also done on the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10. The menu on the Kindle Fire also only has a few easy to understand options. The iPads settings are a mess. The Kindle Fire even has a “Mayday” button that allows an on-screen customer support person to temporarily take control of your tablet to assist you with problems.
  31. It doesn’t support Flash natively – Flash may be a dying format, but there are still millions of Flash videos around, and the stock browser in the iPad mini can’t play any of them. There are several free Android browsers including Firefox that play Flash videos. See my Nexus 10 tips and tricks article for more info on this topic. Update: There is now a $10 Flash Player that runs on the iPad.
  32. Android now beats iOS in many areas – This may come as a surprise to some of you, but Android 4.3 and 4.4 has many advantages over iOS 7. You can see them here.
  33. Readability issues with magazines – The screen on the iPad mini is just too small to read magazines or comics because of the tiny, non-adjustable typefaces used. Text looks pinched, because it’s optimized for the iPad’s larger display. The Kindle Fire HD gets around this issue with its text view mode.
  34. It’s not a great eReader – In the previous bullet I already pointed out the readibility issues with magazines. That’s not the only reason why the iPad mini is not a good eReader. It also has one of the most reflective displays you’ll find in a small tablet. Because of this, using the iPad Mini outside is often a problem because of glare. How bad is it? According to Dr. Raymond Soneira of DisplayMate Technologies, “The Screen reflectance on the iPad mini is surprisingly high (9.0%). The Nexus 7 has a much lower 5.9 percent reflectance, while on the Kindle Fire HD has a reflectance of 6.4%. As a result, the iPad mini reflects 53 percent more ambient light than the Nexus 7 and 41 percent more than the Kindle Fire HD. That’s quite a large difference.
  35. Samsung tablets have much better stylus support than Apple

    Samsung tablets have much better stylus support than Apple

  36. Reliable data cables – Apple’s Lightning cables get a 1.5 star rating in the Apple Store due to breakage, fraying and corrosion.

  37. Limited stylus support – Although you can use a capacitive stylus on an iPad mini, you don’t get the same level of expression that you get on Android tablets. Samsung’s Galaxy Note tablets have a Wacom touchscreen with 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity. iOS also won’t let you toggle between a brush, pencil or eraser by simply holding the stylus above the screen and clicking a button. The stylus on Galaxy Note tablets even lets you preview emails, photos or videos by hovering slightly above the screen.
  38. No infrared transmitter – Tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus and Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 — along with Vizio and Sony Experia tablets all 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. The iPad mini does not have infrared support.
  39. No multi-user support – The iPad mini is a single-user device tied to a single iTunes account. Nexus tablets allow multiple users to log-in. Each user has their own home screen, background, apps and widgets. Things like game-progress and high-scores remain separate.
  40. Mediocre-sounding speakers – The Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 (and other tablets) have better sounding speakers than the iPad mini. Reviews say “O.K. is also how I’d describe the speaker system. The Kindle Fire HD, which sports Dolby stereo, pumped out noticeably more pleasing audio than the Mini’s speakers.”
  41. Very difficult to repair – The iPad mini is much more difficult to repair than other tablets. iFixit gives the iPad mini with Retina display a repairability score of ‘2 out of 10,’ where 10 is the easiest to repair. One of the main reasons why it gets such a poor score is because large amounts of cement hold the front glass, logic board, battery, front camera, back camera, ribbon cables in place. This cement makes repair extremely difficult. By comparison, the Kindle Fire HDX and Nexus 7 both get repairability scores of ‘7 out of 10’ (10 is easiest to repair).
  42. The iPad mini is not water-resistant like Sony tablets

    The iPad mini is not water-resistant like Sony tablets

  43. Not accident-resistant – Sony’s Xperia Z Tablet is water resistant. You can submerse it in up to three feet of water for 30 minutes at a time. Now you can read in the tub, use in the kitchen or browse by the pool, worry free.
  44. Can’t make phone calls – You can make phone calls on Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.7 and Nexus 7 if you’ve installed a SIM. You can also send or receive texts without using a special third-party app. The Galaxy Tab 7.7 calling function has been upgraded to let you make and receive voice calls privately by using Receiver Mode in public places.
  45. No replaceable battery – Tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and Toshiba Thrive have batteries which are easily replaceable. This is important, because all rechargeable batteries have a limited life-span and need to be replaced.
  46. Inferior multitasking – Apple places restrictions on third-party apps which run in the background. In most cases, they are suspended and not allowed to communicate with other apps. Android supports true-multitasking without any of the above restrictions. This makes it possible to do things on Android tablets that can not be done on the iPad mini.
  47. Small keyboard makes it hard to type accurately – The keyboard on the iPad mini is small enough that you’ll have a hard time typing accurately on it. To some extent this issue is true with 7″ Android tablets, but you can install one of the many great third-party keyboards like SwiftKey3, which have much more accurate corrections and predictions than the iOS keyboard. You can see the dramatic difference here.

    Android keyboard apps provide different keyboard layouts like this one with number keys

  48. It has a much worse on-screen keyboard – Like the iPad mini, the Nexus 7 has standard keyboard features like a spell checker, auto-capitalization and auto-correction. However, the Nexus 7 has a much better on-screen keyboard. It has the ability to add words to a personal dictionary, show correction suggestions, perform gesture typing where you swipe from key to key, show next-word suggestions and the ability to change your keyboard to one that is more PC-like and includes all numbers and extra keys.
  49. Not able to easily load custom ROMs – Android devices like the Nexus 7 don’t come with locked or encrypted bootloaders. That means you are free to install customs ROMs and fully tailor your device however you wish.
  50. Undesired side-effects of the new display – One reviewer pointed out that “because the screen real estate is so much larger than an iPhone but icons are now roughly iPhone size, apps with lots of navigational elements can be a little less intuitive to navigate.
  51. Hard for small hands to hold securely – The iPad mini is wide enough that it is harder to carry securely than Nexus 7. The bezel is also so narrow that its hard to hold the screen in portrait-mode without touching the active part of the touchscreen.
  52. No LED alerts – Most Android phones have a small LED indicator that alerts you to missed calls, new messages and other system events. As with other Android phones, you can customize exactly how this works by installing a third-party LED control app like Light Flow. The iPhone has a setting buried under Accessibility that flashes an LED when a call or text is received. The iPad mini does not support LED alerts at all.
  53. No multi-window Support – Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Note let you split the screen in two sections so you can interact with two different apps at once. Not only can you view any two windows at once, you can also drag things from one window to the other. This is a really useful feature the iPad mini does not have.
  54. No ability to set software defaults – One of the most powerful Android features is the ability to change the default software the OS uses for different tasks. For example, if you want the Dolphin browser to open any URL (instead of the stock Android browser), just pick the app you want to use. Want to use a different app for turn-by-turn directions or media playback? Pick one, and it will use that app every time. This is an incredibly powerful feature.
  55. iCloud is inferior to other cloud services – Third-party cloud services are more reliable, provide more storage, and are much more flexible — because they don’t lock you into an Apple-only world. If you shop around, you’ll find up to 50GB of free cloud-based storage, much better photo sharing services that automatically upload every photo and improve their quality, and store an unlimited number of photos at full-resolution (e.g. Google+). Android office apps like Google Drive are also much better than Apple’s offerings. They support more formats, allow you to share more easily and even collaborate with others at the same time. They also automatically save every change you make to the cloud, so you can access everything from any device or computer — not just Apple products. Android calendar and contact apps also have advantages and are much more open. Sure, some of these products are available to iPhone users as well, but most iPad users stick with Apple’s inferior pre-installed cloud services.
  56. DLNA Support – Most Android tablets include DLNA support. That means they can stream media to over 10,000 devices. Chance are you have several DLNA-certified devices in your home and you don’t even know it. Most TVs, game consoles, media streamers and Blu-ray players are DLNA-certified.
  57. Better tablets are on the way – Every month exciting new Android tablets are released. Many of these will have better specs than the iPad mini with Retina display.
  58. The iPad mini is not a bad product, but it’s not the thinnest, or the lightest, or the fastest, or the highest-resolution tablet of its size. Other tablets are available that cost much less and do much more. You owe it to yourself to check them out. You can use some of the money you save to buy books, movies, music and some great premium apps, which will increase your enjoyment even more.

    Why You’ll Still Buy an iPad Mini

    If you’re an Apple fan, you don’t comparison shop. You don’t care that Apple products cost more and do less. You tell yourself that specs don’t matter and Apple’s ecosystem is superior — even though you’ve never actually used an Android 4.4-powered product. You’ll find a way to convince yourself that all of the above reasons somehow don’t apply to you and, you’ll buy an iPad mini anyway.

    – Rick

    If you like this article, you may like these as well:
    40+ Things you won’t get with the iPhone 5s
    Debunking the Retina Display Myth – Why the iPad mini isn’t a true retina display
    Who makes the best tablet on Earth?

    For the Apple Fanboys

    1. This is an opinion piece – I think the title makes that very clear. Don’t read this if you can’t handle an opposing view point.

    2. This article is focused on the advantages of other tablets – I’m aware there are some good reasons to buy a iPad. Since every other reviewer focuses on those, I see value in showing another point of view.

    3. I don’t just pick on Apple – I write highly-opinionated articles about other companies as well. Here are examples where I single out Samsung, AT&T, United, Google and Rhapsody.

    4. I don’t hate all Apple products – I think some of the new Apple products are fine — just not the iPad Air or iPad mini with Retina display. I’ve owned two iPhones, two iPads and an Apple TV. I buy Apple products when they outperform other products and are not insanely priced.

    5. I want this to be factually correct – Believe it or not, I really do try to keep my articles factually correct. If you find an error here, please let me know and I will fix the section containing the error. If you read the comments section, you’ll find many examples where I’ve done so.

    6. Save your flames – You’re not going to change my beliefs and I’m not going to changes yours.

    Copyright 2013-2014 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.


    Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

    Note: This article was originally written about the first iPad mini. Since then, it has been updated to reflect new iPad mini with Retina display. Keep this in mind when you read the comments.

Everything You Need to Know About 4G

Carriers are responsible for much of the confusion around 4G

There are many myths about 4G. Some are true and others are false. This article attempts to clear up some of the confusion.

Myth 1: The iPhone 4S supports 4G

Reality: That depends on your definition of 4G. Most experts say iPhone is still a 3G phone — even though a 4G icon appears when you’re connected to the AT&T’s HSPA+ network. HSPA+ speeds are faster than 3G, but not near as fast as those found on a good 4G LTE network. One thing is sure: The iPhone 4S does not yet support 4G LTE.

Several studies have shown AT&T to have the fastest data speeds

Myth 2: AT&T has the fastest data speeds

Reality: Studies show that AT&T’s data speeds vary wildly depending on the time of day. Sometimes they’re good, but often they’re mediocre. Download speeds are especially problematic when the network gets more congested in the afternoon.

Speeds like these are not unusual over LTE

Myth 3: LTE is 5 to 10 times faster than 3G

Reality: LTE users sometimes report speeds that are 30 times faster than average 3G speeds. I ran more than fifty Speed Test runs and saw average download speed of 17Mbps, and an average upload speed of 9Mbps. My peak speeds are 45Mbps down and 28Mbps up. Pretty amazing.

Myth 4: 4G costs more than 3G

Reality: Most 4G data plans cost exactly the same as 3G data plans. Most Verizon customers pay $30 a month for 4GB of data. 4G phones don’t cost any more than 3G-only phones. You can buy a great phone that supports LTE for as little as $49.

Myth 5: LTE is new and not supported by many devices yet

Reality: 4G LTE launched back in 2009, and has been available in the U.S. since December of 2010. More than fifty different mobile devices now support LTE. Learn more about the history of 4G LTE here.

Myth 6: AT&T and Verizon have similar 4G coverage

Reality: Verizon has LTE support in more than 250 cities, while AT&T is in less than 40 cities. Sprint and T-Mobile do not currently offer 4G LTE service. See the coverage map above for more details. To access the newest coverage maps, download Sensorly or the Cell Phone Coverage Map app by Root Metrics in Google Play or the App Store.

Don’t expect to get a 4G signal everywhere you are

Myth 7: Most carriers have good LTE coverage in large cities

Reality: Even if your carrier has 4G coverage in your city, don't expect to get LTE everywhere you go. I only see 4G light up about 30% of the time.

It’s hard to use more than 2 or 3GB of data

Myth 8: HSPA+ results in higher speeds when LTE is not available.

Reality: This depends. In theory having HSPA+ to fall back should result in higher speeds, but according to experts, network congestion makes the drop-off from LTE on AT&T’s network to be just about as steep as Verizon’s.

Myth 9: Using a 4G phone will cause you to exceed your data allowance

Reality: In most cases this is untrue. Sure you’ll be able to download data much more quickly, but unless you stream a lot of HD movies, you’re going to have a hard time exceeding the 4GB data limit that carriers like Verizon are currently offering. Even if you do crazy things like backing up your entire phone to Drop Box with Titanium Backup, it’s hard to go over your limit.

Myth 10: Verizon’s network often feels faster than AT&T’s — even though its data rate is slower

Reality: This is true. According to a CNN article: “Verizon also has by far the quickest network response time, meaning that Web pages begin loading faster than on any other network after a user clicks on a link. Verizon’s network starts churning in half the time it takes AT&T’s to respond, and often about a third of the time it takes Sprint’s network.”

Myth 11: 4G can quickly drain your battery

Reality: This is true. That's why 4G phones like the Droid Razr MAXX include much more powerful batteries. If your 4G phone does not have an extended life battery, upgrade it, buy a second battery, or turn off 4G when you’re in an area without 4G coverage.

Some 4G phones have better battery life than 3G phones

Myth 12: Verizon users cannot talk and access the Internet at the same time

Reality: This is no longer true. You can use any app to access the Internet after you make a call (e.g. Google Maps, web browser, etc.)

VoLTE allows you to talk over 4G

Myth 13: 4G can improve the quality of voice calls

Reality: This is true. Several carriers outside of the U.S. are preparing to launch VoLTE, which along with HD voice codecs, can have dramatic difference on the quality of your voice calls. Verizon is rumored to be launching a voice over LTE service early in 2013.

Myth 14: HSPA+ is not capable of LTE-like speeds

Reality: In most cases this is true. HSPA+ is capable of real world download speeds of 4Mbps and higher. Some have even seen HSPA+ speeds as high as 16Mbps when stationary, but these drop way down when you are walking or in a moving car. More info.

Myth 15: The next big thing after 4G will be 5G

Reality: Not true. Carriers plan to increase their data rates beyond current LTE limits by using two 20 MHz channels and/or MIMO antenna arrays. Sprint says this will allow their network to reach speeds of up to 168Mbps.

As long as you own a device which supports LTE, you’ll enjoy getting data speeds on your phone which are faster than those that you get over home DSL.

– Rick

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

Today’s Best Smartphones (February 2012)


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

When it comes to overall specs, it's hard to beat Samsung's Galaxy Series

And the Winners Are…

Back in December I created a chart of the top smartphones available at the time. Since then, a lot has happened, so I’ve updated my list. Here are the top five smartphones available today:

 

HTC Rezound

LG Nitro HD

Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Samsung Galaxy Note

Processor

1.5 GHz dual-core

1.5 GHz dual-core

1.2 GHz dual-core

1.2 GHz dual-core

1.5 GHz dual-core

RAM

1GB

1GB

1GB

1GB

1GB

Storage

16GB

16+4GB

16+16GB

32GB

TBD

Screen size

4.3”

4.5”

4.3”

4.65”

5.3”

Resolution

1280×720

1280×720

960×540

1280×720

1280×800

Pixel density

342 ppi

 329 ppi

256 ppi

316 ppi

285 ppi

Rear cam

8MP

8MP

8MP

5MP

8MP

Front cam

2MP

1.3MP

1.3MP

1.3MP

2MP

Network

LTE

LTE

LTE

LTE

LTE

5GHz Wi-Fi

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Bluetooth

3.0

3.0

4.0

3.0

3.0

NFC

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Thickness

 13.65mm

10.4mm

8.99mm

9.47mm

9.65mm

Weight

164g

128g

145g

150g

178g

Battery

 1620 mAh

1830 mAh

3300 mAh

1850 mAh

2500 mAh

OS

Android 2.3.4

Android 2.3.5

Android 2.3.5

Android 4.0.2

Android 2.3.5

Carrier

Verizon

AT&T

Verizon

Verizon

AT&T

    Comments

  • Although the Rezound is the thickest phone here, it has the highest pixel density, and a very fast processor. For now, it stays on the ‘best’ list.
  • You could argue the Droid RAZR belongs in the above chart because it’s thinner and lighter than the RAZR Maxx, but battery life is such an important issue on LTE phones. The RAZR Maxx’s 3300mAh battery has 85% more current than the 1780mAh battery in the original RAZR. Even with the extended battery, the RAZR Maxx is still the thinnest phone in the above chart.
  • Sprint will be releasing a Galaxy Nexus in the first half of this year that is rumored to have a 1.5GHz dual-core CPU, 2100mAh extended battery and a functioning Google Wallet. The original Galaxy Nexus is capable of supporting NFC, but Verizon blocks users from downloading the Google Wallet. Smart users know of a trick which allows Verizon users to download and install Google Wallet from the Android Market.
  • Although the Galaxy Note became available in Europe last year, it’s rumored to go on sale here in the U.S. on February 19th.

Although iPhone 4 sales are better than ever, it no longer competes when it comes to most specs.

Close, But No Cigar

You may have noticed that some phones which were included in my December list, have fallen by the wayside. This includes the iPhone 4S and several other phones which are still good, but no longer compare with the best phones. Each has at least one major flaw.

 

Apple iPhone 4S

HTC Vivid

Motorola Droid RAZR

Motorola Droid 4

Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket

Processor

800MHz dual-core

1.2 GHz dual-core

1.2 GHz dual-core

1.2 GHz dual-core

1.5 GHz dual-core

RAM

512MB

1GB

1GB

1GB

1GB

Storage

16GB, 32GB, 64GB

16GB

16+16GB

16GB

16GB

Screen size

3.5”

4.5”

4.3”

4.0”

4.5”

Resolution

960×640

960×540

960×540

960×540

800×480

Pixel density

326 ppi

245 ppi

256 ppi

275 ppi

207 ppi

Rear cam

8MP

8MP

8MP

8MP

8MP

Front cam

0.3MP

1.3MP

1.3MP

1.3MP

2MP

Network

HSPA

LTE/HSPA+

LTE

LTE

LTE/HSPA+

5GHz Wi-Fi

No

No

No

No

Yes

Bluetooth

4.0

3.0

4.0

4.0

3.0

NFC

No

No

No

No

Yes

Thickness

9.3mm

11.2mm

7.1mm

12.99mm

9.40mm

Weight

140g

177g

127g

179g

132g

Battery

1420 mAh

1620 mAh

1780 mAh

1785 mAh

1850 mAh

OS

iOS 5.0

Android 2.3.5

Android 2.3.5

Android 2.3.5

Android 2.3.4

Carrier(s)

AT&T, Verizon, Sprint

AT&T

Verizon

Verizon 2/10

AT&T

    Comments

  • You could argue the Droid RAZR belongs in the first list because it’s thinner and lighter than the Maxx, but battery life is such an important issue with LTE phones that I favored the RAZR Maxx over the older Droid. It’s 3300mAh battery has 85% more current than the battery in the original Droid Razr.
  • I debated whether the soon to be released Droid 4 belonged in the first chart, but it’s lacking a HD screen and it is one the thickest and heaviest of all of these phones. If you’ve just got to have a real keyboard, you might be willing to overlook these problems.
  • I also debated whether the Galaxy S II Skyrocket belonged in the first chart, because it has such a fast processor. I left it out because it has the worst screen of any of the phones here.
  • Windows Phone fans might ask why the Titan isn’t in this chart, because it has a 1.5GHz processor and a 4.7″ screen. I left it out because it doesn’t have a HD screen and the Titan II is just around the corner..
  • Why The iPhone 4S Is No Longer One of The Best

    Some of you are probably wondering why the iPhone 4S is no longer listed in the chart of best smartphones. The answer is easy: The iPhone 4S hasn’t been competitive for a while. It has an under-clocked processor that runs at almost half the speed of the best Android phones. While it’s true the iPhone does well in some graphics-related benchmarks, the fastest Android phones kill it in side-by-side real world speed tests. If you want to see just how much faster the Droid RAZR is than the iPhone 4S, watch this video.The iPhone also doesn’t have a 720p HD display, and believe it or not, it’s not a real 4G phone. That means its data speeds are 5-10x slower than most 4G LTE phones. If you’re a hard-core Apple fan, you’ll probably buy the iPhone 4S anyway, and that’s O.K — just don’t say you weren’t warned. Two years is a long time to own a non-4G phone.

    Several new quad-core phones will be demonstrated in Spain next month. As soon as new phones are released, I’ll update this chart.

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

    – Rick

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

Jumping Ship – Moving from iOS to Android

I Was an iPhone Addict

I’ve been a hardcore iPhone user for the past several years. Like most iPhone users, I had a hard time imagining ever switching to another phone. I’d seen some early Android phones and their user interface didn’t look nearly as polished as iOS. I also thought the transition would be too hard and I might regret making the switch. I knew my iPhone so well I could practically operate it blindfolded.

Why Would Anyone Defect?

I had planned to buy an iPhone 5 the first day it was available. However, once the iPhone 4S was announced, and it became clear an iPhone 5 was not going to be released in 2011, I started having second thoughts. My old iPhone had slowed down to the point it was sometimes frustrating to use. I’m not sure if this was a result of iOS, or the fact I was on the AT&T network, which is horrible where I live. While I was researching this problem, I learned about the differences between 4G LTE and the 4G imposters like HSPA+. 4G LTE phones are 5 to 12 times faster than other phones. Two things were clear to me:

  1. My next phone must support LTE
  2. My next phone must run on the Verizon network

More about the confusion around 4G data speeds can be found here.

Verizon's LTE speed comparison

These two requirements made my decision easier. The iPhone 4S had disappointing specs (compared to the newest Android phones) and it did not support LTE. There was no way I was going to sign another two-year contract on a non-LTE phone.

So, I started looking into Android phones. I’d heard about the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and read several reviews which said it was the best Android phone ever. Some of the reviews said Android 4.0 was more intuitive than earlier versions, and even had the nerve to compare it to iOS. So I took a big leap of faith and bought a Samsung Galaxy Nexus the first day they became available. I wasn’t too worried, because I had two weeks to return the phone if I didn’t like it.

More about the differences between iPhone 4S and the Galaxy Nexus can be found here.

I immediately started using my new Galaxy Nexus and was surprised the transition wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. Once I installed a few of my favorite apps, I was on my way. I did encounter a few hurdles along the way, so I made a list of suggestions for a trouble free transition from iOS to Android.

Ten Steps to a Trouble-free Transition

Once you get through these steps, you’ll be on your way to being a happy Android user.

  1. First things first – Start by creating a Google account (if you don’t already have one) and enter your credit card so you can purchase apps. This account will allow you to backup everything on your phone to the cloud, and sync with other Google apps. Next, enter the key for your Wi-Fi network.
  2. Setup your voice mail – Now learn how to makes call and setup your voice mail.  On my phone, I have to dial *86 to check my voice mail, your phone may have a dedicated button for this.
  3. Install your favorite apps – Now go to the Android Market and install a few of your most-used apps. Don’t bother to make a list of your old apps. If you really need them, you’ll remember their names.
  4. How do I switch apps without that big button? – One of the first hurdles I encountered was figuring out how the Home button works on Android phones. Both phones have Home buttons, but they work a little differently.

    iOS Home button

    • Pressing that big Home button on the iPhone always takes you back to the main Home screen. Pressing the Home button on an Android 4.0 phone takes you back to the last Home screen you were on.

      Android's Home button

    • Pressing the Home button on the home screen of an iPhone takes you to the Search screen. This doesn’t happen on Android phones because the search box is displayed on every home screen.

      Android's Recent Apps button

    • Double-pressing the Home button on an iPhone 4S shows your most recently opened apps.  You can do the same thing on an Android 4.0 phone by pressing the Recent Apps button. The only difference is that you scroll up and down, instead of left to right.

      Android's Back button

    • Two other important navigation differences exist between the iPhone and Android phones are the Menu and Back buttons. The Back button on an Android phone works like the back button on your browser. Once you get used to doing this, I think you’ll find it very useful.

      Android's Menu button

    • The same is true with the Menu button. On Android phones before 4.0, there is a dedicated Menu button which works much like the right mouse button on a Windows PC. This can also be a real time saver once you get used to it. On an iPhone you have to go to the Setting app to access options which are available in the Menu key on Android phones. Note:On Android 4.0 phones the Menu button is only displayed once you launch an app.

      Android's App Drawer

    • Another difference is the fact that all downloaded iOS apps must appear on one of the iPhone’s home screens. On Android, this is not the case. All apps are displayed when you touch the App Drawer. It’s up to you which app you want to have displayed on your five home screens.
  5. Syncing your calendar and contacts – Google automatically syncs all of your Google contacts and calendars. If you want to sync your work contacts and calender, it’s easy. Click on the E-mail app and then select Settings using the menu key. Then click Add Account and enter your work e-mail and password. In a few minutes, all of your work contacts and calendar will be synced with your Android phone. When you add a new contact or appointment to your calendar, it will instantly appear on your Android phone without any type of manual sync needed.
  6. Learn how Notifications work – Notifications work a little different on Android and iOS 5.0 devices. On an Android phone, you’ll see different icons at the top of the screen every time you receive a new e-mail or other activities. Like iOS, you swipe down from the top of the screen to view your notifications.  Once you review them, just click the “X” to clear them.
  7. Install the “must-have” Android apps – Every platform has its own “must-have” apps. CNET recently published a list of some of the best Android apps. You may want to download some of these after you get a new Android phone.
  8. Optimize your battery life – If you get a lot of e-mail, you need to make some changes to extend your battery life.  Load the E-mail app, go to Settings and set the Inbox check frequency to 1 hour or never. You can still manually sync at any time. Other good battery-saving suggestions can be found here.
  9. Make it your own– Learn how to customize your Home screens. Move your app shortcuts around, create folders for similar apps and deleting apps you don’t use daily. Learn how to use widgets. Widgets are a big differentiator between Android and iOS.
  10. Relax – Don’t expect to master a new mobile operating system over night. It could take days — even  weeks until you are fully comfortable with your new phone. Be patient while you adjust to some new ways of doing things. The effort you put in will be worth it in the end.

Would I Ever Go Back to Apple?

Sure. I didn’t buy an iPhone because all of my friends had one. In fact, when I bought my first iPhone, it wasn’t that popular. I bought it because it was the best mobile device available at the time. That’s the same reason I recently bought a Samsung Galaxy. I want the fastest and best phone on the planet. I don’t care who makes it.

Which Mobile OS Do I Prefer?

In another blog post, I compare Android 4.1 with iOS 6, and let you know which things I like best about each. You won’t want to miss those posts.

– Rick

Since this article was first written, the iPhone 5 has come out and I’ve switched to a Samsung Galaxy S III. Gizmodo ran a really good article which also talks about making the switch from Android to iOS. I must not be the only person switching, because there are now four times more Android phones than Apple phones. Even with the iPhone 5, it’s going to be impossible for Apple to ever catch up.

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.

The Confusion Around Mobile Data Speeds

AT&T's marketing chart correctly places HSPA+ in-between 3G HSPA and LTE when it comes to data speeds.

The History of Faux G

Data speeds can have a huge impact on the perceived speed of your mobile device, but there is much confusion around 4G. For the past year all of the carriers have been running commercials about their 4G networks. Truth be told, until recently, Sprint and Verizon were the only U.S. carriers with true 4G networks and mobile devices to support it.

  • T-Mobile was first to call their HSPA+ network 4G and AT&T gave T-Moble grief over it. HSPA stands for “High Speed Packet Access.” Since then AT&T jumped on the same HSPA+ 4G bandwagon. HSPA+ is capable of speeds that are somewhere in-between 3G and 4G LTE. This is why some call it “Faux G.”
  • Sprint uses a different technology called WiMAX and was the first to deploy a true 4G network. Their network is capable of speeds that meet or exceed Verizon’s 4G data network. [Update: Sprint just announced they will be coming out with LTE phones in the 2nd half of 2012.]
  • Verizon launched their 4G LTE network back in December of 2010.
  • AT&T launched LTE in five cities in September 2011 (9 months after Verizon), but didn’t have a single 4G phone until November 2011.

If you’re fortunate to be in one of the 200+ cities with LTE coverage, you’re in for a real treat. LTE is much faster than 3G or HSPA+. How much faster? Verizon claims LTE speeds which are at least twice as fast as AT&T’s 4G HSPA+ and up to 12 times faster than their own 3G speeds. Most LTE users experience real world download speeds of 5 to 12 Mbps and real world upload speeds of 2 to 5 Mbps. These speeds are impressive, but they are conservative. I’ve experienced real world LTE download speeds as high as 45Mbps and upload speeds as high as 28Mbps. Theoretical peak LTE speeds are even higher than these. More info.

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is on of the few phones with LTE and Dual-Band Wi-Fi support.

The list of smartphones which support LTE today include the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, BlackBerry Torch 9810, Droid Bionic, Droid Charge, Droid RAZR, HTC Rezound, HTC Thunderbolt, HTC Vivid, LG Revolution, Pantech Breakout, Samsung Galaxy S II HD LTE, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and Samsung Stratosphere. More phones are being added to this list every month. The list of tablets which support LTE today include the Motorola Xoom, Motorola Droid XYBOARD(8.2″ and 10.1″), Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9, and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. Why isn’t the iPhone 4S listed here? Unfortunately, LTE support isn’t yet available on the iPhone or iPad yet.

Trouble in Paradise?

There are two downsides with LTE that you should be aware of:

  1. LTE phones consume power faster than non-LTE phones. For this reason, in the past some people disable 4G when they weren’t using it. Fortunately most newer phones have more powerful batteries which make this less of an issue.
  2. LTE isn’t available everywhere, and even if you live in a city that has it, you may not always be able to get a 4G signal.

Wi-Fi data speeds are important as well. The best mobile devices support dual-band Wi-Fi. That means they work on both 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz Wi-Fi networks. 5.0 GHz networks are less crowded and capable of higher speeds. You can learn more about 5 GHz and view a list of devices which support it here. Some new mobile devices also include support for Bluetooth 4.0, which promises better range and lower energy consumption.

After reading this, you should be better prepared to evaluate the carriers confusing marketing messages about mobile data speeds. If data speeds are important to you, it’s essential all of your mobile devices support either LTE or WiMAX.

My next post will be about Rhapsody’s new cloud-based music service. You can read about that here.

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