When the Apple event earlier in October unveiled the iPhone 4s, we all had a bit of a chuckle. All around the web, people had been predicting the impending release of the iPhone 5, only to be disappointed (and amused) when the iPhone 4s was announced.
Buzz did a little write-up comparing the iPhone 4s’ specs to various Android phones already on market, and those expected to come shortly. Stacked up against the Android horde, the iPhone 4s didn’t look particularly appealing.
However, as I have to use one to access my stuff at work, I thought I’d go purchase said iPhone 4s, and compare it first hand.
If you want to read more fulsome reviews, they can be found around the net. Some of the most informative are courtesy of This Is My Next and Slash Gear, both of which I spent a bit of time reading before deciding to take the plunge. What follows here is a bit of an overview of the iPhone 4s’ (and by extension, iOS 5’s) new features, and a bit of a comparison of those features against what Android can offer.
First, lets look at Siri.
Siri is billed as an intelligent voice assistant that helps you to get things done. It’s available anywhere within iOS 5 on the iPhone 4s, and can do a heap of useful (and many not so useful) things. You can ask it to do things like “Send a text to Buzz saying my iPhone 4s is better than your Atrix” and it will understand you, secretly agree, and send the message as requested.
Is it really that revolutionary? Well, in my humble opinion, it’s pretty damned good. It isn’t perfect – it is easy to confuse it, and it can’t do more complex things. For example, you can’t get it to tweet for you, or make a coffee.. but it can do most common tasks that you might think of doing on your phone. Calendars, SMS, calls, alerts, reminders, reading emails, replying to them – yeah, it can do those.
Android doesn’t have a native comparison to Siri – that said, there are many third party apps such as Vlingo which can do similar things. Many would agree, though, Vlingo doesn’t come close to the ease of use that Siri offers. If a killer voice assistant is what you want, the iPhone 4s will win (for now).
The iPhone 4s comes with a new CPU, the Apple-designed A5 processor. It’s dual-core (like many current Android devices) and according to some benchmarks around the web, it’s clocked at approximately 800MHz (underclocked, clearly). Apple extols the virtues of this chip as being primarily threefold – one, up to seven times faster graphics over the previous A4 chip. Two – up to twice as fast performance. Three – better battery life.
For Android users, dual-core is nothing new – we’ve had dual-core chips for the better part of a year now, and 800 MHz is nothing to write home about – phones on market regularly push almost double this rate. As to how it compares? Well, the iPhone and iOS has always felt snappy at most tasks – the only thing that really shows the lag in my usage of previous iPhones has been gaming. On this front, the iPhone 4s is certainly an improvement – it’s quicker and things load faster, and graphics are more snappy. However, in terms of performance, I’m going to give this to Android – most recently having used the SGS2 again, this phone just flies and no amount of revolutionary amazing from Apple can really compete. The iPhone 4s is quick – very quick – but the SGS2 just seems quicker.
Apple tells us that the iPhone 4s’ camera might be the best camera ever seen on a mobile phone. It’s an 8mp shooter with improved optics that increase quality in low light shots, do better macro shots, and all other magic and wizardry. In my usage so far, it’s certainly a capable camera. It takes nice, crisp photos with the right balance of light and colour, so yeah, Apple’s claim that it could do away with your basic point and shoot camera are probably valid. However, 8mp is – again – nothing new to Android. The SGS2 had 8mp earlier in the year, and many other Android phones on market have it now. Apple’s optics might be a little fancier, but in all honesty, when the majority of smartphone users are probably not getting their photos printed, and are either sharing them digitally with others, I don’t think this is all that important. From a subjective standpoint, photos from the iPhone 4s look no different to photos from a SGS2, an Atrix, or an HTC Sensation. I’d call it a draw, except that Android had all this first – so Android wins.
While the iPhone 4 could shoot high quality video, the iPhone 4s takes it a step further and can shoot 1080p HD video. That’s pretty cool.
Except that Android phones have – again! – been doing this for quite some time. Apple’s new software has a video stabiliser feature which isn’t exactly unique, but it does work quite well, but besides that, it offers nothing revolutionary. Call it in Android’s favour, again.
Of course one of the major selling points of the iPhone 4s is of course iOS 5. Other iPhones, down to the 3GS, will also receive this upgrade, but as you’ve come to expect from Apple, some things are restricted to the current flagship device, and the iPhone 4s makes no exception. You won’t get Siri on anything else, nor as much performance. But hey.
Some of the big selling features of iOS 5 are how it has re-written the book on how iPhone does things. However, as you’ll see from our analysis below, these things are not new.
|Have a look at iOS 5’s notification centre.Then compare it with the Android notification centre.It’s hard to see a difference. Yes, it really looks like Apple has spent a good amount of time replicating what Android users have enjoyed for years, a drag-down list of ‘notifications’ that can be accessed from inside any application – you can see which calls you’ve missed, which SMS you’ve received, and any app alerts like incoming tweets, reminders, the weather, and other things.As an iPhone user – I’m glad that we now have what Android has had for ages – but it’s nothing new. Just a copy.||iOS 5 allows you to tweet your photos direct without uploading them from your Twitter app.Android also allows you to do this.Android ALSO allows you to share to Facebook, Picasa, Flickr, Tumblr, and about a thousand other ‘sharing’ destinations, because Android makes available the sharing API which plugs into the Gallery application, and many other applications too. This isn’t new or revolutionary. It’s just keeping up.||iOS 5 includes a feature that allows setup without being tethered to iTunes. It’s about time – I was able to set up my iPhone 4s without tethering it to my laptop – even able to restore my apps and settings from the cloud without having to tether at all.However, this is something that Android has offered from its very beginnings – a computer wasn’t (and isn’t) necessary to manage and use your Android phone. Setup is completely wire-free, and even ongoing use is, unless you want to sync music or photos, which – in many cases – you could do wirelessly anyway.I’m not calling this a bad feature from Apple – it was sorely needed – but it’s hardly something new or exciting compared with what’s already available elsewhere.|
iCloud is basically the renamed Mobile Me, except that it works a little more seamlessly, and a little quicker, and maybe a little better. It automatically syncs your contacts, calendars, photos and other bits and pieces to the cloud to keep them in sync with your desktop devices, laptops and other portable devices. In my testing, it works as it says it does. However, again, I struggle to find this a new feature – Android has been offering precisely this kind of sync natively, and via addons, for years. For me, it’s a nifty feature. My photos are automatically on my computer when I get home, ready to tag and sort and do things with, my reminders copy about and my calendars are always synced up.
However, there’s something to note here – my calendars, contacts, and email is synced via Google – which is precisely how Android does it as well. Google’s sync and web apps work better than Apple’s, and always have in my opinion. iCloud offers me one thing that Android/Google (for now) doesn’t – the ability to seamlessly and automatically sync photos taken on my phone up to the cloud, and down to my iPhoto when I get back to my computer. A cool feature, but not a killer app. I’m going to say that Google’s solution beats Apple’s.
The iPhone 4s comes with the same Retina Display as the previous model iPhone 4 did. It packs 326 pixels per inch into it’s little display to make for the crispest looking mobile phone screen you’ve ever seen. It’s not a new feature, but it’s better than anything Android devices currently offer. Some come close – but none exceed. I love reading the iPhone’s screen (both in its -4 and -4s configurations) so I’m going to give this to the iPhone – Android screens that I’ve seen recently, such as the SGS2, Evo 3D and Sony’s devices, just don’t compare.
Facetime isn’t new to the iPhone 4s, but Apple claim it as a killer feature, so it’s part of this casual comparison. Facetime basically allows you to video call other iPhone users. Hooray! Android devices allow this, but more importantly, my shitty old Nokia from about 5 years ago allowed this too. Granted, Facetime does it in higher definition and better quality, but it’s not new. It’s just done better than it ever has been before. Android users can get video chat features – without the requirement to be on WiFi ala Facetime – courtesy of third party apps such as Google+, Skype, Tango, or many other third-party apps offering the feature. If it weren’t for the requirement to be on WiFi to use Facetime, I’d call it a dead heat – but you do have to be on WiFi, so I’ll give it to Android.
Apple makes it’s final point on the iPhone 4s’ connectivity options. The iPhone is not only a quad-band GSM phone, and not only a quad-band UMTS phone on top of that, but it ALSO packs a CDMA radio as well – this phone is billed as working pretty much everywhere, and from the specs, it probably does. I don’t know of any Android devices that sport both GSM/3G and CDMA radios. However, one thing the iPhone 4s doesn’t have, which some Android phones are starting to have, is LTE capability. This, to me, didn’t come as a surprise. It’s bleeding edge technology and it’s hardly widely available. Given the iPhone 3G didn’t come out until 3G mobile telephony was well and truly established, I don’t think anyone expected the iPhone 4s to seriously support LTE. I’d say wait for the iPhone 5 for this. However.. given the iPhone 4s’ versatility in connecting to just about any form of mainstream mobile phone network, I think it probably wins on this front.
There are a few features of the iPhone 4s we haven’t looked at – such as AirPlay and AirPrint – primarily because these are very Apple-centric features that just don’t compare well. For those that care, you can (in most instances) print wirelessly from Android devices too – you just need to ensure that, if this is important to you, you match a printer offering this feature to Android compatibility. My HP Photosmart printer will happily print wirelessly from Android and iPhone.
The iPhone 4s is a great phone, and so far (in the last 24 hours) I’ve loved using it, and it has lived up to its claims. The battery life is better than previous models, and the features work as advertised. It’s a great evolution of the iPhone brand, but it’s not the revolutionary device that many people wanted. For me, iPhone is my preferred device, because it ticks one primary box – it always works in situations that I need it to, and it is compatible with the obscure security and technical requirements enforced by my workplace – so for me, it’s a no brainer.
For everyone else though, I think the game remains unchanged by Apple’s new superphone. iPhones are, and have always been, great for the masses. They’re easy to use, easy to obtain, easy to set up, and easy to fall in love with. But they’re not a great phone for the power user – they are only configurable to an extent, and if you like to tweak and fiddle, it’s definitely not for you. Android devices are, in my opinion, still strongly aimed at the more technically competent audience, though this is rapidly changing. The advent of front-ends like HTC Sense and Touchwiz are making Android phones easier to access and understand, and really shallowing out the learning curve that Android once presented.
Go back a year or two, and while people could drive an iPhone, if you gave them an Android to use, they’d look at you funny. Today, I can give my partner or friends an Android phone and get them to perform tasks they’d easily do on an iPhone just as easily. What they don’t know, and what we do, is that Android devices can do just so many more things than iPhones let people do, and this is why we run Ausdroid, and why we fly the flag – we know Android’s better 😉