September Smartphone Roundup

Ignorance is bliss.

After looking at all the features between the top dogs of smartphones I am finding them really hard to separate based on hardware choice alone. It comes down to the ever changing software features when splitting these 3 contenders.

My next phone will be…

The iPhone 5 – maybe. I have already invested heavily in the Apple way but there is sheer curiosity pulling me to the Nokia Lumia 920 and the Samsung Galaxy S3. If I could have all 3 phones my choice would be much easier but I don’t have enough money to support my expensive phone habits. If I was not already invested in Apple products then I would be deciding between the Samsung and Nokia heavyweights.

Camera tricks
Winner – iPhone

  • iPhone – Improved low light performance and a nice panorama mode.
  • Galaxy S3 – No mention of low light performance but has panorama and burst mode. Also expected to be the fastest of all 3 cameras.
  • Lumia 920 – No mentions of panorama but if the specs are to be taken on face value, will have the best low light performance out of all 3.

Because cameras seem to have reached a point where megapixels and optics are about as good as they are going to get, it comes down to other areas like low light performance and special shooting modes that will separate the phones. Low light for me in particular has been an issue now and then when taking photographs of large areas in low light like school performances.

Video recording
All phones shoot video at 1080p HD video which makes them as competent as pretty much any other point and shoot camera on the market. The only loser here is any point and shoot camera that is not tough and waterproof.

GPS Navigation
Winner – iPhone

  • iPhone – Turn by turn, spoken directions by Siri, traffic alerts.
  • Galaxy S3 – There does not seem to be much mentioned on specifics, only notifications on bugs. If you want top end navigation, best keep away from the S3 for now.
  • Lumia 920 – Turn by turn and voice navigation (not sure if this is the phone calling out turns or if you can say where you want to go – details are sketchy).

This was a big deal for me because even though I do not use GPS heaps it is a critical item when I do need it. Apple ticks all the boxes with lots of useful features that aren’t mentioned by the other two contenders.

User expandable memory

Winner – Galaxy S3

  • iPhone 5 – No. This has always been a big drawback and continues to be a big point of difference other phones have on the iPhone line.
  • Nokia Lumia 920 – Maybe not. Reports are conflicting each other.
  • Galaxy S3 – Yes with the MicroSD slot.

Running out of space sucks. For most people this could be the big deal that makes their decision easy. I have not had too much trouble with storage personally so I tend to ignore this feature and supplement my storage with cloud based storage.

User replaceable battery
Winner – Galaxy S3

  • iPhone – never has, probably never will.
  • Nokia Lumia 920 – Doesn’t look like it.
  • Galaxy S3 – Yes.

If you expect to hang onto a phone for more than a few years then this will be a concern. When the battery stops performing as it should can make it perform like new by replacing the battery. If you are only expecting to hold the phone for as long as you expect your contract to last then I would not worry about it too much.

Battery Life (max standby and talktime)
Tie – Lumia 920, Galaxy S3

  • iPhone – up to 8 hours talk time
  • Galaxy S3 – up to 10 hours talk time
  • Lumia 920 – up to 10 hours talk time

Apple have long had the lead in this area up until recently. Balancing speed, features and battery life has been a big issue for people that only put their phones on charge a couple of times a week. The Lumia and Galaxy only differ in minutes when it comes to squeezing out the last drop of power from a full charge. If you are a daily docker like me then this is not a factor.

Near Field Communications (NFC)
Tie – Lumia 920, Galaxy S3

  • iPhone – No
  • Galaxy S3 – Yes
  • Lumia 920 – Yes

NFC is expected to be the next Bluetooth as it makes transferring files and pairing devices a snap. NFC is an emerging technology and you have to look pretty hard to find devices that use NFC. Bluetooth is still strong and continuing to evolve.
Even though the Lumia and S3 have it, it is not a popular technology – yet.

Stuff I didn’t think was important anymore.

  • Screen Size
    I think the form factors have matured to the point where the differences are minimal and we love our smart phones so much that we are willing to make changes in our life to keep our electronic companions close to hand be it bigger pockets, belt clips and pouches or simply carrying a bag around.
  • Social Integration
    Facebook and twitter integration is a non-issue. All platforms allow some method of access. Social tiles in WP8 does look really nice though.
  • Processor power
    Again, the benchmarks may be high but the competition is pretty even.
  • 3G? LTE? 4G?
    All new phones these days use HSPA+/4G. Availability will lie with your telephone company so best check with them to see if you will be getting fast internet or super fast internet. At the end of the day it is still pretty quick.
  • Appearance
    This is all about personal taste and we can change the look of our phones with a case. This is more about performance and features than anything else. I am a geek. Show me maroon and I will still call it red.

A word on operating systems
I decided to compare iOS 6, Android Jellybean and Windows Phone 8 (WP8) because we will be using these operating systems very soon even though they have not all be released just yet. This is also where the big differences live. No point comparing old technology right?

For people leaving Apple

“Find my iPhone” equivalents for WP8 and Android?
Find my iPhone brings great security features to a phone should it be misplaced or mistaken for someone else’s. Android phones have access to similar applications and I am sure we should see the same for Windows Phone eventually.

Can you watch iTunes media on a windows phone and android phones?

  • Android – look at doubletwist in the Google Play store. There are a few apps by doubletwist that should work just fine.
  • Windows Phone – The jury is out on WP8 until a better sync solution is found, at the moment only ZUNE claims to be able to copy your iTunes media and sync with your Windows Phone.
  • Note : If you are an Amazon user then Android may be the best option for you.

Nokia has got my attention also with hints that it may have a free music service. My only question is the range of tunes. Will I have access to as much music as iTunes, Spotify and other digital music heavyweights or will I be listening to endless hours of ACDC Polka covers?
This could pave the way for accelerating the concept of media from a product you buy and own to a service you subscribe to. A change I can really look forward to.