The iPhone 4S’ Tradeoffs Against Android ‘Superphones’

Since the introduction of the iPhone 4 last year, the smartphone market has seen a number of “superphones” powered by Android, Google‘s open-source operating system. These devices typically feature screens that are 4 inches across or larger; 4G LTE wireless Internet; and extremely high-end specs, including dual-core processors. The Droid Bionic is an example of an Android superphone, as are the Droid 3 and the HTC Thunderbolt.

iPhone Development
Tech pundits have criticized the iPhone 4S since its announcement, partly for keeping the same exterior design as the iPhone 4 and partly for not incorporating more superphone-esque features. But each one of those features carries with it a tradeoff, that Apple was apparently unwilling to make.

4G LTE versus battery life

Smartphones equipped with 4G LTE radios achieve much faster wireless Internet connections than 3G, or even “3.5G” HSPA+ smartphones. The HTC Thunderbolt, for instance, does not even get 4 hours of battery life without an add-on extended battery, which costs up to $49.99 and adds weight and thickness to the device. The iPhone 4S, on the other hand, promises up to 8 hours of talk time while on 3G. (Apple does not publish battery life numbers for while it is connected via HSPA+.)

Screen size versus ergonomics

As blogger (and “superhero”) Dustin Curtis discovered, the iPhone 4′s 3.5-inch screen can be comfortably used with one hand. The Samsung Galaxy S II, though, an Android superphone with a 4.27 inch screen, repeatedly stymied his efforts to tap the screen’s far corners using his thumb. Anand Lal Shimpi of AnandTech explains that large screens are themselves a tradeoff — superphones simply have to be that large, to accommodate both a 4G radio and the battery needed to power it.

Power versus usability

The iPhone 4S is roughly on par with most of today’s Android superphones, specs-wise. For the last year and a half, though, the iPhone outsold most Android phones put together, despite its aging hardware. As in the home computer market, Apple’s competitors tend to compete on raw hardware specs, while Apple sells a complete experience from desktop iTunes to the iPhone.

Variety versus reliability

Apple’s smartphone competitors rarely undertake ambitious software engineering projects, such as HTC’s HTC Sense. Because of this, they rely on companies like Google (for the Android operating system) and Fring (for video chat). Apple creates both the hardware and software on its smartphone; it writes dedicated apps, such as FaceTime, for features it deems important, such as video chat. It restricts these apps to only devices that it controls, such as the iPod Touch and the Mac. But in return, it makes them — and the iPhone — extremely reliable to use.

Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.

Source: zimguardian

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