This Christmas there will be a war between Apple’s iOS5 powered iPhone 4S versus the Andorid 4 powered Samsung Galaxy Nexus. This will be the second major challenge to Apple CEO Tim Cook as iPad gets challenged in tablets by low price Kindle Fire and the Tegra-powered Tranformer Prime. These challenges are real because of Tim Cook’s takeover from Steve Jobs and the surprise to Wall Street that Apple did not introduce an iPhone 5 and instead went only with an upgrade to iPhone 4.
In this context, PCWorld has a very revealing table on the top smartphones for this Christmas . Color coding of the best versus the lowest ratings for the phones various features is very revealing: clearly iPhone 4S is not top of the line on a number of important hardware features. So for this reason the success of iPhone 4S will depend more than ever on the quality of its 3rd party apps and the features and usability of iOS5 versus the new Android 4. This review looks at those trade-offs and declares a clear winner.
First, in the hardware feature table above, Motorola’ s RAZR unexpectedly stands out with better weight and size dimensions plus a key feature, MicroSD card which already allows adding of 64GB of storage for all those full smartphone feature freaks. But clearly the colors indicate a Blistering Battle for Dominance in this years Christmas top of the line smartphone sales. Apple concedes a lot of hardware advantages to the competition but has the early lead because it is first to market by a full month. Ye Editor was surprised that Apple conceded advantages in a number of features – most seriously in speed of processor, RAM memory available, and lack of NFC plus 4G-LTE support.
Clearly Apple is being threatened by Mototrola’s RAZR for classy design and ergonomics, long an Apple bastion. And Nexus Galaxy really benefits from the fact that Google is racing to make its Google Wallet via NFC as the leading contender for phone-based payments which are already very big elsewhere in the World. Also Nexus Galaxy has dominant display specs with incredible 4.65″ size and 1280 x 720 specs not to mention its very popular AMOLED screens. These are best of tablet screens specs in a smartphone leading 4.65″ size. So a clear Christmas 2011 Smartphone leadership battle is up in the air.
But Apple will contend with improved Camera, Siri voice control and the reputation that iOS5 gives it an advantage over all other smartphones. However, Google has introduced Android 4.o [Ice Cream Sandwich]which is a major Android update. This Android upgrade unites the two Android threads -Tablet version of Android with the Smartphone Android. It is available on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus first; but since Motorola is now owned by Google it should appear on the Motorola RAZR along with other Android phones in the CES New Year. So the real battle will come down to vs Android battle – the relative strengths of the two mobile OS – Apple iOS 5 vs Google Android 4
Apple iOS 5 versus Google Android 4
Lets tackle the Apps issue right off the bat. The latest numbers show 600,000 iOS 3rd party Apps versus 500,000 for Android. This narrowing gap reflects 2 factors: the smartphone marketshare lead that Android now has over Apple iPhone and the many more options for software development available to Android developers: Nokia Qt cross platform C/C++ developer, Adobe Flash+Flex crossplatform tools, WinDev Mobile developers, and the broad set of Java cross platform tools none of which are allowed for iOS development [with exception of special work around provisions in the case of Flash and Flex on iOS]. So it should not be a surprise that Android apps are fast approaching the count of iOS apps.
The second factor is that Google appears able to incorporate new technology first and adapt as as fast as Apple with with its iOS changes. For example, iOS 5 is playing catchup with Cloud Services to Android whose many services like Google +, Gmail, Picasa, and Google Office Apps are already available as free, cloud based storage . Likewise, by consensus iOS 5 has had to improve notification services and is borrowing many Android features and forms.
But Android 4 responds by doing one better borrowing from Windows 8 and the People Tab – pulling together people and social communications in one place. Also in the case of voice control, Apple is following Android with Siri which has some leap-ahead features like free-form query. But Google was first with Voice Actions, and has managed to duplicate many of Siri’s features with their own new voice app Isis.
And it appears in emerging technologies like the influential NFC-Near field Communication technology associated with payments systems plus convenient document/object exchanges, Android once again will support it well before iOS. Finally, the sidebar discusses these technology advantages that Android 4 is pressing on with that will lead over iOS 5.
The table below on Apple iOS5 versus Google Android 4 shows the two systems stritly on their new built in native features and capabilities [3rd party apps on both mobile OS can extend these features sets dramatically]:
|Comparison of iOS5 and Android 4 Mobile OS – New Feature Emphasis
|Google Android 4
|Simple, Easy to Use,
First and standard setter
on touch and gestures.
|Menu and tile navigation
reveals multi-tasksing apps better plus
better customization of UI. But larger
learning curve to get most out of it.
|Siri answering and control.
Facetime is Apple only.
Integrated Apple and IM.
|Text auto-reply for call refusal.
Google+ video phone to any device.
Voice keyboarding of messages.
|Siri control and query links
to many services like movies,
buiness and search queries,
events and tickets, plus ask
Wolfram’s Alpha. Faster and
|Iris combines Google Voice, Google
Talks, and Voice Actions for Android
but cannot match breadth and
consistency of Siri.
Voice directions with Google Maps.
Visual + Voicemail alerts.
|Superior camera in iPhone4.
Gallery provides direct camera
control and some image editing.
|More image edting effects, features.
Panorama picture taking and other
direct camera controls.
Video editing features and effects.
|Native App upgrades
|Browser, Notifications with
widgets, iMessage to integration.
Mail with rich text edits, flags.
|Browser, Calendar, GMail, Notifications
bar with added control plus new
People app like Windows Phone 7
|iCloud catchup with syncing.
Auto syncing to iTunes assets.
Auto app, contact etc updates.
5GB free space for user+Apps.
|First to cloud with Music, Mail, photos,
and sync information. Now beyond
Gmail & Picasa with Google + and broad
range of Google cloud services .
|Surprise – no support.
|The key to Android Beam to Share
and Google Wallet app
|Reader in Safari strips away ads
and images from pages for basic story.
PC free for startup and tethering.
Location based alerts, killer with
Siri help .
|Facial unlocking, camera use locked.
Live effects video edits work real
time in Google Talk.
Browser save for offline reading.
Browser 2-times faster than in Android 2.3
What is obvious from the feature sets is the “borrowing of ideas” not only from each others but also from Blackberry, and even the new Windows Phone 7 plus Windows 8. Copying is the name of the highly competitive mobile OS game. Ye Editor agrees with CNET where Apple’s familiarity and ease of use will fend well against a rapidly expanding and better integrated Android 4 feature set. But right now, the advantage is tilted towards Android 4.
Also consider that Androi’s rich API and its openness will continue to attract developers who can use Adobe Flash+Flex, Nokia QT, and various Java flavours which are prohibited on iOS. In the long-run Apple’s big first entrant lead may be eroded by Apple’s insistence on proprietary-only coding and its premium pricing. Apple will certainly do well very well; but it no longer can count on an iOS software advantage.
And thus Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus is the Christmas Smartphone leading beneficiary of that currently superior mobile OS in Android 4 coupled with its leading CPU, RAM, display, and communication features [big plus with 4G LTE support plus NFC features].So count Ye Editor as predicting that Android will win the Christmas 2011 Smartphone Sweepstakes. However, this battle is far from over – Steve Jobs was none too happy about Google’s stolen-ideas Android and Google considered Apple’s closed iOS system as a survival issue. So both companies are locked in a battle that currently sees Microsoft Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8 the losers. Already both vendors are copying Redmond features and their availablity for Christmas will put tremendous pressure on what Steve Ballmer announces at the early New Year CES-Consumer Electronics Show.