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Apple and oranges: which of the new smartphones reigns supreme?

Date

Adam Turner

Zoom in on this story. Explore all there is to know.

Shoot-out ... from left: Google's Nexus 4, Apple's iPhone 5, and Nokia's Lumia 920.

Shoot-out ... from left: Google's Nexus 4, Apple's iPhone 5, and Nokia's Lumia 920.

The smartphone war is hotting up as the big names put forward new champions in a superphone battle royale.

Apple's wunderphone continues to go from strength to strength but Android is up to the challenge and has perhaps even pulled ahead, depending on which sales figures you believe. Meanwhile, Microsoft is back in the game with Windows Phone 8, even though Windows Phone 7 failed to gain much ground on its rivals. Windows Phone 8 is perhaps more likely to win over new smartphone users rather than convert people from Apple or Android.

So we have three flagship handsets – Apple's iPhone 5, Google's Nexus 4 and Nokia's Lumia 920 – battling it out for your love and affection like attention-seeking children. Each has its strengths and an Achilles' heel. It's easy to simply rattle off a list of specs, but a good smartphone is more than the sum of its parts. To be honest, most people's choice of smartphone is dictated by their preferred operating system more than the hardware. Nothing you read here is likely to encourage a fanboy to defect to a rival ecosystem, but swinging voters may still be swayed by a side-by-side comparison to see how they measure up.

Promising ... Nokia's Lumia 920.

Promising ... Nokia's Lumia 920.

 

Apple iPhone 5 – iOS 6
$799 (16GB)

The smartphone champion, at least in the eyes of some, Apple's new iPhone 5 responds to the Android threat with extra screen real estate. It's thinner, lighter and narrower than the others. On paper it falls a fraction short of the Lumia's pixel density, determining the screen sharpness, but side-by-side images look a little crisper on the iPhone. This iPhone is also the brightest of the bunch, helping it cope best with outdoor glare. Unfortunately the new four-inch display is underwhelming because it's no wider than the old iPhone 4/S. This means text doesn't appear any larger, you can just see a little more at the bottom. The screen is more impressive in landscape mode, where widescreen movies now fill the entire screen. As for capturing photos and video, it takes the sharpest snaps of the bunch and copes the best with bright backlights, although the Lumia outshines it in low light conditions. As for apps the iPhone is still king, with many new apps and services still coming to iOS before Android, but the gap is closing. Ditching the 30-pin connector in favour of Lightning will frustrate those who have invested in a range of 30-pin iGadget accessories. Losing Google Maps in favour of Apple Maps is also a major step backwards, conceding points to the Nexus and Lumia. Apple puts Bendigo and Mildura in national parks, for example, but when it comes to issuing instructions it's very good – reading out street names, offering plenty of detail at close turns, displaying intersections clearly and coping well if you make a mistake. Apart from iOS' inflexibility compared to Android, the iPhone 5's biggest shortcoming is the lack of NFC for short-range wireless interactions – although Passbook is a step in the right direction.

Smartphone champion? ... Apple's iPhone 5.

Smartphone champion? ... Apple's iPhone 5.

 

Google Nexus 4 – Android 4.2
$399 (16 GB)

The serious contender, Google's new Nexus 4 is one for Android lovers chasing plenty of screen real estate without breaking the bank. LG's Nexus 4 delivers a 4.7-inch display to rival the Samsung Galaxy S III 4G and HTC One XL, although the Nexus isn't quite as slender. Its crisp 1280 x 768 resolution puts it slightly ahead of its Android rivals, plus it still packs a quad-core powerplant. The screen does a reasonable job of dealing with outdoor glare but unfortunately the whites aren't as white as the iPhone or the Lumia, nor are the skin tones as vivid. You'd struggle to pick that it's an IPS screen just like the others. Google has opted for a vanilla Android 4.2 implementation which has fewer annoying bells and whistles than Samsung's TouchWiz. You miss out on the Quickflix and Navigon apps, but still enjoy access to Google's turn-by-turn navigation along with the Google Play store for apps, books, magazines, movies and music. Unfortunately the Nexus is seriously outclassed when it comes to photo and video capture, outdoor shots aren't bad but it really struggles with difficult lighting conditions. When it comes to maps Google's offerings seem more accurate than Apple at the city level, but once you're on the road Google Maps Navigation is not as helpful as Apple Maps. It displays your ETA but struggles with street name pronunciation and its diagrams of roundabouts are misleading if not plain dangerous. If you take a wrong turn sometimes it just stops reading instructions aloud and just beeps at you. Unlike the others, it's also crippled if you're offline unless you cache slabs of the map in advance. The Nexus 4's biggest shortcoming is that it lacks LTE, which is disappointing but shouldn't be a deal-breaker when it supports HSDPA up to 42 Mbps.

Serious contender ... Google's Nexus 4.

Serious contender ... Google's Nexus 4.

 

Nokia Lumia 920 — Windows Phone 8
$829 (32 GB)

The dark horse, Nokia's Lumia 920 is a promising sign of things to come. The handset feels rather bulky compared to the others but the 4.5-inch screen can hold its own. The exquisite IPS display rivals the picture quality of the iPhone 5, although the Lumia is not as bright so it doesn't handle outdoor glare quite as well. It actually sneaks in with the sharpest screen of the bunch on paper, but when you lay them side-by-side the iPhone still looks slightly better. As for Windows Phone 8, the new mobile OS is slick, responsive and mostly intuitive. You're still at a disadvantage when it comes to third-party apps and many services are likely to treat WP8 as an afterthought for some time. As for content you've got Nokia Music and Xbox Music Pass but you're still missing movies and books (although you'll find the Kindle app in the store). The Lumia shines through with Nokia's strong camera and mapping heritage. The camera does the best job of the bunch in low light conditions, although the iPhone copes slightly better with bright backlights. Nokia's maps seem as accurate as Google's and Nokia Drive features many of the bells and whistles that you'd expect from a paid app such as TomTom. The City Lens augmented reality features also show promise. When you're driving Nokia Drive offers an ETA and the speed limit. The trade-off is that the screen becomes cluttered with landmarks and other unnecessary information. Unfortunately it doesn't read out street names and it's the slowest of the three when it comes to issuing instructions and recalculating if you take a wrong turn. The Windows Phone 8 Wallet looks like an interesting sleeper technology, as it ties in with NFC and you can add details of your own cards. Apart from its bulk, the Lumia 920's biggest shortcoming is the head start Microsoft has given the other ecosystems in terms of apps and content.

 

The verdict

Like I said at the beginning, nothing here is likely to sway the opinion of a fanboy. Each handset is impressive, but if you're looking for one phone to rule them all it would have to be a toss up between Apple and Android. I'd be reluctant to go with Windows Phone 8 for now because you'll always be last in line for new apps and services. If the Microsoft ecosystem already meets your needs it's worth a look, because the Lumia 920 is a slick combination of hardware and software.

Pitting the iPhone 5 against the Nexus 4, the iPhone 5 just falls over the line thanks to the better screen image, better camera and iOS' ease of use. If you're deterred by Apple's benevolent dictatorship over the iGadget ecosystem then you should certainly look at the Nexus 4, but weigh it up against the Samsung Galaxy S III 4G and HTC One XL.

TL;DR: The iPhone 5 by a nose.

10 comments

  • So which one reigns supreme????

    Commenter
    Johnny
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    November 23, 2012, 9:01AM
    • The one that has all the features you personally "REALLY" need and happen to like the most.
      or
      the prettiest/fashionable one if you really don't know why you are buying a smartphone.

      Commenter
      lol
      Date and time
      November 23, 2012, 9:58AM
    • I believe the Kogan Agora is the best phone on the market. Just like its cousin tablet, I have the whole suite of Agora products and they are simply fab. I will be purchasing the new Agora tab this Xmas and I hope others do the same. As we all know, Android is best, and this quality device only furthers this widely held belief. The Kogan Agora is simply the best phone and tablet on the market today. I would happily swap an iPhone or iPad for them.

      Commenter
      Evan
      Location
      Pymble
      Date and time
      November 23, 2012, 10:16AM
    • You can buy 2 x Nexus for the same or less than either 1 x Apple or 1 x Lumia. Android is mature and sophisticated, whereas IOS is out of date and Windows is immature. Seriously. Half the price. Why on earth didn't Adam make more of this? Like, does he not care about money? Does he get his gadgets for free? I sure as hello don't!

      Commenter
      bb_one
      Date and time
      November 23, 2012, 11:09AM
    • As above :: The iPhone 5 by a nose.

      Commenter
      Kel
      Date and time
      November 23, 2012, 11:58AM
    • Evan, is your real name Ruslan Kogan by any chance??

      Commenter
      Hmmm
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      November 23, 2012, 12:31PM
    • The Google Nexus 4 is the best.

      Sent by my iPhone5.

      Commenter
      Oprah
      Date and time
      November 23, 2012, 12:46PM
    • So why is it iPhone 5 by a nose?

      Clearly iPhone 5 is just a slightly modified version of 4S which then was only a slight change from IPhone 4, iPhones has lost it's novelty factor and is just a boring product.

      At least other companies like Nokia and Samsung are trying more exciting and innovative designs and products.

      Commenter
      Regh
      Date and time
      November 23, 2012, 3:09PM
  • Nokia 920- seen really good reviews for it, I'm probably going to get one as it different from android and iphone as both these operating systems are getting a tad boring

    Commenter
    MBison
    Date and time
    November 23, 2012, 9:03AM
    • Just do your homework first: apps that are required? Connectivity, etc? I have a current Win 7 phone and it becomes quite tedious to find new B&W speakers (A7) being deployed with AirPlay, nice to haves like Nike+ (although Nike now has a Kinect/xBox integrated app) being unavailable and countless apps and integration features bypassing Win Phone altogether. It can be rather frustrating. Headphones with Mics don't work with Nokies (generally) and so your choices are constrained. I don't think I'm going to progress to Win 8 although I had given serious consideration to the HTX 8X.

      Commenter
      MIkeB
      Date and time
      November 23, 2012, 9:50AM
Comments are now closed
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