Smartphones: putting the best to the test
When it comes to getting the latest smartphone in Australia that connects to the new, faster LTE 4G networks, there are several options to choose from.
There are HTC's Velocity, One XL and Titan, as well as Motorola's Razr HD and Samsung's Galaxy S II. But there are two others that stand out from the pack: Apple's iPhone 5, which runs on Apple's own iOS 6 mobile operating system, and Samsung's Galaxy S III 4G, which runs on Google's Android Jelly Bean platform.
The iPhone 5. Photo: Apple
I road tested both of them, looking at apps, maps, speed, battery, artificial intelligence, look and feel, and camera.
Apps are everything on smartphones. They are what most people use between phone calls and are integral to the smartphone experience.
Galaxy S III 4G. Photo: Samsung
Although the playing field is almost even in terms of the number of apps in each store, I would argue there are far more quality apps in Apple's store, for two reasons.
First, statistics released by Android keyboard developer Swiftkey show iPhone users are more likely to pay for apps than Android users. If true, this would mean third-party app developers would have more of an incentive to build their apps for the iOS platform.
The second reason relates to developers having to deal with the different screen sizes that the Android platform offers, whereas they need to develop their app for only two sizes with the iPhone (and one for the iPad).
When it comes to comparing which phone offers the best pre-installed maps app, the Galaxy S III with Google Maps wins hands down.
When the iPhone 5 was unveiled, I said Apple Maps was "simply amazing". I even went as far as saying the 3D "flyover" mode made it feel as though you were at a place "but even better".
It's time to eat my words. Don't get me wrong: it's still amazing, but as I found out after testing it more extensively, it's not so amazing once you start to navigate around an entire city.
Users have complained that Apple Maps misplaces towns, provides wrong (and dangerous) driving directions and suffers from numerous visual defects.
After using it to navigate in Melbourne and Sydney, I've found this to be true. But Google can fail sometimes too, telling me in Melbourne recently via Google Maps on the Galaxy S III that I should turn right when there was a no- right-turn sign.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has since apologised to Apple users and told them they can use alternatives from the app store such as Bing, MapQuest and Waze. He has also said users could use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on an iPhone's home screen to their apps.
When comparing technical specifications, the Galaxy is much faster than the iPhone. With a 1.4GHz quad-core processor, the Galaxy beats the iPhone's dual-core processor, which is rated at almost 1.3GHz, meaning the Galaxy can process information a lot faster.
The Galaxy also has 2GB of RAM, 1GB more than the iPhone 5. RAM helps a phone process information, and the more RAM it has, the faster it can operate.
When timing how long it took to open a number of apps on each phone, I found some surprising results. This is something that's likely to depend more on how an app is made by an app developer, but the smartphone itself does play some part in having the necessary computing power to open an app quickly.
Over 10 tests, the Galaxy took an average of 4.78 seconds to load the Facebook app, while the iPhone took only 1.56 seconds.
There wasn't much difference when doing the same test on the Shazam app. Shazam took on average of 1.13 seconds to open on the iPhone and 1.23 seconds on the Galaxy.
The Galaxy S III wins when it comes to battery life. In real-life testing, I found it always outlasted the iPhone 5, which has been plagued by a battery-drain problem. There is a fix for this, though, which I have documented on our website.
Even with the fix, the iPhone is always going to run out of battery sooner than the Galaxy, as it uses a 1440mAh battery, which is meant to give eight hours of talk time, compared with the Galaxy's 2100mAh battery, which is meant to give 11 hours and 40 minutes of talk time.
Artificial intelligence and voice recognition have always been a bit hit-and-miss on any device, so when Apple unveiled Siri, many people who were trying it out were surprised at what it could do and how well it understood them.
But now Siri has competition in Samsung's S Voice.
Like Siri, S Voice sometimes misunderstands what you're trying to tell it. Take, for example, the time I tried to ask it to navigate me to Bondi beach. The first time I asked, it suggested I wanted to navigate to "phone but dick". The second time, it thought I wanted to "navigate to on the beach". And on the third try, "Bhandari beach".
Siri, on the other hand, got it correct the first time and every other time.
From the few tests I did with both smartphones, it does appear Siri has the lead over S Voice, although tests performed on the phones by other publications have had varying results.
Look & feel
For me, the iPhone sits more comfortably in my hand. I've been using one for a while now, and I could be saying this because I'm used to it.
I think it's going to depend more on your hand size and how you use your phone.
If you have small hands, the iPhone is going to sit better in your palm. The Galaxy is a little too big for my liking, but this might suit people who like the extra screen real estate that comes with the Galaxy's 4.8 inch screen, compared with the iPhone's four inches.
Apple has said it made the iPhone 5 only taller and not wider than its predecessor so a user's thumb could easily slide from one corner to the other without having to reposition the phone in their palm. This is probably a good idea. I found myself repositioning the Galaxy in my hand numerous times and this gets frustrating, especially when you're walking out of a shopping centre with bags on each arm and trying to browse the internet at the same time.
Both phones are good-looking, and some might even say sexy. But they aren't immune to scratches, which on the black version of the iPhone are quite noticeable.
There are two cameras on both smartphones. The back-facing cameras are both eight megapixels, while the Galaxy has a slightly better 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera compared with the iPhone's 1.2 megapixels. The iPhone appeared to perform better in low light and the Galaxy seemed to pick up on more detail in pictures. Realistically, though, there is not much difference between the photos both phones produce.
I did find the panorama feature on the iPhone better than on the Galaxy. It provided shots that were wider and also appeared clearer than the Galaxy pictures.
In my opinion, the Galaxy wins in hardware (i.e. processor speed and battery performance) and the iPhone wins in software (i.e. apps and operating system).
For the average smartphone user that doesn't like delving into a phone's settings, I'd recommend the iPhone 5 as I believe its operating system is more intuitive and easier to understand than Android.
For my tech friends I'd recommend the Galaxy if they're not already iPhone users. But even then, it all comes down to personal preference.
Samsung Galaxy S III 4G
Apple iPhone 5 (also 4G)
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