After the usual boatload of expectation, rumour-mongering and whispers, the iPhone 4S was announced to a somewhat muted applause. It’s an amazing phone for sure; we can’t wait to play with it again. But there’s no shaking the feeling that the big reveal was (just) a little underwhelming.
There’s no doubting that the Android competition to the iPhone crown has been stronger than ever and the 4S, despite its niceties, isn’t the revolutionary leap everyone was hoping for.
A number of you have got in contact with us over the last few days (either in the comments or via DM) saying that you won’t be upgrading to the iPhone 4S and you’re thinking of joining the Android side. Somewhere on Coruscant, Emperor Palpatine steeples his fingers and cackles loudly.
Star Wars allusions aside, here’s a quick list of our current Android favourites, wild cards and things in the pipeline that you should perhaps consider if you’re due for an upgrade and don’t want a 4S.
The current contenders
Samsung Galaxy S2
What else can we say about the Galaxy S2? It’s currently our favourite Android smartphone to date. It’s a powerhouse that blazes through apps, games and multiple tasks like nothing.
It’s also got a huge 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus screen that compared favourably with the screen of the iPhone 4 in our screen test. Remember that the screen of the iPhone 4S is identical to that of the iPhone 4 spec-wise.
You get a healthy 16GB of internal storage with the Galaxy S2, plus the ability to expand this further with a microSD card, up to 32GB. Memory cards are a lot cheaper now than they were this time last year, making this a cost-effective solution if you want more storage for music, apps and pictures.
Aside from these beefy specs and the S2’s raw power, it’s also got a ton of hidden features and easter eggs tucked away in its slender frame.
HTC Sensation XE
This is basically a beefed up version of the HTC Sensation, an already powerful and stylish smartphone that’s been made more powerful.
It prominently features Beats Audio technology and comes with a nice pair of in-ear headphones. But if you ask us, the the key points about the Sensation XE is that it comes with a faster processor and a bigger battery.
Though we’ve not posted our full review on this one, we’ve had enough hands-on time with the XE to note that it doesn’t suffer from the occasional lags that the original Sensation had, something that’s most apparent when you’re thumbing through the rotating 3D Sense widgets. We’re chalking this up to the faster processor inside – a 1.5GHz dual-core chip up from the 1.2GHz one of the HTC Sensation.
Sadly internal memory is still pegged at a rather paltry 1.5GB, but there’s always the microSD slot for expandage.
The XE’s bigger battery too ought to allow for more hours of music listening and movie playing via HTC Watch on-demand films. Definitely one to (ahem) watch.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S
Like the HTC Sensation XE, the Xperia Arc S is to all intents and purposes a sexed-up version of a phone from earlier in the year, in this case, it’s Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Arc.
Though you don’t get any fancy headgear with the Arc S, its main overhaul has been in the processing speed department which if you ask us really makes a difference here. Browsing the web, swishing through menus and dropping app icons on to homescreens from the launcher feels slick and effortless on the Arc S, whereas we felt the original Arc struggled occasionally here.
Sony Ericsson has of course kept everything that made the original Arc great; namely the incredible 8.1-megapixel camera with the back-lit Exmor R sensor, the 4.2-inch touchscreen and that distinctive curved body.
The back-lit sensor of the camera basically allows for greater light capture in dimly lit areas (like pubs, clubs and gigs venues) and works incredibly well on the Arc S.
Eagle-eyed spec sheet readers might have noticed that the iPhone 4S too has an 8-megapixel camera with a back-lit sensor. So if you were after a phone with a powerful camera, here’s one that pretty much equals that of the 4S but for a fraction of the price.
That said, there’s one area where the 4S’s camera will have an advantage and that’s on video capture. Top resolution of the Arc S for video recording is 720p; the iPhone 4S can handle Full 1080p HD.
As we’ve said before, you’ll be hard pressed to tell between 720p and 1080p on a circa four-inch screen. And we do laugh when we read comments along the lines of ‘this phone only records in 720p!’ as if it’s a rubbish 1-megapixel VGA camera from five years ago.
Ones to watch
HTC Sensation XL
The Sensation XL is a recent arrival from HTC that’s basically a redesigned HTC Titan that runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread instead of Windows Phone 7.5 Mango. The specifications for both of these phones are virtually like for like, the same 4.7-inch screen with a 800 x 480 res, the same 16GB internal memory and the same 8-megapixel camera with a panoramic shot mode.
One difference is that, like the HTC Sensation XE before it, the XL comes with Beats Audio technology grafted on. So you were the type of person who bought an iPhone mainly to use as a replacement iPod, then the Sensation XL could be the phone for you.
That said, the memory can’t be expanded beyond this, as there’s no microSD slot. But there’s no microSD slot on the iPhone 4S either.
Google Nexus Prime/Galaxy Nexus
Nothing official has been revealed about this greatly hyped phone, thought to be the flagship smartphone for Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich, aka Android 4.0.
Nexus phones have a kind if pedigree about them, as they’re developed by manufacturers in tandem with Google, the idea being that Nexus sets the bar somewhat.
We’ve seen this with the HTC-made Nexus One (which ushered in a new age of high-resolution Android smartphones) and the Samsung-made Nexus S (which came with an NFC chip, paving the way for Google Wallet).
Rumoured specs for this mystery device include a 4.65-inch Super AMOLED HD display, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM and a 5-megapixel camera.
Though these specs are not official at all, it’d be sensible to assume that the first Ice Cream Sandwich phone will feature the new Google Music and Google Books services baked in and Google+ integration.
The wild card
Fusion Garage Grid 4
The Grid 4 is something of a wild card. It’s not an Android phone per se, but you’ll be able to use Android apps on it, and it runs on the Grid OS which is apparently ‘Android based’.
Revealed to the world after a bizarre and lengthy promotional campaign, the Grid 4 is made by Fusion Garage, a start-up company (in)famous for making the JooJoo tablet which was, by all accounts, terrible.
Still, there is such a thing as a second chance. The Grid OS system, laying everything out in a unique periodic table-style grid, is a brave move that doesn’t look like anything else out there.
The Grid 4’s spec sheet is a bit more standard fare, respectable but not revolutionary; 16GB internal storage, 5-megapixel camera with LED flash and 720p video recording, a 1GHz Qualcomm processor, 512MB of RAM and a 4-inch LCD screen with an 800×480 resolution.
Pre-orders for the Fusion Garage Grid 10 tablet have already begun, with shipping beginning on the 24th of October, starting at £259. No UK price or release dates for the Grid 4 have been announced just yet, but if you’re interested you can sign up here.
Main image credit: ABC Hungry Beast (YouTube link)