With the announcement of the new iPhone, the mobile landscape has been set for the coming year in terms of flagships. In the Android corner stands the HTC One X, Sony Xperia T and Samsung Galaxy S3. In the Windows Phone 8 corner is the Nokia Lumia 920 and finally, in the iOS corner sits the Apple iPhone 5. But how do these smartphones compare against one another? Will the iPhone 5 be the greatest phone there ever was or can the competition finally hold their own against Apple’s chosen one? Based on the specs, Apple’s keynote and iOS 6, we attempt to answer these questions and more.
Apple is famed for its design and the iPhone 5 is clearly another winner, staying true to a tried and tested aesthetic and building upon it, the latest incarnation is more robust and functional than the iPhones of old. Android flagships however aren’t without their merit. Take the HTC One X with its polycarbonate unibody design. The white version in particular screams premium offering quad-core specs, a huge display in what can only be described as a slender, refined chassis. Slender it may be, but if you’re looking for something altogether skinnier then the Samsung Galaxy S3 measures in at just 8.6mm. It might not have the refinement of the One X, but it’s lighter and slips in a pocket with ease. Finally, the Sony Xperia T. Despite loving the Xperia S’s bold angles and curves, the T harks back to the days of the Sony Ericsson Xperia arc with its feminine curvature. It isn’t quite as soft as the arc with its larger screen and chunkier look and feel, though still comes together well considering it is the cheapest of the handsets being compared.
The Nokia Lumia 920 stems from a strong design lineage. We would have gone so far as to dub its 3.7-inch predecessor, the Lumia 800 the polycarbonate iPhone. Speaking the same design language as the 800, the Lumia 920 bumps things up to 4.65 inches, adding a solid, glossy chassis, curved Gorilla Glass 2 and the Lumia series’ trademark flat top and bottom. It all looks very rich, helped along by a bright, vibrant colour set.
In a similar way to the Lumia 920, the iPhone 5 is clearly an evolution rather than a break away product. Sporting the same characteristics, smooth corners, flat sides and combination glass / aluminium. What’s really special about the latest iPhone is that Apple has actually managed to make it thinner. How thin? 7.6mm, giving it the fleeting world’s thinnest smartphone title. We haven’t held one yet, but chances are, whatever you feel about the iPhone 4, you’ll feel it even more about the iPhone 5.
Starting with the Android massive and all three offer screens around the 4.7-inch mark. These are large and 720p across the board, making for decent clarity. The Samsung Galaxy S3 is the only AMOLED of the Android bunch, so will deliver the deepest blacks and richest colours, however pentile technology means sharpness is the least impressive. The HTC One X manages to pull off the best viewing angles of all the phones, coupled with very accurate whites, while the Sony Xperia T looks extremely punchy head on thanks to Sony’s Bravia Engine. Sadly, its viewing angles won’t rival those of the competition.
The Nokia Lumia 920 has a 4.5-inch 1280x768p IPS display a la HTC One X, it looks vibrant, punchy and incredibly smooth when coupled with the Windows Phone 8 user interface. Thanks to Nokia’s Pure HD technology, refresh rates look fantastic and Nokia has even improved input allowing you to operate it with a finger nail or even your keys, or with gloves on.
Finally, the smallest display of the bunch is the iPhone 5. As predicted, it measures in at 4-inches and delivers an incredibly sharp LCD panel very comparable to the original iPhone 4 and 4S. Thanks to its longer aspect ratio it’s well suited to movies and games and in terms of sheer ergonomics is a huge improvement over the 3.5-inch iPhones of old. Resolution-wise, it’s not the highest res display on show packing 640×1136 pixels, however it is amongst the sharpest with the second highest pixel density, just behind the Lumia 920. Apple also makes some bold claims that its iPhone 5 display offers 40% more saturation and has a touch sensor, as seen in the Nokia Lumia 920.
This is in effect the battle of the operating systems. You can check out our full feature here, but read on if you want some handset specific comparisons. Why might you want handset specific? Because HTC, Samsung and Sony bastardise Android to oblivion – HTC’s Android is called Sense, Samsung’s Android is called TouchWiz and Sony’s doesn’t even have a name, it just looks different to the rest.
Out of the Androids, in order of performance and usability, HTC Sense wins with its characteristic UI and understated aesthetic, Sony’s UI comes second and Samsung’s TouchWiz places third. HTC Sense is for the every man with great widgets and extras. These are perfect if you want to engage with them, but don’t impose themselves upon you. Sony’s UI is similar with charming animations and a pretty great stock keyboard. Finally, Samsung’s UI has the most customisation which adds value, however with all its hubs it’s definitely the heaviest UI in terms of bloatware. Not great for Android purists, but potentially right for some consumers.
iOS 6 is what you get to play with on the iPhone 5. Initially, this looks exactly the same as iOS 5 with the addition of new mail features, maps and Passbook. It certainly is very similar, with the same UI dynamics, horizontal scrolling menus and apps you can organise into folders. Siri and Local Search has also been given a boost to work here in the UK and turn by turn navigation should add a decent amount of value to the device. You can read more about the OS here.
Camera and Multimedia
Predominantly an 8-megapixel war, only the Sony Xperia T bucks the trend with its 13-megapixel sensor. Both the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S3 pack very comparable cameras with HTC offering better low-light performance and a more intuitive user interface. The Samsung Galaxy S3 however manages to edge ahead in terms of detail. We haven’t used the Sony Xperia T’s camera in depth, however based on sample images we’ve seen, we can assume it delivers the most detail across the handsets thanks to its megapixel count but also packs the most noise when zoomed in 100%.
The Nokia Lumia 920 camera has been very closely guarded since the lid was lifted off its specs in New York at the beginning of September. It’s an 8-megapixel sensor offering an autofocus floating lens with optical image stabilisation. It also pulls in Nokia’s PureView technology, which while not as impressive as the 808 PureView, should still help make the 920 one of the better 8-megapixel cameras on the block. We hopt to try it very soon.
The iPhone 4S had a camera that was at least on par with the HTC One X or Samsung Galaxy S3, so it’s only natural we’d expect more from the latest greatest iPhone, however spec-wise, everything’s very samey. Firstly, this is no bad thing given how good the iPhone camera is. Secondly, there are some deep seated differences with regards to lense elements and filters and thirdly, we won’t know what the difference is until we compare the results side by side. For this round therefore, it’s a waiting game across the board.
Connectivity and Storage
When it comes to connectivity, we’re starting to talk about 4G (LTE ) here in the UK. The Samsung Galaxy S3, Nokia Lumia 920 and indeed the iPhone 5 have all been confirmed for EE’s 4G networks, although you’ll need to get the Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE version. This instantly makes these the most desirable if you’re a data cruncher over the Sony Xperia T and HTC One X, though a variant of the One X, the One XL will offer LTE support on EE. All but the iPhone also all offer NFC.
The HTC One X manages to cram an entire 32GB inside its chassis as does the Nokia Lumia 920, however neither of these are expandable. The Samsung Galaxy S3 is available in a 16GB version in most retailers and as with the 16GB Sony Xperia T is expandable via micro SD card up to an additional 64GB. That the Samsung Galaxy S3 is also available in a 32GB and 64GB variety leaves it at the top of the pile in terms of potential storage and storage options. The iPhone 5 as with the iPhones before it comes in either a 16GB / 32GB / 64GB variant. With no flexibility and high price points, you’ll want to make sure you know exactly what type of file hoarder you are before shelling out.
Performance & Battery Life
In terms of performance, the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S3 are quad-core devices that offer similar real world use. The Sony Xperia T and Lumia 920 deliver dual-cores, both being the fantastic Qualcom Snapdragon S4s clocked at 1.5GHz. With the Apple iPhone 5 also running on a dual-core chip (although Apple hasn’t confirmed the speed of the chip), the A6 processor, Apple promise double the graphics and double the speed.
Smartphones in general don’t purport to having mind-blowing battery life unless they sport hyper masculine branding and the word MAXX in thir name. Anything over a day tends to be a bonus and some won’t even take you through to the evening. Take the HTC One X for example. Thanks to its gorgeous, bright SLCD 2 display it eats through its humble 1800 mAh cell in no time flat. With a similar sized battery, while we haven’t used the Sony Xperia T, we’re definitely curbing our expectations, though its dual-cores could well prove more power efficient. The Samsung Galaxy S3 delivers a larger cell, measuring 2100 mAh and will in turn likely last the day, though definitely not two.
2000mAh is the largest battery Nokia has ever put inside one of their smartphones and it makes sense that it has ended up in the Nokia Lumia 920. With one of the larger screens on the market, it will no doubt need it. Windows Phone is an efficient OS with less rogue synching than Android and the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 found inside is renowned for its power management, so we look forward to putting this big screened beauty through its paces.
Leaks have suggested that the iPhone 5 will offer a 1450 mAh battery, but in true Apple style, this information wasn’t disclosed at the iPhone 5 launch event. We’ll have to wait and see just how LTE and those extra pixels and power impact its battery life.
All in all, there’s little doubt this is the greatest iPhone to date. Thinner, lighter, a larger display and more power under the hood, unless this phone suffers from a death stare or some other unfortunate fatal flaw when it comes to market, it will likely review very well indeed. That said, it’s the most expensive handset in the mix by a pretty long way.
For a malleable alternative with a huge apps selection the Android phones are obvious choices. All sport good cameras, offer power under the hood and deliver something different in terms of UI flavour with the HTC One X delivering the strongest design, Samsung’s Galaxy S3 delivering balance across the board and the Xperia T bringing value for money to the table.
If cohesion and consistency is what you’re after though, the Nokia Lumia 920 will deliver a sleek aesthetic, what looks to be a fantastic camera, complemented by a simple user interface.
And so begins another iYear, the flagships have been unleashed, Apple has played its hand and soon it’s Google’s turn to respond. Will it be another Samsung Nexus, will the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 be the first Android to out do the iPhone or will the Nokia Lumia 920 end up being the biggest selling handset of 2013? Time will tell so keep checking back over the coming weeks for our reviews of the iPhone 5, Lumia 920 and the Sony Xperia T.
Images sourced from gdgt.com