iPhone 4S or wait for Android Ice Cream Sandwich?
With eighteen month contract-driven upgrades the norm now in the UK, it’s always a challenge to decide whether it’s the right time to pull the trigger on buying a new phone — or to wait for the next big thing. With Apple’s anticlimactic introduction of the iPhone 4S on Friday, the big question for many phone owners is whether to grab one when it ships on Friday or wait for the expected Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) phones from Google’s partners.
In favour of the iPhone 4S is the uber-cool new Siri voice assistant built into iOS 5. For people who spend a lot of their time in places where it is inconvenient to fiddle with their phone — driving and standing in line come to mind — this feature alone will probably seal the deal in favour of the iPhone 4S. But those for whom social situations are the norm — classrooms, boardrooms, and restaurants for example — and who don’t want to come off like a character from Star Trek, voice commands won’t be very useful. For most phone users the answer is going to be a cautious wait and see — making the other features of the phones all the more important.
The first showcase ICS phone is expected to be from Samsung, and to be announced at CTIA this week, during its Unpacked 2011 event. It is expected that the phone, possibly to be called the Samsung Nexus Prime, will be one of the first to feature full 4G connectivity, using LTE. This will be huge for media- and data-hungry users along with anyone frustrated by the slow downloading of large web pages. Since the phone hasn’t been announced it is only speculation what the hardware will include, but leaked and rumored information paint a rosy picture.
The Nexus Prime is expected to have a very impressive 1280×720 pixel 4.5- or 4.6-inch Super AMOLED screen. That means full-resolution, native 720p video on a phone that will fit in your hand. It looks to be a big step up from the 960×640 pixel 3.5-inch Retina display used on on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. Asumed to have a dual-core 1.5GHz processor, the Prime should also leapfrog the iPhone 4S in raw processor power, always helpful in the Android ecosystem, where unruly applications can mysteriously sap processor cycles behind the scenes.
Mobile photographers are likely to continue to find Apple’s offering superior. The new 8MP camera in the iPhone 4S is state of the art in resolution and improved low-light capabilities. Apple is also likely to continue to be the leader in camera firmware features like HDR (High-dynamic range) image capture, and in software with applications like Instagram. But the Prime is expected to improve on the low-light performance of current Android phone cameras, and match Apple’s 1080p video capture capability.
It is hard to predict how the overall software experience will compare. Both ICS and iOS 5 are chock full of new features, with iOS offering not only Siri but improved multi-tasking, and a major enhancement to graphics performacnce. ICS adds the slick Honeycomb user interface from Google’s tablet OS, and Samsung itself will likely add a number of interface tweaks to their phones before they ship.
Comparing prices isn’t likely to be much help either, in deciding between the phones. Expected prices for carrier supplied versions of the new ICS phones are very similar to those for the iPhone 4S. Fortunately the first ICS phone announcements are likely to occur before October 14th, when the iPhone 4S will actually be available. That allows anyone who can’t decide between them to get a look at their options for upcoming Android phones, before taking the plunge and tying themselves to a new phone for another two years.