Friday, February 4, 2011

iPhone 4 vs Nexus S

Smartphones are like toys, everyone needs one, most of them have it and the rest are getting one. GPRS/EDGE, 3G and 4G at the horizon are making the devices look better, not to forget the applications that are being built everyday around the globe; let’s face it - they are beyond words. The Mobile Operating Systems, the inbuilt processors, the design and the technology have grown at an incredible pace in the past couple of years. All these features make Smartphones more that just cellular devices; they are transforming into separate computing devices in their own right.

The landscape of mobile Operating System is what it is today, largely due to the innovations released with Apple’s original iPhone. It wowed everybody with its ease of use and functionality – without any third-party apps, too. Currently, the Android mobile Operating System (backed by the Open Handset Alliance, lead by Google) is surging ahead, gobbling up market share that has long been Nokia’s forte and a portion of RIM’s (the Blackberry maker) share too. We decided to compare two of the best (arguably) mobile phones out there – an iPhone (iOS) and a Nexus S (Android). What makes these two devices so unique? What makes them different – from the general market, and from each other? We have compiled this article with content mainly authored by one of our geeks who currently owns an iPhone 3G (iOS 3.0) and a Nexus S (Android 2.3). We have also added input from the rest of us who have used iOS and Android devices to give you an overview of the two mobile phone Operating Systems. If you are looking to find out which of these two is “the best”, you’ll have to look elsewhere. What you should look for, is how each platform compares with the other – and then decide which one would work out best for you. Follow us beyond the break (just click the button below, folks!) for the comparison.

Hardware – Looks and feel

Nexus S

Both are impressive, the glass finish on the Nexus S is different and new, the curvy design makes it little more appealing. The iPhone 3G with the curvy body and sleek design still make it cool. The Nexus S is the lengthier one. As you turn them on the slide motion to unlock the phone gives a good feeing of the touch factor. The home screen of the Nexus has an advantage of a stretchable wallpaper, which is phenomenon, as the finger slides through the screen the unseen part of the wallpaper is revealed, there is a separate Menu option under which the applications are found, whereas the iPhone 3G has them on the home screen. Applications can be dragged and dropped in the Home screen in Nexus S and taking them off the home screen is easy too.

The Samsung plastic body compliments the Nexus S (in a sense), which has the option of removable battery. While iPhone 3G’s battery can’t be removed it still serves the purpose at its best every single time. But a cool thing about the iPhone 3G is the way the SIM card is placed in the device; this is a differentiator, the SIM is placed through a slot present on the top of the phone, where as in Nexus S it’s the normal way to inserting the SIM in the slot.

Software – User experience

iPhone 4 - Front and side

Both the devices have good software features; the iPod factor being an advantage for media management in the iPhone. The other applications are more or less available for both the Operating Systems, while the App Store has Apps with just a bit of extra polish, when compared to the Android Market. Many of the apps bear a resemblance though, between the two platforms. The Facebook app which is available for both devices, has many similarities in the navigation and the sub menus with few modifications; updating statuses from these phones is a cinch, but that is very common with today’s generation of smartphones.

Few aspects that the iPhone 3G lacks such as the flash, the 5MP camera and the HD video recording mode of the Nexus S are certainly valued features – but if you are getting yourself (or thinking of) the iPhone 4, then the Nexus S can’t stand in comparison, especially with the HDR photos that the iPhone 4 captures. Similarly, the front camera in the Nexus S is a good addition which is also available in the iPhone 4; this is one department in which Nokia phones have always been better though – neither the Nexus S, nor the iPhone 4 can make actual 3G video calls. Sure, you can use Fring or Qik or Tazza to make video calls over the Internet – but not an actual video phone call. It’s a feature that neither iOS nor Android support as of now (Custom ROMs such as the Samsung’s TouchWiz version for the Galaxy S do support it though). There is no built-in zoom for either the iPhone 3G or the Nexus S, but even if there were, it would be digital zoom which is basically pointless. A few big advantages that the Nexus S scores over the iPhone, is in terms of USB and Bluetooth connectivity. This is especially a big deal in India where we hear a ringtone on a friend’s phone – and we go “Hey! Send that to me!” Seriously – our country couldn’t care less about piracy. Anyways, Apple with its closed ecosystem cannot legally allow file transfers and so, Bluetooth file transfers are out of the question (except inside specific Apps such as Bump) and USB file transfers are laughably absent. Hey, if you’re planning to buy an iPhone for it’s awesomeness, then you best be prepared to be fenced into Apple’s ecosystem (or jailbreak the device and lose your warranty!). For the uninformed, the iPhone needs iTunes to transfer media and Apps, and cannot be used for simple file transfers using Windows Explorer (My Computer).

Playing games on the iPhone 3G was good, but its better with the Nexus S, and it’s best with the iPhone 4. Some of the latest games to debut for the iPhone 4 have breathtaking graphics that can’t yet be achieved on Android. Perhaps with the improvements in Android 3.0, game graphics may improve. Side note : The problem here is, developing good games costs money. Decent games with excellent graphics could cost about $4.99 on iOS; truthfully, how many of us would spend that money on our Android phones to buy it? If you plan to download a pirated (and hacked) version of the game, you’re already eating into the developer’s profits, thereby ensuring that future games are not going to be released, or they’re not going to be “as good” as the previous one. Game developers need to earn money, don’t they?!

Navigation and ease-of-use

Nexus S, front

Let’s talk a bit about the buttons now. The iPhone has a single Home button for all navigation actions – returning to the homescreen, going back, opening the multi-tasking menu – everything. The Nexus S, like most Android phones, has four buttons (Back, Menu, Search, Home) making navigation a lot easier. Obviously, the iPhone 3G does not have the necessary hardware capabilities to multi-task; but if you look at the iPhone 4, it multi-tasks with ease – in Apple’s own unique method of multi-tasking. Anyone who has owned an Android phone would tell you that a Task Management app is a must-have – every single App on Android just assumes that you’d simply love for it to run in the background, and it does. While some consider this a plus, it is a sore point for battery consumption. iOS handles this with finesse. The additional “Mute” button in the iPhone which enables silent mode is a very good differentiator; on the Nexus S, you would need to activate the screen, and slide the onscreen option to enter into the Silent mode. On the iPhone, it’s a single button press.

Day-to-day usage

The 3.5 mm audio port is common for both the Nexus S and the iPhone. Round back, the Nexus S has Samsung and Google logos; the iPhone obviously has the Apple logo. We doubt we need to tell you which of these two logos evict greater envy, desire and stares from passers-by. Truth be told, many consumers are yet to associate the search website Google with the beauty of Android; not so with the iPhone. If you are buying a smartphone for its flaunting value, then this definitely would count. Navigation and GPS are similar on both the devices, although the Google Maps 5 version for Android (available on the Nexus S) has the very desirable feature of caching oft-used map tiles. To embellish this further, we need to state that any Google app is way better on the Nexus S than the iPhone. Obviously, Google is not going to give the iPhone the best of its services – Google wants you to buy Android phones, silly. If you are a Google fan and love Google services, then Android is the way to go. Speaking about Google services, Android 2.3 Gingerbread supports backup of data to Google’s servers, linked to your Google account. If you want to do anything like that with the iPhone, you’re going to have to shell out the yearly fee for a MobileMe account from Apple. Finally, the expandable memory in the Nexus S is a differentiating factor; the iPhone gives you either 8/16/32 GB of built-in memory with no way of expanding that. The Nexus S can take microSD cards of up to 32 GB has 16 GB of built-in memory, with no microSD slot.

The NFC chip on the Nexus S has found no use yet with us, in India. Perhaps, as more providers start finding applications and uses for it – it may prove very useful. It is also highly likely that either the next iPhone 5 or the iPhone 6 after that would have some form of NFC communication. How much of a necessity this NFC chip is going to be – is a question that only time can answer? We will wait until then.

Final thoughts

To sum up, before we conclude this comparative piece, the Nexus S as a device makes it easier to install, use, delete applications and it’s faster too because of the OS and the processor. Since Android is in the Open Source arena, the scope of expansion and creativity is immense (Hello CyanogenMOD!) and not to forget the cost factor which makes this a value for money. The iPhone 3G (and subsequent iPhones) has evolved and the iPhone 4 currently is a game changer; the iPod functionality of the iPhone will always be one of its best-liked features. It is efficient and makes media management and handling a breeze. Navigation of the user interface works quite well and the iPhone is definitely a cool device too. However, the average cost of “good” apps on iOS could be a deterrent for some; there are also higher upgrade costs – every iPhone you buy would be priced in the Rs. 35,000/- to the Rs. 45,000/- range. So if you want the best, and have the cash – you could buy the iPhone. If you want free customization (without jail-breaking) of the phone and tonnes of tweaks, frills and thrills, Android is the way to go. Here’s hoping that the next versions of these high-end smartphones get to India with the global release, giving us enough options at the required time to help us make a sound & exciting decision.

We previously had incorrectly stated that the Nexus S had a microSD slot. Thanks to Aditya Krishnan for bringing this to our notice.


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