iPhone4s initial thoughts. (vs. Samsung Galaxy SII)

This is my first iPhone, and to be honest I didn’t really want it. I’m a long time android fan, I <3 android… because I’m a tech geek.. because it offers truly limitless potential to what a smart phone platform can be, rapidly updating with the latest features without any limits or control, the essence of an open platform. Now before the hardcore critics lick there troll lips, I understand to a point Google controls the platform, but once they drop the source code, the kids can go nuts… please see Amazon’s upcoming tablet etc. etc.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a place Apple and IOS.. Just one look at there success and it is hard to argue they do not offer compelling hardware and a platform to match. This is driven towards to an average consumer with a product and interface with an experience that can be controlled as much as possible by Apple, it is these limitations that really tick me off about Apple and why I personally prefer the freedom of Android.

Many of the reasons I purchased an iPad2 apply to why I purchased an iPhone4s, just because I’m an fan of another product platform doesn’t mean I’m going to blindly ignore the offerings of competitor, in the iPad2’s case it was hands down the best tablet on the market, if anyone argues at the time of the iPad2 release any other tablet was equally matched are not being very bipartisan to tech products in my opinion.

Comparison:

image

I’m going to compare the iPhone4s to the Samsung Galaxy SII, If the Nexus Prime had been released or announced on scheduled it might been mentioned in this post. I’m sure this upcoming phone with the way Android has been iterating, the Nexus Prime is going to offer something more… but until such time I can not add much in that regard.

I consider the Samsung Galaxy SII to the best android phone on the market, and after using it for a couple of months can say it is the first android smartphone I could recommend to non geeks. This advise I use wisely, I mean my mother has and uses my old Nexus One just fine… but only because I have done the hard yards upgrading it with a suitable ROM and shown her how to use it, but I personally feel with the Samsung Galaxy SII an average user can pick up this phone and offers the best android experience possible without any modifications.

Form Factor:

This is a quick look at both phones side by side:

imageimage

As you can probably tell, the iPhone4s looks quite small in comparison… Now if you think this is an advantage I respectfully disagree. The larger screen size is the advantage in my opinion, it is also a more widescreen ratio. Despite the Samsung Galaxy SII looking bigger, it is very slim compared to the iPhone4s. The design of the iPhone4s is beautiful… but it is a rectangularly brick in comparison. I must also note the weight of the iPhone4s is quite heavy in comparison, this is due to the more metallic (stronger?) finishing and heavier glass screens used in its design.

Now the Samsung Galaxy SII does have a plastic body, which for some might feel cheap… but the overall lightness of the phone is something I really like and is what has transitioned me from the HTC line of phones (that have a more solid build/weight to them). This is a personal thing I believe, and why I recommend people go into phone stores and compare them visually as it is impossible to determine from pictures what an individual will prefer.

Just quickly I will mention, some will argue one screen display is better than the other… I honestly don’t believe there is a distinguishable difference, both phones are high end and personally would not look into this aspect as any preference should probably be taken with a grain of salt.

Siri:

image

I see over and over again posts about how revolutionary the voice functionality is on the iPhone4s is using Siri… This is the biggest gimmick on the phone in my opinion. I’ve played around with it for a bit and will say it is probably the best voice recognition software on a smart phone to date, but for this to be the sole reason you buy this phone… that is completely absurd logic.

If you *really* did need this functionality on a smartphone you would have owned and have had been using an Android device which has had this functionality for quite some time. I think where Siri stands out for it’s handling/integrating the voice command features into the operating system, something that has been a bit limited on android. But at least the voice integration on android has some scope of localising its queries and results, time and time again I get results with Siri saying ‘Sorry only US results/destinations/businesses can be listed’ etc. This may be fine and probably not on the radar of most reviewers in the United States, but I can already see a lot of users internationally finding the results somewhat useless which is something I think Apple need to work on.

Now I’m very technically minded and Siri does do a good job at disguising mistakes, inability to understand, or ability to act on a users request. What I mean by this is, if you thought it was somewhat hilarious that asking Siri ‘What to do with a dead body’ and getting a comical response was funny, :/ this is not revolutionary……. Someone has sat down and wrote of list of ‘What are stupid questions people will ask” and then answer “how we can respond?” then added this into the software..

I might be being a bit harsh because I feel 90% of this functionality has been available for quite a while, only people (even those with Android smartphones) are not aware of it. It’s good to see inovation in this space, it is what makes technology exciting…. but please do not tell me you bought this phone just because of this feature… it just doesn’t make sense to me… Buy it because of the camera.. (holy segway batman!!)

Camera:

All I can say is that this is an amazing camera, if you take more than a couple of photos a day on your smartphone.. This is the phone for you. I don’t want to belittle the Samsung Galaxy SII too much, it takes great photos. But in low light (where the iPhone4s has apparently made most of its inovation) there is literally no comparison..

Samsung Galaxy SII:image

iPhone4s:image 

Samsung Galaxy SII:image

iPhone4s:
image

Samsung Galaxy SII:image

iPhone4s:image

These photos appear to be bias towards the iPhone4s but I think it shows why the camera stands out, all these shots are low light and taken under the same conditions. The iPhone4s in each shot has managed to visually pull a better image. This should be a major consideration if you are considering a smartphone for photography, I know you can probably argue that these conditions are not ideal for a professional photographer, but if you are an ordinary user just wanting to take a photo quickly, there is no doubt the iPhone is better suited to the job.

That said I think this advantage lessens when you come into more normal daylight conditions, and think both phone cameras are on par with each other.

Samsung Galaxy SII:image

iPhone4s:image

Samsung Galaxy SII:image

iPhone4s:image

Samsung Galaxy SII:image

iPhone4s:image

Even with these photos I would say the iPhone4s does the better job… but I would not say by a landslide.

Part 2: iCloud, iMessage etc. (Now live)

Obviously with such a new phone and significant upgrade to the platform, this needs some testing, my initial experiences with iCloud and iMessage have been positive but over the next 24 hours I will be testing these features predominantly.. And I will update my blog as soon as I have adequately tested these implementations.. including my personal thoughts etc.

Hope you have enjoyed part 1… 

So iCloud and iMessage are new additions into IOS5 along with the new notification panel and so far I am very impressed, I love that this is the new standard for consumer experience and I’m excited for the innovation for the ‘living in the cloud’ future we seem to be fast approaching.

Now I say this with a *sigh* because I know it will invoke the trolls…. “200 new features” really? No seriously… really? Ok now that I have gotten that out of my system, the update to IOS was greatly needed and will satisfy those in the Apple ecosystem. I actually like the new features, even coming from an Android background. I like the compromise for the widgets by placing them in the notifications pane, and on that note the notification has been designed beautifully. Unlike on Android, the notifications are grouped and easy to read, it is very clear to the user unlike previous versions of IOS will the silly blue pop-up which just seemed to annoy and get in the way.

I have mixed feelings with iMessage, when I first used this on my iPad before I got the iPhone4s I loved it, I thought it made so much sense. Combining SMS and the features of sending a message via a data connection really appealed to me… I have been looking forward to the death of SMS for a long time. I know some of my friends who refuse to send messages through 3rd party messaging apps because they do not have data plans… they do however have unlimited SMS plans.. and this is what they choose because of connivence and budget. This frustrates me because if you look at the costs at sending a data message it is technically better value without using unlimited sms ‘deals’ etc. Anyway I’m ranting… sorry.

iMessage, I like how it is transparent to the user. It the same interface for either sending a SMS or a data iMessage, just enter the contact and the service works it out. The big limitation is going to be that this is only available on IOS… Thus unfortunately I think it is going to turn into the next Facetime, used by a niche but not widely adopted. Until Apple open this up it is going to be the small feature in the background but not really making it to the mainstream.

iCloud, well it has been almost a week but as much as I initially liked it, I just don’t see myself using it longterm. Photostream is definitely the best advantage I have personally gotten out of it I think it is well implemented, turn it on and the photos magically appear on all your devices in the ‘stream’, a tiny noticeable delay (about 5-10mins) is not something I’m personally worried about but sometimes I do get annoyed not knowing if it is syncing and there is no button I can mash to make it go faster. On the Android side of the fence I use Dropbox to keep everything in sync, with this at least I know because it is a central location I can check the status of the upload or if it isn’t yet on Dropbox before I complain something hasn’t shown up on my other devices.. I think I’m an impatient control freak in this regard so an average user probably will just sit back and say ‘Yay! my photos have now appeared’.

The second thing I will say about iCloud is, it has arrived very late in the game for me… I am already too invested in Google Sync, which for me I’ve already been taking advantage of the Contact/Calendar etc. sync features of this platform… Seriously I’ve been syncing my stuff with Google for years.. Yes, YEARS. I probably started around 2006/2007 and it has been working solidly since.. I’m actually still surprised during day-to-day IT work duties people still complain about ‘losing’ contacts etc. because they don’t store this type of data on a syncing service. Notably I’ve seen people on my Twitter feed talk up iCloud because of this syncing feature, “I just keyed all my days off into my calendar for all of 2012 - thank you iCloud” Please… OK sorry, I’m being over critical because I am in the ‘tech know how’ but I believe this is a good indication on how the average consumer is going to react to functionality of iCloud. People that don’t know any better are going to adore/love it, the Technorati will let out a slow *sigh* and meh.

So my final thoughts?

Well the iPhone4s is a solid phone, I don’t think anyone getting one is going to be disappointed especially if you already come from an IOS environment. If you are from the Android side of the fence, you can not doubt quality of the camera but I have personally noticed a loss in functionally I had been accustom to from the Android platform. The iPhone4s is a much-needed update to the Apple line which is currently being smoked by the competition and what seems like monthly updates from 3rd party vendors spitting out new phones every couple of months. Apple have kept a sensible and seemingly fixed timeline to ensure a steady update cycle, but I do not feel they can keep this slower pace in the long-term. Apple will need to either speed up there release cycle or dramatically improve functionality/design in each product iteration, otherwise they are going to get left behind.

I don’t see myself using the iPhone4s in a months time as my primary phone, I do see myself using it for those special events/times I want a reliable phone where I might need a really good camera (so it is pretty much my point and shoot camera replacement device) and although some people have complained about battery life the iPhone4s for me at least it seems to last the distance in that regard. I’m lucky because I can pick up and choose which phone I want to use, if I was an average user that just had to pick one? Your seriously going to have to ask yourself “What do I need the phone for and how am I going to use it?” I said it in Part 1, but if you use a phone camera at least once a day (or very frequently) the iPhone4s is probably your only choice.. You could get away with another phone but will probably cause you more frustration than just being able to spam the picture-taking button on the iPhone4s.

If you want a phone that doesn’t limit you, maybe for more productive circumstances (maybe coming from a blackberry environment?) I think an Android device might be the way to go. I think Google are investing a lot more time going into the enterprise space than Apple who concentrate on consumer level features. Google is really attacking the market of existing Blackberry/Windows phone users, where I’m almost certain Apple are going to rely on their existing users for market share. If you want to debate me on this (get into the brand fandom), fine. But a lot of the consumer research I’ve seen is showing this regarding brand loyalty. etc.

This post has probably been more text heavy and rant driven than I would have liked, but this is how I really feel about the products. Please remember before commenting too harshly that I acknowledge my bias where possible then try to explain and give reasons why. I hate being absolutist so I’ll probably never give a definitive answer which phone/platform is the best and you should get it. I think the pros and cons, plus the added value of competition makes the smart phone market exciting, but also confusing so I’m happy to help out if you have a genuine comment or question to put to me. :)