Smartphones that trounce Apple's iPhone 4S

Justin Dennis's picture

apple. iphone 4s, Issue 7, Justin Dennis, smartphones, Opinion - By Justin Dennis on Thursday, October 20, 2011 - 02:18

The iPhone 4S and iOS 5 just came out, but you knew that. Samsung and Google also just announced the Galaxy Nexus and Android Operating System 4.0, Motorola announced their new DROID RAZR Android smartphone, Microsoft announced their new Windows Phone 7.5 software a few weeks ago and RIM announced their new QNX-based operating system for BlackBerrys called BBX. But come on, we’re in L.A., and therefore we only care about Apple’s products.

The truth is, there are much better smartphones out there than the iPhone 4S, and the newest software update, iOS 5, is mostly playing catch-up. The notification center was copied from Android, which has had a pull-down navigation bar for years. iMessage was copied from the BlackBerry which has had BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) for years, not to mention the hundreds of messaging apps that work on multiple platforms like Whatsapp.

As for storing your information online in the cloud, Apple has introduced iCloud, but they’re a step behind there too. Google already backs up all of an Android user’s contacts, calendar info and photos for free, and many apps offer free syncing and cloud storage including Sugarsync, Dropbox, Google Docs and Ubuntu One. For music, Amazon offers Amazon MP3 which not only saves your music in online in the cloud, but also offers streaming music to your phone, which iCloud doesn’t.

The truth is, every smartphone has its ups and downs. The iPhone for example, has a cute apple on the back, BlackBerrys are incredibly secure for businesses, Android phones are customizable and offer a good variety of hardware and Windows Phones have a nice user interface and integration with Xbox Live.

I have an Android phone: the Samsung Infuse 4G. In the past I’ve used a BlackBerry Bold, the Windows HTC Trophy and an iPhone 3GS, but I will continue to buy Android because of the many capabilities and customizations it offers. For example, the iPhone’s default browser is Safari, and that can’t be changed without jail breaking it, but Android phones allow you to choose from any browser on the market: Dolphin HD, Opera, Firefox, et cetera.

So why consider other smartphones?

Windows Phones have an intuitive user interface called Metro that takes advantage of their “live tiles” which update constantly to show the pertinent information in your apps, similar to Android widgets. Not to mention the slick Xbox Live integration which no other phone can offer. But the phones feel incomplete because there aren’t a lot of Windows Phone apps and customization within the software is somewhat limited. The HTC HD7S is the most formidable Windows Phone.

RIM’s BlackBerrys have a reputation of being used for business because of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) and the Network Operating Center (NOC) which allow a level of security not offered by any other phone maker. However, for the non-business user, RIM is basically playing catch-up. Their app store is very limited and their hardware is just now reaching today’s high-quality smartphones. However, BBX, their new QNX-based operating system due sometime in early 2012, has the potential to revitalize the company because it is vastly more intuitive, easy to use and easier for developers to make apps.

As for Android phones, because there are so many hardware manufactures there’s a lot of variety. The Motorola DROID RAZR and Samsung Galaxy Nexus have both recently been announced and will ship this November on 4G LTE networks. The DROID RAZR is touted as the thinnest smartphone, while the Galaxy Nexus will have an ergonomic curved glass screen and be the first to run Android 4.0 which has new features like Face Unlock so that only the owner can unlock their phone and Android Beam which uses Near Field Communication (NFC) to transfer content to nearby phones and pay like a credit card.

Apple’s iPhone 4S is a slick device. It’s simple, has a million-and-a-half apps and is aesthetically pleasing; but it’s very limited. It doesn’t offer 4G speeds, it only has a 3.5 inch screen, doesn’t offer widgets, has no NFC and Apple still refuses to offer Flash support for websites.

So if you’re phone shopping anytime soon, try looking for an Android phone. If it makes you feel better, you can still draw an Apple on the back so that people think you’re cool.

Picture by Linda Park