iOS vs Android: The Showdown between the iPhone 4S and the Galaxy S3
A friend of mine brought to my attention the Samsung Galaxy S3, and how amazing it looked. He thought I should try it out and see how it compared to iOS and the iPhone. Me being the gadget lover that I am, I took him up on the challenge. He kept sending me YouTube videos of how nice the thing was, etc…So I finally bit the bullet and got it Monday. If you’ve read anything on this blog, you’ll know that I have an affection for Apple products, but that doesn’t mean I’m only going to like iOS. That being said, does Android have what it takes to win over an iOS user? Let’s find out:
So let’s start out with the specs of the Galaxy S3 and see how it compares with the 4S (with iOS 6 installed). So the first thing you’ll notice is the giant 4.8″ screen, with a res of 1280×720, which is an HD resolution. Next is the quad core 1.4Ghz Exynos CPU, coupled with 1GB of RAM. The device is all plastic, but weighs only 4.7oz (of 130g for the non-US people) and is 0.34″ (or 8.6mm) thin. This is compared to an 800Mhz dual core CPU, with 512MB of RAM on the 4S, weighing in at 4.9oz (140g) and is 0.37″ (9.3mm) thin. On paper, the Galaxy S3 has the 4S soundly beat on hardware, especially with that 4.8″ 1280×720 screen, vs the 3.5″ 960×640 screen of the 4S. Hardware aside, what does the S3 come packed with software wise? It comes standard with Android 4.0.4, which is Ice Cream Sandwich. It also comes with Samsung’s “skin” called TouchWiz. Now if you’ve used a Samsung Android device in the past, you’ve seen how terrible TouchWiz actually is. And while Android fanboys will probably laugh at this, I actually really liked TouchWiz, over stock ICS. While I don’t agree with their marketing team saying the inspiration comes from “nature”, it is really nice to use and look at.
As I mentioned before, the first thing you’ll notice about the S3 is the giant 4.8″ screen, and coming from the 3.5″ iPhone, it’s truly gigantic. To be honest, you can almost fit the entire iPhone inside the 4.8″ screen of the S3. I’ll say this, I actually do like the larger screen of the S3, but to a point, which I’ll get to a little later. Turning the thing on for the first time was fast and the setup screen was fairly intuitive, but not as nice as Apple’s. It quickly synced my Google account, so I had all my Gmail, Chrome bookmarks and contacts right there. Now being on the iPhone, I actually use iCloud to sync everything, including contacts. Because of this, I was missing a ton of contacts on the S3 that I had on the iPhone. That is of course no one’s fault but mine, but if you’re looking to switch, it might be one thing you’ll need to look into. I had every intention of switching to the S3 if it could win me over, so the contacts issue was very minor at that. Since Android is so customizable, I got to tinkering a bit. I set a nice live wallpaper, added some widgets and made the screen look pretty nice actually. You can actually see a screenshot of one of my homescreens here. It’s basic, but I think it looks quite good.
If you’re like me, you have all your music in iTunes, because I have a Mac (and of course an iPhone). I had heard about a few applications that could easily sync your iTunes library to the phone. So I bought a couple apps that would do this, but things weren’t exactly pleasant. Since I’m a fan of Japanese music, I have about 960 songs in that playlist, and each song has individual album art. The problem here is, is that since I can’t find Japanese music for legal download, I must rely on 3rd-party sites to get it. Because of that, the site I get the music from has the same album for every single song (Since it’s based on Top20 per week). So I have hundreds of songs that have the same album listed. This isn’t a problem with iOS and iTunes, but it’s apparently a problem with Android because Android sees that single album name and gives that album the same album art for everything. The smart thing to do is to use the embedded album art instead of just bundling one art to one album. Now I see exactly why they do it, because not everyone is going to have hundreds of singles with the same album on it…but why can’t they just use the embedded album art like iTunes/iOS does? My only solution there was, to change the album name of hundreds of tracks, to make Android happy. This would take far, far too long, and not something I should honestly have to do. I understand that probably no one will have this issue, but for someone coming from a certain thing, you’d expect it to be that way or better, not worse. I ultimately gave up on that, and instead just listened to music on the iPhone. Granted, I could have dealt with the wrong album art, but I can know what the song is just by looking at the album art. I tried multiple players, and even told DoubleTwist to use the embedded art, but it wouldn’t work. And that’s a shame, for me, as that glaring of a bug is something that would make me not want to switch.
There are many, many nice things about Android that I like. I love the idea of widgets. I love the idea of having a giant clock on the screen, with my weather right under it. I love that I can have a music widget that shows me the album art (when it’s correct!) and the ability to skip tracks. I honestly love the 4.8″ screen for browsing the web, looking at maps, emails, etc…However, I don’t like holding the 4.8″ screen in my hand. I have fairly large hands, and it was really awkward holding it with one hand. I love that the “smaller” iPhone can be held with one hand and navigate nicely with just your thumb. The S3 has some difficulty with that, a lot of it actually. Where the iPhone sits comfortably in the hand, the S3 is so wide that using your thumb to use it is so awkward. Yes, when comparing the screens, the iPhone’s looks jokingly bad, but actually using it in hand, I much prefer the 4S. Having used the new maps application on iOS6, I went into maps on Android thinking it would be far better, but sadly, I was wrong. The actually “mapping” may be better, but the look and feel of maps on Android was just subpar at best. One thing that I’ve always hated about Google Maps was that with traffic enabled, it’s very difficult to actually see the street names here. On Android, it’s no different. Being from LA, there’s always traffic issues here, and in my area, the maps on Android were just covered with red and yellow lines across the screen. I couldn’t actually see what the street name was, or any detail, it just gets lost. While traffic isn’t working 100% under the iOS6 beta, their implementation is far better looking than Android’s. I also love navigation far better on iOS than on Android. Sure, Android had it first, but Apple made it much nicer. Plus the “Siri” voice sounds far better than what Android has on theirs.
I like beautiful, elegant things, and that’s what Apple strives to make. Android, while very nice is some aspects, is just so clunky. When you’re browsing the web, it doesn’t have the “press the status bar to jump to the top of the page”. Now Samsung has added a gesture called “Tap to top”, but I honestly could not get that working at all. If it doesn’t work the first time, that’s a fail; and if it doesn’t work system wide, that’s a double fail. Also little subtle things that are missing are the rubber banding in windows. Meaning, if you’re at the top or bottom of a page and you pull up or down, the window will come with you and rubber band back up. Sure it’s silly, but it’s actually nice. One thing that annoyed me was that when using Chrome, not only did it eat battery life, but it also ate RAM like it was starved. I had two tabs open, one tab I was browsing a 75-page thread on XDA-Developers and that tab just ate RAM like crazy. While there is 1GB of RAM on the system, there’s only about 780MB for the user; or about 256MB more than the iPhone. So after finishing the 75-page thread, the system choked so hard. I pressed the home button, and it took ~5 seconds for the icons to appear. Scrolling in the window was so chuggy, I’ve never once had Safari on iOS be chuggy, even on betas. Which has me think, is quad core and 1GB of RAM actually better than the dual core, 2GB of RAM on the US models? I think I’d honestly rather have the 2GB, rather than the two extra cores. One thing I didn’t mention about the iTunes syncing, was that it didn’t sync every single song I have. So out of the 960 songs in the playlist, it transferred maybe 850 of them. Not bad, but why didn’t it sync all of them? One major thing I missed from iOS was the ability to tweet or post to Facebook straight from the notification bar. I’m sure I could get a widget for both, but with iOS, it’s right there, no additional anything.
It’s little things that make me like iOS so much, and even though the system is “locked down” I still find it better than an entirely open Android. It’s the same reason why I use a Mac instead of Windows. Sure Windows lets me do a lot of things, but day to day tasks are far worse than on OS X. And that’s what Android feels to me, Windows. There are a lot of nice things about Windows and there are a lot of nice things about Android, however there are far nicer things (imo) on the iOS/OS X side of things than Windows/Android. That’s not to say that I hate Android, or will never use it again, but right now iOS still has my heart. Things could get better once Jelly Bean gets released, but I’m not holding my breath. I’d rather not have to hack a phone just to get it useable, whereas iOS is just fantastic out of the box. I can take a picture on my iPhone and have it show up on my iPad and Mac when I get home. That’s just slick. That being said, I’m going to be giving this Galaxy S3 to my friend as an early birthday present, as he deserves it. But for me, iOS still reigns supreme in terms of usability and functionality. Ultimately, I’d love to see a 4.5″ screen on the iPhone and use that as as my GPS with the beautiful maps app, oh and I’d love to have widgets on iOS, they’re just really nice on Android.Tweet