Apple iPhone buyer’s guide: Comparing 4, 4S with top Android phones


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Apple’s iPhone 4S may not look new on the outside when compared with the iPhone 4, but on the inside, the guts of the phone, there is a lot of newness going on.

Still, as the iPhone 4S is now available for pre-order and hitting stores Oct. 14, many iPhone owners are left with questions:


Should I upgrade? Is it worth it? Should I wait another year for the iPhone 5, or whatever next year’s iPhone will be called?

I should know, I’ve been peppered with these questions myself on Twitter and Facebook and in text messages from readers and friends alike.

And I’ve even been thinking about this personally as well. I am one of the few people left out there who still uses a first-generation Apple iPhone as my personal smartphone. A friend called me a hipster on Wednesday morning when she learned I’ve been using the same iPhone since 2007. I have a BlackBerry I use for work email and calls.

So, what phone is the right next-phone for me? What’s the right phone for you? It can be a tough question to answer and there is a lot to consider -- including some of the top Android phones available, such as the Samsung Galaxy S II and the Motorola Droid Bionic. So, let’s get to it.

What phone do you have now?

First thing we should take into consideration is the phone you already have. For the purposes of this blog post, we’ll assume you either already have a smartphone or want (and can afford) a smartphone. If you can’t afford a smartphone and the monthly data plan that goes along with it, then your choice is simple -- don’t buy anything.


If you’re already invested in the iOS ecosystem, with an iPhone filled with apps and games you love, then moving over to Android, Windows Phone or a BlackBerry wouldn’t make a ton of sense.

An upgrade to the iPhone 4S may seem like a natural choice depending on which iPhone you have.

iPhone 4S versus iPhone 3GS or older

If you currently have an iPhone 3GS (or even an iPhone 3G or first-generation iPhone), which was first released in June 2009, I would say you’d be happy making an upgrade to the iPhone 4S. The jump between the handsets will likely be a big one and one that will make you happy with the iPhone 4 and 4S beautiful retina displays and the 4S’ dual-core A5 processor, which even made the iPad 2 a standout performer from the first-generation iPad tablet.

Most 3GS owners are likely near or already at the end of their two-year data plans, so upgrading shouldn’t be a hassle.

iPhone 4S versus iPhone 4


If you own an iPhone 4, upgrading to an iPhone 4S might not be as worthwhile. The iPhone 4 has the same retina display, and though it’s running on the single-core A4 chip, it’s still a speedy phone in its own right, widely considered one of the best smartphones on the market today.

One difference is that the iPhone 4S has an upgraded 8-megapixel camera that is capable of shooting 1080p video. The iPhone 4 has a 5-megapixel camera that can shoot up to 720p video. But is that worth agreeing to another two-year data plan and paying likely a much higher upgrade price for? I would say no.

In the past, AT&T has allowed iPhone owners to buy new iPhones at the same price as new customers. AT&T, Verizon and now Sprint may do the same for their existing customers, but I’m not sure -- still working on finding that out. If the carriers don’t allow for this flat pricing, the iPhone could sell at its unsubsidized price, which would have a starting price of about $599. In the event that AT&T, Verizon and Sprint take this route, I don’t think it’d be worth it.

How about Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry?

If you’re not invested in the iOS ecosystem, Android is worth a look. Many newer Android phones -- such as the HTC Incredible and EVO 3D, the Motorola Photon and Atrix and the Nexus S -- are great handsets and Android, while not offering as many apps as iOS, has a lot of great games, entertainment and productivity apps.

At this point, it’s tough to recommend Windows Phone 7 as it doesn’t offer the same level of depth in terms of available apps, though this is growing. If entertaining apps aren’t as important to you, you may want to wait on Windows Phone because new handsets with improved specs (such as the HTC Titan) are on the way and they will run Windows Phone Mango, the latest version of Microsoft’s OS that will make it more competitive with Android and iOS.


I’ve just started testing Mango and it’s a great operating system -- more on this in future posts here on the Technology blog.

I also wouldn’t recommend any of the new BlackBerry smartphones on the market as Research In Motion will launch new phones later this year or early next year that might even run Android apps.

Get hands-on yourself

All that being said, not all phones are created equal.

Before making any decisions, I suggest going to carrier stores (or Best Buy, Radio Shack and other retailers) so you can try phones in-hand. Find out if you like the screen size, the weight, the materials used and the reaction of the phones out there to your touch. Do some research and see what websites such as this Technology blog and others say about what you’re interested in.

Also worth keeping in mind is the rumored debut next week of a new Samsung phone, which could be called the Nexus Prime and would be the first device to run Google’s latest OS, Android Ice Cream Sandwich.

Here’s a look at a few of the specs between the iPhone 4S and two of the top Android phones currently on the market -- Verizon’s Motorola Droid Bionic and the Samsung Galaxy S II.


Apple iPhone 4S
Samsung Galaxy S II
Motorola Droid Bionic
Carrier AT&T/Sprint/Verizon Sprint/T-Mobile/AT&T Verizon
Price on 2-year contract
$199, $299 or $399 across carriers
$199 from Sprint, $229 from T-Mobile, $199 from AT&T
Operating system
iOS 5 Android Gingerbread
Android Gingerbread
Processor dual-core (GHz unknown)
1.2 GHz dual-core (1.5 GHz dual-core for T-Mobile)
1 GHz dual-core
RAM unknown 1 gigabyte
1 gigabyte
Built-in storage 16 gigabytes, 32 gigabytes or 64 gigabytes
16 gigabytes
16 gigabytes
Expandable storage
No MicroSD MicroSD
Screen size
3.5 inches 4.5 inches for Sprint and T-Mobile, 4.3 inches for AT&T
4.3 inches
Screen resolution
960 x 640 pixels
800 x 480 pixels
960 x 540 pixels
Weight 4.9 oz
4.77 oz for Sprint and T-Mobile, 4.3 oz for AT&T
5.6 oz
Rear camera
8 megapixel photos and 1080p video
8 megapixel photos and 1080p video
8 megapixel photos and 1080p videos
Front camera VGA photo and video
2 megapixel and VGA video
2 megapixel and VGA video
USB Yes Yes Yes


Chart corrected, 11:45 am: Samsung Galaxy S II has a rear camera capable of taking 1080p video. Earlier chart said it it was 720p video.


Apple iPhone 4S preorders begin; Sprint has unlimited data

Motorola Droid Bionic: Top-notch smartphone isn’t for everybody [Video]

Samsung Galaxy S II: Could be king of the Android smartphones [Video]

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles