iphone 4s logoNow that the raucous created by the Apple October Special Event has dissipated, the question lingering in the air is that – did Apple announce a worthy iPhone upgrade? Are the new features of the iPhone 4S good enough to position the iPhone 4 back on top of the league of Android heavyweights? How does it compare with advanced Android phones currently available in the market like the Droid Bionic, the recently announced LG Optimus LTE and of course, Samsung Galaxy S II?

Since I’m currently using both the Samsung Galaxy S II and iPhone 4 now, I can courageously say that in all aspects, the iPhone is no match against the Galaxy S II. Does the iPhone 4S stand a chance against Samsung’s current flagship smartphone? Let’s drill down into the specifics.

iPhone 4S – A First Look at What It Has to Offer

Hardware

New iPhone 4S

Thankfully, during the Apple October Special Event, Apple was very clear on what part of the iPhone 4 hardware was changed and incorporated into the iPhone 4S. The tech industry has been anticipating this and it was the subject of many rumors and speculations prior to the event. So, does iPhone 4S has the kind of hardware needed to compete against the Samsung Galaxy S II?

Power

The iPhone 4S features Apple’s latest A5 chip but unfortunately, Apple decided to remain vague about this processor’s true processing speed. Compare this with what we know about the Galaxy S II which is a clear dual-core 1.2GHz Exynos processors. Although not really the fastest among the current crop of Android smartphone processors, it is still faster compared to other Android smartphones and even the iPhone 4.

But speed and performance do not solely lie on the processor alone. It has to have a smooth interplay with the phone’s OS. We won’t know that until we get to compare the iPhone 4S side by side with the SGS II.

iphone 4s side view

Display

Here’s where the differences between these two smartphones are very clear. For the record, the iPhone 4S has a 3.5-inch IPS LCD with 960×640 pixel resolutions. The SGS II as you may know by now either has a 4.3 or 4.5-inch display with 800×480 pixel resolutions. It’s display technology versus display resolution. One has the edge over the other.

So, your choice of which one has the better display depends on what you consider better – technology or resolution. The tie breaker goes to the screen size and obviously, the SGS II’s bigger screen size is better than the iPhone 4S.

samsung galaxy s II with Droid bot

Storage

New to the iPhone 4S is, of course, the 64GB model. The iPhone 4 was only available in 16GB and 32GB models. While the Samsung Galaxy SII is currently available in both 16GB and 32GB models. Compensating for the lack of a 64GB model is the Galaxy S II’s external microSDHC card support which the iPhone 4S obviously doesn’t have. Again, your choice depends on whether how storage do you really need for your smartphone.

Form Factor and Design

samsung galaxy s II

The form factor is one of the reasons while many are disappointed about the iPhone 4S. It’s basically the same design and form factor as the iPhone 4. While Android smartphone manufacturers are competing against each other in coming out with bigger handsets, here comes Apple announcing its upgraded iPhone will not sport a new design and form factor. Hence many were disappointed.

Going now to the Samsung Galaxy S II, its size, slim form factor, and sleek design are the reasons why I decided to get the phone. I didn’t get the same urge from the original Samsung Galaxy S so I did not buy it. The iPhone 4 used to be the most good-looking smartphone for me before, but it was overshadowed by the look and appearance of the Samsung Galaxy S II.

I was hoping Apple will introduce new iPhone different from the iPhone 4. Unfortunately, Apple did not. Hence, I’m a bit disappointed. The SGS II is simply lighter, thinner and sexier than the iPhone 4S.

Battery

Apple did not announce the specific capacity of the iPhone 4S battery but we certainly know that it is embedded. Compared that with the SGS II battery which is 1650-1850mAh removable battery and you have the answer as to which one has the better power supply. But then, Apple clearly quoted that the iPhone 4S has a maximum talk time of 8 hours on 3G and 14 hours on 2G. The SGS II could only muster up to 7-8.7 hours on 3G.

Personally, I’m also doubting whether Samsung is saying the true talk time of the SGS II because I can personally attest as to how much of a power hog the phone is. So, this one goes to the iPhone 4S.

Cellular Connectivity

It’s pretty obvious which phone got the better hand in this department. The iPhone 4S is still an HSDPA+ 14.2 handset while the SGSII got the same plus WiMAX. On WiMAX, Samsung’s device will be faster online than the iPhone 4S with 21Mbps to 42Mbps at the maximum speed. We give this one to Samsung Galaxy S II.

Camera

At first glance, the two phones’ camera specs may appear similar with both sporting 8MP regular cameras with AF and LED Flash. But then, Apple has a long description of what has changed in the iPhone 4S camera particularly the f2.4 lens and BSI sensor. In simple terms, the iPhone 4S can capture pictures with better quality than the Samsung Galaxy S II. In fact, Apple was saying that it is comparable to a basic point-and-shoot camera. That may be true, but the question is do you need that powerful camera in your smartphone?

Unfortunately, Apple put all its efforts in improving the iPhone 4S regular camera and did not bother to improve the front-facing camera which remains as VGA camera. This pales in comparison with the Samsung Galaxy S II’s 2MP rear-facing camera. And for a company who used to brag about its video calling app called Facetime, the least that we would expect Apple to do was to improve the VGA front-facing camera. Unfortunately, Apple did not.

So, it’s a toss-up weather which camera do you use the most.

Software

SIRI Voice Control Personal Assistant

Now here’s where Apple beats Samsung big time. During the iPhone 4S launch, one of the major features which sets iPhone 4S apart from the iPhone 4 is the voice assistant feature called – SIRI. In case you’re not aware, SIRI use to be an iPhone app available on the App Store. Before the event, Apple apparently pulled it out, and make it as an exclusive feature of the iPhone 4S. What gives?

In all honesty, the SIRI voice assistant feature may seem to be cool, but I doubt if it will be widely used by future iPhone 4S owners. And besides, if you will watch the video demo of the SIRI voice assistant, you might get turned off by how robotic “SIRI” sounds. Another thing that we should factor in is whether are we all ready to talk with our iPhone? Let’s reserve further discussion on SIRI until we get to experience it in the real world soon.

iOS 5 and iCloud

I’ve been testing the beta version of iOS 5 with iCloud for quite some time now. iOS 5 is comparable with Android Gingerbread in all its iterations. Samsung has nothing to worry about iOS 5 because most of the features of iOS 5 are already present in Gingerbread. What Samsung Galaxy S II and other Android smartphones don’t have which the iPhone 4S can brag home about is iCloud which gives iPhone owners up to 5GB cloud storage for music, files, apps and all. This can be upgraded to higher capacity for a fee. The Samsung Galaxy S II doesn’t have this feature. Thankfully, Samsung can always say that it is beyond their control since this is more of Google and Android’s concern.

Applications

Again, this is another area which the iPhone 4S and all other iPhone models have an advantage over the Samsung Galaxy S II and other Android smartphones for that matter. Apple’s app ecosystem is simply incomparable with the Android app ecosystem. The good news is that Apple has control over this while Samsung does not. In order to compete against Apple, Samsung needs Google’s support.

But seriously, how do we compare the App Store against the Android Market? At the end of the day, both application stores offer enough apps to make their respective phones functional, interesting, educational, and more. So, maybe the App Store and Android Market are now on equal footing?

iPhone 4S vs Samsung Galaxy S II Specs

CriteriaApple iPhone 4SSamsung Galaxy S II
PlatformiOS 5Android 2.3.4 plus TouchWiz 4.0
ProcessorDual-core Apple A51.2GHz dual-core Samsung Exynos or 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S3
RAMUnknown1GB
Storage16GB/32GB/64GB16GB/32GB + external microSDHC
CellularQuadband GSM, quadband HSPA+ 14.4, CDMA / EDVO Rev. AQuadband GSM, quadband HSPA+ 21 / 42 or CDMA / EV-DO Rev. A, WiMax
WiFi802.11 b/g/n802.11 a/b/g/n
Screen Display3.5-inch (960x640) IPS LCD4.3/4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus
Camera (rear)8 megapixel AF, f2.4 lens, BSI sensor, LED flash8 megapixel AF, LED flash
Camera (front)VGA2MP
BatteryUnknown (integrated)1650-1850mAh (removable)
Weight140 grams116 grams - 130 grams

Conclusion

Apple’s decision not to alter the design and form factor of the iPhone 4S is an indication that it does not have any intention of competing against Samsung and Android smartphones when it comes to technicalities. Apple is banking on its rich app ecosystem to pit the iPhone 4S against Apple rivals in the smartphone business. Even SIRI the personal assistant is part of this app ecosystem.

The question now is, does the iPhone 4S has what it takes to convince previous iPhone owners to upgrade and current Samsung Galaxy S II users to shift to the iPhone 4S? That depends on what you’re looking for in your next smartphone.

Truth be told, the iPhone 4S is by far the best iPhone to date. But unfortunately, it is not the best smartphone in the market. The Samsung Galaxy S II is currently the best Android smartphone to date and could possibly be the best smartphone overall.

You take your pick, as I await the iPhone 4S to be released. My Samsung Galaxy S II is waiting to take another jab at it.

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