iPhone 4 and iOS vs. Android: hardware features

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
With the fourth generation of Apple's smartphone nearing release later this week, some buyers might be curious about alternatives that use Google's Android OS, including the Motorola Droid, HTC/Google Nexus One, HTC Droid incredible, and HTC EVO 4G. Here's how they compare in terms of hardware, part one of a series.



This all happened before



A year ago, the launch of iPhone 3GS was pitted against the new Palm Pre, which had been building up marketing steam over the previous six months. Yet when Apple's new phone launched, the Pre's hype collapsed while the iPhone 3GS set sales records, despite offering few of the flashy new features of Palm's first new webOS smartphone.



Apple's iPhone 3GS offered no web-based multitasking, no inductive power charging slab, no slide out physical keyboard, no removable battery, and no LED camera flash, the features that pundits predicted to be important differentiators of the Palm Pre. On the other hand, Apple's next phone matched or beat the Pre in features that seemed to matter to end users: processor speed, camera quality, battery life, global search, and stereo Bluetooth support.



Since the release of last year's iPhone 3GS, the webOS-based Palm Pre has faded into the shadows, leaving competition with the iPhone to a series of new smartphone introductions from Motorola and HTC running Google's Android OS: the HTC Hero/Droid Eris, Motorola Verizon Droid, HTC/Google T-Mobile Nexus One, the HTC Droid Incredible, and HTC Sprint EVO 4G.



Good enough, or too good?



Google's release of Android OS 2.2 "Froyo" also fueled competitive heat directed at iPhone, although Apple continued selling a record number of iPhones in the first calendar quarter of 2010, and largely focused attention on the new iPad in the second quarter. With Apple now gearing up for the launch of iPhone 4, the question is: will Apple's new smartphone be good enough to stand out in a market bathed in Android news, or will competition from Android devices shatter when iPhone 4 hits the market?



Unlike PCs, which have been dominated by the monoculture of Microsoft Windows for 15 years, most consumer markets are flush with direct, open competition: there are lots of competing manufacturers in cars, motorcycles, bicycles, refrigerators, televisions and other consumer products, so there should be no problem with multiple vendors of smartphones. Everyone should be able to bring products to market and find buyers, if their products are good enough.



On the other hand, Apple has been on a tear over the last decade in introducing products that competitors (including much larger, more experienced, and formerly entrenched companies) haven't been able to match. For nearly ten years of iPod introductions, Apple continually grew with little effective competition from Sony and Microsoft, largely creating the market for hard drive based MP3 players and subsequently taking over the flash memory MP3 player market before releasing the iPod touch, which has no real competition from anyone. The iPhone and iPad have followed similar trajectories, facing a series of ineffectual "killers" that didn't even make a dent in Apple's recession-busting sales records.



Comparing Apples to Androids



One difficulty in making comparison between Apple's smartphone and alternatives running Android is that they're not the same thing. One can compare iPhone hardware features against an Android model, for example, but the value of iPhone 4 isn't just its hardware, it's the integration of its hardware paired with the iOS software designed to make it useful, and its integration with Apple's iTunes and its MobileMe cloud services for media and app management, software updates, push messaging, remote administration, and other features.



Conversely, one can dismiss all of the value of iPhone 4 if using it means, for example, being tied to a single carrier in the US that provides unusable coverage for the user where they live. In such a scenario, picking a far inferior feature phone would be better if the goal were to actually place phone calls.



Individual circumstances and preferences color what choice makes the most sense to a particular user. However, it's also important to look at the overall attractiveness of a product in the global market, as if Apple maintains its lead, then problems like AT&T's coverage holes will be resolved with network expansions and the eventual availability of iPhone on other US carriers. Conversely, if enough users flock to Android, then Apple will eventually lose its wide lead in being able to attract the primary attention of the best third party developers.



To get a sense of where future momentum is headed, this series will provide a comparison of iOS and Android as platforms in terms of hardware features, desktop and cloud integration, mobile carriers, OS features, third party apps, and market share, and what these difference reveal, not just about how competitive the current offerings are, but how these will affect the viability of iOS and Android going forward.



Is Android ahead in hardware features?



One of the primary advantages ascribed to Android is that it should allow for more competitive choice among different hardware makers, which conceivably should result in faster advances in hardware innovation. This has particularly seemed to be the case in the last six months, when a flurry of new Android devices appeared while Apple's iPhone 3GS grew increasingly out of date in comparison.



Again, as with other markets, the pace of Android-based releases will likely slow in terms of both hardware cycles and software releases, just as cars are brought to market in annual cycles. It wasn't too long ago that people complained that Apple released a new iPod or iPhone every year. Certainly, a three month cycle in new Android phones is going to be difficult to sustain.



Overall however, this idea that "platform openness" automatically results in better hardware features has only been proven to give Android a temporary advantage that is now lost with the introduction of iPhone 4, which significantly outpaces top Android phones not only in interface polish and usability, but also in hardware specifications, the very thing the Android ecosystem is supposed to excel at (see chart).



For example, the iPhone 4's cameras not only provide the both front facing capture and HD recording capabilities that many Android phones lack, but also captures usable 30 fps video rather than the 20 fps video of today's high end Android devices. Apple also supports faster 802.11n WiFi networking and debuted advanced, 6-axis motion sensing with iPhone 4's new gyroscope. The new phone also offers multiple mic noise cancellation, a feature only a few of the fanciest Android phones have.



And iPhone 4's video iPod legacy means the device supports composite (RCA) and higher fidelity component analog video as well as the iPad's 1024x768 VGA-style output for video projectors and monitors. The HTC Incredible only supports basic composite video output (putting it on the technical sophistication of the 5G iPod from 2005), while the HTC Evo, despite packing support HDMI, delivers limited quality video output and can't output analog video at all. Most other recent Android phones offer no video output capabilities at all. So much for a purported lead in raw hardware features.







Platform monoculture doesn't always drive hardware innovation



The idea that an open platform should drive hardware innovation was not borne out in the PC arena. Specific PC models have often offered better graphics options and sometimes introduced faster processors quicker than Apple's Macs, for example, but Macs have long offered higher quality components, better industrial design, and often introduced or popularized new features first (such as USB, FireWire, Gigabit Ethernet, optical digital audio, sudden motion sensors, backlit keyboards, DisplayPort, and so on).



Recently, the intense competition among PC makers has resulted in efforts directed primarily at achieving lower prices (achieved by cutting hardware corners or using old technology), resulting in the short term boom among netbooks. Apple has kept the bar high among Macs, resulting in better quality at a higher price. Rather than pricing itself out of the market, this has resulted in Apple's Mac sales outpacing the grown of the global PC market by a factor of around 4x. In smartphones however, Apple is maintaining a quality edge at an equal or lower price, thanks to the economies of scale the company enjoys due to its sales of tens of millions of iPods.



The iPhone debuted with far more storage memory than any other phone offered, and continues to lead in that area with iPhone 4, which also packs in a huge amount of system RAM and on-board storage memory. Apple also has the resources to develop its own custom silicon for the iPhone 4's A4 application processor (the "system on a chip" that holds the CPU, GPU, supporting chipset logic, and RAM). The company also has the resources to find and gain exclusive access to best-of-breed technologies such as iPhone 4's new Retina Display high resolution IPS screen, which offers a significant leap ahead of the high resolution displays Android phones brought to market this year.



Unlocking the hardware



Apple also has the resources (and the interest and motivation) to develop technology portfolios that support sophisticated hardware and software integration, such as the new FaceTime, which ties new camera hardware into sophisticated but easy to use software that supports video calling.



In the Android world, hardware makers may include a front facing or high resolution camera, but the software that runs that camera may be poorly integrated, as was the case with both the Motorola Droid (a very high megapixel camera paired with awful software that couldn't take good photos) and the new HTC EVO 4G (which supplies a front facing video chat camera but relies on problematic, proprietary software from third parties to actually do anything).



Apple's iPhone 4, like the 3GS last year, doesn't just shoot video but actually makes it easy to trim videos and distribute them. Apple's interest in making a very sophisticated (but $5) iMovie app for iPhone 4 shows the extent of its interests in pushing hardware using innovative software. That's something that is conspicuously missing on both the Windows PC and among Android mobile devices, where hardware specs are supposed to stand on their own merits, regardless of usability and practical functionality.



Similarly, Android phone makers began introducing high resolution screens and new screen technologies (such as OLED displays) a few months ahead of Apple's iPhone 4, but failed to deliver software support that makes existing third party titles look good and properly fit the screen on all of the various different resolutions supported. Apple evenly quadrupled the iPhone's resolution, and provided developer support that automatically renders text and user interface elements within existing apps at the optimum resolution.



Apple is also adding leading support for the latest OpenGL ES standards for graphics hardware acceleration in iOS 4 to enable game developers to create sophisticated titles that look great and perform well, while also incentivizing development of third party software using its high volume App Store, which actively discourages software theft.



Even if Google delivered the same software support to take full advantage of the fast GPU hardware its partners are including on their phones, it can't attract the attention of developers because its store is geared toward hobbyists, not commercial developers. In part, this is because Google does little to protect developers from having their software "openly" stolen by users who don't want to pay for content.



iPhone 4 continues to advance the state of the art in hardware via software in other areas as well, introducing the first gyroscope in a smartphone along with the CoreMotion APIs for developers to use so they can actually take advantage of it.



As with Apple's other software APIs, including CoreLocation and Accelerate, the new motion-control frameworks in iOS 4 abstract away the differences in hardware between new and older iOS devices, avoiding the fractionalization problems Android experiences as each new model introduces (or fails to include) specific hardware features. The result is that Apple's iOS makes it easier for third parties to actually use new hardware.



The next segment in this series will look at how Android offerings compare against iOS 4 in terms of desktop and cloud services integration.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 207
    Ha...I would only expect a super unbiased comparison on APPLEinsider.



    Why isn't AT&T red in the comparison sheet?



    The display really comes down to do you want large or small? Not a "red" or "green".



    No "Green" for the EVO having a removable battery, HDMI out, and FM radio?



    DISCLAIMER: I owned the iPhone 3G for a year as well as the 3GS for 11 months. I think I can form a valid opinion between the two. And no, the battery on an Evo does not last two hours.
  • Reply 2 of 207
    damn_its_hotdamn_its_hot Posts: 1,181member
    Android does not have anything I need - especially the OS. I will stick with iOS thank you very much.
  • Reply 3 of 207
    The iPhone isn't all about hardware, it's about design, it's about the iTunes Stores, it's about usability. Apple creates the hardware, the OS, the major apps, the store and ties them together with mobile me and the ability to create apps that are incredible.



    What Android will never be is a total package, an ecosystem, a revolution. Android can and will carve out a niche as the second best - providing a cell phone OS to 'everyone else'. That is - as long as Apple lets them.



    (Apple is doomed.)
  • Reply 4 of 207
    jerseymacjerseymac Posts: 408member
    How do the android Phones stack up to the iPhone when it comes to making phone calls? These android phones are everywhere in my neck of the woods.
  • Reply 5 of 207
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,080member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by daving313 View Post


    Why isn't AT&T red in the comparison sheet?



    No "Green" for the EVO having a removable battery, HDMI out, and FM radio?



    AT&T doesn't suck for everyone, everywhere.



    And who says an a removable battery, HDMI out, and an FM Radio are great, useful features that everyone wants?



    Especially if you add THICKER (because of removable battery), video for only the latest displays (HDMI), and Radio (crappy FM radio) to the box.



    Oh. I forgot to add 4G is selected cities. A very few selected cities (OK, the ad said 30).
  • Reply 6 of 207
    zoolookzoolook Posts: 657member
    I think in the features section, you have to include the fact that the iPhone as 2 cameras, so when you're video calling you can show the person what you're looking at while talking to them. Great for those trips!
  • Reply 7 of 207
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by daving313 View Post


    Ha...I would only expect a super unbiased comparison on APPLEinsider.



    Why isn't AT&T red in the comparison sheet?



    The display really comes down to do you want large or small? Not a "red" or "green".



    No "Green" for the EVO having a removable battery, HDMI out, and FM radio?



    I agree with you on video output - where EVO may arguably have an edge, but the others are features that can't be compared apple for apple. (no pun intended). The screen argument is fair in terms of size, but the quality of iPhone is hands down better. <insert bigger is better puns here>



    And, cut AI a break - after all, this is APPLEInsider. Nobody ever said this site was 'unbiased'. Find me a blog that isn't biased. Hell, find me a mainstream news org that isn't.
  • Reply 8 of 207
    banchobancho Posts: 1,517member
    AT&T isn't included in the comparison for 2 reasons:

    1. it's not relevant to *hardware*

    2. The US is the only country saddled with AT&T
  • Reply 9 of 207
    robogoborobogobo Posts: 378member
    Specs aren't everything. Android and HTC look great on paper, and they do a decent job in real life. But the traditional hardware manufacturers focus too much on specs and too little on quality integration. Software developers are another issue. I like that Google et al are giving Apple a bit of pressure, and hopefully Apple will continue to keep the user experience top priority. Because when it comes down to it, iOS and the iPhone are done right, and that's not attributed to specs, but a design philosophy that produces more than fanboys- it makes faithful customers who return, and with good reason.
  • Reply 10 of 207
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Eriamjh View Post


    AT&T doesn't suck for everyone, everywhere.



    And who says an a removable battery, HDMI out, and an FM Radio are great, useful features that everyone wants?



    Especially if you add THICKER (removable batter), video for only the latest displays (HDMI), and Radio (crappy FM radio) to the box.



    It's just another old tired argument...removable battery is the last thing most iPhone owners want. As in less runtime, and thicker design. I'll pass.



    HDMI on my phone? Nope. No need for that.



    FM radio I could understand, maybe, but why bother? There are apps for that, and they don't sound as crappy. I don't need the receiver, I'll just use wifi or 3G for my radio.
  • Reply 11 of 207
    djrumpydjrumpy Posts: 1,116member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by FormerARSgm View Post


    I agree with you on video output - where EVO may arguably have an edge, but the others are features that can't be compared apple for apple. (no pun intended). The screen argument is fair in terms of size, but the quality of iPhone is hands down better. <insert bigger is better puns here>



    And, cut AI a break - after all, this is APPLEInsider. Nobody ever said this site was 'unbiased'. Find me a blog that isn't biased. Hell, find me a mainstream news org that isn't.



    The article suggested EVO's output was Video only? Is this accurate?



    I don't find a removable battery a bonus. My oldest phone (a 2G) is still using the same battery, and still holds a charge without issue. It also lasts 3 days with regular usage. That's just not a feature that's important to me at all.



    I also live in a major metropolitan area (DFW). I have no issues with AT&T and I never had.



    Final note: there are also drawbacks on the Android hardware that weren't mentioned, like the inferior touch interfaces, and the PenTile display.



    They also failed to mention the 256 MB limit on apps, which as far as I know, still exists. I assume that is a limitation of the hardware, not the software, as it exists across all variations of Android. I would think if it's software related, it would have been addressed by now, as the platform is 3 years old (can someone verify if this issue still exists?)



    However, for day to day use, it was probably considered nitpicking, and not all that relevant to a typical users experience.



    I didn't think the article was that biased, although it definitely had a pro-Apple bent. Hardly shocking as this is an Apple oriented site.



    There have been other, independent third parties who found favor with even the older 3GS in comparisons. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder...



    http://www.displaymate.com/Nexus_iPhone_ShootOut.htm
  • Reply 12 of 207
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,301member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by daving313 View Post


    No "Green" for the EVO having a removable battery, HDMI out, and FM radio?



    Once again, the same tired argument in a different wrapper.



    How many millions of iPhones and satisfied users will it take when the iPhone4 comes out to prove to you (yet again) that your must-have items are irrelevant to the majority of users?



    Most users never replaced their batteries. I'll take a bigger internal battery with more talk time over a smaller, thicker, removable battery with the flimsy battery covers.



    HDMI?? Honesty... it's a phone.



    FM Radio?? Geesh... what next, an LP player too?
  • Reply 13 of 207
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by technohermit View Post


    FM radio I could understand, maybe, but why bother? There are apps for that, and they don't sound as crappy. I don't need the receiver, I'll just use wifi or 3G for my radio.



    But don't you need 3G service that works?



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Eriamjh View Post


    And who says an a removable battery, HDMI out, and an FM Radio are great, useful features that everyone wants?



    Especially if you add THICKER (removable batter), video for only the latest displays (HDMI), and Radio (crappy FM radio) to the box.



    Oh. I forgot to add 4G is selected cities. A very few selected cities.



    Yea, I was really hoping for that gyro. Thicker because of a removable battery? Interesting. As for the 4G city selection, it's a pretty big chunk of population. And it works in those cities. AT&T doesn't work in Chicago. 4G does.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Jerseymac View Post


    How do the android Phones stack up to the iPhone when it comes to making phone calls? These android phones are everywhere in my neck of the woods.



    Really well actually. I haven't dropped a single call on my Evo, call quality, and a LOUD speakerphone are great. I was dropping one call a day on AT&T.
  • Reply 14 of 207
    postulantpostulant Posts: 1,270member
    I hope AsianBob doesn't get wind of this - I'm hoping he's placed under suicide watch immediately.
  • Reply 15 of 207
    ihxoihxo Posts: 562member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by daving313 View Post


    No "Green" for the EVO having a removable battery, HDMI out, and FM radio?



    What's the point of a removable battery if one only last 2 hours. Might as well have a built-in charging cord.
  • Reply 16 of 207
    r6danlr6danl Posts: 2member
    The HTC EVO 4G DOES have 802.11n and an 8MP camera on the back. I have 802.11n activated on my EVO right now. Update your chart. I also get over 24 hours on a single charge with nominal to heavy use.
  • Reply 17 of 207
    it seems that a large smart phone segment is the Blackberry users, and the iPhone finally has the features to take those customers away, as long as a physical keyboard isn't too big an obstacle for the blackberry users. Add another carrier, and the iPhone will dominate. Oh wait, there's the MS 7 coming out, that'll be the iPhone killer for sure.
  • Reply 18 of 207
    irelandireland Posts: 17,473member
    Even if Apple wasn't ahead in the hardware, that's missing the point. Even though the excellent hardware in iPhone 4 is the icing on the cake.



    The iPhone is great because ease of use in OS and software and hardware beauty, reliability and simplicity.
  • Reply 19 of 207
    djrumpydjrumpy Posts: 1,116member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ihxo View Post


    What's the point of a removable battery if one only last 2 hours. Might as well have a built-in charging cord.



    A removable battery for an EVO isn't a bonus, it's a requirement
  • Reply 20 of 207
    rbonnerrbonner Posts: 635member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by daving313 View Post


    Ha...I would only expect a super unbiased comparison on APPLEinsider.



    Why isn't AT&T red in the comparison sheet?



    The display really comes down to do you want large or small? Not a "red" or "green".



    No "Green" for the EVO having a removable battery, HDMI out, and FM radio?



    DISCLAIMER: I owned the iPhone 3G for a year as well as the 3GS for 11 months. I think I can form a valid opinion between the two. And no, the battery on an Evo does not last two hours.



    Your correct, the battery on mine lasts about 3 hours.
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