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  • Are There Fair iPhone Comparisons?

    October 4th, 2013

    In recent days, it has become more and more evident that at least some tech companies, such as Samsung, are engaged in gutter fighting, in part, by faking benchmarks with software tricks. To some, having the gadget that scores better must be a badge of honor. I understand that this phenomenon is particularly evident in Asia, where loads of makers attempt to foist their imitation iPhones and iPads onto unwitting customers who think they are getting something as good as the real thing for a whole lot less money.

    Obviously, you cannot compare a knockoff gadget with anyone’s flagship gear. It doesn’t matter which mainstream manufacturer we’re thinking about here. But there are still the unfavorable sales reports that appear to indicate the iPad and the iPhone are fast losing market share to Android gear.

    Is that true?

    Well, it appears that those who put such statistics together are including all those super cheap “white box” knockoffs, which may often be nearly unusable. But a sale is a sale, so you have to include them if you want to do a proper breakdown of who is selling what. On the other hand, it appears that most of the cheap tablets, as examples, are not really being used to get online. How else explain that recent report that 84% of tablet-based Web traffic can be traced to the iPad? Obviously the iPad has far less than an 84% share of the market.

    I suppose it’s possible customers will realize that cheap junk is cheap junk and stop buying that stuff. Or maybe the experience will sour them on all tablets, and they’ll get back to cheap PCs, or cheap smartphones.

    But there are certainly legitimate reasons not to want an iPhone, and I’ll cover them, even though you and I might disagree on the assumptions.

    So there’s the nasty issue of Apple’s infamous “walled garden,” where you are supposedly locked into a tightly controlled user environment where you have little or no control over configuring your iPhone or iPad, and app selection is limited.

    If you want to configure your smartphone or tablet to a fare-thee-well, way beyond just getting things done efficiently, you may have a point. Apple keeps most of the settings simple, and sometimes limited. Apps are curated to make sure that they run properly and do not cause malware to overwhelm your equipment. But nothing stops you from jailbreaking the device, and going to someone else’s app store and doing things Apple doesn’t sanction. Of course, you are responsible if you damage your gear. That’s the choice you make, and the vast majority of Apple customers clearly just want the things to work, and not be bothered with difficult configurations and a “wild west” atmosphere at an app store where there are few protections against junk and malware-riddled stuff.

    All right, if Google learns of an infected app, it will be removed, but they do far less checking than Apple. You can also get apps that take over the entire system, such as your keyboard, and provide a different or possibly better typing experience, involving swiping more than typing, or what passes for typing on a piece of glass. Maybe Apple will relent and allow such apps, although it would involve making an exception to the sandboxing scheme that helps protect the system from misbehaving apps.

    But don’t forget that, although many apps are available in both iOS and Android form, the iOS version often runs better, delivering a smoother experience. If you’re not sure, talk to your family members and your friends, try out their gear and see.

    If you find a 4-inch smartphone a bit too small for comfort, you’d have a legitimate reason to want to consider someone else’s product. Apple hasn’t said no to bigger screens in the future, but it appears they will tread carefully. Again, it’s a good idea to try the bigger smartphone under different lighting conditions. So the relatively large AMOLED displays on the Samsung Galaxy totally wash out in sunlit surroundings. The iPhone may provide a dimmer picture under such conditions, but it’s mostly usable.

    Of course, you could always hold your iPhone a little closer to your eyes and that will reduce the impact of the smaller screen. Compared to the 5-inch Samsung Galaxy S4, for example, I got used to the iPhone 5s within a few hours.

    Past the question of bogus benchmarks, real world performance is important. Here the iPhone 5s tends to score about the same or faster than other smartphones with the usual benchmark tests, all without fudging. But touch response is much faster, and apps perform more consistently. That can mean a lot. Just simple scrolling of text and pictures on the fastest Android smartphone remains ragged, with thickening text. On the iPhone, it’s always smooth, even on a slower model. Chalk that up to Apple’s tight integration between software and hardware. Android can’t compete with off-the-shelf parts that may, in theory, be more powerful, but don’t provide a snappier response.

    One more thing: Yes, I suppose it would be nice to be able to easily swap out the battery on an iPhone, or have more capacity. Here a Motorola Droid Razr Maxx with its large battery may be a suitable choice, if you can get past the Android deficiencies in the user interface and overall performance.



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    3 Responses to “Are There Fair iPhone Comparisons?”

    1. Articles you should read (Oct. 4) …. says:

      […] “Are There Fair iPhone Comparisons?: In recent days, it has become more and more evident that at least some tech companies, such as Samsung, are engaged in gutter fighting, in part, by faking benchmarks with software tricks. To some, having the gadget that scores better must be a badge of honor. I understand that this phenomenon is particularly evident in Asia, where loads of makers attempt to foist their imitation iPhones and iPads onto unwitting customers who think they are getting something as good as the real thing for a whole lot less money.” — “The Tech Night Owl” […]

    2. Len Swierski says:

      The thing about iOS that really bothers me is how there is no real file system. Apps still create and open documents, of course, but I am having some difficulty coming to terms with Apple’s methodology. I realize that if I just go with the flow, eventually I will probably get comfortable with the app-centric (as opposed to file-centric) workflow. That’s the only thing that gives Android an advantage, in my opinion. I am always willing to try out different ideas, but this one runs deep into my learned habits. It will take a while to give up my dependence on that file-based concept. Even so, I think it would never cause me to buy an Android device.

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