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  • Yet More Nonsense About Specs

    February 27th, 2018

    It has been demonstrated over the years that comparing an iPhone with a top-of-the-line competitor from the world of Android, particularly the next Samsung Galaxy, on specs alone isn’t terribly productive. Raw numbers involving CPU ratings and RAM don’t really tell you much about actual performance, and the existence of a feature doesn’t tell you how well it works.

    That said, a certain Macworld blogger, who has, in the past, suggested that Apple add a free ad-driven tier to Apple Music to boost paid memberships and other ill-informed nonsense, is at it again with a “Spec showdown” involving the iPhone X, the iPhone 8 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy S9+.

    The expectation is that you can make your selection based on raw numbers alone, with prices that aren’t altogether different. Some of the asides are just plain lame.

    So, “If you love the notch, you’ll love the iPhone X.” Or maybe you’ll tolerate its presence and, eventually, get used to it. This hardly seems to be the deal killer. Yet, the blogger concludes that “if you hate the notch, go with the S9+.” What about the iPhone 8 Plus? Why go Samsung, and move to a totally different operating system? Indeed, the OS isn’t mentioned, meaning it’s assumed you already know and it’s a side issue. Besides, Samsung hasn’t made such a big deal of the benefits of Android in its new products.

    Of course, Consumer Reports takes a similar attitude, but I expected better of Macworld.

    At least there’s one smart comment that the blogger attempts to contradict in subsequent paragraphs. So, “specs don’t tell the whole story.” He then goes on to explain that the problem with the iPhone 8 Plus display is that “it’s hardly fresh, having been used in the past four generations of iPhone.”

    Does that mean it’s bad? No, although there are clear advantages of OLED displays, although the purchase prices are higher. But it isn’t a matter how often a particular display design is used. Besides, Apple has made changes along the way, such as True Tone and a wider color gamut. So he’s wrong! It may still be the same technology, but that doesn’t mean Apple hasn’t made improvements. A look at the spec sheet would have revealed this fact, and isn’t that article about specs?

    But the worst admission is that all these comparisons are being done with one product not even available to test. “We’ve yet to see the S9+ in action, but it’s likely to perform extremely well.”

    That conclusion is largely based on numbers alone, along with an estimate of battery life based on the size of the Galaxy S9+ battery compared to the size of the batteries in the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone X. True, Apple has only made minor improvements to longevity over the years, but it’s not the sole reason to choose a Samsung over an Apple. There are obviously other key differences that involve usability, reliability, security and other matters that are not reflected in raw specs. So Samsung’s facial and iris detection features in the Samsung Galaxy S8 family could be easily defeated with digital photos. The updated versions might be more secure, but that won’t be known until they are given rigorous tests. Samsung is notorious for offering features that perform poorly.

    Indeed, in my travels I will often ask people why they picked an Android phone, and it’s usually a Samsung, over an iPhone. While prices might enter the picture, flagship Samsungs are priced in the same range as iPhones. So it may be a platform preference, which isn’t something one can necessarily argue against even with logic. Most people who buy iPhones replace them with new iPhones. Still, a higher percentage of Android users might tend to consider iPhones, and Apple provides an app via Google Play, Move to iOS, to simplify the process. It works best for those heavily invested in Gmail and other Google features. Switching apps may not be as easy unless there’s an equivalent or at least a close match in the iOS repository, but for most people, this shouldn’t present a huge problem.

    Now one area where Apple and Samsung are apt to be fierce competitors is with the cameras. Both companies do well, so any measurable or perceived differences may not be so significant for most people. That said, there has to be a reason why such A-list filmmakers as Steven Soderbergh have shot motion pictures with iPhones. It may not work so well for a $250 million super hero blockbuster, but it might suit there, too, for special scenes.

    Now when the new Samsungs are out, you’ll see genuine reviews from different publications that might allow you to make a choice even if you’re not against ditching your current mobile platform. You know where I stand, but I won’t make a huge deal trying to push people to give up on what they have, although I might ask why from time to time.



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