Until I started watching videos on Samsung's new Galaxy S III phone, I never thought of the iPhone's display as small.
Galaxy's screen measures 4.8 inches diagonally, compared with 3.5
inches for the iPhone. That translates to a display area that's nearly
twice the size. Yet the Galaxy is thinner and lighter.
that, the Galaxy shares the iPhone's curvy and shiny design, along with a
center button that wakes up the device from power-saving mode or takes
you from whatever you're doing to a home screen.
iPhone, the Galaxy runs on faster 4G cellular networks (AT&T markets
its iPhones as 4G, but the network is based on older technology). The
Galaxy also comes with a new wireless technology called near-field
communications, which can be used to share files and make purchases.
taken with the Galaxy were sharper and had better light balance than
those with the iPhone, based on a handful of test shots I took. The
Galaxy's tool for measuring data usage - for those of us no longer on
unlimited plans - surpasses what comes with the iPhone.
All that makes the Galaxy a strong contender to Apple's popular device.
understand the comparison isn't entirely fair. The iPhone 4S is about
eight months old, and there's a new model expected this fall. Last week,
Apple previewed changes to the phone's operating system, promising
improvements to its Siri virtual assistant, a mapping service with voice
navigation and more.
But the reality is the new Galaxy is available this week - not in September or October.
four national wireless companies and regional carrier U.S. Cellular
will sell the Galaxy, which runs the latest operating software from
Google, a flavor of Android known as Ice Cream Sandwich.
model with 16 gigabytes of memory will cost $200 with a two-year
contract through AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and U.S. Cellular.
That's comparable to the iPhone's $199. A 32 GB model will cost $250,
which is cheaper than a comparable iPhone at $299. T-Mobile will charge
at least $30 more than others, though it may still be cheaper overall
with lower monthly data fees over two years.
The Galaxy phones
will be available in white or blue. AT&T will also have a red
version this summer, but it won't carry the 32 GB model.
Now back to Galaxy's screen.
Galaxy shines when displaying widescreen video. That's because much of
the display's increase is in width rather than in height when the phone
is held on its side, or landscape mode. The iPhone wastes some display
real estate to make wider videos fit. There are unused strips of black
above and below those videos.
When watching a foreign movie
through a Netflix app, the Galaxy's larger screen makes the subtitles
much easier to read. I can read them fine on the iPhone, but my eyes
kept zeroing in on the text to do so, making me miss the action.
colors on the Galaxy also appeared richer, thanks to a screen that uses
organic light-emitting diodes, rather than a standard LCD.
All that video can deplete your data allowance in no time.
the iPhone, the tool for measuring data usage isn't easy to find. You
have to choose "General" in your settings, then "Usage," and then
"Cellular Usage." There's info there on the amount of data sent and
received, but no total. You have to remember to manually reset the
counter each month on the day your billing cycle starts.
Galaxy, "Data usage" is the third item from the top under "Settings."
You can tell the phone when to warn you that you're about to reach your
cap for the month. You can also automatically disable data usage when
you've reached a pre-specified point to avoid extra charges. You don't
have to do any math to get the total used, and the counter automatically
resets each month. You can also see which apps use the most data.
Before I go further, I'll say a few things about where the iPhone still excels.
- The iPhone has more software from outside parties, extending the
device's functionality. Many apps are written only for the iPhone and
other Apple devices. Versions for the Galaxy and other Android phones
sometimes come months later and lack all of the features.
iPhone works better than Android devices in corporate settings. Android,
for instance, lacks the tools needed to access Wi-Fi at my office or
the corporate email system (though some might consider that a plus for
- The iPhone has Siri, the virtual assistant that hears your voice commands and talks back.
Galaxy introduces a voice assistant, but she's best described as Siri's
forgotten stepchild. The Galaxy couldn't find an Indian restaurant just
a block from me, and she gave me the name of a doctor when I asked for
Thai restaurants. The Galaxy also lacks Siri's attitude and sense of
Me: "What is the best smartphone?" Siri: "Wait, there are other phones?"
Galaxy replied with the grammatically incorrect and boring, "Opinion
vary but I think Samsung Galaxy is the best of them all."
Here's where the Galaxy prevails:
- As with other Android devices, the Galaxy syncs well with Google
services. By signing into a Google account, names, emails and phone
numbers from my Gmail contacts are automatically transferred to the
phone. The same happens with calendar entries. Apple uses a separate
contact and calendar system, not the one I already use through Google.
- You can remove the plastic back cover to switch the battery or insert a
microSD card for additional storage of up to 64 gigabytes. The iPhone's
battery can be replaced only by a technician, and there's no slot for
- Both devices have two cameras, including an 8
megapixel one in the back. The Galaxy's front-facing camera does more
than take pictures: When you're reading something, the camera will see
your eyes glued on the screen, so your phone won't switch to
power-saving mode. The iPhone's screen will start to dim if you don't
touch it periodically.
- If you're texting a friend and find it
easier to discuss something by phone, the Galaxy will automatically call
that person when you put the phone by your ear.
- When watching
video stored on your device, there's a "pop out" feature that lets you
watch in a smaller window while doing other things such as email and
Facebook on the phone.
- The Galaxy's near-field communications
technology offers a preview of the future. One day, it could be common
like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. With it, I'm able to share photos and video
simply by tapping the backs of two Galaxy phones together. I'm also able
to make purchases at a handful of stores by tapping the phone to the
merchant's NFC reader, as long as I have credit cards set up through the
Google Wallet app.
Alas, Google Wallet isn't so useful until more
merchants accept it, and the app is only available on the Sprint model
of the Galaxy.
Basic sharing features, which let you swap small
files, work with some other late-model Android phones. If you tap two
Galaxy phones together, you can quickly transfer really big files, such
as videos and photos.
All Galaxy models except T-Mobile's will be
able to use so-called fourth-generation, or 4G, networks. T-Mobile
doesn't have a 4G network, but its 3G network is almost as fast as a 4G
network (and indeed, it calls its network "4G").
don't work with 4G technology, though the AT&T version says it does
because it uses an upgraded 3G network, much like T-Mobile's. The iPhone
coming this fall is likely to support "real" 4G, using a technology
The next iPhone will also have an Apple-designed
mapping service with turn-by-turn directions spoken aloud. It's one of
the rare instances where the iPhone will play catch-up to Android, which
has had Google's voice navigation app built-in since 2009.
If you're an iPhone owner looking for a new phone, I'd wait a few months and make a comparison then.
you're an Android user looking to switch to an iPhone, the Galaxy
offers enough reason to stick with Android. You'll miss out on the
cachet of owning an iPhone or the joys of chatting with Siri, but you'll
get a solid device with the latest technologies.