This year's top-end smartphones, excluding the now-annoying Nokia Lumia, could easily read like a list of really tough competitors that mean business. Apple is trying to refresh this league with its iPhone 5 being replaced with iPhone 5S.
To be honest, the iPhone 5S carries very few upgrades that put it above devices like Galaxy S4 and we're not going to hide the fact that there are certain things that the S4 can do and the iPhone 5S still can't. But ultimately, it's not about how many features you stack in your smartphone – it's about what I get to use for what I am paying.
Our top favorites this time are iPhone 5S, Nexus 4, and the Galaxy S4. This is, of course, till the folks come up with Nexus 5 and S5 – two rumored devices as of now.
A cursory look at the features reads like state-of-the-art smartphone technology in smartphone development:
Where it really matters for customers is:
- Media, Camera and the works
Let's keep the Android vs. iOS away for the moment.
Camera & Media
In terms of camera, we're looking at a the oldest level of understanding from Apple that still works. Samsung Galaxy S4 certainly looks still way ahead with all the umpteen features that it provides. Imagine this: simultaneous image and video recording are still unheard of in iOS and iDevices.
Nexus 4 does just fine with its specs. They're not over the board but at 8 MP, they're going to fail at a heads-on comparison with iPhone 5S's iSight.
Where iPhone 5S succeeds is the f/2.2 aperture coupled with two important changes: 120fps video recording and true tone flash. On the surface, iPhone 5S is actually changing things that customer's aren't going to take good note of but where it really affects is in the quality of the pictures you click with your iPhone.
And that makes a huge difference. A DSLR-like professional photo out of your iPhone 5S is far better than doing some gimmick in the S4. Gimmicks are short-lived. A fantastic photo outlives them all.
If this isn't really a concern, the Nexus 4 should be a good device but since clicking photos and videos is one of the main activities of a smartphone these days, iPhone 5S is probably at the top of the curve now.
Two quad-core processors in S4. That should put things in perspective. Again, though, Samsung uses the entire resource to squander on “amazing” features like true multitasking. I'm not a fan of serious desktop-like multitasking on a smartphone no matter how big the screen is and no matter how great that sounds.
Watching a video when you type a message is great only if you wish to do a little less of either of them.
In that sense, you can call us biased: we'd prefer that our productivity and focus was sharp. Apple has stuck to a uniform, single-layer of interface to help us keep our focus on one thing at a time. It's not a blatantly obvious feature but it works at the subconscious level.
Nevertheless, Apple comes with the A7 and the M7 – two refined chips that put the processors at 40X faster than iPhone 5. There is also a promised 56% increase in graphics. This will take some time to be experienced but Apple has never promised something that it can't deliver. They did it with the iPad 4 and I'm sure they'll do it with the iPhone 5S too.
Nexus 4 is good. It almost always falls right in between the two devices. Like a moderate.
I think the TouchID, iOS 7 and improved performance will win ultimately. While the trend of Android-migration will continue in the US and elsewhere, iPhone 5S has a good shot at reclaiming lost space.
As always, I think Apple wins the race because of its simplicity, feature selection and the overall philosophy that they stick to.