Communication and Call Quality
Despite a name that can potentially confuse some consumers, the Apple iPhone 4S is not a 4G phone. While it performs quite capably, it simply can’t download apps, email attachments, songs, videos, etc. as fast as the Galaxy S II devices, which are equipped with 4G network support. That’s especially true of AT&T’s Skyrocket, which is a 4G LTE device that is capable of incredible speed.
When it comes to call quality, this is another dead heat because performance here is based as much on network coverage and location as much as on the actual device. The AT&T iPhone is of course famous for missed and dropped calls, but then again I had just as much trouble with the Skyrocket when I was Christmas shopping at the mall last month. Your choice here should be based on the strength of your preferred carrier’s network in your area.
Productivity and Entertainment
Apple’s iOS 5 recently caught up to Android with the introduction of several key new features, such as iCloud and the improved notification system. With the improvements, the iPhone 4S and the Galaxy S II devices are on a relatively level playing field when it comes to PIM apps such as calendar and contacts. The iPhone has a slight advantage when it comes to location-based reminders and notes, since those aren’t always included with Android smartphones.
The Galaxy S II devices win when it comes to Office apps, because they almost always come with a Microsoft Office compatible suite such as Quickoffice. The iPhone includes viewers for Word and Excel, so that you can open email attachments, but you can’t edit them directly. You’ll have to purchase apps such as Pages and Numbers from Apple or Documents to Go from a third party vendor; since they aren’t included so you’ll spend at least $15 to $20 for full Microsoft Office editing capabilities.
When it comes to voice functionality, the iPhone 4S blows away the competition thanks to the Siri personal assistant. It isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and can often mangle names when you’re trying to address an email, but it is better than anything the Galaxy S II phones have to offer at this time.
For entertainment purposes, the iPhone 4S has the best music player built in, though the Galaxy S II devices can become much better music players than they are out of the box by downloading apps such as Google Music from the Android Market. The same major eBook apps are available for both platforms, as well as quite a few games, with developers porting them to both iOS and Android devices. Games that support the retina display on the iPhone 4S have the edge graphically, but the larger screen on the Galaxy S II devices can make it a little easier to play, since your fingers are less likely to block the onscreen action.
Both the iPhone 4S and the Galaxy S II devices have 8 megapixel cameras, and they are generally similar in picture quality and features, including LED flash capabilities. The same is true of video capture, as both the Apple and Samsung phones offer full HD video capture as 1080p and thirty frames per second. The Galaxy S II models have an advantage on the front-facing camera though, as they include a 2 megapixel front-facing camera, and on the iPhone that same front-facing camera only takes photos at VGA quality.
The iPhone 4S is rated for up to 8 hours of talk time on 3G and up to 14 hours on a GSM network, with a standby time of up to 200 hours. It fares better when it comes to entertainment purposes, such as ten hours of video playback or 40 hours of music. AT&T’s Galaxy S II has a comparable talk time, but twice as much time in standby mode. In real life I haven’t been able to get that same level of performance from either an iPhone 4S or any of the Galaxy S II devices that I’ve reviewed, but neither one is notably worse than the other.
The iPhone 4S ranges in price from $200 to $400, depending on the memory capacity you choose. That gives the edge to the Galaxy S II devices, that are typically $150 to $230 as long as you sign a new two-year service contract.
While there are advantages and disadvantages to each device, there isn’t a clear cut winner for this comparison. The iPhone 4S wins when it comes to design appeal, portability, screen resolution, and maximum memory capacity, but the screen is smaller than the Galaxy S II devices, and it doesn’t support memory expansion cards.
The Galaxy S II devices have larger screens and a larger footprint, but they include Microsoft Office document editor software, have better forward-facing cameras, and are less expensive when it comes to the initial outlay for a new device.
None of these differences are particularly important when it comes to upgrading from an older smartphone to a new one, because you’ve probably already chosen a favorite operating system (iOS5 or Android). The problem is more difficult for new users; though I believe that the iPhone 4S is friendlier and more accessible than Android, the Galaxy S II series of phones (especially the AT&T Skyrocket) is very impressive and available for a lower initial cost.
Your best bet is to try them both in a local store or by asking your friends and relatives to let you take their smartphones for a test drive of sorts. Either way you go, you’ll be getting an extremely powerful device that will make your mobile life more productive and entertaining than it was before.
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