iPhone 4S or Samsung Galaxy S II? My thoughts.

I’ve been wanting to write this for a while now, even though I know that there are already plenty of other reviews and comparisons between the options. My comparison is not a “professional”, its purely personal, based on my experiences and needs.

But I do feel that my needs are the same as the needs of vast majority of upscale smartphone users. So, here it is, for you:

First, let me note that I used iPhone 3GS for over 2 years, and Galaxy S II (with Android 2.3.5 and 2.3.7) for over two months following it. I played with iPhone 4S in store and with friends’ phones, and am aware of its features.

What I look in a phone is these things:

1. Phone. I need a phone that can be a phone. Easy to dial, easy to store numbers, easy to sync with my PC/online (GMail in my case), easy to type text messages, MMS capability, and of course good sound quality and proper Bluetooth support. Both the phones have all that of course. Since I primarily use GMail, Galaxy S II has an advantage here because GMail is seamlessly integrated into the Android software. Syncing contacts with GMail, even with iOS 5.0.1, wasn’t as trivial. For me, Galaxy wins here.

2. Convenient and intuitive user interface – tons has been said about the Apple user interface and the iPhone sleekness. All is true, iPhone interface is second to none. But, I consider the Samsung TouchWiz 4.0 that runs on Galaxy S II not to be behind. In some things it is much better than iPhone. The notification pane has only been added to iPhone in the newest iOS 5, while it has been on Android phones forever. Folders show not only the icons but also count of the items in the folders (I find it convenient), and Android widgets are awesome. For me, surprisingly, Galaxy wins here.

3. Easy reading and internet browsing – No doubt, the 4.3″ AMOLED screen that Galaxy has wins here. iPhone is just too small, and if 2-3 years ago it was way ahead in front of the competition in every other parameter, now I see no reason to compromise with an average sized screen.

4. Fast Internet – Samsung Galaxy S II and iPhone 4S have the same “4G” AT&T network, but there’s a Galaxy S II with LTE (the SkyRocket), while iPhones don’t have LTE yet. I chose non-LTE Galaxy, even with iPhone on this one.

5. Choice of applications – While Apple AppStore is full of apps, its limited and restricted by Apple. I personally don’t need and don’t want anyone to censor what can or cannot run on my phone. I certainly don’t want to pay $100 a year for a privilege to run a software I wrote myself on my own phone. iPhone gets a knock-out here. Google Market, Amazon Appstore, and individual application developers and distributors have much more to offer on the Android platform than the limited and restricted AppStore on iPhone.

6. Size and Compatibility – iPhone comes in preset sizes – 16, 32 and 64GB. Galaxy S II comes with 16GB built in and with a micro-SD expansion slot. This allows for more storage than most iPhone models, and more importantly – I can switch the cards, meaning that I don’t need to remove stuff to load new stuff, just switch the SD cards. The iPhone storage limitation is a huge downside, and for me is a killer – for a Galaxy Nexus as well.

7. Tethering – although both iPhone and Galaxy S II allow tethering, for both its restricted by AT&T. However, on Android I can override the restriction using apps like KLink. Apple blocks such apps in their store, so in order to use a similar app on iPhone I have to “jail-break” it. Unacceptable.

8. International GSM usage – AT&T wouldn’t unlock iPhone for me. Ever. I only have to wait for 90 days for them to unlock the Galaxy.

Other features – Both have a very good 8.0MP camera, but Galaxy S II has a 2MP front camera, while iPhone has a VGA camera (same as iPhone 4). iTunes integration and iPod player are both pros and cons – very convenient to sync music and videos, but ties me tight to Apple products. I found DoubleTwist to be a decent alternative. iTunes and iPod is the only feature I think that iPhone still excels with. Siri is a nice toy, but I couldn’t find it too useful for me. Google has voice search for quite some time now, and the Samsung comes with driver mode that has almost all the same functionality as Siri. I don’t use it anyway.

Size – Galaxy S II is bigger than iPhone, and for some it can be troublesome to handle such a big phone. For me its the other way around: I prefer the big screen, and I consider the iPhone size to be a con rather than a pro.

So my conclusion is that Samsung Galaxy S II beats all the currently available iPhone options, and that’s before the upgrade to Ice-cream Sandwich (Android 4.0). Especially given the price difference of  $100+ between the two, I can’t see why should I stick with the iPhone. I also thinks that Galaxy S II beats Galaxy Nexus in many parameters.

But what works for me may not work for others, everyone has their own requirements and priorities. Try the phones you’re considering, make the list of what’s important to you, and see what fits most.


Your Little Advisor

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