Oct 122011

Judging from many articles abut the “revolutionary” new iPhone 4S, it seems that many people don’t understand how well some of these “new” features have been working on advanced Android smartphones in the past year or two.

Before I get to other missing features, I must link to this interesting YouTube video of a comparison that should be done more often – the drop test, which shows another possible iPhone’s inferiority: scratch-resistant but “shatter-happy” glass.

My EVO has been dropped numerous times from waist height and one time by my little daughter from the top of the stairs to a tile floor. Many times I had to pick up the pieces (back cover, battery and the phone) and say a short prayer while assembling them back together, but the phone doesn’t even have a single crack or scratch on its screen, with only an invisible scratch on the black paint of one corner that reveals itself only under close inspection with a bright light, otherwise it looks as new as when I bought it almost a year ago. Also note that I leave all the protective cases or screen protectors to my Mrs. – my phone is bare all the way and all the time and it survived many falls, just like the Samsung Galaxy S 2 in the video.

Back to other “new” features of the iPhone 4S: Speech recognition is so last year’s news. On my EVO it is fantastic and it works equally well on both stock and CyanogenMod firmware without the need to buy any special apps. The phone recognizes my speech commands and dictation so well that I barely type anything any more, although “my English no good” (it’s my second language).

The biggest problem I have with the iPhone (even 4S) is its (lack of) turn-by-turn voice navigation. Although I’m a bit envious about the new CPU benchmarks and graphical acceleration, voice navigation is a huge thing for me and another reason why to avoid the iPhone 4S. What’s worse, it possibly won’t be there for quite some time because of all the evil that Apple has been indirectly doing to Android (legal bullying of Samsung and other Android manufacturers), so the honeymoon is over and the divorce is still bitter. Yes you can buy some expensive navigation apps in iTunes but I doubt they work as well and are as integrated as Google Maps and Google Navigation on Android. You can also get cheaper navigation apps, but then you get more problems – an example from my past would have been driving in wrong direction in a one way street, had I followed the instructions blindly. On my EVO I can turn off the screen and get to my destination by just listening to the (loud) directions from my “girlfriend” (as my wife calls the voice of the navigation instructions). One small step for the mankind, one giant leap for a man.

Well, since I’m already on the soap box, let me continue: what a waste of increased resolution – iPhone 4S still has a small 3.5″ screen and I’m so used to 4.3″, which looks so nice and legible that I got used to it and each time I take my old iPhone in my hands I feel handicapped, so this is becoming a must for me.

Next, I really found it hard to believe that 4S is still only a 3G (or as some say 3G+) phone. No 4G.

No removable storage – every recent Android phone can be connected with a standard micro USB cable to any computer as an external USB drive. Some of them also have both internal and external storage like Samsung Galaxy S2, which on top of its internal 16 GB also has a microSD slot that can take up to 32 GB card, so you get an absolute storage powerhouse in your pocket without a need to carry any USB flashdrives any more. iPhone 4S still can’t connect as an external USB drive and still can’t be used to move your files around or carry them with you.

Another “unique style” problem from the get-go is that the iPhone 4S still doesn’t have a swappable battery so once it dies you’re stuck. If it’s just discharged you have to look for a power source/charger, or if it’s really dead, you have to ship or drive your iPhone to be serviced.

iPhone also has overpriced accessories. I have three extended batteries for the EVO and they do miracles for me, needless to say that I paid less than $8 for each double capacity battery and the last one I bought together with a standalone charger and a USB port for about $10 altogether. Similar pricing for iPhone accessories exists only in my dreams.

Then there’s the story of the accessories compatibility. Many audio devices of mine and in my extended family come with an iPod port, but God forbid Apple makes their iPhone backward compatible with iPod connectivity standards – some devices give you the annoying warning messages, and some just plain don’t work. And as the frosting on the cake, on top of all these annoyances come the proprietary USB cables. Any micro USB cable works with any 5V USB charger on our Android phones, while my iPhone is so picky that some aftermarket chargers I bought in the past didn’t work at all.

Moreover, jailbreaking the iPhone is not easy, while rooting EVO is so easy that even I can do it. Even without rooting you have two different app stores for Android, the default Android Market and Amazon.com, while with iPhone you have to buy everything from and through the iTunes store. Rooting (jailbreaking) iPhone is possibly incomprehensible to most Apple users, but that is the nature of the beast. I want to make my own decisions. They want Apple to make theirs. Not a problem – just a different paradigm.

Last, but not the least (one of my most important phone features), the iPhone’s speakerphone is good only if you’re sitting in a quiet room with closed door. There’s no news of any speakerphone improvements on the 4S model, so this is another deal breaker for me. EVO’s speakerphone reminds me of my old Blackberry phones – an abundance of sound at your disposal, bordering office speakerphone.

To me it seems that the iPhone 4S is really a “quick and dirty” upgrade, just to keep the fans happy. Hopefully the next year’s model will bring us more improvements.

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