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The two most talked-about smartphones today include one made by Samsung, and another that officially doesn't exist. That "other" phone, of course, is Apple's next-generation iPhone--or what many tech enthusiasts refer to as the "iPhone 5," even though the new model would be the sixth incarnation of Apple's handset since its debut in 2007.
The Samsung Galaxy S III, an Android device with a gigantic--well, gigantic for a smartphone--4.8-inch display, has proven a huge success since it began selling in Europe in May. (U.S. carriers received the phone in late June and early July.) J.K. Shin, Samsung's mobile boss, recently told the Yonhap News Agency that Galaxy S III sales had topped 10 million units. It's unclear, however, if Shin was referred to sales to consumers or shipments to wireless carriers.
Apple, by comparison, sold more than 26 million iPhones in the third quarter of 2012, up from 20.3 million in the same period a year ago. Impressive, certainly, but slightly below Wall Street's expectations, a missed goal that tech analysts and company executives alike attribute to consumers delaying their iPhone purchases until the next model arrives. Apple won't say, of course, but the new iPhone is rumored to debut in October, a year after the launch of the iPhone 4S.
As the iPhone unveiling approaches, more rumors are bubbling up about the phone's design. Based on what we've heard so far, the new model doesn't appear to be dramatically different than its predecessor, at least not on the outside. It's longer but not wider than the iPhone 4S, has a slightly larger 4-inch display, and includes a smaller, 19-pin Dock Connector that's sure to annoy longtime iPhone users, particularly when they discover their peripherals won't work with the new iPhone without a special adapter. Ah, progress.
So how does the new iPhone stack up against the Samsung Galaxy S III? Comparing a shipping phone with a rumored model is tricky business, of course, but we've sifted through the iPhone rumors to create a plausible spec sheet for Apple's next-gen device. A few key features, including 4G LTE wireless, the Siri voice assistant, and a faster (likely quad-core) processor are almost certainly going to be part of the new model. We've compared those specs, as well as other, more speculative aspects of the new iPhone, with the Galaxy S III's features.
Which phone is best? We'll have to wait until the next-gen iPhone ships to know for sure. But for the next best thing, click through the slideshow for a pre-launch comparison.
The Samsung Galaxy S III's 4.8-inch Super AMOLED display has 1280-by-720-pixel resolution. It's one of the biggest and brightest smartphone screens you can buy. The next-gen iPhone will reportedly have a 4-inch display--a respectable bump up from previous generation 3.5-inch screen, but noticeably smaller than the Galaxy S III's behemoth beauty. The new iPhone display may also have a 16:9 aspect ratio, several reports claim, as well as a screen resolution of 1136-by-640 pixels, up from its predecessor's 960-by-640.
The new iPhone display may be unique in other ways too. According to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal, the next-gen model will have a thinner screen with in-cell technology that integrates touch sensors into the LCD. By removing the separate touchscreen layer, the display is half-a-millimeter thinner and offers better image quality, the report said.
The new iPhone will have Siri, Apple's "beta" voice-activated assistant that so far has gotten less-than-enthusiastic reviews from both consumers and tech professionals, although Siri's reportedly great at helping Samuel L. Jackson find organic mushrooms.
Apple's upcoming iOS 6 promises a number of Siri improvements. For instance, you'll be able to ask Siri to post Facebook and Twitter updates, launch apps, get sports scores and stats, and find movie show times and trivia. These features won't be unique to the next-gen iPhone--the 4S and new iPad will have them too--but they could play a major role in the phone's marketing campaign. The Galaxy S III has S Voice, a Siri-like competitor that also performs similar tasks in less-than-perfect fashion. Bottom line: When it comes to voice-recognition apps, there's plenty of room for improvement.
The iPhone 4S has an excellent 8-megapixel rear camera; the Galaxy S III's 8-MP backside snapper is no slouch either. So how can Apple raise the bar? One option is to bump up the rear camera's pixel count, although not to ludicrous extremes like the 41-megapixel camera in the Nokia 808 PureView.
It's more likely that the iPhone's front-facing camera, not the rear model, will see the most change. The iPhone 4S's front cam has VGA (640-by-480 or 0.3MP) resolution, which is fine for Facetime video chats. But it's a low-res laggard when compared with the Galaxy S III's 1.9-MP front unit. The new iPhone's front cam will also be centered above the earpiece speaker --that is, if a leaked photo (above) published by Apple.pro turns out to be accurate.
The 30-pin Apple Dock Connector is on the way out, it seems. The new iPhone will reportedly feature a smaller, 19-pin Apple Dock Connector, as shown above in a leaked photo from uBreakiFix.com. According to Reuters, the smaller port frees up space for the earphone, which moves to the bottom of the device. That's bad news for current iPhone users with speakers, power chargers, and other accessories, none of which will work with the new 19-pin dock without an adapter.
Surely, Galaxy S III users don't have this problem, right? Not necessarily. The S3's microUSB port differs from those on other Android devices. The pin layout has changed, reports Android Authority, and that means the S3 won't work with standard MHL (Mobile High-definition Link) adapters that connect smartphones to HDTVs. Samsung charges $30 for its MHL adapter for the Galaxy S III. What's it all mean? New ports usually put a dent in your pocketbook.
The iPhone 4S come with your choice of 16 GB, 32 GB, or 64 GB of flash memory. The Galaxy S III has 16 GB or 32 GB of storage, with a 64 GB model arriving later this year, says Samsung, although it's unclear which countries will get the 64-GB version first. The S3 is also expandable up to 64 GB with a microSD card. Unfortunately, iPhones don't have microSD slots and can't add onboard storage. It's highly unlikely that Apple will add a microSD slot to the next-gen iPhone, a shortcoming that obviously hasn't impacted the phone's popularity.
The U.S. version of the Galaxy S III has a dual-core Qualcomm S4 processor, while the global model features Samsung's quad-core Exynos chip. The new iPhone is expected to have a quad-core CPU too, most likely Apple's long-awaited A6 processor. (The new iPad uses the A5X, a dual-core chip with quad-core graphics.) The new iPhone may have a performance advantage over the Galaxy S III, at least in the U.S., although it probably won't be too dramatic.
There's little doubt the new iPhone will support 4G LTE wireless connectivity, a feature that Apple has already added to the 3rd-generation iPad, which began shipping earlier this year. The Galaxy S III, like every other high-end smartphone launched in 2012, offers 4G LTE service. U.S. carriers are continuing to build out their 4G networks, and various factors unrelated to the phones themselves impact cellular data speeds. Our point: When it comes to 4G LTE, the new iPhone and Galaxy S III should offer comparable performance.
The 16-GB model of the Galaxy S III costs $200 with a two-year wireless contract. The 16-GB iPhone 4S costs the same, and there's little reason to suspect that Apple will alter this successful pricing formula with its new model. It's feasible, however, that higher-end iPhone models, particularly the 64-GB model ($399), could see a modest price drop, particularly since flash memory prices have fallen dramatically in recent months. Would Apple lower its prices just to be nice? Probably not, but it might lower them if the high-end iPhones are significantly more expensive than comparable models from Apple's Android competitors.
We'll bypass the whole iOS vs. Android brouhaha here, except to say that when it comes to elegant design and usability, it's hard to top Apple's mobile OS. Android is catching up, however, and its newest offering (version 4.1, or Jelly Bean) offers performance and UI improvements that bring it closer to iOS's refinement. The new iPhone's expected fall debut will coincide with the arrival of iOS 6, Apple's latest version.
It's a given that iOS 6 will run on the new iPhone, but when will Android 4.1 come to the Galaxy S III? SamMobile, a fan site for Samsung mobile users, reports that S3 users may receive the upgrade in August or September.
Face it, some smartphone features are half-baked and simply aren't ready for mainstream use. Siri comes to mind, of course, but the Galaxy S III has its fair share of gimmicks as well, particularly those features that work only with other S3 phones.
ShareShot, for instance, lets S3 users share photo galleries via Wi-Fi Direct, a technology that allows Wi-Fi devices to interact without a wireless access point. And GroupCast enables content sharing (e.g., photos and presentation slides) between S3 phones, or between an S3 phone and a DLNA-enabled TV. Good ideas, certainly, but ones that need to work across all mobile platforms and devices to be truly useful.