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iPhone Vs Android: It's The Sum, Not The Specs

Anyone who believes that specs make the smartphone hasn't been paying attention to what really matters.

You can count me among the many people who were disappointed with Tuesday's iPhone 4S reveal. Yes, I wanted the iPhone 4S--or iPhone 5--to have a larger screen and a refreshed design. I suppose 4G would have been great, too. But that didn't happen, and multitudes of iPhone fans felt let down.

Before the Apple press conference had ended, fanboyism began to run rampant across the Internet. You could hear the smug tone of superiority in the voices of those who prefer other platforms and devices, in Web forums, comment threads, and on Twitter.

What were most iPhone 4S bashers picking on? The specs and the "stolen" features (as if Android didn't "steal" plenty from the iPhone first).

[The underwhelming iPhone launch may be a good thing. Learn why: Got An iPhone Hangover?]

People picked on the iPhone 4S's small screen, same-old design, lack of WiMax and LTE, and gobs of other specs. Charts, graphs, and tablets sprang across the Web showing how all the specs line up between the iPhone 4S and the myriad other smartphones out there. The Galaxy S II has a bigger screen, the LG Optimus LTE has a bigger HD screen and LTE 4G, the Nokia N8's camera has a better f-stop rating than the iPhone 4S's, and on and on and on.

Gimme a break.

Comparing individual specs between smartphones is like opening up the hood of a Ford Mustang and the hood of a BMW M3 and pointing out why one is better than the other based on its innards. The Mustang's engine displacement alone doesn't make the Mustang better than the M3, any more than the M3's suspension alone doesn't make the M3 better than the Mustang. The point I am driving at is that smartphones are not just a collection of specs. They have to be judged as a whole, not by individual parts. A 1.5-GHz dual-core processor might be fast as hell, but if it is paired with a low-end camera chip, mid-range display, and clunky hardware, what exactly is better about it?

I've tested nearly every smartphone sold by the U.S. wireless network operators over the last 10 years. I can tell you definitively that even phones with the best specs in the world end up lacking something, somewhere.

The tens of millions of people who've bought iPhones didn't buy them for the specs, they bought them because the iPhone does what they need it to, or what they want it to. The same can be said for any platform or device. People buy BlackBerrys because they handle email the way they want it to; people buy Android phones because they like the flexibility and large hardware selection; people buy Windows Phone devices because they're risk-takers (wink, wink; nudge, nudge).

The bottom line here is that we can argue specs all day, but it isn't going to get us anywhere. Sure, plenty of phones have better specs than the iPhone 4S, just as the iPhone 4S outclasses the competition in other ways.

Don't buy a phone--any phone--just because it has decent specs. Buy a phone that does what you need it to, when you need it to, and does it well.

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User Rank: Apprentice
10/6/2011 | 3:23:09 PM
re: iPhone Vs Android: It's The Sum, Not The Specs
Good article but it seems to miss a significant point.
Looking at the sum of the hardware, software and ecosystem is great in concept but seldom works for consumer procurement excepting those that have adopted a specific ecosystem and are willing to accept shortcomings in specific areas as long as they can still retain the whole.

As an example, my initial filtering requirements in this area are:
4G or LTE
4" or bigger screen
IOS, Android, WP7+, or RIM

Looking at these as the initial, the 4S does not make the cut on 2 of the 3 required items.
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