September 20th was the official launch of the new iPhones 5C and 5S and just prior to it’s release every tech site and news site all rushed to get out their verdicts on the new models. For the most part all the reviews were positive. It’s really hard to argue with Apple’s solid hardware designs and reliable and vast App Store but every single review I read dinged Apple on one common thing – screen size. The rumors were all abuzz with a larger screen for the iPhone but all proved to be untrue. Android has toppled iOS in worldwide market share in large part due to affordable designs and big and bigger screen sizes. It’s the same game that has played out year after year whether it’s TVs, laptops, or smartphones. What’s lost here is the value of true functionality, portability, and ultimately purpose. The purpose being that of a smartphone. By definition a smartphone is limited by size because of it’s inherent requirement to be portable but size can also limit functionality. How do you define and strike the right balance of portability, functionality, and features? That’s ultimately the debate in play in the smartphone market with ever increasing screen sizes. Personally I define it one way with one question. Can you fully operate the device in one hand? This is precisely the marketing ploy Apple baits us with. Most people can touch their thumb anywhere on the iPhones’ screen without having to readjust the phone in any way with another hand. This simple subtle fact I believe is at the core of the very purpose of a smartphone. In my opinion if it takes two hand to operate it then just save you money for a full blown tablet. Don’t be swayed by giant phone screens unless you just don’t care about portability. Make the overall experience your priority. I do believe there’s a market for larger screens sans the Galaxy Note 3‘s 5.7″ display but I treat that market as really the outer fringe of the tablet market. Even Samsung knows the Note’s screen is a stretch that’s why they’re solely paring it with the Samsung Gear smartwatch for now. Gee I wonder if the smartwatch market will play out the same way? Will we soon be toiling over whether 1.3″, 1.6″, or 2″ is the proper screen size for the smartwatch?
My title is a tad misleading. Specs do matter but I’m gonna offer up only the one or two that matter most. Let’s assume for now you’ve selected your operating system and form factor of either smartphone or tablet. In the smartphone category you’re generally looking at screen sizes between 3.5″ to 5″. Tablets generally range between 7″ to 10″. There’s also a goofy category informally known as Phablets that fall in between these two categories. After screen sizes you’re bombarded with a bevy of software features, hardware options, and naturally long lists of tech specs and benchmark ratings to comb through before making a purchase. If you’re purchasing a middle to top tier device (by price) let me save you some trouble and tell you that you can assume generally good processing speed and graphics performance from most devices. I’m trying to stay away from confusing you with geeky technical specs but must now dive into one spec a bit to illustrate this point. The iPhone 5 uses a dual core processor that clocks in somewhere around 1.3 GHz. By comparison the new Samsung Galaxy S4 (man that’s a mouthful of a name) carries a 1.9 GHz quad core processor. Translation- the S4 blows the processing power of the iPhone out of the water by a mile. With this said let this geek who’s made the iPhone 5 his primary smart device vouch that not once, not even for performance sapping games, have I ever felt even a slightest lag in performance. I doubt seriously I would notice a difference with Samsung’s processor in my iPhone. It’s always snappy and reliable except of course when AT&T is throttling me. Criminals. Read More
I’m going to assume that you’ve already made you mind up on taking the Android plunge or already have and want to upgrade or add a device (smartphone/tablet). With this in mind my advice will be succinctly simple; buy a flagship device. Every device manufacturer will have one that easily rises above all others in prestige, options, marketing, and of course price. Can’t afford one? Save until you can. Why? Again very simple, because of support. Many device manufacturers customize the basic Android software for their phones or tablets. Why is debatable, what’s important is these are usually device specific customizations so if you want to stay current on software and updates your best bet is to simply stick with a flagship phone because theoretically they will be treated with top priority regarding support and software updates. Not sure which manufacturer to go with and whose customization is the best then please visit CNET.com to access indepth reviews for best cell phones and best tablets. One last piece of advice go hands on with one at a store and play with the interface and see what suits you best. It might be worth noting my personal opinion is that the one who pays most attention to the quality of hardware cares the most about your experience. With that in mind my personal favs right now are the HTC One smartphone with it’s svelte aluminum body and the Nexus 7 tablet for it’s pure Android experience and its killer price to feature ratio.
Updated 5/8/13: It’s pretty much become a two horse race on the Android smartphone front between Samsung and HTC (that is until Motorola shows itself again since being purchased by Google). Check out this great article pitting both manufacturer’s flagship phones head to head-HTC ONE vs Samsung Galaxy S4.
Swipus [swipe-us] – is a condition brought on through prolonged use of touch devices. Affected persons are prone to unconscious periods of unlocking smartphone or tablet screens and swiping aimlessly through various home screens with no destination in mind. Most people are carriers and go undiagnosed.