We owe a lot to Apple. Indeed, Steve Jobs essentially invented the smartphone and transformed the entire mobile phone industry. But Dave and Rick are kind of over Apple. Find out why they think you might be better off looking elsewhere for your next phone.
Once a month, eHow Tech editor Dave Johnson faces off against Rick Broida, who writes about technology for CNET, PC World, and Wired. Follow along as they tackle this question from opposing corners.
Dave: I’ve been carrying my iPhone 4S around for a couple of years now. Last year, I opted not to get the new iPhone 5, because it really didn’t offer anything new — unless an extra row of icons counts as innovation now. (Does it? I can’t tell anymore.) But, I figure, a year later, we should have something remarkable. What do we get? The iPhone 5s. It’s the iPhone 5, with a faster processor and a fingerprint reader. Hmm. Maybe it’s time to consider that Moto X with the awesome voice recognition. Or the Lumia 1020 and its 41 megapixel camera. Or a tin can with a calculator glued to the side.
Rick: This is going to be one of those extremely rare instances when I agree with you. I’m also an iPhone 4S user who elected to skip the iPhone 5, finding little compelling reason to upgrade. And the 5s is, to my thinking, even less compelling. I don’t need a faster processor in my smartphone. I don’t need a marginally improved camera. And a fingerprint scanner? Neat, but superfluous. Apple has flat-out refused to give me the two things I do need: a bigger screen and better battery life. Sadly, that means I’m probably going to make the move to Android.
Dave: I’m not saying that the new iPhones are bad products or that Apple has whiffed it like Microsoft did with Windows 8. But there’s a lot of competition out there right now, and when Apple only refreshes its phone once a year, it’s in danger of getting lapped by Android, which has new handsets coming out every 20 minutes or so. There are only a few new things in the new iPhone, so let’s consider them one at a time. The biggest news: Touch ID, the fingerprint reader. Kinda cool, right? Waaay more secure than a passcode and a timesaver as well. Apple should get tons of points for this, right? No one else has anything like it.
Rick: It’s cool, definitely, and I will give Apple points for finally showing a little innovation again. I love that I can use the scanner to authorize iTunes purchases and whatnot. On the other hand, I don’t password-protect my iPhone (because it’s with me at home 95 percent of the time), and I don’t find swipe-to-unlock a nuisance. Ultimately, the scanner is one of those features that’s nice, but far from essential. Same goes for the new A7 processor. In fact, I don’t even think it’s particularly nice. Why do we need 64-bit processing power in a smartphone that’s used primarily for Angry Birds, e-mail, texting, and, once in a while, phone calls?
Dave: Woah, woah, woah there, War Horse. Back to the fingerprint scanner. First of all, you’re an anomaly. Just because you are a homeless vagabond living under the city fountain, that doesn’t mean everyone else won’t get a ton of value from Touch ID. Anyone who connects their phone to Microsoft Outlook at the office — and therefore must passcode protect their phone — will want to marry the iPhone 5s. It’ll save literally 6 hours a day of nonstop passcodes and swiping. And I can see the value in 64-bit processing, too. You’re always very myopic when it comes to tech: Just like you railed against color screens on handhelds 10 years ago (“Who needs color?” you cried) can you again not see that mobile devices are morphing into our primary computing platform? In a few years, won’t creative types run Photoshop on their phones and tablets? The 64-bit transition is setting the stage for that. And won’t you get better battery life right now from the new sensor chip, which you failed to mention?
Rick: I know only what Apple tells me, which is that the iPhone 5S has roughly the same battery life as the iPhone 5. You, however, seem to know more than Tim Cook (though you also seem to think people can live under fountains, so there’s an odd disconnect in your intellect). I don’t really care what smartphones will be like in 2037; I only know that right now, in 2013, Apple isn’t giving me the features I want. And as a result, for the first time in my history of iPhone ownership (which dates back to the very first model), I’m eyeballing something else. The thing is, I don’t even like Android. But I sure do like some of the available hardware. I’m not myopic about tech; I merely want the things I want. A fingerprint scanner is not on that list.
Dave: Speaking of things I want, one thing that does seem kind of awesome is the slow-mo video mode on the camera. It shoots 120 frames per second at 720P, and I’ve seen the results — they’re awesome. Shoot video in this mode and you can make eating a slice of pie look like it was shot by Michael Bay. Mmm, pie. You know, the pie has convinced me — I actually want the iPhone 5s. Poo poo it if you like, but compared to my iPhone 4S, it is faster, has a somewhat larger screen, better camera with a slow motion pie mode, fingerprint scanning, and more. I know I started this column on the “meh” side, but I am now considering getting in line for a 5s this weekend.
Rick: Say hello to your fellow fanboy nerds for me, fanboy nerd. Apparently you’re not aware that any number of apps offer a slow-mo mode, so that’s a wash. And don’t overlook Apple’s highly touted burst mode, which, whattaya know, nearly any iPhone user can enjoy once they upgrade to iOS 7. I can have my pie and eat it too with my regular old iPhone 4S. I don’t get why you’re chasing after features that offer little benefit when you can enjoy actual benefits with any number of Android-powered phones. Big, beautiful screens? Check. Removable batteries? Check. Expandable storage? Check. I gave Apple a year to really step up its game, but the 5S is a baby step at best. I wouldn’t wait in line for one if it came with a side of Kate Upton. Well, okay, maybe.
Dave: Sorry, Charlie, don’t try to distract me with Kate Upton. A slo-mo app is hardly a wash. The iPhone 5s offers true cinematic quality 120fps slow motion at 720P — something only achievable with significant computer horsepower. Heck, I am not aware of a single professional-grade digital SLR that offers that feature. Enjoy the choppy, 30 fps slo-mo on the 4S; if you can’t see the difference, that’s like saying James Cameron’s Avatar is equivalent to The Flintstones on a Viewmaster. But all that said, I can see why you’re attracted to Android — heck, I am too. But it’s not the land of milk and honey over there, either. To get bigger screens and better battery, you have to deal with fragmentation; no two phones seem to run the same version of Android. And worse, handset makers load up the phones with an insane amount of junk. Samsung all but ruined the awesome Galaxy S4 with so much uninstallable crapware that there’s almost no room left for your own stuff. Enjoy that eye tracking app that pauses video when you look away. I think that you’ve helped me decide — I’ll be sporting a new iPhone 5s by this time next week.
Rick: I agree there’s a lot of fluffernutter over there, and I must admit I’ve never been a fan of Android itself, even when it’s “pure.” To me the OS has always seemed like it was engineered, not designed — though one could easily argue that fragmentation is actually a good thing: handset makers can improve on the UI. (They can; I didn’t say any actually have.) But let’s forget the OS for now. At this moment in time, I want a phone with a bigger screen. I read lots of books, blogs, news, and the like, and my 44-year-old eyes demand room for larger fonts. Apple doesn’t make a product that suits my current needs. HTC, Samsung, and other companies do. So enjoy your tiny iPhone 5s; my Galaxy S4 (or whatever I end up with) will crush it like a monster truck crushes a Hot Wheel.
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