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A Guide to iPhone 5 Alternatives - Apple's Not the World

Apple's Not the World: Guide to iPhone 5 Alternatives

Apple's Not the World: Guide to iPhone 5 Alternatives

Now that the sparkly-new iPhone 5 has been unveiled and is soon to be available locally, the hype has mellowed down somewhat (or not). With pre-orders and registration of interest web-links (M1, StarHub, Singtel) popping up a couple of days ago and 21st September just days ahead, the question on a potential smartphone buyer's mind is: Should I be revisiting or jumping onto the Apple/iOS 6 bandwagon? What are the pros and cons? To recap, here's a quick list of the iPhone 5's key features:

 Apple iPhone 5: Notable Features

  • Apple A6 processor 
  • 4.0-inch TFT IPS / 1136 x 640 pixels
  • 8-megapixel / BSI sensor / f 2.4
  • Siri
  • iOS 6
  • Supports LTE and DC-HSDPA  

But hang on for a second. If you are one of those still divided over whether the newly-released iPhone 5 is indeed your cup of tea, we hope to give you more information and options to assist in your decision-making process. For one, there's a gazillion Android alternatives. On the other hand, there's the understated but certainly growing pool of Windows Phone 8-powered devices, including announced Samsung Ativ S and unannounced HTC 8X, 8V and 8V devices. Here's a quick primer on the former:

The Android pool has been a decidedly convoluted lot, with manufacturers launching devices with different specs, screen sizes, even different OS revisions. On top of that, many of these Android smartphones pack their own special features or give the phone a unique user interface. For starters, let's take a quick look at the hardware aspects first. Typically these days, a top-tier Android smartphone comes with a 4.6 to 4.8-inch touch screen (1280 x 720 pixels resolution), Android 4.0 or Android 4.1 OS, a quad-core processor and a 8-megapixel camera. As a point of reference, iPhones, with the exception of the iPhone 5, traditionally come with 3.5-inch screens, which is much smaller than the average Android smartphone:

Additionally, there's a growing pool of Android devices that cross the boundary between smartphones and tablets. These "phablets", as we call them, are primarily differentiated by their 5-inch or larger touch screens with telephony functions. As of now, Korean manufacturers LG and Samsung are the only players in this market:

The phones mentioned above are considered top of the line at the moment of publication, just like how the iPhone 5 is considered Apple's flagship phone. Taking that into consideration, some of the above mentioned devices can also be considered as iPhone alternatives, despite large discrepancies in their hardware specifications. In this article however, we have tried to match the iPhone to the latest phones with the closest specs as possible; if there isn't any suitable, we've considered the phone's date of release and popularity into consideration (in the case of the Samsung Galaxy S III as you'll soon read below).

Without further ado, here are our five alternatives to the iPhone 5:

 

Nokia Lumia 920

In Summary:

For now, Nokia Lumia 920 is the current poster boy for the Windows Phone 8 platform (WP8). There's plenty to like about the Finnish company's flagship WP8 device, including its big 4.5-inch Pure Motion HD+ display (768 x 1280 resolution), 8.7-megapixel, camera with Pureview technology/F2.0 aperture lens and its integrated Qi-standard wireless charging feature.

The new display called the "Pure Motion HD+" will, according to Nokia, allegedly provide "better than HD resolution", fast refresh rates, and above average and intuitive daylight viewing capabilities. While the Pureview technology featured in Lumia 920 might not be identical to its 41-megapixel cousin, the Nokia 808 PureView, it promises optical image stabilization. Smartphones typically features digital image stabilization, which boosts ISO sensitivity, resulting in noise and softness from the noise reduction process. In Nokia Lumia 920's case, the camera counters unnecessary hand movement by moving the entire camera module as well.

If you are looking to switch over to the WP8 platform, we say: put your money on the Lumia 920 - at least until better devices present themselves.

Check out our news article here.

Pricing and Availability

Both phones will be available in LTE and HSPA+ versions and are expected to start shipping in select markets later in the year. Nokia has mentioned that they will announce pricing and specific roll-out dates country by country.

Samsung Galaxy S III

In Summary:

Next in line: the Samsung Galaxy S III. Some have called it the definitive Android smartphone of 2012, but we would rather let its specs (and crazy sales figures) talk.

The flagship Android device comes with a 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED screen, one of the best in the market, exhibiting crisp details, true blacks and superb viewing angles under sunlight. Its 8-megaxpixel camera fares well too; the only dent in its "performance" probably lies in the fact that it does not come with a F2.0 lens like the HTC One X. The icing on top of the cherry would be in its extended battery life of 9 hours 45 minutes, the best that we have seen thus far in our mobile battery tests.

The advanced software additions are on the whole welcomed, with a few exceptions striking us as gimmicky (Pop-up Play, S Voice) and require more polish (S Voice). Otherwise, the TouchWiz UI and Android 4.04 OS worked in tandem here to provide an overall pleasant and smooth user experience. Factor in its powerful quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM and plenty of storage space (and expandability via microSD or Dropbox), you have in your hands a smartphone that runs as smooth as silk with a large reserve to store whatever multimedia files you need to tow along.

To add on, the Galaxy S III will be one of the first Android 4.0 devices to get the Jelly Bean update in October, with its siblings, Galaxy S II and Galaxy Note, alleged to receive it in Q4. Check out the leaked video of the official Android 4.1 ROM running on the S III in the meantime.

Check out our full review here.

Pricing and Availability

The 16GB Galaxy S III (S$998) is now available at all three telcos. Right now, the phone is only available in three shades, Pebble Blue, Marble White and Garnet Red, in Singapore. There are currently a total of six shades, the other three being Sapphire Black, Titanium Grey and Amber Brown, with availability dependent on different regions and carriers. Check its latest prices here.

For those looking to jump onto the LTE bandwagon, the Android 4.1-ready LTE variant with a quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM, will be available from end September at the same price of S$998 in two colors: Marble White and Titanium Grey.

Motorola Razr Maxx

In Summary:

The dual-core Motorola Razr Maxx might not come with the latest specs but it has one thing going for it in an increasingly mobile world: its extra long battery life - nearly double the capacity of other devices in its category. Regardless, we consider the device a solid Android smartphone in spite of competition from the likes of ASUS, HTC and Samsung.

There are other things we liked about the Razr Maxx, take for one, its Kevlar fibre back cover which should be able to better withstand the wear and tear of daily usage than most of its competitors clad in plastic shells. Its Super AMOLED Advanced display is one of the best in the market, delivering rich and vibrant colors for great multimedia consumption on-the-go.

On the software side of things, it is to Motorola's benefit that it didn't tweak the user interface too much, resulting in an almost "pure Google experience" that will give Android purists a compelling alternative to the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. While the UI isn't tinkered much, Motorola augments the software suite with SMART ACTIONS app and MotoCast service which are great add-ons that enhance the user experience on the Razr Maxx. To further entice users, it also comes with 10 free EA game titles that can be downloaded when made available.

More importantly, the Razr Maxx offers the best battery life among smartphones right now and it is likely to remain so in the near future. What's even more remarkable is that the phone is still considered thin by today's standards despite packing a 3,300mAh battery - double the capacity of some of its competitors.

Check out our full review here.
 

Pricing and Availability

The Motorola Razr Maxx is available in Singapore at S$749. Check its latest prices here.

HTC One S

In Summary:

The middle sibling of the popular HTC One series, the dual-core HTC One S is not just a good looker; its slim metal unibody with anodized finish has been extremely well-crafted and it's no exaggeration to say that it is one of the best-looking phones out there. To add on, it comes with a 4.3-inch qHD Super AMOLED touch screen and well-rounded performance, despite operating on a rather outdated dual-core S3 Snapdragon chipset. Its camera capabilities might not be the best of the 8-megapixel devices available in the market, but it is rather decent to say the least (with room for improvements).

Of course, the HTC One S comes with Android 4.0 and HTC Sense 4.0 - we have to add that Sense 4.0 is at its best in years, and HTC certainly deserves some praise for streamlining and refining the Sense UI to work in tandem with Android 4.0. The plus point is, the HTC One S, along with the HTC One X/XL, will be getting an Android 4.1 update soon.

If you have a bigger budget to work with and prefer for better performance/camera capabilities, you can turn to its quad-core sibling, the HTC One X (S$898). For LTE connectivity, there's the dual-core HTC One XL ($998).

Check out our full review of the HTC One S here.

Pricing and Availability

From 21st July onwards, customers have the option to purchase the HTC One S with or without Beats Solo Headset, at S$748 and S$948 respectively. Check its latest prices here.

 

 

Sony Xperia Ion

In Summary:

While Sony Mobile has mostly been a small step behind its smartphone competitors, their dual-core, 4.55-inch Sony Xperia Ion isn't a pushover.

Design-wise, Sony has always made classy-looking phones and is, in our opinion, second to HTC in terms of churning out classy-looking phones. The Sony Xperia Ion sports the same angular build that is found on the NXT series, boasts good build quality, feels sturdy and well-protected. 

The Xperia Ion offers buttery-smooth performance with no lags whatsoever from our time with the device. The same can be said for its 12MP camera as it fared sufficiently well in our opinion despite higher levels of noise. Its 4.55-inch Bravia-supported screen showcased crisp details, good viewing angles with adequate brightness even under sunlight. We must add that the user interface looks pretty decent and efforts to make it more cosmetically appealing can be clearly seen throughout the UI.

The only dent in its overall performance is in its battery test results, in which lasted only 240 minutes in our formal video-looping battery test. We pinpointed the battery performance discrepancy to the non-usage of an AMOLED screen, which resulted in higher battery consumption. Fortunately, its day-to-day battery performance expectations are pretty much in-line with most other comparable devices and is able to last a full day.

Check out our full review here.

Pricing and Availability

The Sony Xperia Ion is available in Singapore at S$798. Check its latest prices here.

 

For those who prefer to compare it spec-to-spec:

 

  Apple iPhone 5  Nokia Lumia 920 Samsung Galaxy S III Motorola Razr Maxxx HTC
One S
Sony Xperia Ion
Processor  Apple A6 Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Dual-core 1.5GHz  Cortex-A9
Quad-core 1.4GHz
TI OMAP 4430 Dual-core 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 Dual-core 1.7GHz  Qualcomm Dual-Core S3 1.5 GHz  
Operating System Apple iOS 6 Windows Phone 8 Google
Android 4.0 (upgradeable to 4.1)
Google
Android 4.0
Google
Android 4.0
Google
Android 2.3 (upgradeable to 4.0)
Storage Capacity 16GB / 32GB / 64GB 32GB / 7GB free SkyDrive storage 16/32/64GB / microSD up to 64GB 16GB / microSD 
expandable up to 32GB
16GB 13.2GB (up to 12.9GB user-accessible memory) / microSD
expandable up to 32GB
Display Size + Resolution  
4.0-inch TFT IPS /
1136 x 640 pixels
4.5-inch Pure Motion HD+ / 1280 x 768 pixels 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED / 1280 x 720 pixels 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Advanced / 960 x 540 pixels 4.3-inch Super AMOLED / 960 x 540 pixels 4.55-inch LED-backlit LCD / 1280 x 720 pixels
Camera 8-megapixel / BSI Sensor / f 2.4   8.7-megapixel / Pureview technology 8 megapixel / Autofocus / Flash & Zero Shutter Lag / BIS 8-megapixel / LED flash / 1080p video recording 8-megapixel / Autofocus / BSI Sensor / 1080p HD video recording 12-megapixel / Autofocus / LED flash
Battery  N.A. 2000mAh /  integrated Qi wireless charging 2100mAh 3300mAh 1650mAh 1900mAh
LTE Support Yes Yes (dependent on region) Yes (dependent on region) No No Yes (dependent on region)
Price at Launch  S$948 (16GB) S$1088 (32GB) S$1238 (64GB) N.A. S$998 S$749 S$748
S$948 (with Beats Solo Headset)
S$798