Smartphone Shootout of 2014: Part 2 of Flagship Phones

One week on and the battlefield has changed. You’ve asked for more and so TwentyFirstTech will answer. Welcome to the second edition of our shoot-out for the phones of 2014. For the first part, click on this link.

First up, the remaining contenders.

1. The LG G2

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This is a really, really solid phone, with an amazing battery life, a 5.2″ full HD screen and the spanking new Snapdragon S800 under the hood. It has been placing near the top of every benchmark tests, but it remains to be seen between this and the iPhone 5s. Users have also been loving the compactness of this device, managing to not be too unwieldy to hold.

As mentioned above, it has the newest processor alongside 2GB of RAM, which puts it right about where every other phone in this shootout is. With a 5.2 inch IPS LCD screen, it has a 423 PPI pixel density and the same brilliant colours that all of its competitors have. However, it stands out because an LCD screen is visible under very bright sunlight which AMOLED counterparts tend to lose out to.

However, LG decided to use on-screen navigation buttons, and an awkward position for the volume and power buttons – right smack at the back of the phone. It’s not particularly user-friendly for people accustomed to typical button set-ups at the side and front of the phone. Most of the users of this phone have simply resorted to using LG’s knock-on ability to switch this phone on, rather than resorting to the rear power button.

It is also sadly built out of plastic, whilst not having any removable parts for expansion of storage or changing battery. Thus, it feels cheap, and does not even give a proper justification of being so, unlike the Galaxy line of phones.

The camera on the G2 is also as good as its counterparts. At 13 MP, it delivers sharp images that aren’t the best all-round performer, and does perform slightly better in low light than the Galaxy S4, but does not impress like the Lumia 1020 does. It even has the same dual shot feature that Samsung pushed forth with the S4, and is not enough to be very distinctive.

Perhaps the most innovative new tech about the G2 is “Audio Zoom” which amplifies the audio of the area you are zooming in on when taking a video. it has produced mixed results and failed to perform well where it mattered when ambient noise was too high.

2. iPhone 5c

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We hesitated to include this phone in the shoot-out because in all technicality it is not a new flagship phone – not a flagship at all, actually. It is last year’s flagship phone repackaged in plastic to market them to a younger, chic audience, and sold like a new one. However, because its price point is only a hundred dollars cheaper than the iPhone 5s, it is still within the price range of a flagship, and costs roughly the same as a G2, so upon much consideration, it should be included here.

Little needs to be said about the 5c because the specs are essentially the same as the iPhone 5, albeit with an upgraded FaceTime camera and colours. It’s display is still  a 4 inch non-full HD retina display at 326 ppi. Its processor is dual core with 1GB of RAM, and is on 32-bit architecture, and it runs with Apple’s spanking new iOS 7.

That’s about as much as we can say about the iPhone 5c, as Apple has withheld any more information about this device.

So we have two new entries that may serve to be a game changer. How does it change the balance of the shoot-out? The LG G2, as said above is a brilliant package, as is the iPhone 5c. Read on more to find out.

All the Android devices in this shootout run on Snapdragon quad-core processors, all have RAM either equalling or north of 2 GB, and all sport 400 PPI 1080P screens. You are not going to go wrong with any of the Android phones listed here. The Apple phones are all underpowered on paper, using seemingly old tech, and lack the technical wizardry that is behind its Android brethren.  The fact is as simple as this. On paper, your phone can be as superior as it can be, with the best and biggest screens, as well as fastest processors, but if the phone lags due to bloatware and poor hardware optimization, there is nothing to crow about any more.

First, however, is a little addendum about power.

Processing Power (updated)

We’ve mentioned how the Android devices all ‘outpace’ the Apple phones. being stuffed with bytes of RAM and having processors clocked at ridiculous speeds. Apple has always decided to travel at their own pace, and it might have paid off. Preliminary benchmark scores show the A7 chip, which powers the iPhone 5s, are outpacing the quad-core Snapdragon counterparts of the Android devices.

Operating System

Android is a great operating system, for developers and users alike. Its open source, available for us to experiment with and come up with a phone we want. We like choice, and we do not need an identity asserted on to us by Apple. It is for this streak of individualism that Android users cherish.

It’s also about being at the forefront of whatever innovators can come up with. You simply cannot expect an iPhone to be loaded with sensors to take pressure, temperature, and humidity, or expect to use both front and rear cameras simultaneously. Android gives you the best of ‘experimental technology’, and the operating system which u can just load your own apps in, play Pokemon on, load music to, and even torrent on.

We’ve talked about the merits of iOS 7 in greater detail in the previous part of the shoot-out, and with iOS 7 just released, we hope you all share our sentiments on how chic and brilliant the new ‘flatness’ of the operating system is.

So at the end, its your choice.

Storage

In a world where everybody increasingly needs more space, the ability to carry just about everything and anything with you on your phone is much appreciated.

It is a pity then that most phone manufacturers charge hundreds of dollars more for flash storage upgrades that are still usually limited to 64 GB. All the iPhones, the G2, and the Lumia 1020 are all limited by built-in memory of up to 64GB. The Samsung phones and Xperia Z1 on the other hand have expandable storage. As a user of the S4, I have never had memory issues, and I really wish all other phones had this.

That being said, online cloud services ensure there is always more than enough data available for consumption. 50GB Dropbox storage has been bundled with Samsung phones for quite some time now, and local telcos regularly tie up with similar cloud services. The advantages of the cloud are enormous, and allow for cross-platform sharing like between my iPad and Galaxy S4 but take up a lot of power and has slow streaming.

So if you really want stuff stored on your phone, Samsung and Sony remain the only way. Major victory scored here.

Battery Life

Honestly, there is just not enough battery on phones these days. For heavy users, they inadvertently run out. That leaves us with two options, one get an external battery pack which is expensive and potentially dangerous, and two, scuttle to the nearest public telephone (which have amazingly disappeared these days) to actually use a phone for what it was invented for.  Of course if you have a Samsung phone, which is the only one with a removable battery, you could always just swap the battery. But none of these options seem too appealing, so which phone can last the longest?

iPhone 5c: 1510 mAh battery, rated at 10h talk time on 3G.

iPhone 5s: 1570 mAh battery, rated at 10h talk time on 3G

Xperia Z1: 3000mAh battery, rated at 15h talk time on 3G.

Nokia Lumia 1020: 2000 mAh battery, rated at 13h 20 min talk time on 3G.

Samsung Galaxy S4: 2600mAh, 14h Talk Time

Samsung Galaxy Note 3: 3200mAh (this has to feed a huge screen)

LG G2: 3000mAh battery, rated at 15h talk time on 3G.

iPhone and Android users have always complained about battery performance, and it looks like that Android is slowly gaining the upper hand here. Devices are coming with larger batteries, and with models like the S4 and Note 3, some even support swapping out batteries. iPhone users meanwhile lament at not being able to last very long when gaming on their devices. Removable batteries aside, Android device makers are coming up with brand new ways to extend battery life.

Take for the example the just released LG G2. Users are reporting phenomenal battery life with this device, managing to get it going for 68 hours and 52 minutes off charger, while having the full HD screen on for 8 hours and having WiFi switched on for majority of the time. Uses were simple web browsing, and some light document editing. This means that Android devices have finally broken through the deadlock of poor battery life and are looking to move on from this point. The S4 has a stellar battery life too, but it pales in comparison to the G2, as is with the Nokia Lumia 1020. The Xperia Z1 has been reported with a 53 hour endurance rating, placing slightly behind the G2.

Not knowing full specs of the Note 3 and Apple devices, we can only speculate that they will probably not take the cake, looking at how the Note 3 needs to support a larger screen and the iOS devices have always been laggards. The winner here is the LG G2.

Wrap-up:

We’ve already declared the winner of this shootout being the iPhone 5s, for reasons we hope have gotten even more apparent here. Thanks to iOS 7 and x64, it is now the fastest phone, the most user-friendly, and although locked into a closed ecosystem, can always be jailbroken. The question is where do the rest of the phones stack up?

We tried to categorize these phones into niches the previous time round but our readers really wanted a decisive verdict. So, it is worth noting that none of these phones are bad choices. They will all give you the bang for your buck. What decides the line-up here is how much you will enjoy your phone.

So, with the dubious distinction of being last place, the Nokia Lumia 1020.

Yes, the Lumia 1020 packs a stellar camera, but at the price of usability. It is not comfortable to be holding a phone with a very pronounced lens bulge in your hand, nor is it easy to slip into pockets. It also lacks processing power like the other devices and has arguably the poorest battery life of these.

In 6th position is the iPhone 5c. At first, it seems to not make any sense at all to purchase the iPhone 5c. In fact, if you have an iPhone 5 right now, you have absolutely no reason to purchase the iPhone 5c. Go and get yourself a nice plastic case instead for quite a bit less money. However, for a slightly cheaper entry point into a very robust operating system, the iPhone 5c makes sense as it will definitely not feel like a slouch at all. It loses to the rest of the phones ranked above this because it simply cannot handle the sort of features we are looking forward to today as it is one generation behind. Yet, kudos to Apple for pushing a 2012 product right into 2014.

In 5th position is the Galaxy S4. With a processor that is still no slouch, though slightly behind the new Snapdragon 800, and a whole host of features that are great to show to your friends, nobody will call you dumb to buy a Galaxy S4, mainly because of the price drop. It does however, have a smaller battery and older CPU and GPU, which in the long run may cost S4 owners. Not only that, the S4 is likely going to be replaced by the S5 in a couple of months, and that is why it will soon fade out against the fantastic competition.

This is where it gets tight. LG G2, Note 3, and Xperia Z1 are brilliant phones. In fact, if one is an Android die-hard, the BEST phones out there. We decided to give the LG G2 fourth spot. While it has a brilliant battery life, it fails to stand out in any category. It is simply a jack of all trades. If you want size, you go for the Note 3. If you want a powerful camera, and ability to severely manhandle your device, you go for the Xperia Z1.

3rd position goes to the Xperia Z1. Actually, if you are not a fan of the phablet concept, this should jolly well be second only to the iPhone 5s. The shots taken from this phone are stunning, its processor is blistering fast, its interface is not as complicated as Samsung’s TouchWiz, and it can be pushed hard to its physical limits. We have not seen such a strong showing from Sony for a long while, and we are thoroughly impressed.

It’s hard to place a phone ahead of the Xperia Z1, but the Note 3 takes this one by a hair whisker. By serving both the needs of a phone and a tablet, and being compatible with a watch right out of a sci-fi movie, the Note 3 is what Android is all about. A playground for technological wizardry where S Pen movements can create windows for apps out of nothing, and Graphs can be made with a few S Pen taps,  it is an open ceiling for exploration. Combined with all the small incremental upgrades Samsung has put in throughout their product launches, this brilliant Snapdragon 800  Device will be the one to beat for 2014, unless of course you are willing to give the iPhone 5s a shot.

And, as said previously, the king is still the iPhone 5s. All in all it provides the greatest package, managing to look and perform brilliantly. Granted it is not as sturdy or a good shooter as the Z1, or does not pack a five inch screen like the rest, it still is the best overall device, unless you dislike iOS.

If you are willing to do so, be prepared for the fastest, smoothest, and most beautiful phone out there that will not leave you wanting. No, not even for more RAM, a faster processor, or a gigantic lens sticking out the back of the phone. What would be the point? All I’d ask for is a 5′ screen.

A phone like that, however, would be disappointing. There would simply be no contest.

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