iPhone 4S vs. Galaxy Nexus - A (mostly) Unbiased Review

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by gblax, Nov 20, 2011.

  1. gblax macrumors newbie

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    Jun 18, 2010
    #1
    Hi, I want to preface by saying that I will try to remain as unbiased as possible in this review, but I felt compelled to write it for those of you with shiny new iPhone 4S's (or 4's or 3GS's) who may be feeling a bit of Android envy with the release of the Galaxy Nexus (as I was). I have owned a 4S 32GB since launch day, an iPhone 4 before that, and I generally enjoy using Apple products, but by no means am I a fanboy.

    I am in the UK on business and I had been reading the (mostly) stellar reviews of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Although I had no problems with the 4S, it simply has not been the quantum leap I was hoping for, so I scratched the itch and went out to Phones4U to see what the hype was about. I have only ever used Android devices in passing, and have never owned one before this. After spending a few minutes with the device, I decided to shell out the GBP 530 (!!) for an unlocked device to try it out for myself.

    As I eagerly unboxed the behemoth device, my first thought was "I can't believe how light this is." I was shocked at how feather-light the device felt in hand, almost to a fault. As many have mentioned with the Samsung devices, although their build quality is good, it almost seemed too flimsy compared to the satisfyingly solid feel of the iPhone. I'm telling you, it's hard to appreciate the difference without holding them both side-by-side.

    Other than my reservations with the build-quality, the first several hours of use with the phone were pure bliss. The enormous screen looks absolutely fantastic, especially compared to the tiny 4S screen I have gotten used to. I found the keyboard to be excellent, and the People HUB for contacts was great. Text was sharp and crisp. I was skeptical that the Roboto font I'd read so much about would actually make a difference, but it honestly was quite pleasing to read. Watching movies or Youtube clips was truly great on the 720p display, as they really popped on Samsung's screen.

    As for the camera, when they say zero shutter-lag, they really mean it, as the phone took pictures instantly. Unfortunately, this did have some consequences, which I will come to in a minute. I also liked the ability to share via Twitter, Facebook, Picasa or a multitude of other services right from the camera app. In fact, this ability is present across the OS, and I found this really useful. I have long-since gotten used to taking a picture, closing the camera, opening an App, fiddling around until I found the upload menu, and attaching the picture. Android is much more seamless in this regard.

    I have long-sought for iOS to have the level of customization that Android has, and I had a blast customizing the crap outta the phone to my desire. Widgets are also really great, as it requires far less taps and touches to see Facebook updates, Twitter messages, and new email than the iPhone.

    Alas, the honeymoon with this phone would be short-lived. I was disappointed that the phone only had 16GB, but that is the only capacity currently available, and I found that I soon ran out of space by the time I loaded some music, apps and videos on to the phone. Understanding this limitation, it was by no means a deal-breaker, but then some of the software problems really started to creep in.

    Having used the silky-smooth iPhone for several years now, I really couldn't believe that a device that had a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM and software tailored specifically for the device was still lagging and locking up. JT on The Verge claims that this device is stutter-free, but I really didn't find this to be the case at all. Even swiping between homescreens was not a lag-free experience, which I found to be very annoying in practice. Again, it wasn't as bad as other Android phones I have used, but it was by no means as crisp as the iPhone. This is true in many of the tasks on the phone, from scrolling, pinch-to-zoom, and even typing on the keyboard. I was reminded of iOS 3.xx when the keyboard would lag behind a few keystrokes before catching up to what I was typing.

    And back to the camera - although the shutter lag manages to best the 4S ever so slightly, I found that many of the pictures I was taking were very slightly out of focus and lacked the level of clarity that the 4S's camera has garnered much praise for. I would honestly prefer the extra millisecond or two to properly focus a shot instead of having blurry pictures. Also, after the initial wow-factor of the 720p screen, I still found the iPhone screen to be crisper and sharper. Although you can't necessarily see individual pixels on the Galaxy Nexus display, it just didn't seem to have the same level of clarity I have gotten used to in the iPhone.

    I could go on and on about other seemingly little things that bugged me about the software, but I suppose it really depends on your level of comfort with Android. I just prefer the seamless and smooth experience of the iPhone, with hardware and software designed top to bottom to just work.

    This next part was really the deal-breaker for me, and the reason I won't be keeping the Galaxy Nexus. I went in to this experiment really looking forward to having a larger screen and more real estate to play with, and while I definitely appreciated the extra size, I really found the device in general to simply be too big. I know this is a matter of personal preference, but I found myself constantly having to operate the device with two hands. I had gotten used to being able to effectively operate the iPhone using one hand, but I nearly dropped the Nexus on several occasions because I was trying to reach that extra half-inch to access a menu or tap an icon. Granted, I don't have huge hands, but by by no means would I consider myself to have below-average sized hands, so I would imagine this would be a problem for many out there.

    The other main factor of my decision to go back to my iPhone was the ecosystem. I believe that Google is well on its way to challenging iOS in terms of a cohesive and extensive marketplace for Apps, but I found myself eager to manage my Apps, music, and pictures with iTunes. As poor of a piece of software I find iTunes to be at times, it really is the easiest way to manage the system, and I simply couldn't find a comparable solution for the Nexus. Also, as awful as I've found the 4S's battery life (eagerly awaiting the 5.0.2 to fix this), the Galaxy Nexus simply sucked in this department. After a few texts, some light web-browsing and playing some music, I found the battery down a full 25% in about an hour. This, in conjunction with the multitude of small annoyances with the software, has been enough to convince me that Android is just not quite ready to earn my money.

    Now that I've written a book about my experience, I will be switching back to my iPhone and the level of comfort I have developed with that device. I really, really wanted to fall in love with the Galaxy Nexus and sell the 4S, but I can't shake the notion that I would find myself regretting that decision fairly quickly. If you have any feedback I would love to hear it. For you Android-lovers out there, please try to convince me why I should keep the device... I still find myself itching to give it another chance. As it stands, I plan on returning the phone sometime this week, or selling the GSM HSPA+ phone once I get back to the States. Thanks for reading!
     
  2. El3ctronics macrumors 65816

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    #2
    Appreciate the review. I have the iPhone 4S now but honestly don't see much a difference b/w it and the 4. I've been getting that same itch to try out the Galaxy Nexus and the reviews so far have been great. Interesting to hear the thoughts from an iPhone user.
     
  3. orpheus1120 macrumors 65816

    orpheus1120

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    #3
    I still have a Samsung galaxy s2. I too was amazed by the sheer speed and response from the phone, and the amount of customization offered by android. However one thing to note about most android phones with screens > 4" and AMOLED technology is that battery life sucks big time. You probably won't notice this until a couple of days after fully setting up the phone and go about your daily usage. But in my experience, samsung's bloatwares will quickly kick into motion, and soon you will feel just how much it sucks up all the battery juice.

    No offense, but I do love the screen real estate and android technology. I love the specs of these recent 4"+ AMOLED android phones. But what's the point of having a 100% charged phone when you sleep and waking up with 60% left when you wake up 8 hours later? I had to charge that fellow twice during work. It's impossible to go through my day with stock ROM with all those crazy Samsung bloatwares. I'm still an active member at the XDA forum, and despite going through various custom ROMs, getting rid of battery-sucking bloatwares and customizations, I'm still not getting better battery life than my iPhone 4 or 4S, despite what many fellow members had shown and prophesied. I had to lower the screen brightness till 10%, and then think to myself... "WTF am I lowering the brightness of this beautiful AMOLED screen? Doesn't it just defeat the whole purpose of owning one?" But lowering it I did, because I had to conserved battery life. Battery life conservation has become almost a ritual for android users, and custom ROMs have been built with this primary mission in mind, to a fault in some extend. I would swop ROMs just as soon as a newer version is out, calibrate my battery, reload all my apps etc. Then it comes to a point when you ask yourself if you have been spending more time customizing the phone than actually using the phone? If you think the iPhone's battery sucks, wait till you really use an android AMOLED phone. These gorgeous screens just take up too much juice to power up. I have since stop customizing my SGS2 now because I realized it has diminishing returns. Unless battery technology improves quadruply, I will rather stick to a walled-garden OS the iPhone has to offered, because I can assure you, your amazement for android power specs will soon be drenched in disappointment like a galloping horse. IMHO, the iPhone though lacking in customization stock-wise, and a smaller screen, it more than make up for it with well thought out user experience, ecosystem, system management (that includes battery management) and quicker firmware updates (samsung has at least 4 different firmwares for SGS2 for different continents, and they are slow to update).

    Well, that's my thought. I'm not an android hater because like I said, I'm still using one with Pulser's villianrom. Android is just not for me. Samsung's tantalizing hardware specs quickly lost its appeal to me, because like Steve Jobs said.. Technology itself is not enough.
     
  4. miggitymac macrumors 6502a

    miggitymac

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    #4

    No offence, but the OP was a review of the Galaxy Nexus. What made you think that adding your own review of a completely different phone and OS (i.e. not ICS) would be relevant?
     
  5. gblax thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #5
    orpheus, thanks for the response - I agree with much of what you said. By no means am I against a larger screen. When compared to a Galaxy Nexus, I think the SGII is a much more manageable form factor. The 4.65 inch display on the GN is just a bit too big for me personally. I think a 3.8 - 4 inch display is really the sweet spot. As the companies seem to be competing for the biggest and highest resolution display, I think their focus should be on creating the best display at the best size from a user-experience point of view.

    Further, you're so spot on with your assessment of battery life. I realize that current technology is a limiting factor, but one would hope that we soon shouldn't have to make such sacrifices in order to enjoy the features of these devices.

    I think Jen-Hsun Huang recently made mention of a marked improvement in battery life coming with the Tegra 3. Coupled with the quad-core processor speed and the ever-improving Android experience, I can see the devices of 2012 really upping the ante for Google.

    This is another reason that the Galaxy Nexus is among the last of the current generation of Android devices, despite its next-gen software. If any iOS users are really considering a switch to Android, I would still advise to wait. Although it seems like the next best thing is always just around the corner with Android (such will always be the case it seems), I do believe that the Galaxy Nexus just doesn't do enough to maximize the potential of Android. Maybe the quad-core phones of 2012 will make the battle between operating systems a bit more compelling
     
  6. orpheus1120 macrumors 65816

    orpheus1120

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    #6
    Because the fault is not in the hardware, but the software and system integration in general. Thus regardless of what the hardware is, the experience is mostly similar. My comment may seemingly be out of point, but it does relate very much to how the galaxy nexus will perfor, since I'm pointing out how android and system bloatwares will kill the appeal of hardware features.
     
  7. miggitymac macrumors 6502a

    miggitymac

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    #7
    Actually the Nexus lineup is supposed to be bloatware free (although, maybe not in the UK at the moment). Also, ICS is said to be the strong point of the Galaxy Nexus with the hardware leaving room for desire. In fact, some reviewers like Josh at the Verge gave ICS a perfect "10/10"...a rating that he didn't even give iOS (despite being a fan of the iPhone).

    That was the point of my prior post...your previous notions of Android aren't really applicable to ICS. It's like saying Windows 7 sucks because Windows Vista sucked.
     
  8. orpheus1120, Nov 20, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2011

    orpheus1120 macrumors 65816

    orpheus1120

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    #8
    As was touted when Nexus One came out, and gingerbread came out. Yet, look what happened? Battery life still suck. You see, the whole point is not about gingerbread, or even ICS. I'm sure ICS will be an improvement in android OS, and further integration of tablet and phone OS into one flavour. But the problem lies in android itself, and its partnership with manufacturers. First of all, Google couldn't negotiate with manufacturers to come out with phones that don't ship with manufacturers' bloatwares. These bloatwares will suck up battery life in no time. Trust me, I know. I own the Nexus One, and SGS2. Secondly, as more manufacturers try to outcompete one another in market shares, instead of touting better ecosystem and system integration, they do the shortcuts which is to offer the best technology the current time offers, which as the current trend shows, is bigger AMOLED screens. They upgraded the rams to 1gb, they have huge screens that take too much battery life to power up, and people start saying "yeah that's good". Sure it does look good initially. But is it as good as it looks?

    Current battery technology just couldn't support huge AMOLED screens for adequate daily usage, no matter how well the OS is written. Being android, and the inherent often touted feature of true multi-tasking coupled with sleek, thin phones means battery life will be the compromising factor. Manufacturers have no idea how by emphasizing hardwares will inherently impede user experience. You can't blame them because all of us are so engrossed with having the next best powerful gadget, hardware-wise. Understand this, behind all the fancy hardware specs there is always a catch somewhere, as are all things in life. It's either the softwares supporting them that's not up to par, or battery life is lacking. If you have used an android phone, you will know this. ICS is still fundamentally android. It is not stripped to the core and rewritten. Therefore I don't care how anyone might phrase it, but being Google and knowing its approach in the phone business, I know one thing for sure:- battery life will be compromised unless technology is improved and/or android can be streamlined to work with different hardwares in tantrum. Therefore I don't think ICS will matter in the grander scheme of Android. Android is akin to microsoft. Not matter how big it is, it just lack tastes.

    ICS does not matter. When all the excitement settles, comes a few months and reread this thread again, and see how much of what we wrote make sense. I'm not going into an argument about which is better, because I already know the answer. If you haven't try an android phone, go grab one like gblax did. Try ICS for yourself, and pardon me for not willing to go into an argument, which is mainly due to my inability to coherently put my thoughts into words. If I can summon all my mortal intellect to sum up my thoughts about android, it would be:- the user experience is just... lacking in android. That's all I have to say.

    PS: Perhaps someone should ask "Josh at the Verge" to include his impression about galaxy nexus' battery performance after he has used it for a few days. As of his writing, he did not really played with the phone more than a few hours before he wrote the article.
     
  9. entatlrg macrumors 68040

    entatlrg

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  10. Lotso macrumors 6502

    Lotso

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    #10
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 5_0_1 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/534.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.1 Mobile/9A405 Safari/7534.48.3)

    Very open minded and refreshing review! I wish I could put my thoughts into words as well as you did.
     
  11. gblax thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #11
    No problem, thanks for reading!

    You're too kind - I think it was sort of therapeutic to put my opinion into words. If you have any questions please ask!
     
  12. naths macrumors 6502

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    #12
    well if yours was a stuttery one,u couldn't have set it up right!!,had my nexus for a couple of days now,and in my opinion everything it does is just that bit snappier than my 4S,i think that its a really fast bit of kit,ICS is great,and if this what the Dual-cores do with ICS,the Quad-cores in Jan/feb will be something else!!!...very impressed with it,going to stick with the Nexus now,IOS still looks the same as it did in 2007,yep....i know its moved on,but its now very very stale...ICS is a revalation in Android,and ok you lot are obviously mostly against Android and in particular Samsung,my Nexus isn't made of Glass,aluminium etc,but the thing won't shatter if i drop it,it might scratch but certainly won't shatter,i'v dropped and broken 3 iPhone 4s in the last year...im on first name terms with the phone insurance people!!!..lol
     
  13. gblax thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #13
    Interesting that you've had a different experience than me with your GN. Perhaps I didn't do enough reading, but I'm curious how yours was set up differently than mine. I didn't add much other than a few apps and widgets, and kept the device pretty barebones and more or less 'stock'. Can you elaborate on how you 'set it up'?

    I have no bias for or against Samsung, I just thought this particular device felt too flimsy for lack of a better word. You're probably right in terms of shattering though, I definintely did not get the impression that the GN would shatter like an iPhone if dropped.
     
  14. TM WAZZA macrumors 68000

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    #14
    Excellent, honest review.

    When you got used to the 4.65" screen and you went back to the iPhone did it feel so so tiny? I know I felt like that when I had my SGS2. I couldn't stand the iPhone's size... Then I went back to a Nokia dumb phone which has like a 2" screen when I sold my SGS2, now I have an iPhone and it made it feel normal again. :)
     
  15. gblax thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #15
    I think moving from 4.65" back to any device would make it feel tiny, and such was definitely the case with going back to the iPhone. I had a newfound appreciation for how much easier it was to handle the iPhone in day-to-day use however.

    I guess that's part of the appeal of Android - you aren't locked into one screen size. My ideal screen would be in the realm of 4 inches I think.

    I know what you mean about the 2 inch screen, my fallback phone is an old Nokia as well. Hard to believe it wasnt so long ago that playing snake was a compelling feature for phones!
     
  16. SilentLoner macrumors 65816

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    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 5_0_1 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/534.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.1 Mobile/9A405 Safari/7534.48.3)

    I love that game
     
  17. naths macrumors 6502

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    #17
    yep i know what you mean by flimsy,after the solid weight of the 4S,iv had android before,installed a after market app killer,some say not to but iv always found it just made the phone quicker...used the stock apps that come with the phone,and installed my usual apps from before,...no problem with lag or anything...
     
  18. SR45 macrumors 65832

    SR45

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    #18
    Many thanks for the review OP, and I to, with the Galaxy S2 that I had for a day, that went back for two reasons, one being it was too darn big, and I have big hands. 4 inch screen is all that I would need and Apple will probably address that with the iPhone 5 next year.

    Thanks again. Glad to see some members do not care for such a large screen that one needs two hands to use, not to mention for me anyway, it feels silly/uncomfortable holding it to my ear. :D
     
  19. TM WAZZA macrumors 68000

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    #19
    Try the Galaxy Note, it will make every phone appear tiny. :)
     
  20. Edge1978 macrumors 6502

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  21. Vegastouch macrumors 603

    Vegastouch

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    #21
    To the OP,

    I really dont care if you keep it or not and that isnt a shot at you but i cant convince, nor do i want to convince you to keep it.

    You have been using iTunes for 4 years or so now and you are used to it so im only guessing that you just arent familiar with how many ways you can intregrate Android with music and other things. Me, i hate iTunes so i dont have a problem in that regard.
    The biggest thing to me about the Nexus is not having a microcard slot. I really like that but it is also the phone that gets software updates first so if it needs an update to alleviate whatever lag glitch there is in ICS, it will come to that phone first.


    As for the iphone, i just cant use that 3.5 screen after using my 4" screen. Great phone dont get me wrong and it would be perfect if they upped the screen size and allowed customization like Android does. Oh and they have another way to do things than just using that crap iTunes.
     
  22. iSayuSay macrumors 68030

    iSayuSay

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    #22
    Hmm ... nice review, but to me in short this means: Spec doesn't mean everything, Android.

    Even "the most amazing Android .. yet" actually not lag-free, crash-free.
    By any means I love Apple, but no fanboy and I don't mind changing my course if something else is better, but truly, they're not. :D

    Just like by having V12 car engine doesn't make it totally better than V8 one.
     
  23. KPOM macrumors G5

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    #23
    Nice comparison. I upgraded from a Nexus One to an iPhone 4S and am very happy with my decision, for some of the same reasons that you mention. I'm not sure I would want a 4.65" screen, and hopefully Apple doesn't feel compelled to go that large with the iPhone 5 (4.0" would be fine). Also, the iPhone 4S is very smooth, and "batterygate" or not, it still gets much better battery life than my Nexus One ever got.
     
  24. Vegastouch, Nov 20, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2011

    Vegastouch macrumors 603

    Vegastouch

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    #24
    If you know anything about car engines, then of course that doesnt mean it is better. Bad comparison really.

    The size of the screen isnt a big a deal as the size of the overall phone. I like the 4.65" screen. I dont want the overall size to be too big and Android is very near that. Id have to hold it for myself because my Vibrant isnt too big so id have to see just how much bigger it is than that.
     
  25. phillyphill macrumors 6502

    phillyphill

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    #25
    i can't wait for the nexus prime to come out for vzw. I love my iPhone, I've had all of them but i love my android devices better.

    Good review too
     

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