Apple announced iPhone 4S on Tuesday, a device the company is shipping on October 14th. As the latest and greatest in Apple’s smartphone line, we wanted to see how it stood up to some competing Android devices, starting with the highly touted Motorola Droid Bionic, which was released in September.
With similar feature sets and release dates just a little more than a month apart, these two devices make for a great comparison, and the chart below lines up all of the relevant features we could find on both devices.
Below the chart, we’ve rounded up some of the highlights from the comparison.
|Apple iPhone 4S||Motorola Droid Bionic|
|OS||iOS 5||Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)|
|Updatable OS?||√ (OTA)||√ (OTA)|
|Subsidized Price (US$)||199/299/399||299.99|
|Carrier(s)||AT&T, Verizon, Sprint (Oct 2011)||Verizon|
|Network||GSM Edge, 3G + CDMA||CDMA + 4G/LTE|
|CPU type||A5, dual core||TI OMAP (dual core)|
|CPU speed||1 GHz (?)||1 GHz|
|RAM (MB)||1024 (?)||1024|
|Display type||Retina LCD/TFT/IPS||LCD/TFT “qHD” *|
|Display res. (pix)||960 x 640||960 x 540|
|Display (diag, in)||3.5||4.3|
|User storage (GB)||16/32/64||16|
|MircoSD slot||x||√ (Comes with 16GB Card)|
|Rear camera (MP)||8, record 1080p||8, record 1080p|
|1st photo, shot-shot (s.)||1.1, 0.5||3.7, 1.6|
|Video image stab.||√||x|
|Front camera (MP)||0.3 “VGA”||“VGA”|
|Audio out||3.5 mm jack||3.5 mm jack|
|On-screen video||1080p playback||1080p playback|
|Wireless video||AirPlay @720p||DLNA|
|Wi-Fi||802.11 b/g/n||802.11 b/g/n|
|Bluetooth||4.0||2.1 + EDR|
|Sensors||proximity, ambient light||proximity, ambient light|
|Size (in)||4.5 x 2.31 x 0.37||5.02 x 2.63 x 0.43|
|Battery (mAh)||1420 ?||1735|
|Talk time (min)||480 (3G)||650|
|Standby time (hr)||200||200|
* qHD = one-quarter HD (1080 x 1920)
The images above are as close to pixel-accurate in terms of relative size as we could get (both images are slightly smaller than life size). The Droid Bionic is the larger of the two devices, being taller, wider, and thicker. The display is also larger (4.3” for the Droid Bionic vs. 3.5” for the iPhone). Sausage fingered users will likely appreciate the bigger display, but at the same time the Droid Bionic’s resolution is actually lower (960 x 540 for Droid Bionic vs. 960 x 640 for iPhone 4S), meaning that the iPhone 4S’s display will look crisper and sharper to those who can tell the difference.
It’s true that size matters, but for smartphones, it will matter differently to different people. Where some people see a more compact and easier to carry iPhone, others may see a toy when compared to the beefier Droid Bionic. Where some see a thicker, heavier Droid Bionic that’s harder to carry in their pocket, others may see a device that’s easier to use and manipulate.
3G, LTE, Data, Voice
The biggest benefit of the Droid Bionic is its 4G data access. The Moto device supports Verizon’s LTE network which offers much higher data throughput than traditional 3G devices. Note that tricky wording? That’s because Apple complicated the issue with the iPhone 4S.
Verizon’s LTE network offers theoretical speeds of 5-12Mbps for downloads and 2-5Mbps for uploads. Real world tests for the Droid Bionic have consistently turned in results of 9-11Mbps for download speeds, too.
That should smoke anything Apple’s iPhone 4S can do because it is a 3G device, and 3G networks are just plain slower. It turns out, however, that Apple added support for a faster version of HSDPA that offers data speeds of up to 14.4Mbp. Our friends at AppleInsider pointed out that in the U.S. only AT&T supports HSDPA, and that company’s implementation of that technology is nowhere near as fast as the theoretical maximum.
Then again, there’s the whole dual-antennae system that Apple has invented that uses one for sending and one for receiving, switching between them as needed. Apple said this system will make for both better call reception and faster connections. That hasn’t been tested outside of Apple’s campus and several San Francisco bars, and we’ll have to wait and see how it actually works.
The bottom line on speed, however, is that the Droid Bionic is most likely going to be the faster device, though Apple’s cleverness may have brought the two devices on par with one another on some networks.
Battery life is another interesting area. Apple improved the battery life of its device from six hours of talk time in the iPhone 4 to eight hours (480 minutes) of talk time in the iPhone 4S, a significant improvement considering the devices are essentially the same size.
As impressive as that is, however, Motorola Droid Bionic claims 650 minutes (10 hours and 50 minutes) of talk time for its device, though enabling LTE will cut that down. We found examples of real-world testing where the Droid Bionic still got almost eight hours of talk time with LTE enabled, though USA Today pegged it at five hours of talk time or three hours as a hot spot. DroidMatters’s reviewer said that he was never able to go a whole day without having to recharge, but he seemed to be a bit of an addict. Either way, it’s still the best LTE device on the market when it comes to battery life.
How did Motorola do that? In part, they used a big honkin’ battery, which is why the device is taller, wider, thicker, and heavier than the iPhone. The Droid Bionic’s battery is a 1735mAh battery, compared to Apple’s 1420mAh battery.
It speaks to Apple’s efforts to optimize the iPhone 4 (and the benefits of offering a whole widget solution) that the iPhone’s battery life is better than the Droid Bionic’s much larger battery, but choosing which is best for you is yet another subjective thing because of the ancillary factors that contribute to battery life.
Droid Bionic is likely faster, is bigger and heavier, and does fairly well with talk time. The iPhone 4S is smaller, slimmer, and lighter, but is likely to be slower for many users when it comes to data.
Surprisingly (or not, any more), Apple has the better pricing for its device. A fully subsidized 16GB iPhone 4S will cost you $199, while a 16GB Motorola Droid Bionic will set you back $299, a 50% price premium. That said, this does include a ($20) 16GB MicroSD memory card for a total of 32GB of split storage out of the box.
On the iPhone 4S, that same $100 will get you 32GB of internal storage, and another $100 will double that to 64GB. We’d argue that internal storage is easier to manage and a better option, but at the same time, the Droid Bionic gives you the option of having as many memory cards as yo might want, so this is once again a subjective factor.
Both devices are competing at the high end of the market, but it’s indicative of how well Apple has been able to use its volume business and massive cash hoard to secure favorable component contracts that allow the company to offer the cheaper device.
This and That
The Droid Bionic has a MicroSD slot and a USB port. On the other hand, it has a MicroSD slot and a USB port. Choose your poison. The Droid Bionic doesn’t have a gyroscope, however, and Apple’s iOS developers have come up with a lot of cool and fun ways to take advantage of the gyroscope in the iPhone 4.
Apple boasts “image stabilization” in the new camera setup in the iPhone 4S, something Motorola doesn’t appear to match. Apple also implemented Bluetooth 4.0, whereas Moto’s device uses the older Bluetooth 2.3. To some that might matter.
Droid Bionic supports Flash. If you like Flash, congratulations. You have a winner.
What conclusions? The iPhone 4S hasn’t even shipped yet, and this isn’t a review, it’s a comparison of specs. Based on those specs, however, these two devices make for a great apples to apples comparison (pun, once again, intended). They’re competing in the same space, have similar features, but have enough differences to appeal to different people in different ways.
Most Apple fans will prefer iOS and Apple’s App Store to Android and the various software download services competing on that platform. Many people will prefer the smaller, tighter form factor of the iPhone and its superior display. Android fans will appreciate the LTE speeds offered by the Droid Bionic, however, or maybe see having more display size as a good thing.
Apple’s device is the less expensive of the two, however, making it more economical.
[Update: The image of the Motorola Droid Bionic was corrected. We also added information about the memory card that comes with Moto’s device.]