I apologise if this is going to be littered with painfully worked puns. Also, I’m not entirely sure that Throwback Tuesday works, I mean the #tbt still works but I’m not entirely sure about the sounding of the syllables. Anyway, I was hoping to do this article 7-8 months down the road, as a sort of look back at the 360 degree however circumstances change and I’m in a good position to bring you this article now. I can understand if this doesn’t sound like a good way to open but give it a minute.
Firstly, let me rewind the clock back 24 hours. I was doing something irrelevant to the story on my Nexus, when suddenly I had to go and do something for my parents so I had to lock my phone. Upon attempting to lock my phone, I may have accidentally mashed the button in trying to lock the unresponsive phone. Long story short, my phone is now as the Germans would say kaput. Now, as you may know, I really liked the device. It was great, every part was reasonably well designed and well-priced and I looked around to try and fix the phone. With my warrant being only a year long and me being around 17-18 months into my contract, sending it away to Google wasn’t an option. Having dug around the internet and called a few shops around town to get a feel for the prices to fix the phone, I realised that fixing the phone may not be worth it. I was told over the phone that the button would cost over £40 and the labour would be around another £50-60. With that in mind, I decided it may be time to hang up on the old Nexus and buy something to help me to my upgrade date.
Armed with this information, I decided to look online for cheap smartphone that can so the job. Being a little cautious with my money before the holidays, I set a budget of up to £100 which is around 170$ for the Americans out there. I searched far and wide and only found the Moto E to almost fit the bill. The Moto E is of course a fantastic device, but one that is short on the performance that I’d want out of my phone. Knowing that it may struggle with some basic apps, it really put me off. I was really annoyed to find that all the budget devices that I would have picked up started at over £150. So I delved into my tech know-how and saw this as a perfect opportunity to road test a device from the past that I would have loved to have had when it was new. It came down to a battle between David and Goliath. iPhone 4S and the infamous Blackberry Z10.
In the end the choice was simple. Either I went for the maverick that I have always admired for its innovative UI, but lacked the apps and had an iffy keyboard to me or the greatest iPhone of all time in my opinion.
My iPhone came the day later. A used 16GB iPhone 4S locked to EE. £83.
You see, at this point I have come a full circle. I had the iPhone 3GS when I picked it up at the metaphorical bargain bucket in 2012 and had it until 2014 when I got my Nexus. At the end of its time with me, the 3GS was a slow device that lacked a front facing camera and criminally struggled when asked to multitask or play a game like GTA III. I replaced it with the razor thin and lightening quick Nexus which was everything I could have asked for. And now I am sort of taking a step back from the almost latest hardware of Android to the oldest iPhone in the current line up with the latest software. On balance, this perhaps isn’t the best comparison of the two OSs but what I would like to do is to point out a few things that I have noticed over these past few hours with the iPhone.
Firstly, the 4S’s camera is 8mpx, much like the Nexus’ camera, and even though it’s around 18months older than its Google comparison, its leaps and bounds better. As you may know, I am not a photo boffin and I just about manage to understand the talk of apertures and what not, but I could not describe to you why technically and physically the iPhone camera is better. My only real world comparison of both is Snapchat. If you compare the quality of the images taken from both devices, then it is easy to see which was the one taken on an Apple device and which wasn’t. The image quality difference is like night and day. The iPhone images are crisp whereas the Nexus has a lot of noise and fuzz that’s fairly annoying. In terms of features, the iPhone cam offers more as you get the square frame as well as time-lapse. Both are features not available on the Nexus. In fairness, this doesn’t do that much for me as I use VSCO cam anyway so I guess the features don’t matter that much.
Now onto the slightly less positive stuff. The device is at the moment is three and a bit years old. By the time I get my upgrade it’ll be well on its way to four and a half years old, thus I guess it’s unsurprising to find that from time to time it lags when asked to multi task. I guess this is what should have been expected, considering that iOS 8 is a lot heavier to run than iOS 5 and the decreases of performance are understood. It is a bit frustrating, but it happens very infrequently so it doesn’t make that much difference. Most of my standard apps that I use (Twitter, Instagram etc.) Run perfectly without lag. Again Snapchat is the one that shows a little lag but like I said, I’m happy to gloss over that fact. The drop in performance doesn’t surprise me. Going from a quad core beast to an under clocked two-core peasant with a quarter the RAM will and does definitely show. However, Apple’s tailoring of the OS to the hardware maximises the performance and thus I think iOS is much better at managing its resources, limited as they may be.
Software wise, I am both happy and disappointed. I am happy with certain aspects such as the keyboard. After almost two years away, it was a natural fit, even when going back to a much smaller screen. The Keyboard feels perfectly sized for my hands and it’s certainly strange to feel that with a device that you have only had for a few hours. I find the predictive text very bloody annoying, getting in the way of things. I didn’t use it much on the nexus, and I don’t think I’m away to start to use it. As for the bad, well, I’m sorry to break it to you people but Siri is shit. Its famed personality gets on my nerves, and it isn’t nearly as powerful as Google Now. It doesn’t havean actual page to itself to deliver the relevant information, and Hey Siri isn’t available from any screen, a feature I used a lot in Android. The speech recognition is not nearly as good and really it just feels out dated. Maybe that’s because I’m running it on an old device, but Apple really must do better in this department.
Most importantly of all. The 4S feels a lot better in hand. I mean a lot. Going from a 5 inch device to a 3.5 inch device doesn’t sound good, but it’s refreshing to have a phone that doesn’t strain every single muscle in your hand to hold. The size plays a massive part in the comfort of the use of the device. Largely due to its size, my nexus had a lot of marks around the sides where it bit the dust when it was dropped. I’m hoping to avoid these with the glass back iPhone, which brings me nicely onto the next topic. The overall finish. Here you can see that Google really did make the nexus a good budget device as the plastic finish doesn’t nearly feel as nice to hold asthe glass back of the iPhone. The metal accents provide a really nice contrast, and I think the overall finish speaks volumes about the device itself. Right from the off, you get the sense that it was designed to be more than just a phone.
In summary, the iPhone feels better in hand and takes better quality images, but it is let down by its ancient hardware and the heavy software. Overall, this experience kind of show that always going for a new phone might not be the best idea. Used phones provide a heck of a lot of value when compared to new devices. The key is to strike a balance between performance and cost and I think that at £83 that’s what I’ve managed to do.
On balance, I may be giving Apple and the iPhone its more than fair share of stick, but its great devices like the 4S than make the iPhone a standard measuring stick by which all smartphones are measured. I always bang on about the customisability of Android and how its fighting the good fight against the conformity of Apple as if it were the Empire and Android was Yoda. But all things considered, it feels pretty good to be back on the Dark Side.