On Wednesday Apple announced their newest handset in the iPhone line, the iPhone 5. Those expecting fireworks at the event were left feeling rather disappointed, as new additions to the iPod range almost overshadowed what is essentially a very nice looking new phone from Apple. The leaks and rumours all turned out to be pretty much spot on, albeit without that extra layer of gloss Apple seem to put on everything.
Earlier this month Nokia held their own event in New York showcasing their very latest Windows Phone 8 offerings, the Lumia 920 and the Lumia 820. Watching the event you can clearly see Nokia are some way off Apple’s standards in the presentation department, but that doesn’t mean the hardware isn’t, not by a long way. The Lumia 920 got everyones attention being the first of the big guns to roll out Wireless Charging out of the box. It certainly got peoples attention, if nothing else.
As a previous owner or every iPhone to date, and also a brief foray into the Windows Phone world, with a Lumia 800, I’m caught at loggerheads as to what to do this time around. I went back to an iPhone after a few months with the Lumia, mainly because of its dismal battery life (Nokia released a patch a week later that nearly doubled it). I’m going to look at some of the key features and specifications of these two phones to help me (and maybe you) decide what to do.
Apple have kept a very similar look to the new iPhone, it’s different, but there’s no doubting the classic lines. Taller, thinner, but the same width. Apple feel the width is the perfect fit for your hand, but I’m not so sure. The squared off corners won’t sit right in your hand, and although they seems to have done away with the ridge effect you got with the 4 and 4S’s steel band, it still won’t feel as snug in your hand as the first three iPhone models. I would’ve liked to see Apple try and use a completely uniform aluminium back, and try and figure out a better solution for signal issues, maybe carbon fibre sides? For me, the black model wins hands down if I had to choose between the two colours. The dark glass screen, coupled with the smoky tones of the rear aluminium panel and sides, looks very elegant compared to the silver/white look of the other model. The camera lens has been replaced with sapphire glass, and although I can’t imagine this having a dramatic effect on the picture quality, it does make the product sound even more luxurious. One final touch is the polished aluminium bezel around the perimeter, again, a sign of something very upmarket.
Nokia have also stuck with a familiar styling, and one that received great praise when they launched the Lumia 800. The shape is something Nokia call the ‘fabula’ design. This curved polycarbonate unibody design is as solid as it is comfortable. The back has a lovely curve to it which fits snugly in your hand. Adding to this, Nokia have gone back to the Lumia 800 style curved glass screen, something that was sorely missed from the 900. I can vouch for this curved screen as being amazing to work with, it’s one of the things I miss most about my old Lumia. Previous models had a chrome section on the back which housed the camera. Nokia must have realised this got scratched way too easily, so they’ve replaced this with a ceramic zirconium insert. Also of note, the buttons on the side of the phone are also ceramic. While more understated in comparison with the iPhone 5, the Lumia does have these very nice design quirks that set it apart from other manufacturers. Lastly, it now comes with a glossy finish, and is available in Red, Yellow, White, Black or Grey.
The new iPhone marks the first big form factor change for Apple. Since day one the iPhone has used a 3.5″ screen, albeit with a beefed up resolution in the 4 and 4S models. Rather than get radical, they’ve kept it subtle and only added to the screen vertically. This takes the diagonal size to 4″ and also changes the aspect ratio to true 16:9 Widescreen. Resolution is up slightly from 960 x 640 to 1136 x 640, giving a 326 ppi dot pitch. They are still using their honed to perfection IPS LCD panel, which offers great viewing angles and contrast, albeit a little dire in direct sunlight.
Nokia have gone in big with the Lumia 920. They’ve slapped in a massive 4.5″ display with a resolution of 1280 x 768. This is slightly higher than 720p, which gives it a 15:9 aspect ratio and a massive 336 ppi dot pitch. There’s been a lot of technology thrown at this screen. It’s an IPS AMOLED panel with anti-glare filter, with added sunlight readability enhancements. Nokia say with PureMotion HD+ they have created one of the most responsive screens ever in a smartphone. If anyone owns a PS Vita you know the wonders of a good AMOLED display. I absolutely loved the screen on my Lumia 800, the blacks are so black, and they far more readable in the daylight than any iPhone I have owned. Finally, perhaps the most fancy feature of all, and one not many have talked about – you can use this screen with gloves on! You can also use your nail or even a key to navigate the interface. If you were looking for innovation, then this is certainly something to earn Nokia brownie points.
The iPhone has long been the yardstick by which all other mobile phone cameras are judged. It wasn’t always this way, though. Remember the appalling cameras in the original iPhone and iPhone 3G? It wasn’t until they introduced auto-focus in the 3GS that things started taking off. From what we know the iPhone 5 shares the same camera innards as the 4S, that being an 8mp auto-focus sensor. The outer lens has been uprated to sapphire glass, although I suspect this will give minimal benefits. The real magic is the software, and Apple have some of the best image processing algorithms in the business. At very worst it will be as good as the 4S. which was easily top of the class to begin with.
Nokia have really gone to town with the Lumia 920 camera, so much so that they’ve given it the PureView branding. It’s an 8.7mp auto-focus sensor with a f2.0 aperture and 26mm focal length. The big innovation though, is the optical image stabilisation. The camera lenses are suspended by micro springs and react to every movement the phone makes. Ever try and get that perfect shot from a moving car or train? The floating lenses are meant to react and cut out all blurriness from the picture. This also helps in low light situations where the shutter must stay open for as long as possible to let in as much light as possible. Any sort of movement in this scenario is usually exaggerated ten-fold in the final picture. Whether the final quality is up to what’s promised, we’ll have to wait and see. If it is, the iPhone might have a real fight on its hands here.
Another iPhone and another Apple SoC. This time the A6 which promises 2 x faster CPU and GPU performance. We don’t exactly know what’s inside the chip, other than it’s likely to be an ARM CPU and PowerVR GPU. Is it dual-core or quad-core? Apple don’t really go into specs as it prevents direct comparison with the competition, and at the end of the day it’s what you do with it that matters. Now sporting 1GB of RAM and most likely an uprated ISP, you can guarantee this will be smooth as butter (until 6 months down the line when it’s crammed with apps and feeling sluggish).
Nokia feel a quad-core processor is overkill and have settled for a dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon G4 CPU made by Qualcomm. Considering how snappy Windows Phone 7.5 felt with the Lumia 800′s single-core 1.4GHz CPU, then I can see the new dual-core upgrade with 1GB of RAM being very handy indeed. To be fair, a lot of this is down to the Windows Phone OS, which I can honestly say never suffered any hint of slowdown. Nokia also claim sticking with the dual-core over quad-core will preserve battery life by as much as 30%.
New Hardware Features
- Uprated 4.0″ 1136 x 640 16:9 widescreen display.
- 8-pin reversible ‘Lightning’ connector replaces 30-pin dock connector.
- 4G LTE and 5GHz 802.11n.
- New EarPod headphones included.
- New 4.5″ 1280 x 768 15:9 AMOLED display.
- QI Wireless Charging.
- NFC (Near Field Communication) connectivity.
- 8.7mp PureView Camera with optical image stabilisation.
- 4G LTE and 5GHz 802.11n
- ‘Super Sensitive Touch’ screen works with gloves, your nail, a key etc.
New Software Features
- Apple Maps – 3D Flyover, Turn by Turn directions, built in business reviews.
- Passbook – stores all your digital cinema tickets, boarding passes, vouchers etc.
- Siri enhancements – including sports scores, restaurant recommendations and more.
- Panorama – create panoramic shots from within the camera app.
- FaceTime calls over 3G/4G.
- iCloud Tabs – sync open tabs with Safari on your Macs.
- Nokia City Lens – point the camera at a building and get an Augmented Reality overlay with info/reviews.
- Nokia Transport – arrange your public transport journey, including indoor station maps.
- Camera Lenses – keeps all third party lens and filter apps in one handy menu.
- Offline Maps – maps stored on phone, no internet connectivity needed.
- Nokia Music – stream music for free. Create playlists, offline radio stations and more.
- Smart Shoot Lens – Remove moving objects (i.e. people) from your pictures.
- Cinemagraph – selectively animate separate elements of your movies to create some dramatic effects.
- Resize your Windows Live Tiles to create a truly personal home screen.
- Many more WP8 features that Microsoft are being secretive about.
And there we have it, a full rundown of both smartphones, and a look at some of their finer updates. When deciding between the two phones 90% of you are likely to be current iPhone owners looking for something different. Windows Phone does offer just that, and has lots of very cool built in features that are waiting to be discovered. It took me a week to realise it had built in song recognition and barcode scanning!
What you don’t get on a Windows Phone is the diverse range of apps available on iOS. The library is growing though, and most of the big hitters like eBay, Facebook, Twitter are all covered, with Instagram also inbound. Another potential problem is your Apple eco-system at home, you may have anything from an Alarm clock dock, to a speaker system in the bathroom. But remember, the iPhone 5 no longer has that 30-pin dock connector. Apple will sell you an adaptor for a whopping £25, but this doesn’t guarantee your shiny new phone will sit happily in whatever accessory you have.
If you’re a regular user of the Apple Remote app to control music throughout your household then there is a solution. There’s a great little app, also called Remote, that gives you the same functionality on your Windows Phone.
At the end of the day it comes to down to how badly you want a fresh experience. If you’ve had 5 years of iOS you might find it tough to begin with, but I can certainly say Windows Phone is a brilliant alternative.