Monday, June 4, 2012

Android, iOS and Windows Phone duke it out at Globe's Plan 1799

Globe has some interesting offerings at Plan 1799. It is offering the Android powered Samsung Galaxy S Advance, the iOS powered Apple iPhone 3GS and the Windows Phone powered Nokia Lumia 800 all at Plan 1799 (two year lock-in). If you are looking for a smartphone on a postpaid plan from Globe at Plan 1799, which of the three is the best option?

All three phones are mid-level offerings, and this comparison will be focused on the needs of the typical user and not the hardcore smartphone enthusiast.

Operating system. I am not going to try to identify the best operating system. The one reason I found Globe Plan 1799 interesting is that you have a choice of all three. Globe has demo phones on all its larger Hub's, I suggest you go try them out.

Android operating system has the most features, but is has the highest learning curve. Apple iOS, has good apps, but the interface itself is pretty much like a PC. You really just have an app launcher. Windows Phone occupies the middle ground in between. It like tiles give at a glance information like Android. You cannot customize it as much, but that also makes it a fair bit easier to learn.

This is more of a warning. Apple will be releasing a new version of iOS for its iPhones, iOS 6, in four or five months. There is no confirmation on whether the Apple iPhone 3GS will be getting iOS 6. Similarly, Microsoft will be releasing a new version of its phone OS, Windows Phone 8, five months. There is no confirmation whether the Nokia Lumia 800 will get an update to Windows Phone 8. Finally, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance, does not come with the latest Android operating system, Android 4.0. There is no commitment from Samsung that the Galaxy S Advance will be getting Android 4.0, much less the next version of Android which we expect to be coming out in a few years.

But from the point of view of the typical user, new versions of on operating system just offer additional functionality. Since these phones are smartphones, third party apps can be used instead if you want some new features. Other features are hardware based, like Android 4.0 ability to instantaneously take one phone after another with near zero lag. In those case, a updated operating system does not mean that feature will work with older phones.

So while having the latest operating system is nice, for most people, it really does not improve the functionality of their device all that much. All three operating systems found on these three phones are pretty mature, and if they did not get updated in the next two years, I really would not loose much sleep over it.
Display. The first thing you will notice with a modern touchscreen smartphone is the display, and this is where the iPhone 3Gs will show its age. In fairness, the Apple iPhone 3Gs is now three years old, making it one of the oldest smartphones still in the market. The iPhone 3GS has a 3.5-inch LCD display with a 320 x 480 pixel resolution. While functional, the display does not look as vibrant on the displays on newer devices, and the 320 x 480 display is really something now relegated to budget devices. The Nokia Lumia 800 has a larger 3.7-inch display, which boast a higher 480 x 800 pixel resolution. The Lumia 800 uses AMOLED and  Nokia Super Clear Black technology, making it the best display among the three phones. Finally, the Samsung Galaxy Advance has a 4-inch 480 x 800 display, which is the same display which graced the Samsung Galaxy S two years ago. While not as pretty as the display on the Lumia 800, the larger 4-inch size will make it a better choice for many.

Winner: A tie between the Nokia Lumia 800 and the Samsung Galaxy S Advance. 

Storage. The version of the Apple iPhone 3GS being offered by Globe comes with 8GB of storage, which should be sufficient for the typical user. The Nokia Lumia 800 comes with 16 GB of internal storage, which should be enough even if you load a fair amount of multi-media on the phone. The Samsung Galaxy S Advance being offered by Globe comes with 8 GB of internal storage,  but is expandable via a MicroSD card, which will allow you to expand internal storage up to 40GB. The Lumia 800 has more storage out of the box. The Galaxy S Advance has the most storage if you are willing to invest a few hundred on a MicroSD card.

Winner: A tie between the Nokia Lumia 800 and the Samsung Galaxy S Advance.

Camera. The Apple iPhone 3GS has a 3.15 MP auto focus camera. It does not have a flash. The camera on the iPhone 3GS will make you quickly realize why Instagram became so popular. The iPhone 3GS produces poor quality photos, so masking them with a filter will make them look more interesting. The camera can also capture video, but it is limited to VGA video.

The Samsung Galaxy S Advance has a very decent 5 MP auto focus camera with a flash. The camera is good enough to replace you low end point and shoot. You also shoot 720p video with the Galaxy S Advance, but there is no autofocus while shooting video.

The Nokia Lumia 800 has a 8MP 28mm wide-angle F2.2 Carl Zeiss lens with a dual led flash. It does 720p video recording and can refocus on the subject while capturing video. Unfortunately, it sound better than it is is. The 8MP camera does not match up to the best 8 MP camera on the top Android and the iPhone 4S. The continuous autofocus while capturing video can be problematic. Still, in the end it offers the best camera of the three phones in this comparison.

Winner: The Nokia Lumia 800.

Video calling.  Only the Samsung Galaxy S Advance has a front camera among the three so in terms of video calling, it is really no contest.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S Advance. 

Distinct features. It is really hard to recommend the Apple iPhone 3GS. It is not a bad phone, but three years is more than a lifetime in terms of mobile phones. Unless you already own an Apple iPad or MacBook where some of the proprietary Apple features will be useful, it does not make much sense to get the Apple iPhone 3GS.

The Samsung Galaxy S Advance is basically an update on a two year old design, the Samsung Galaxy S. With a dual core processor, more RAM and a better camera this phone is pretty current hardware wise. The Android app store, Google Play, has more free apps than Apple's and Microsoft's app stores. In that sense, Android is the value for money option in terms of app choices.

The Nokia Lumia 800 has a feature that many will appreciate. It is the only one among the three that will provide voice guided turn-by-turn navigation. The iPhone 3GS and Samsung Galaxy S Advance will give you turn-by-turn navigation, but without the voice guidance. In terms of apps, the Windows Market is the most expensive of the three and has the fewest choices in terms of apps. But when we say most expensive, we are talking price differences of less than the price of a coffee at Starbucks. While the Microsoft app store has the fewest choices, with 90,000 apps, it really is not all that big a deal these days.

Winner: Voice guided turn-by-turn navigation give the Nokia Lumia 800 the edge.

Conclusion. If I was two pick one of these three phones, taking an operating system agnostic, point of view, both the Nokia Lumia 800 and the Samsung Galaxy S Advance are solid choices. Selecting the Apple iPhone 3GS is something a buyer would quickly regret. If you want an iPhone, bite the bullet, add a bit of cash and get the iPhone 4S instead.

The Samsung Galaxy S Advance will keep a user happy for the two year lock-in. The Samsung Galaxy S III being available for a Php4,800 initial cash payment is worth the additional money though. If you like the Galaxy S Advance, give the Galaxy S III a long look first. Remember you are locked in for two years.

If you like the Nokia Lumia's 800 interface or voice turn-by-turn navigation, than it is the best choice for a Windows phone in the market. While the Nokia Lumia 900 is available in the market, it is not offered postpaid, and the Lumia 900 is terrible expensive for what it offers. 

If you are not dead set on the Windows Phone interface, and voice guided turn-by-turn navigation is not that big a deal to you, for Php4,800 you can get a Samsung Galaxy S III instead, which is a better smartphone in every other respect. 

Winner: At Plan 1799 the Nokia Lumia 800 is the smartphone offered by Globe Telecom. If you are willing to add Php4,800 cash out, the Samsung Galaxy S III is a better choices hardware wise. But even than it not all an upside, you loose Nokia's turn-by-turn navigation software and the many users might appreciate the less complicated Windows Phone interface.

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