Here’s a good example. We keep track of popular movies by how much money they make each week, not by how many people view the movie, or how good (or not) the movie really is. How do we compare smartphones? By what they are, not by what they do. Which is most important?
The Game Of Bullet Points
The digital rag BusinessInsider (which is more about sensationalism than business, and less insider than the name implies) did a comparison of Motorola’s new Moto X smartphone vs. other popular devices.
What is most impressive about the comparison is what is missing, not with what is compared. It’s a typical product PowerPoint of bullet points for each device.
For example, the starting price is the same for each smartphone, except for the Nokia Lumia 920, which is on a fire sale at 25-percent the price of the others.
Screen size is important, and that’s second on the list. The iPhone is decidedly smaller. The iPhone is the thinnest, unless you count the Moto X curved design which is both thick and thinnest.
Only the Samsung Galaxy S4 has a microSD slot for added memory, otherwise smartphones are mostly similar at 16/32/64GB, or 32/64GB, except for the Nokia at 32GB. Maybe that’s why it’s not selling well.
Under the Storage category, the Moto X comes with 50GB of Google Drive for free (it’s really a Google smartphone), but fails to mention the free storage which comes with iCloud on iPhones.
Also listed is the operating system, but not the version. Battery life is mixed, of course, but the larger screen smartphones also have the longest battery life because, well, size matters. The iPhone 5 is the lightest of the group, but has the smallest screen size and battery.
Camera specifications are listed in the traditional megapixels for both front and back facing cameras, and therein lies the perfect example of the danger of comparing smartphones by traditional bullet point features.
More megapixels do not a better image make. Other components– lens, sensor, software– also help to determine image quality. How do the camera’s photos compare? That’s never mentioned in a bullet point.
Assume for a moment that all these smartphones have similarly good audio and reception quality when making phone calls. How else is the smartphone used?
In a word, applications.
It’s An Apps World
Google Play for Android-based smartphones has a similar number of apps available as Apple’s iPhone, though there’s a substantial difference in quality and capability of said apps. The iPhone benefits from both Google Maps and Apple Maps, what’s on the Nokia Lumia 920?
Most smartphone users sync calendar, contact, and other information between devices. How do the Android, Windows, and iOS versions compare? Again, that’s never mentioned in a bullet point. And don’t give me a list of the Top 10 Most Popular apps. They might be on all three platforms, but 10 out of 1-million is a ridiculous comparison.
Also not mentioned is how we use the smartphone. Which OS has better navigation? Which screen is the most readable and has the most accurate color rendition? Again, that’s seldom mentioned, let alone compared.
Ecosystem? No comparison found. Accessories selection? Same story. How about resale value?
In an era where we buy smartphones to function more as a computer in the pocket than a cell phone, reviewers are sinfully, dangerously short on the comparisons that actually matter the most, starting with usability.