It’s the season of discontent. Whatever we bought last year needs to be made older and unsightly this year so this year we get new smartphones; plenty of smartphones, more smartphones than you could easily compare or contrast, and more than you can find in any store. Here’s my list of the flagships.
Yes, I know that most of us have dozens of applications on our smartphones these days; social media apps, email, browser, photo management, games, but high on the list of bragging rights is the camera. What kind of photos can you take with the latest and greatest camera? That’s what we want. Oh, and big screens. Apple invented the big screen smartphone, you know?
Flagship smartphones carry very similar features these days. High resolution displays, high resolution cameras, fast processors, and, uh, um, batteries, fingerprint sensors and facial recognition, a few buttons, some waterproofing, and, well, speakers and microphones.
In other words, all the good phones are much like each other.
Sales – Samsung is the industry leader among flagship smartphone makers, but the Galaxy line of premium phones does not equal what Apple will sell in iPhones. After that, no other manufacturer comes close. It’s a race for third place.
Displays – Smartphone screens come with a few basic considerations. OLED vs. LCD. PPI (pixel density) vs. Resolution. Size vs. case size. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 has the largest screen size; half an inch larger than iPhone X. The smallest screen among new smartphones is iPhone 8 at 4.7-inches and Google Pixel 2 at 5-inches.
The pixel density race belongs to Sony Xperia YZ Premium at 807 PPI vs. Samsung’s Galaxy S8 at 567 PPI. Apple’s iPhone X trails to the middle with 458 PPI. Samsung owns the so-called screen-to-body ratio, thanks to ultra thin bezels, and a small chin and forehead. iPhone X is pretty close. Google Pixel 2 decided to take up residence with iPhones of the past among the lowest. Ditto for Samsung having the most models with the lowest thickness. Or, highest thinness. All iPhones are among the heaviest models.
Waterproof – Apple claims IP67, a standard for dust and water resistance, but LG and Samsung models rate higher.
RAM & SSD – For whatever reason, RAM bragging rights matter to some, and are totally ignored by others. OnePlus 5 has 8GB RAM while iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X have 3GB RAM. RAM specifications just are not what they used to be. Pentium, anyone? Storage options are across the board, but Apple is the leader of the pack. Most new smartphones start with a minimum of 64GB SSD storage, but only Apple goes to 256GB, most others only to 128GB though some models have removable SSD storage.
CPUs – Apple rolls their own with the A11 Bionic in iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X, but elsewhere its either Samsung, Qualcomm, or a cheap knockoff. The winner? Apple. Nothing else is close.
Cameras – They all have cameras, front and back (or, is it back and front?). Cameras can be measured in megapixels and for some, like GHz, that still matters. It doesn’t. What matters is the actual photo or video. Apple remains in love with 12MP sensors on the back (I’m sure it’s the back) and a measly 7MP on the front, but it doesn’t matter. iPhone 8 and 8 Plus rank among the highest smartphone cameras in nearly any test. Samsung’s are excellent. Even Google’s new Pixel 2 models score high. The Sony Xperia YX Premium has 720p HD video at 960fps slo-mo. New iPhone 8 models and iPhone X do 1080p HD at 240fps.
Battery – From what I can tell, batteries in today’s smartphones are measured two ways. Total capacity in mAh. It doesn’t matter. All that counts is how long the battery will last during your day.
Conclusion – When it comes to hardware, Apple is a middling player except when it comes to CPU performance, camera performance, and storage options, where it excels. When it comes to price tag, Apple excels at the high end with iPhone X reading one dollar short of $1,000, and the Galaxy Note 8 about $60 less, Google Pixel 2 XL at $50 less, and every other maker and model for notably less. Interestingly, iPhone 7, which was new until a few weeks ago, is among the least expensive.
Charles McLellan has all the details about each one with some lists and graphs. No mention is given to the most important factor among specifications. Software. iOS vs. Android.