Let’s talk iPhone: iPhone 4S alternatives

So you’ve waiting this long to see what magical amazingness Apple will bring with its new iPhone. A large number of you, us included, was hoping for a revolutionary device with a radically new design and out-of-this world features.

Unfortunately, we were all desperately disappointed. The world waited for a completely new iPhone, instead Apple gave us an iPhone 4 rehash and called it “the most amazing iPhone yet”. While amazing, the iPhone 4S is not, many are still wondering if it is a worthwhile buy.

“Should I upgrade to the new iPhone 4S?” that’s the question we get asked the most. While for fanboys, the answer is pretty obvious, those with a less emotional attachment to the Apple brand will want to know what device — irrespective of brand and OS — will give them the biggest bang for the buck.

The question is an understandable one, and for good reason. Let’s not forget, the iPhone 4 blew us all away. The all-glass shell, the crisp Retina Display, active noise cancellation and a few other features were all cutting edge way back when the iPhone 4 broke cover. Even by today’s standard, the iPhone 4 can still be considered contemporary. With the iPhone 4S, Apple brought some much needed enhancements to ensure the iPhone remained competitive against very capable and higher specced competitors like the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Sensation.

However, considering the 18-month gap between the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, the new features are barely enough to keep up with the blistering pace of mobile phone developments. By the end of the year, the iPhone 4S will be overshadowed by faster, more powerful devices running not just Android but Windows Phone as well.

So, should you upgrade to the iPhone 4S?

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The two most compelling features of the iPhone 4S is the 8MP camera and the A5 processor (we don’t consider Siri a notable feature due to the lack of native language support and the different user habits of Asian users which is not necessarily complementary with the service). These improvements will indeed offer appreciable performance boost to the user but is it worth the investment? We don’t think so. If you’re already using an iPhone 4, the iPhone 4S offers only incremental improvements not worthy of an upgrade. If you’re on the iPhone 3GS, purchasing an iPhone 4S is certainly justifiable — that is if you’re only interested in iOS devices. But if you are open to adopting any one of the prominent mobile platforms available today, you’ll quickly see that it gets increasingly difficult to make a case for the iPhone 4S.

As it is, the current crop of Android devices are superior to the iPhone 4S. The Galaxy S II for example, was launched 6 months before the iPhone 4S and despite having “older” tech, the Samsung is arguably better in almost every aspect. The same can be said with the HTC Sensation.

We predict the iPhone 4S could come to Malaysia in October 28 at the earliest or in time for the year-end holiday season at the latest. In this period, we see a number of smartphones coming into the market, with almost all offering vastly improved hardware and performance compared to the iPhone 4S.

In the Android camp we expect to see the Samsung Galaxy Note coming to Malaysia before the end of this year with an estimated price of around RM2,300 to RM2,500. We have a strong feeling about this. At the same time Google’s latest Nexus phone, the Nexus Prime will be revealed next week. If early rumours are true, the Prime is shaping up to become one of the most desirable Android smartphones in recent times. It’s a stretch, but the Nexus Prime could make it to Malaysia before the end of this year as well. Also, let’s not discount surprise announcements from both HTC (read: the Sensation XE) and Sony Ericsson which is working on a dual-core Android device.

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In the Windows Phone camp, we have Nokia returning to prominence with the release of its much anticipated Windows Phone devices. While we don’t speak for Nokia or Microsoft in this matter, there is a strong indication for both parties are working to bring Windows Phone Nokia devices to Malaysia within this year. In addition to Nokia, we have the HTC Titan, a mighty Windows Phone device that’s almost ready to make its APAC debut from the information that we’ve gathered.

Let’s not forget MeeGo. The pulling power of the Nokia N9 is undeniable. In the N9, MeeGo is refreshing and delightful to use. We’re pretty sure there will be quite a few people that will find the Nokia N9 appealing aided by its attractive RM1,799 (16GB) and RM2,088 (64GB) price. We have to admit, we’ve warmed up to the device.

As you can see, we’re spoiled for choice and the iPhone 4S has its work cut out. Should you get one? The logical brain would tell you no. In a couple of months its hardware is barely cutting edge. More importantly the iOS platform, even in its latest iteration, is behind Android and Windows Phone in deep social media integration and cloud capabilities. Where iCloud offers just 5GB of cloud storage, Microsoft’s SkyDrive brings 25GB of usable storage free right out of the box.

However, with everything Apple, the logical brain takes a back seat when it comes to making a purchase decision. And from the look things, it is these impulsive purchasers that Apple has to bank on for the success of the iPhone 4S.

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While you contemplate on whether the iPhone 4S is a worthwhile buy or not, here’s a recap of the devices that we know can give the iPhone 4S a good run for its money. All of which have a very strong chance of making it to Malaysia before the end of this year:

  1. Samsung Galaxy Note — Android Gingerbread. 5.3-inch Super AMOLED (1280×800 pixels), 1.4Ghz dual-core, 1GB RAM, 8MP rear camera with 1080p video and 2MP front camera. Expected price between RM2,300 to RM2,500. Updated info here.
  2. Google Nexus Prime — Android Ice Cream Sandwich. 5.65 4.65-inch curve glass Super AMOLED HD display (1280×720 pixels), 1.5GHz dual-core, 1GB RAM, 8MP rear camera with 1080p video all in a 8mm thin body. Updated info here.
  3. HTC Sensation XE — Android Gingerbread. 4.3-inch Super LCD (960×540 pixels), 1.5 dual-core, 768MB RAM, 8MP camera with 1080p video and VGA front camera. Beats audio technology. Updated info here.
  4. Nokia Sea Ray — Windows Phone Mango. 3.7-inch Clear Black Display AMOLED, 1.5Ghz processor, 8MP camera with Carl Zeiss optics. 16GB internal storage.
  5. HTC Titan — Windows Phone Mango. 4.7-inch Super LCD (800×480 pixels), 1.5Ghz processor with 512MB RAM, 8MP rear camera with 720p HD video and 1.3MP front camera.
  6. Nokia N9 — MeeGo. 3.9-inch Clear Black Display AMOLED 854×480 pixels), 1Ghz processor with 1GB RAM, 8MP rear camera with Carl Zeiss optics and 720p HD video. Updated info here.