Apple iPhone 4S full review
The iPhone 4S may have launched back in the Autumn of 2011, but it remains on sale - new - both direct from Apple and on contract from all the major telcos. What's more, it remains a great phone at a now reasonable price. The Nexus 4, meanwhile, is a simply stunning deal if you buy it direct from Google Play. We compared the iPhone 4S and the Nexus 4 to see how they shape up, so you can decide whether you want to swap your iPhone for an Android phone, or to offer buying advice for those looking for a smartphone. Read on to find out which is the best smartphone.
Nexus 4 vs iPhone 4S: Design and build
The Nexus 4 is the easily the most well-built Android smartphone we've seen. The screen sits neatly flush to the bezel, the microSIM card tray slots in perfectly with no gaps and the buttons have a smooth action. Keeping up its side of the debate the iPhone 4S sports Apple's standard best of the best build quality. The iPhone 4S has an armoured glass front and black, covering a supremely sensitive IPS touchscreen.
The Nexus 4 is thin and light at 9.1mm and 139g. It feels great in the hand, like a smartphone that costs twice the price. There's a silver bezel around the 4.7in screen and on the back a glossy finish flat back with a matrix of tiny silver dots, each reflecting the light at different angles. The glossy finish can be quite slippery, but between the front and back of the phone is a frame with a grippy rubbery finish. There's no removable cover, and the microSIM card tray is located on the side. The iPhone 4S was the last Apple smartphone with a 3.5in screen. It measures in at 115.2x 58.66x9.3mm. The iPhone 4S also weighs 140g, meaning it is slightly thicker and heavier than the Nexus 4, but not so a human would be able to tell the difference.
Nexus 4 vs iPhone 4S: Hardware and performance
Inside the Nexus 4 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro, a quad-core chip clocked at a healthy 1.5GHz. Like a lot of the latest high-end smartphones, there's 2GB of RAM. This is impressive both on paper and in our benchmarks.
As befits a smartphone that first launched in late 2011 the iPhone 4S uses a dual-core Apple A5 chip and just 512MB RAM. It's still a great performer, turning in a GeekBench score of 625 points, and a SunSpider web-browsing time of 2.2 (lower is better in this test). We tested the iPhone 4S with an older version of GLBenchmark, so it's difficult to compare with the Nexus 4. But back in late 2011 the iPhone 4S's score of 59fps was the best we'd seen. The botom line is that both of these smartphones are super fast: the Nexus 4 is quicker, but that's what you'd expect.
Nexus 4 vs iPhone 4S: Display
The Nexus 4's 4.7in display has a resolution of 768 x 1280, giving it a pixel density of 318ppi. The iPhone 4S trumps that pixel density with its 326ppi Retina display. Its 3.5in 640x960 resolution display is so fine, you simply cannot see the LCD dots.
The Nexus 4's larger screen is no slouch, however, and looks stunning with excellent contrast, rich colours and detail. We found it performed particularly well and better than most when outdoors in sunlight. Viewing angles are incredible too, thanks to the in-plane switching (IPS) panel.
Nexus 4 vs iPhone 4S: Storage and connectivity
Storage is the biggest downfall of the Nexus 4, and another area in which the iPhone 4S competes with its newer rival. Google only offers 8GB and 16GB models with no microSD card slot. You also need to bear in mind that not all of this capacity will be available since the operating system and pre-loaded apps inevitably require a chunk of it. Our 16GB sample had around 13GB free. The iPhone 4S also allows no storage expansion, but now comes with only 16GB onboard storage as standard. In both cases you are encourage to host your media in the cloud.
Both the Nexus 4 and iPhone 4S are jammed with connectivity including dual-band Wi-Fi, 3G cellular connectivity, and Bluetooth 4.0. The Nexus 4 also offers an NFC (near-field communications) chip and wireless charging, and you can connect that handset to an external display a SlimPort HDMI adapter. There's no support for 4G with either phone. Both have 3.5mm headphone jacks, but while the Nexus 4 charges from standard micro-USB, the iPhone 4S connects via a now outdated proprietary Apple connector (for which you can at least buy plenty of sound bars and speaker docks). Scroll down for our verdict...
Nexus 4 vs iPhone 4S: Camera
Both the iPhone 4S and Nexus 4 sport similar, dual camera setups. Each has a rear-facing snapper with an 8Mp sensor, shooting up to 3264x2448-pixel shots. Both offer autofocus and an LED flash, as well as high-end camera features such as touch focus and geo-tagging. With both phones you can capture video at up to 1080p at 30fps, too. The iPhone 4S and Nexus 4 also both offer lesser, front-facing cameras for video calling.
Neither phone will replace your SLR, but both have excellent smartphone cameras, and remove the requirement for you to carry a seperate compact camera.
Nexus 4 vs iPhone 4S: Price
We don't normally give price its own section within a review but the Nexus 4 deserves it. At £239 for 8GB and £279 for 16GB, it's no wonder the Nexus 4 sold out on the Google Play Store within an hour of going on sale.
Getting a phone free on a contract is nice and normally necessary to get your hands on a top-flight smartphone without your bank balance taking a serious hit. The Nexus 4 is a game changer in the sense that it allows consumers to get a high-end smartphone for an affordable price minus the contrast of a lengthy contract. Therefore, you can select a SIM-only deal to suit your needs which can be changed almost whenever you like.
The iPhone 4S is a bit of a bargain, too, although it pales into insignificance alongside the Nexus 4. The iPhone 4S costs £449 direct from Apple. This may seem expensive, but it's actually perfectly fair for a high-end smartphone. Indeed, the test scores and features of the iPhone 4S make it a good buy today (where it was a great buy in late 2011). The problem for the iPhone is that Google is subsidising its Nexus devices in order to gain market share for Android, which makes all other smartphones look expensive by comparison. It's the Nexus that is out of step with the market (in a good way), not the iPhone.
Nexus 4 vs iPhone 4S: verdict
On the face of it there is simply no choice: the Nexus 4 is the best deal on the smartphone market right now, and the iPhone 4s has been superceded by the iPhone 5. That is all true, and we heartily recommend the Nexus 4. It is a staggering deal. But there is still some merit in choosing the iPhone 4S. The iPhone 4S holds its own against almost any phone on the market other than the iPhone 5, Nexus 4, the more recent Samsung Galaxy phones and the high-end Windows Phone 8 handsets. And if you have an older iPhone, and have purchased lots of apps, changing to the Nexus 4 will hold the hidden cost of replacing your apps - as well as potentially buying new cases, speaker docks and accessories. The Nexus 4 is in short supply, too. You may have to wait a while to take advantage of its low price. Finally, the Nexus 4 is only a great deal if you buy the handset outright and source a SIM separately. We've yet to see a good contract deal for the Google phone. But if you want to be on a contract, or simply cannot afford to buy your handset up front, there are plenty of good contract deals for the iPhone 4S.
Apple iPhone 4S: Specs
- Touchscreen smartphone
- UMTS, HSDPA, HSUPA, GSM, EDGE
- world phone: quad-band GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz and CDMA
- 3.5in (960 x 640) 3:2 capacitive IPS touchscreen, aluminosilicate glass, with oleophobic coating
- 326 dpi, 800:1 contrast ratio, 500cd/m2 brightness
- 16GB, 32GB and 64GB NAND flash storage
- Apple A5 (dual-core based on ARM Cortex A9 CPU/PowerVR SGX543MP2 GPU) processor
- 512MB RAM
- Bluetooth 4.0
- rear-facing 8Mp still/1920 x 1080 video camera
- front-facing 640 x 480 video camera
- white LED flash
- assisted GPS
- three-axis gyroscope
- proximity sensor
- ambient light sensor
- digital compass
- dual mics
- 3.5mm stereo headphone/mic jack
- earphones with remote and mic
- USB power adaptor
- 5.25Wh lithium-ion battery
- 115 x 59 x 9mm
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