The three combatants in Fight Club are the iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Nokia Lumia 800. iOS is now in its fifth generation and has reached version 5.1. Android has moved from childhood into maturity and Android
4, aka Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), is exceptional. And you’d do well to not ignore Microsoft: Windows Phone 7.5 mightn’t have much market share yet but it reflects that when Microsoft believes in something and gets it right, it can produce some exceptional software.
Each operating system does things quite differently. iOS is very app-centric. If you want to do or see something, you need to launch the right app for the task.
Windows Phone 7.5 puts your data at the forefront. For example, rather than present your address book as a list of names behind a generic icon, they aggregate contact information from different sources such as your contact list and social networks.
Google’s approach takes the middle ground with both applications and data at your fingertips. Handsets that are designed for ICS don’t have any buttons on the face of the phone, preferring to go with a panel that changes depending on what you’re doing.
In order to showcase what these three mobile operating systems can offer, we picked what we felt were the best handsets on the market. iOS is easy as there’s only one game in town – the iPhone 4S.
For Windows Phone 7.5 we chose the Nokia Lumia 800. This is a very nice handset that is one of the first fruits from Microsoft’s new partnership with Nokia – a move that both companies hope will revitalise their flagging smartphone credibility.
Android is a tougher proposition because there are so many handsets to choose from. Ultimately, we went with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus as it was one of the first phones to come with ICS. It’s also co-branded by Google.
As we have three contenders in each round, we’re going to allocate a maximum of four points to the winner and then slide down. To get four points, the winner has to blast the opposition with a knockout blow.
Otherwise, three points will go to the winner, one to the loser and two points for the second-best combatant. And, although it was hard, we declared a winner in each round – after all, there are no ties in this Fight Club.
ROUND 1 – Out of the box
Apple’s been the benchmark in recent years when it comes to being productive with your new hardware in the quickest possible time. However, the world has caught up and very little separates the three contenders. Although we declare a winner, this one could go either way.
All three devices assumed you had an online account with an online service – Google for Android, iCloud for iOS and Windows Live for Windows Phone. If you don’t have one of those services the setup process guides you through creating an account.
Creating new email accounts, setting up social networking and accessing the respective application stores for each platform is straightforward. The edge for us goes to Apple as the iCloud backup can be a lifesaver if you have a device lost or stolen. Getting a replacement up and running is dead easy.
For this round, we award three points to the iPhone as the iCloud backup is a clear differentiator. Two points go to the Galaxy Nexus and one point to the Lumia 800.
ROUND 2 – In the hand
All three handsets come out swinging but there’s a clear third place in our mind. While there’s a lot to like about the Galaxy Nexus, it’s significantly wider and taller than the Lumia 800 and iPhone. Although it’s actually the lightest handset of the three, the width makes the Galaxy Nexus uncomfortable in our average-sized hands.
With the iPhone and Lumia 800, we could reach all the buttons easily without having to slide the phone around or use our other hand. We really liked the Lumia 800. Although it’s marginally larger than the iPhone – about 1mm longer and 3mm wider it feels smaller because of its rounded profile. The iPhone, with its sharp edges, feels much harsher.
Windows Mobile requires that the handset has three buttons across the bottom edge of the display. Although this is slightly more complex than the iPhone’s single button, it makes it easier to search and switch back through applications with one hand, rather than the iPhone’s double-press of the home button and swipe.
It was a tough call but the Nokia Lumia 800 gets three points. Second place goes to the iPhone, with the Galaxy Nexus bringing up the rear.
ROUND 3 – User interface
When we put these three phones side-by-side and use them one thing is clear: In our view, iOS looks tired. Although the Retina Display delivers a great screen, Apple is falling behind.
iOS is easy to use but retains an app-centric view of things. Every time you want to do something you need to use an app. However, it’s also inconsistent. For example, there’s no FaceTime app on the iPhone – you need to open contacts and initiate FaceTime calls from there.
Windows Phone 7 might be lagging in the sales department, but the interface is simple – your data is put front and centre and it’s very easy to use. The tiles, that can represent either applications or collections of information, are large and clear.
The Galaxy Nexus has a beautiful display – it’s arguably better than the iPhone. Although it’s not quite at the same pixel density it operates at a much higher resolution – 720 x 1280 versus the iPhone’s 640 x 960 – and is over an inch larger. Also, the Galaxy Nexus has the best application switcher with a button that displays a thumbnail view of each open app.
For us, it’s the Galaxy Nexus that wins the round, closely followed by the Lumia 800 with the iPhone scoring one point.
ROUND 4 – Apps
When you’re buying a smartphone it’s worth understanding that you’re not just buying a piece of hardware. You’re also committing to an online and application platform. When it comes to the sheer number of apps the prize goes to Apple. However, the Android Marketplace is gaining ground. Windows Phone brings up the rear but has the edge if you’re after the best office applications.
iOS wins the app round but a year ago the victory would have been resounding. Now it’s just solid and we’d expect it to be an even closer call next year. The Galaxy Nexus gets the two points with the Lumia 800 coming in third.
Winner: iPhone 4S
If you’re looking for a new smartphone you’re spoilt for choice. There is real competition and quality is rising rapidly as a result. Although Apple came up trumps here with nine points, the Samsung Galaxy nexus was only a point behind and just one point ahead of the third- place Nokia Lumia 800. In truth, we’d be happy to use any of these three smartphones.