Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Used Phones – the Samsung Galaxy S3 versus the iPhone 4S

 (Galaxy S3 on left; iPhone 4s on right).
At first blush one may wonder, “Why this post?”  Certainly there are plenty of good reviews of both.  Another first thought may be, “Is this a fair fight?”  I mean, just look at the 2 phones and the picture would suggest a David vs Goliath match up.

The reason for this post is to discuss 2 decent choices for used cell phones.  A little over a year ago, I purchased a Samsung Galaxy S3 for $125.00.  Recently, I purchased an iPhone 4S $80.00 with the expectation that it would be a nice transition for my wife who is using a “flip phone” on AT&T’s “Go Phone” service.  Given the excellent communication, honed over 20 plus years of marriage I guess it should have not been a surprise when my wife responded by saying, “just cause I say something, doesn’t mean I’m going to do it” (or words to that effect).  So what was I to do, but give the iPhone a try.  This match up came as a result of a price – both are used phones that can currently be purchased for around $80 - $125 so there is a budgetary match up.  This post is not meant to replace any of the many fine individual reviews already available; rather, it is geared to practical consumer type reflections after using both phones.

Screen / View – winner is Samsung S3 – the picture pretty much tells the story.  It was the larger screen size that drew me to the S3 from the start.  The S3 screen size is much larger than the 4S which in turn allows you to see more at once.  This is particularly valuable if you are using the mapping / navigation features of the phone and is also nicer when viewing web content in a browser.  However, I will note that for phone, text and app use, the 4S is no slouch.  I need reading glasses for any close up work and find that I am able to accomplish what I need fairly easily on either.

General Hardware – once again the clear winner is the S3.  My impression has been that the S3 is noticeably quicker and more responsive than the 4S.  In my case, both devices have 16mb of internal memory.  However, the S3 has a slot for external memory so that you can easily and cheaply add 16 or 32gb of additional external memory.  Depending on how you will be using your phone, this may or may not be a big deal.  At one time, I enjoyed listening to music at work via my phone.  I have about 100 or so CDs that I have “ripped” to MP3 (digital format) so that external memory was very handy.  In contrast, if I were to put all of this music on my iPhone it would consume most of my space just for music, leaving little for apps.  (While on this topic, I’ll also note my dislike for the extent that Apple locks down the 4S software; specifically, if I want to delete a song I want to be able to delete it directly from my device – I don’t want to have to be forced to boot up my computer, delete it from my computer and then re-sync.)

Apps – this is dead even.  I have an iPad so it is very nice to go seamlessly from an iPad app to an iPhone app – you can’t get much easier than that.  However, I am a tinkerer and like the variety and freedom of the Android (S3) operating system.  Sometimes I like to take advantage of Amazon’s free app of the day and I’ve accumulated some good ones free.  I find that developers seem to be able to push out their updates quicker to the Android markets.  Apple seems to have a more regimented system which takes more time for updates to be made available, but on the positive side I think there may be a little more protection from malicious software from this approach.

Simplicity – winner is iPhone  I think this is the number one reason for the popularity of iPhone and Apple devices.  Yes, I think Android (and in the computer world, Microsoft) have come a long way, but Apple is still the king when it comes to design simplicity.  For example, if I were choosing a tablet for a senior with little tech experience, I would choose an iPad; it is just easier.  Same is true in this comparison – it is much easier to navigate and figure things out.

Battery Life – winner is iPhone  Not long after I bought my S3, I purchased a new batter.  (It is noteworthy that with the S3, you can replace the battery yourself which will save you money when and if you need to replace a battery).  I also researched ways to conserve battery life.  These conservation steps included turning off cellular, turning off location services and turning off a variety of other features.  On the other hand, the iPhone 4S has its original battery and it will still outlast the S3.  Unfortunately this is a big price that you pay for a faster processor and bigger screen.  I’m a very light cell phone user – on many days I don’t use it at all.  I’ll find if I let them sit, the iPhone can sit 3 to 4 days before needing a charge while the S3 will need a charge after about 2 days of sitting.  Either phone would be fine if you habitually charge your phone every day, but I tend not to so I greatly prefer the iPhone in this area.

Utility – winner is iPhone  My engineering colleagues refer to this as “form factor” which a quick Google and Oxford dictionary response states is “the physical size and shape of a piece of computer hardware” to which I would tweak to say “the desirability of the size and shape of a piece of hardware in relationship to its intended purpose”.  In this case, it’s as a smart phone and my use of this device is for infrequent calls, even more infrequent text and some occasional cellular data usage on the go.  “On the go” is a key piece as I use my laptop to type these fantastic posts and I use my iPad to browse the web and interact with apps so what is left is my needs while on the go.  To support “on the go” the device needs to be ready (no dead battery) and conveniently portable.  Both the 4S and the S3 fit in the pocket, but I have found that the size and weight difference is disturbingly noticeable.  Simply stated, the S3 tends to make my pants sag too much on one side while the 4S is much more comfortable as a stick it in your pocket and go type phone… when it comes to phones, maybe bigger isn’t better.

Overall – I still don’t know… yes, I’m frustrated by my own outcome.  Going into this, I thought I would favor the S3 that I originally fell in love with for its beautiful screen, but I found that I avoided taking the S3 on my walks due to saggy pant syndrome whereas since I’ve started using the 4S I tend to not mind stashing it in my pocket.  A phone is no good if you leave it home or if it has a dead battery when you want to use it.  In fairness, I’ll probably give the S3 one more go just to confirm my findings but after that I’ll need to make a call… one of them will need to go, but as of today I don’t know who it will be.

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