AndroidEditorials

I wish more Android phones were like the iPhone 5, hardware-wise

phone-sized

At this point there’s no way I’m every going back to an iPhone. I simply rely too much on being able to customize my device, more so than the base OS itself, and that’s not something the iPhone is ever likely to get. Still, every time I see my friends’ iPhone 5, I can’t help but wish that there was an Android phone that was just like it, hardware-wise.

I’m torn when it comes to the question of how big a phone screen should be. On the one hand, I’m fascinated by the thought of a “tabletphone”, since I don’t actually do much calling on my phone as it is. A bigger display means more screen real-estate I can use for my own custom apps, though I don’t consume any screen-dependent multimedia on my phone, making a large screen somewhat unnecessary in that regard.

On the other hand, I actually completely agree with Apple on the iPhone being an ideal size for one handed use. My 4.3-inch Galaxy S II is small by today’s high end Android phone standards, and while both it and larger phones can be used with one hand, it’s just a completely different feeling to hold an iPhone 5, in my opinion. It just feels so much more like it’s made for one handed use, and it never feels like it’s going to slip no matter what I do. The tall display is in my opinion a great way to increase the screen size without going away from that basic design principle, and unlike on a tablet where I very much prefer the 4:3 screen ratio due to viewing documents , I think a tall screen on a phone works very well.

I also very much like the screen itself. 1136 x 640 pixels look beautiful on a 4-inch device, and I don’t think there’s any point in having a higher PPI than that. Android phones more or less need to have a 1080p display to be considered top of the line these days, and I cannot for the life of my see the purpose of it. I can easily see the upgrade from 800 x 480 to 1280 x 800, but from 1280 x 800 to 1920 x 1080? Sorry, but no. I think the iPhone 5’s screen resolution is just in the sweet spot where it looks awesome without adding expensive and battery-consuming hardware almost just for the sake of it.

Design-wise, I also like the iPhone 5. I imagine a direct Android version would have a home button and two capacitive buttons on the side of it, with everything else being the same. I’m not a fan of Samsung’s move to rounded designs (which is likely due to Apple’s lawsuits, however), and while I like the general look of Sony’s phones, that’s perhaps a bit too square around the edges. The HTC One is great in many ways, just too big, and with a camera technology that- while based on the right premises- is executed in a way that makes it a no go for me personally. The iPhone 5 is again exactly what I prefer, although a smaller Sony phone or HTC One would also do the trick.

The thing I don’t like about the iPhone 5’s hardware is the thickness. I’d much rather see a thicker device with a larger, removable battery, and that goes for other devices that are going for the thing factor too. It’s not just that I would like the extra battery capacity, it’s also that I like to be able to feel my phone in my pocket, and I can’t do that if it’s the thickness of a bus ticket.

There are smaller Android phones, but unfortunately it seems like smaller also means lower end in the Android world. If you go down to the fairly standard 4.3-inch screen size, you often get stripped down versions of the ~5-inch flagship devices, with a lot of internal hardware like chip power and RAM missing. As you move even further down, you get budget models that are essentially just toys. What I want is a 4-inch device with a 1280 x 720 display (for the sake of using a standard resolution), a quad core chip, 2GB of RAM, a good camera, LED flash, NFC, microSDXC expandability, and an above average battery life. Those are far from absurd specs, yet they seem to be reserved for larger devices.

As for the tabletphone question? Well, I quite like the Asus Fonepad concept. However, instead of having a 5-inch phone transform into a 10-inch tablet, I’d like to see a 4-inch phone transform into an 8-inch tablet, one with some sort of accurate pen input. That would make an awesome device for my use, but it seems like I’m alone in wanting smaller devices these days.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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10 thoughts on “I wish more Android phones were like the iPhone 5, hardware-wise

  • Avatar of Paul Tobeck

    You may get your wish for a smaller, top of the line phone. A Sony rumor posted this morning about a 4.3″ “Z Ultra” coming, complete with the exact same specs as the bigger flagship.
    Personally, I like the 4.65″ screen on my GNex, but I could live with 4.3″.

    Reply
    • Avatar of Andreas Ødegård

      Thing is though, 4.3 is still too big. I have a 4.3-inch device now, and I much, much prefer the iPhone 5 size to it.

      Reply
  • On the pixel density note, I think 1080p displays on a phone may be overkill at first, but it has one really important, justifiable result.

    At such high PPI, pixels are actually invisible to the naked eye. Not so much on an iPhone 5 or a 720p phone. I know you have to try really hard and bring your phone abnormally close to see pixels on these phones, but at 1080p, they vanish. As if they never existed!

    Thankfully, this puts an end to the pissing contest, but more importantly, it also, for the first time in history, makes display resolution an irrelevant spec. With 1080p on a phone, we can just assume the display will be “sharp as possible”.

    This is the same notion used in the perfectly named, Chromebook Pixel.

    Reply
  • Unfortunately, until phones will last 4 days with all functions they offer ‘ON’ I wont be impressed with anything they offer, as simply you are always limited to what and how you use it. Yes I’m home each night, but we are living in 21st century and I find it little ridiculous we can find powercases mobile chargers etc.. but we cannot have device designed for intense use outdoor scarifying thickens for power performance. I have Nexus 4 right now (because it’s cheap) and lasts me a day :/

    Until then… we can have all the glories of HD screens, LTE networking and GPS real time functions dead with the device we dont use in scare we wont be able to make a call later.

    Anyone else misses battery life counted in weeks rather than hours? :D

    Reply
  • How about trying the Goophone?

    Reply
  • Avatar of Salmanazar

    I have to disagree with you with regard to the 5’s aspect ratio. 16:9 is fine if all you care about is a slim phone for calls or lots of wide-screen video. But if you care that much about video, then you wouldn’t be watching it on a phone!

    Keeping the 3:2 ratio and making the iPhone 4″ would of been so much better especially for reading ebooks and web consumption. That little bit more width (which held vertically) for reading would of been much better and Apple wouldn’t have to worry about about having two-different aspect ratio device to develop for.

    Since video on a phone is never going to be a great experience, it matter little that the sides of widescreen content are cropped.

    Reply
  • I understand your argument for resolution in terms of regular usage – however, I’m extremely nearsighted and often use my phone within two inches of my face when I get a text at night without my contacts in – there is a HUGE difference between my 1080p One and my wife’s S3 (306 ppi) vs iPhone 5’s (326ppi)

    While ‘retina’ quality may be true from a normal viewing angle, look closely and you’ll see a big difference. However, notice that the color accuracy of the One and the iPhone 5 are very close – not overly saturated, true to life. That can’t be said for Samsung’s offerings.

    Many people are saying that the HTC One is the ‘iPhone’ of Android as if it’s a bad thing, but I think it’s a step in the right direction if Android wants to be respected as much as iOS. You might personally feel that the iPhone 5 is perfect for one-handed use, but I prefer a bit larger display at the cost of portability – my phone takes up one pocket, that’s it, and I can use it comfortably with just one hand. It might be a stretch for others, but it’s perfect sized for me.

    One other thing I’d like to note that’s a little odd – I’m left-handed. The back button on the One feels extremely intuitive compared to other devices I’ve used, but those who primarily use their device with their right hand will probably take issue with the back button being so far away from their fingers. I’ve always thought ‘left to right’ which makes the back button seem to be in a perfect position, though I’m sure that causes a lot of problems for those used to a one-button layout ala-S3 or S4 / iOS.

    In the end, you’ve got the two champions, the S4 and the One, VS the (admittedly aging and soon to be succeeded) iPhone 5.

    I would not want a smaller device than the One personally, I use it too often and it’s not a burden in my pockets. It seems like every few years we go through a transition of ‘ultra-powerful large tech’ to ‘small, slightly underpowered but very portable tech.’

    HTC’s current plan of releasing 3 variants of the One (Mini, Normal, Max), is a good idea, and as you say the resolution doesn’t matter as much on a smaller phone – 720p is fine for the mini. A bigger battery and faster processor is necessary to power the Max.

    What I would like to see, and I’m sure you would agree with, is a better choice in options – For example, with the HTC line, 3 phones that perform the same (resolution equal to the size of the screen so images appear the same), processors capable of handling the same load based on said resolution, and a ‘phablet’ version that has the same power with upgraded specs to support the larger unit. All of them would be equally smooth and high-quality, it would simply be a matter of size preference.

    I’m in doubt as to if we would ever see that, but here’s hoping.

    Reply
  • I’ve never wished my note 2 had more pixels than it’s 720p
    It’s 2 day battery life is adequate. By smartphone standards it’s considered good. Compared to my old nokia 6310i (yes, I kept mine) its laughable.

    All the technical issues of cramming every feature into a phone along with sufficient computing and graphics power have been solved.
    Can we go back to a race for battery life and robustness?

    Reply
  • xperia z1s. thats supposed to be a small enough phone. cant remember the specs exactly

    Reply

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