iPhone 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S II

Samsung has launched its flagship smartphone in the shape of the Samsung Galaxy S II (2) (GT I9100) as the curtain has gone up on the Mobile World Congress 2011 trade show in Barcelona. We’re not going to hide this from the start. It sounds seriously impressive. The big question, of course, is just how amazing is it, and, for that, we’re going to need the help of probably the very best handset around - the Apple iPhone 4.

So, as is our want here at Pocket-lint, we’ve whipped out the spec sheets of both of these top end smartphones and put them in the ring with one another to see which tears the other to shreds. This is the iPhone 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S II.

Form Factor

1st: Galaxy S II
125.3 x 66.1 x 8.49mm, 117g

2nd: iPhone 4
115.2 x 58.7 x 9.3mm, 137g


While there are four dimensions of statistics to consider in this category, it’s only really two that count and the Samsung Galaxy S II comes out top in both. The latest flagship mobile from the Korean tech giant claims to be the world’s thinnest at just 8.49mm and it sounds like it should be scooping some kind of gong for its waif-like weight at a feather light 117g as well. It's more the kind of stat you’d expect of a feature phone. While the iPhone 4 gets the better of the Galaxy S II in width and height, it’s the superior screen size on the Samsung that’s responsible for the extras. Well worth the trade off but we’ll come to that in a minute.

Display

Tie: Galaxy S II
4.27-inch, 800x480px, Super AMOLED Plus

Tie: iPhone 4
3.5-inch, 960x640px, LCD with IPS


We can imagine debating this one long into the night but the question is really about whether you’d prefer your phone to have a bigger screen or a better resolution. There’s equally good arguments for both. At the level of mobiles, any extra size you can get is well worth grabbing, but the solution can always be to hold a smaller screen closer to your head. On the other hand, you can’t make up for the lack of pixel density on the Samsung.

What you do get with the Galaxy S II though is an excellent performance thanks to the company’s years of pedigree in the panel making space. The Super AMOLED Plus is a step up from the straight Super AMOLED of the first Galaxy. It brings a wider colour gamut, better contrast, sharper edges, better outdoor visibility and lower power consumption than ever before. In fact, so proud is Samsung of this on the spec sheet that, if it all performs as promised, it might actually be better than the Retina Display of the iPhone 4. However, until we’ve review proof of how the additional sub-pixel count plays out in use, we’re going on the numbers and, according to the numbers, it’s a draw. Still, when you draw with the best, you’re doing pretty well.

Engine Room

1st: Galaxy S II
1GHz dual core, 1GB RAM

2nd: iPhone 4
Apple A4, 512MB


Samsung hasn’t been entirely explicit for the moment on the finer details of the beating heart of the Galaxy S II but it’s clear without getting into the numbers that it’s streets ahead of the iPhone 4. The CPU runs just as fast but is built for multitasking with the added core, plus the doubling of the RAM, speaks for itself. What’s a little unlcear is what’s going on graphically. All the same, we know that the original Galaxy S had the edge in that department over the iPhone, so it’s a pretty safe bet that the second iteration will have blown Apple’s darling out of the water this time around.

Imaging

1st: Galaxy S II
8MP rear, 2MP front, 1080p video capture

2nd: iPhone 4
5MP rear, VGA front, 720p video capture


Again, it’s a lesson in up to the minute technology for the iPhone 4. Samsung has really gone for it by sticking a hefty sounding 8MP stills camera on the Galaxy S II complete with LED flash. It can capture Full HD video at 30fps where the iPhone can only manage 720p. What’s more, the front facing webcam is of the kind of resolution that’s hard to get embedded in modern day laptops let alone a smartphone. If the software and connection is up to it, video calls on the Samsung smartphone should look fantastic at the other end too.

If that’s not enough, Samsung has also piled in plenty of its compact camera technologies including Smile Shot, Beauty Shot, Panorama Shot, Action Shot and Cartoon Shot too. Naturally, all these figure don’t necessarily mean that your picture will be any better but we strongly suspect that they will be.

Storage

1st: Galaxy S II
16/32GB + microSD

2nd: iPhone 4
16/32GB


Pretty simple one to judge here. Both phones offer the same amount of flash storage with the only difference that you can expand that of the Samsung Galaxy S II with microSD cards up to the value of 32GB. So, effectively, you can store twice as much on it. With all those 1080p videos and 8MP stills, you’ll probably find you need to.

Battery Life

Tie: Galaxy S II
1650mAh

Tie: iPhone 4
1420mAh, Up to 10 hours video


Although we know the spec of the battery in the Samsung Galaxy S II, there’s been no quotes of how long the company expects the thing to last between charges. While it’s definitely bigger than that of the iPhone 4, it does have that dual core CPU to run as well as a larger screen. All the same, the Super AMOLED Plus display is supposed to be incredibly power efficient and that’s often where smartphones use up most of their supply. At the end of the day, we’ll only be able to unravel this one once we get the Galaxy S II inside the close doors of the Pocket-lint labs. All the same, we suspect the delivery will be similar to that of the iPhone 4 - nearly enough to give you a day of heavy use but still short of what you really want.

Connectivity

1st: Galaxy S II
Wi-Fi, NFC, 4G, BT 3.0, DLNA, Wi-Fi tethering

2nd: iPhone 4
Wi-Fi, BT 2.1, 3G


It’s a little on the overkill side when probably all you really need is what the iPhone 4 delivers of connectivity but the embarrassment of riches from the Samsung Galaxy S II is nonetheless seriously impressive. There’s 4G - should you be able to use it -  and there’s the latest version of Bluetooth designed to cut down the hassle of the handshake initiation and even Near Field Communication technology for when contactless payments via smartphones become the zeitgeist.

Beyond the boasts though Samsung’s DLNA system called All Share will come in very handy when you want to view HD content wirelessly from your phone onto a friend's big screen TV. Wi-Fi tethering to your PC for both internet and local use is a great touch and there’s even the Kies Air software to manage your handset’s content from your computer sans cable too. Plenty to play with. Watch that battery though.

Software

1st: iPhone 4
iOS 4.2

2nd: Galaxy S II
Android Gingerbread 2.3


It’s always a tricky one when comparing Android to iOS. For a while we used to call this one a tie. Essentially, it boils down to the fact that you can customise Android and you can’t iOS with the flipside of the same argument that the latter just works a bit better. The other part to consider is that you get full Flash-enabled web browsing on Android and not with Apple but then the iPhone has the edge when it comes to apps.

While both offer multitasking these days - just about - the addition of the Game Center on iOS has given the platform an advantage especially compared to the fragmentation issues that we’re currently getting from Google. So, despite all of Samsung’s good work on its hubs-based UI, the software scalp belongs to the iPhone 4 for the moment.

Price

1st: Galaxy S II
Less than the iPhone 4

2nd: iPhone 4
More than anyone else


Ok, so we don’t know this as a fact yet but traditionally, the iPhone has always cost considerably more than any other smartphone on the market and we see no reason why Samsung would choose to price things any other way. So, until we hear that the Korean giant has decided it’s moving into the luxury space, we’ll hand this round to them.

Conclusion

It’s pretty clear that the iPhone 4 has met its match, but then at two-thirds of the way into its life cycle it probably should have. While it’s still an excellent device and arguably still holds the cards on the software front, the Samsung Galaxy S II bests it just about all of the departments that count. The Galaxy S II is thinner, lighter, far more powerful, streets ahead on taking pictures and video and has a screen to show it all on that’s at least as good.

More than that though, this latest flagship smartphone from Samsung is an absolute tour de force of mobile phone features - certainly on paper. The company has maxed out the software as much as possible and thrown in enough wireless connectivity options to pretty much make sure that you can pass any kind of information from one device to another or even the cloud no matter where you are and without a single cable in sight. Really impressive stuff. Fingers crossed it actually delivers.

So that's the way it goes down but which would you rather have in your pocket or are you waiting for another phone from another of the phone makers? Let us know in the comments.



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