Galaxy Nexus (Nexus Prime) vs iPhone 4S: Impending Superphone Armageddon [Updated]

October 5, 2011
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[ Update 2011-10-05: Apple has just officially announced what everyone was hoping to be the iPhone 5 as the iPhone 4S.  And, we now have official details about the iPhone 4S's specs. This post, first published on August 12, has been updated to reflect new information not just about the iPhone 4S but also of the Nexus Prime, whose official specs still remain unconfirmed and unannounced. ]

The tech world does not have any definitive word yet regarding the specifics of Google’s upcoming Nexus Prime (also rumored to be named Nexus 3, Nexus Plus, Samsung DROID Prime, or Samsung Galaxy Nexus).

On the other hand, what everyone was expecting to be the Apple iPhone 5 packed with new features that could potentially leave Android superphones in the dust turned out to be the iPhone 4S, which disappointed critics and heartbroken (and expectant) Apple fans quickly dismissed as just a rehash of last year’s iPhone 4 with slightly bumped up features.

Both phones, undoubtedly, are powerful and to see the two launching within the same time window this year will be like seeing two Titans wrestling for lordship over the universe.

In this post, let’s take a look at what kind of epic battle these two smartphones will be fighting. Since the Nexus Prime specs we include here are based on current rumors and speculations, consider this a potential preview of an Armageddon-like fight scene that is likely to come.

Shape and Design

The information currently circulating the Web suggests that, in terms of overall design and shape,the Nexus Prime will introduce very few changes.  The recently launched iPhone 4S, on the other hand, will definitely not come with mind-staggering changes in shape or design–precisely because it’s just an upgraded iPhone 4.

These smartphones will still sport textured backplates and smooth, rounded corners.

First Hands on Pics of the Nexus Prime - and yes, the look to be legitimate

Knowing Apple, the iPhone 4S is splattered all over with Apple’s iconic signature. The iPhone 4S, like its ancestor (i.e., the iPhone 4), will generally be instantly recognized as a device out of Apple’s orchard–with no cosmetic updates to its face.

The previous iPhone 4 sports a glossy cover–front and back–thanks to Gorilla glass all over, with aluminum edging surrounding the phone.  The iPhone 4S will have exactly the same glossy packaging.  Earlier speculations hinted at the possibility of a return to the first iPhone’s original looks, but Apple has decided instead to carry on with the iPhone 4’s shape and design.

Apple iPhone 4S

Many of the more recent smartphones have become thinner than their predecessors–to the delight of many customers, and to the disgust of those who worry about thin battery life. Yet, we can safely speculate that the Nexus Prime will be significantly thinner.  The iPhone 4S, on the other hand, is still 9.3 mm thick, just like the iPhone 4.

The first, real-world, hands on leak of the Nexus Prime - 1280x720 Display confirmed!

As for size, the Nexus Prime will likely be larger than the earlier Nexus S, which had a 4.0-inch screen. Current rumors place the Nexus Prime’s screen size to be anywhere between 4.0 and 4.7 inches. The bigger screen size will obviously also make the Nexus Prime physically larger than both the Nexus S and the iPhons 4S. With Super AMOLED Plus technology rumored to grace the Nexus Prime’s capacitive touchscreen, the physically bigger screen size and a rumored pixel resolution of 1280×720 can only mean more visual pleasure for anyone wanting to enjoy the benefits of high-end technology.

In contrast, the iPhone 4S is stuck with the iPhone 4’s 3.5-inch touchscreen display.

Check out this hands on video, just leaked, of the upcoming Nexus Prime and Android’s latest – Ice Cream Sandwich:

There has been consistent clamor for buttonless superphones, and between the iPhone 4S and Nexus Prime, the latter is more likely to give in to that clamor. Critics say that the absence of a physical home button on the Nexus Prime can translate to maximum viewing space, while other critics say its absence may impact usability a little bit.

The iPhone 4S, meanwhile, has retained the iPhone 4’s iconic physical home button. The thought of Apple’s removal of the physical home button on the iPhone 4S has earned the frown and scorn of a lot of Apple fans; thus, Apple presumably decided to leave the home button unmoved and untouched.

Processing Power

In terms of processing power, the battle scene has leveled up from single-core to dual-core processors, with quad-core processors looming on the horizon.  So, we are pretty sure both the Nexus Prime and the iPhone 4S will run on dual-cores.

Apple's A5 processor chip

The Nexus Prime’s rumored processor suggests to-die-for power and speed. A rumored candidate is the dual-core Texas Instruments OMAP 4470, with clock speeds reaching as high as 1.8 GHz. Even if the Nexus Prime’s processor ran at 1.5 GHz, which is also likely, as other rumors claim, it wouldn’t be so bad at all.  Another rumored candidate, the dual-core Texas Instruments OMAP 4460, is not as powerful as the OMAP 4470, but still a great choice for the Nexus Prime.

The iPhone 4S, on the other hand, has inherited the iPad 2’s processor technology: a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor (Apple A5 chipset–designed by Apple, manufactured by–guess who?–Samsung), with 1.0 GHz clock speed, and a dual-core PowerVR SGX543MP2 graphics processing unit.

Earlier rumors raised everyone’s hopes so high, with hints of a quad-core-powered Nexus Prime, courtesy of NVIDIA Tegra 3. But, that seems unlikely because the Tegra 3’s debut has been reportedly pushed back to next year–at least for smartphones.

The iPhone 4S carries 512 MB of DDR2 RAM.  The Nexus Prime, in contrast, will crawl a bit if it runs on its rumored processor with only the same amount of RAM as the iPhone 4S.  So, it is likely–and speculations have been strongly suggesting so–that the Nexus Prime will have more RAM, probably at least 1.0 GB.

For storage, the iPhone 4S provides the same internal storage options as did the iPhone 4–both a 16-GB model and a 32-GB model.  A third option–a 64-GB model–has also been officially announced.  In the case of the Nexus Prime, the standard built-in storage capacity will most likely start at 32 GB, although a 64-GB option is possible, too.

The iPhone 5 could possibly look like this

Many folks thought or were hoping that the iPhone 4S would introduce support for microSD card storage expansion.  Apple decided against it.  The iPhone 4 never had it.  The iPhone 4S will never have it.  The Nexus Prime, however, has greater likelihood of providing up to 32 GB more external storage space through microSD card expansion.

Operating System

Here’s where the catfight between the Nexus Prime and iPhone 4S boils up further.

Beauty and power in one: the Google Nexus S

Google’s Nexus Prime will launch with a deliciously named version of its mobile OS: Android 2.4/4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, reportedly coming out of the freezer in as early as October this year. The iPhone 4S, on the other hand, will be running iOS 5, the extensively revamped version of Apple’s operating system.

Undoubtedly, both operating systems are stable, robust, and powerful. But, depending on your personal persuasions, your ideologies, your level of fanboyism, your intended purpose for your smartphone, your techiness/geek level, and the superiority of your intelligence (or utter lack thereof), one operating system will definitely win your heart over the other. (As an aside, in the case of Android Authority, we find Android to be the better operating system–but of course!–and if saying that discloses our superior intelligence, then so be it. *grin*)

Android Authority’s captain, Darcy LaCouvee, argues that there are at least 5 compelling reasons why Android trounces iOS 5. Heck, Android seems to fare better on smartphones than the current version, iOS 4.

The Nexus Prime with first real world shots of Ice Cream Sandwich

All that does not mean iOS 5 is completely useless. It does have nifty features, too–about 200 “new” features and “innovations” such as a new Notifications Centre (which Android has had for some time), a BlackBerry-inspired messaging service called iMessage, an updated Mail app, a purportedly faster Safari Web browser, a Reading List, a Newsstand app, over-the-air software updates, and voice command functionality just like Google Voice Actions.

Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) on the Nexus Prime, on the other hand, promises not just a “unification” of the best features of Android 2.3 Gingerbread (for smartphones) and Android 3.x Honeycomb (for tablets). When ICS comes out, there will only be one–and only one–Android version for both smartphones and tablets.

Among the promised features coming with ICS are an entirely new user interface based on Honeycomb’s interface, support for USB peripherals (e.g., mouse, keyboard, etc.), a new app launcher, menus for multitasking and app switching, resizable widgets, and tabbed browsing. Facial recognition and face tracking are also reportedly supported.

Ice Cream Sandwich will also be beating its forebears (Gingerbread and Honeycomb) with at least a 180% increase in performance, according to credible sources. It is not yet clear whether the performance boost refers to overall performance, graphics processing, or browser performance. It is possible that the combination of state-of-the-art hardware provides such gains. Regardless, you can expect Ice Cream Sandwich to be the fastest, most delicious dessert/snack straight out of Google’s kitchen.

Conclusion

The upcoming battle between the Nexus Prime and the iPhone 4S is going to be epic. Although it is hard to pit the two upcoming devices against each other on the basis of rumored specs (i.e., in the case of the Nexus Prime), we can already predict a certainty: the fight is going to be really gory and gruesome, and may not even produce a real winner–except for the consumer, who will be the chief beneficiary of strong and healthy competition.

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