The advent of the smartphone has changed not only the way we communicate, but the way we go about our daily lives. The newspaper is now on your phone. High-speed internet capabilities and HD displays makes watching movies and TV shows on your handheld device an amazing experience. Your smartphone doubles as an mp3 player. The large number of games, along with all these features, means never being bored during a long wait. For the adventurous, you have your maps, compass apps, and even sky charts, if you’re into that sort of thing. And to capture all those amazing moments with friends, family, and also when you’re alone, you have the smartphone camera.

Until recently, one of the biggest gripes consumers had with their smartphones was the poor quality of the camera. The megapixels kept increasing, flash was added, but, there was something missing. It wasn’t time to get rid of that trusty point-and-shoot camera just yet. Maybe, until now.

It hurts me to say, but there is more to the world of technology than “just” Android. While only Android, all the time would be amazing and a pleasant scenario for the future, we here at Android Authority like to peek into other advances in this fascinating tech world. Let’s be honest, research conducted now(flexible AMOLED displays, battery tech advances, camera technology) will directly affect our future Android devices. As such, we have some great articles on the technology behind the whopping 41MP camera featured in the Nokia PureView 808 and an overview of the current state of smartphone camera tech, with some insight into the future.

nokia pureview 808

The latest high-end smartphones boast amazing cameras with a host of features that makes the need of a P&S camera redundant. That’s one more less thing you have to carry around now. Today, we pit some of the best devices Android has to offer, including the Samsung Galaxy S3, the HTC One X, and the Sony Xperia S, against each other and also against the iPhone 4S. You may be wondering why the relatively cheaper Xperia S is featured on this list. That is because while the other three devices feature 8MP cameras, the Xperia S boasts a 12.1MP camera.

Test Conditions

All images from the various testing conditions are courtesy of Natasha Lomas, the Mobile Phones Editor at CNET. You can read her complete review here.

“Test conditions” makes it sound quite serious, but it’s just everyday situations where you might be taking pictures, and includes:

  • Still Life
  • Depth of Field
  • Low Light levels
  • Flash
  • Indoors
  • Outdoors
  • Close Up

To give you a sampler of the tests ran by CNET, here are the shots in the Still Life category.

Samsung Galaxy S3


Sony Xperia S

iPhone 4S

With the Samsung Galaxy S3, HTC One X, the iPhone 4S, and the Sony Xperia S being packed with features, it’s not surprising that it is quite difficult to crown any of the smartphone cameras as the best. Each has its strengths and weaknesses in different scenarios, and as always, it boils down to personal preference. But, it does look like the 12.1MP Sony Xperia S is the least impressive of the four devices, even with its megapixel superiority. The poorer quality can possibly be attributed to its lower cost and hence, cheaper hardware, so that the next high-end Sony smartphone with a 12/13MP camera could stand strong against its competition.

It’s now up to you, the reader, to give us your final verdict. Which device do you think produced the best images in each category? Which device camera would be your overall choice? How big of a difference does the quality of a smartphone camera make to you? Let us know in the comments section below.

Ankit Banerjee
My primary profession lies in the Network Design Engineering field. I have always been passionate about the latest trends in mobile communication advances around the world.
  • Sebastka


  • Sebastka


  • Sebastka

    afsasdsa sory for the previous post. Finally . Wtf a banana ? I like the photographs of s3 and one X.. and the first photo of the iphone.

  • Dmwhittley

    As a self-confessed photo and android nerd I must unwillingly declare that it looks to me as though (in this test) the iphone wins all of the chatergories apart from maybe ‘indoor’.
    I hope the S3 has a colour correction and exposure compensation adjustments menu! My SI is getting tired.

    • Like20ninjas

      Your Canadian aren’t you?

  • Chris

    Idk its tough but i def did see with my eyes that the one X is washed out in some photos and the S3 is more color rich esp with blues (except in the outdoor shot strangely) but i will admit i think the iphone still has the edge but the GS3 is def the overall winner in my book (and thats being extremely fair)

  • John Reppschläger

    S3 seems to be the winner… Richest colour and best quality. Very sharp too, and well, – the software speaks for itself.

    • 6rill2000

      The picture with the Flash is definitly better on the S3, the difference between S3 and 4S on this picture is impressive (the ‘3D’ of the letters on the book are ‘3D’ on S3 but ‘Just White’ on 4S.

  • Tioz

    Unfortunately it seems to me as the iPhone wins except for flash and indoor..

  • Sara

    they really can! this is absolutely no joke

    they can hear, and see what your visually thinking
    this is the complete truth

    The reason a lot of Asians have completely expressionless faces, segregate from everybody else-only associate with Asians and don’t associate with non Asians that much, and are very unfriendly in general is to avoid accidentally revealing that they can read minds. If all over a billion Asians where to show facial expressions all the time just as much as non Asians, integrate and associate with non Asians much more, and be much more friendly and talkative, then a lot of them might accidentally reveal that they can read minds by accidentally showing a facial expression or dirty look when someone thinks, or visually pictures something in their mind they don’t like, find astonishing, or funny etc because those people might see that and and really wonder what that was that just happened there and see the connection, and they might accidentally say something similar to what the person was just thinking and going to say. If they all associated with non Asians a lot more then there would be a lot more people around for them to accidentally show facial expressions when those people think things they don’t like etc, so they segregate and only associate with Asians so there won’t be anyone around for them to see that and have any accidents happen in the first place.

    Try thinking, best yet visually picturing in your mind something absolutely crazy as you possibly can when you are around Asians, and try looking for Asians who give people particular looks, especially dirty looks for what appears to be for completely no reason, that is them giving people looks when they hear and visually see someone thinking something they don’t like, find astonishing, or funny etc.

    I know this may sound crazy, impossible and unbelievable, BUT IT ISN’T CRAZY WHEN ITS TRUE

    You have to spread the message!!!!!
    The world has to know about this!!!!!

  • Milind

    As much as it pains me to say this, apart from the low light photos which have a lot of noise, the iPhone images seem to have much better color reproduction and contrast. And that really surprises me since I thought that Samsung with the experience of all the P&S cameras they make would make better camera phones. All the HTC One photos I have seen, seem overexposed. In fact they fare a little better here than other photos I have seen.

    • Yasser

      I do agree with iphone’s camera got better colors but they are fake colors.

  • The S3 and the iphone look to have the best camera. However.. i think that a lot of the images can be enhanced by just using a 3rd party application. Or even in the S3 outdoor case, lower the exposure a little in the camera settings.

  • Samsung fan

    HTC x and galaxy s 3 the 2 winners

  • The iPhone 4S seems VERY over-saturated and the One X seems to suffer white balance issues.

  • Dan

    Speaking as a professional photographer, who really wants to stay with Android, the iPhone is clearly the winner in nearly all categories except perhaps low-light. And the reason is likely not the resolution, or the software, or the phone, but THE LENS. Guess I’ll wait for the iPhone 5…

  • Darktanone

    Except for the flash category, I’d give it to the iPhone 4S. I was torn on the indoor shot, until I noticed the glow from the windows in all but the iPhone 4S shot.  Made me think it most likely captured the scene as it appeared, without too much over exposure. You can feel the warmth in the environment. The others were stark and slightly desaturated. The most impressive shot was the macro shot. Here the iPhone 4S blew the others away. The shot was sharp, balanced and clear. Overall, the iPhone 4S’s pictures were sharper, well balanced, vibrant and natural looking with no overcast. 

  • Dan

    Oh, and thanks for this great article, just what I was looking for. Good testing!

  • pelas fotos que eu vi para mim htc one x foi o melhor depois foi iphone,a seguir galaxy s3 e por ultimo a sony por exemplo: ao ar livre se ve que entre o sony e o galaxy s3 estan muito soliadas mas o htc one x e o iphone as fotos se vem muito melhor mas gosto mais do htc one x para mim es o ganador a htc one x

  • Collocini

    Let me make the same pictures with SONY XPERIA S . Then we will see who is real and honest winner…

    • David Rappl

      Which settings would you choose? :) I got a Xperia S, but I don’t know how to improve the camera quality…

  • Sony Xperia S has 12.1 ​megapixels while Apple iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy S III and HTC One X has 8 megapixels……If this is all about camera then Sony Xperia is leading.

    • Guest

      Most megapixels ≠ Best camera.

      • Abhishek Kumar

        Best cameraphones= Nokia=SONY

      • yah i agree..i just bought this day an xperia s and oh my gosh im so amazed..its just like im watching a sony bravia tv..

  • TommyNYC

    As much as I hate to admit it… the iPhone seem to have the highest quality pictures all around with the exception of Flash and Low light area’s where the S3 takes the lead.
    The HTC seems poor all around, same goes for the Sony.

    Either way, camera quality on a PHONE was never my number 1 or number 3 in the priority list, when on a trip I take an actual camera along.

  • cnick

    Praise the idio… trolls with brainwashed heads. I saw another photo comparison regarding those handsets minus the Galaxy S III but it was a little old so i doubt the ignorants would still read an argumented comment.

    For the trolls that argue Sony made a good device from junk not vice versa(junk from an possible good device) and a cameraphone read here, the thread is long

    For others that argue both One X an Xperia S take better pictures than iPhone 4S go over here(or every other 2012 cameraphone test on the internet)

    For the frustrated trolls thinking I own an iPhone, I DON’T OWN an iPHONE. My eyes just don’t require glasses.

  • Cstay1661

    Overall iphone is a winner. Samsung galaxy S3 should be better but was let down can’t comply to iphone.

  • TKaldera

    haha hmmmm I Have 4s and Sony and I think that on every mob. device this day’s you can manage contrast to be darker “colorful” etc. BUT My feeling is that’s Sony has more realistic picture (when you look in pic. And then around what you filmed). Low quality software???? Wtf (Brilliant display) 720×1280 pixels and 342ppi pixel density! Best today! Best than Inez and S3! IPhone 640×960 pixels and 330 ppi pixel density!!- Yes there is some “problems” with focus -(you must wait for quality pic. But just sometimes!) same thing with iPhone to!! And if you forget to manage camera settings before start using the camera, picture will not be good because it’s not manage at full hd or 12mp at start. and Sony have fast capturing picture that is fabulous!!(when you manage camera settings wright!) Every picture can be manage to more darker or look more colorful on every device but when you want realistic colours My preference is rather Sony S than iPhone or “colorful” htc or” overestimated “Samsung

  • Frozen_flames

    The iphone has a blueish tint while the s3 is a bit yellowish. But both are the winners for me.

  • Mykel Pogi27

    the image of sony ericsson is the best among all., for me galaxyS3 is my choice!!!!

  • Gregtay6

    Cnet sucks. Why didn’t you use your own pictures to do this article.

  • xad

    I own an Xperia S and i can confirm the camera is indeed poor. Extremely poor in fact. The 12megapixel means nothing with the problems the phone has. There is also 100% a focusing bug that exists (or possibly hardware fault) that prevents the phone from focussing properly, this is most evident when recording video and moving from close object to far away object and back. Photos also don’t lock onto focus, especially in low light; just gives up sometimes.

    The blind XperiaS fanboys hurt the rest of us XperiaS users who know that problems exist and alert Sony to them so they can fix them, but these numbnuts want to tell Sony the phone is perfect with no problems.

    I’ve seen iPhone 4S photos from friends who have it and it without a doubt takes much better quality photos and they focus super fast without struggling. I will take a good quality 5mp photo over a bad quality out of focus 50mp photo any day. Shame some XPS users wish to remain blind.

    What’s weird is that apparently iPhone4s uses the Exmor-R sensor that the Xperia S uses….the one that Sony made; so not sure why photos are rubbish and the camera can’t autofocus more easily.

  • loken

    technically sony wins in camera because iphone4s and galaxy s3 cameras are made by sony.

  • James Hartwoood

    The S3 without question.

  • iPhone color is overboosted. Just like the TVs at consumer electronic stores, they crank up the contrast and brightness for the WOW factor, but it isn’t an accurate representation at all. Seems like the iPhone does the same thing so at first glance you think it looks great and then finally you realize it isn’t accurate at all.

  • karkera

    iphone rockzzzz….cuz iphone 4s is 8mp n xperia is 12mp…so comparitively iphones pic is gud…..aftal being 12 mp,itz nt so effective i gues….

  • gilmar

    dentre os 4 dispositivos ouve um empate entre galaxy s3 e o iphone 4s, fica difisel escolher entre um deles são ecelentes, com uma camera incrivel os dois melhores no momento, alias os dois posui o mesmo sensor da abraço

  • Actually the Samsung Galaxy S3 is best. iPhone4S might look like the best, but in reality, algorithms are run after you snap a photo on iPhone, that increases level/color adjustments. This is smart cheating done by Apple, but can easily be accomplished by using Photoshop. Here is an example for the fixed S3 photo (Bottom photo is iPhone 4S):

    • Ballux

      I can agree that you can post process just about anything but when it comes down to it, who wants to Photoshop all of their snapshots before sending them to Facebook, Twitter or wherever? I certainly don’t. I’d rather snap the pic and upload directly. If I wanted to use Photoshop on it I’d use my dslr.

  • Tails

    I’ve never seen such a ridiculous test. One picture on each phone, with no inidication as to the height of the camera, the angle the picture was taken at, the settings used on each camera. A proper test would needs at least 5 different photos, including night photos, long range, short range, small detail, number of pictures able to be taken, speed from stand by to capture. There’s no point in having an amazing camera if you can’t set it up in time.

  • Chams

    Iphone 4s

  • shashank

    iPhone 4s wins here…then comes galaxy s3…but htc one x and xperia s pics cant be judged because both the are of same quality….

  • shashank

    observe the table in the pics,its in white color…iphone shows the exact color….others display as they like……that’s ridiculous about the other phones…..

  • Abhishek Kumar

    Its funny to see iTrolls always reach to bash Android…

  • Tarek

    i feel that sony camera is darker lol

  • syga

    i think the onex wins this time

  • salam

    of course sony xperia s i mean i think sony xperia s is the greatest phone ever

  • zaq15

    The Sony wins the big tests so far. This is a fan shot out whit no substans.
    And Sony is the provider of iphone and Samsungs camera. The new is only in Sony S. And for a camera system mark. Dont you think they try before they give a new system out?
    This test is lol.

  • antdio

    xperia s win

  • Akatsuki777

    Of course iPhone 4s for its realistic quality

  • SonyEX

    the sony xperia s falls well behind in doors/low light the picture light has to be perfect for it to take just a good picture with out adding noise

  • Simon

    What are you clowns talking about? 4s flash photo is also superior to others – notice the dark skirting board and background subjects?

  • TFK

    By closer inspection I can see that the only problem with the Xperia S is that the white balance is on warm side. I personally like a bit of warmth as it makes the picture a little friendlier on the eyes and doesn’t look like it was taken in an operation theater. But to each his own I guess. Considering colors however, the device has wonderful colors and I can almost feel the texture of the objects which suggest a really sharp & high quality lens.

  • James Earley

    Forget the phones, look at the companies. Sony make 3 of the 4 cameras on offer and therefore are the winner.

  • prithuuu

    see the floor.,.,.iphone is the winner.,..,.,