Those iPhone Specs Don’t Look So Good In Context

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Writing on The Verge today Vlad Savov postulates that competing with the iPhone specs is proving to be a difficult challenge for Android OEMs. That’s only really true when taken out of context.

For example Savov points out that Android OEMs ave to fit bigger and bigger batteries to their phones. He is right in that this is indeed a trend, that has also resulted in Android phones almost unviersally having a better battery life than the iPhone.

Let’s take a sanity check here. Despite having less memory, smaller and lower resolution screens than its peers the iPhone manages to be a disaster where battery life is concerned.

And yes, there’s no question that the iPhone is a slick operator. With Apple having full control of the software and hardware, plus the ability to optimize for a limited number of devices, you’d expect that to be the case. However at least a part of that advantage is down to the way that Apple limits the iPhone. Lower resolution screens mean fewer pixels to push around, aggressive application freezing techniques mean less background processing. It’s a matter of choice… a better way of working or a slicker experience.

In a direct head to head Apple doesn’t come out ahead either. Take the Xperia Compact range. With a similar screen spec and resolution, the Xperia trounces the Apple in battery life, performance and device size. And it has done with each release. Perhaps because Sony is the only Android OEM still producing compact devices with high end specs this get missed – especially in US-centric commentary like The Verge’s, a region where Sony has been weak.

That slick performance doesn’t last long either. Each year when Apple releases a new version of iOS there’s a standard process of iPhone owners performing a global victory dance to emphasise the rapid update advanatage of the iPhone, followed by tears on their pillows as the reduction in performance starts to bite.

Whether that’s by design, Apple driving new sales through performance management, or a side effect of optimising iOS for new hardware, it means an older iPhone generally no longer outperforms an older Android phone.

Savov’s article is an interesting read and makes some valid points, but the basic premise is wrong. Android OEMs push the envelope in specs because that is their lever to competing against the iPhone’s advantages – real and perceived. Apple trails in specs not because it can get better performance from lesser hardware but because by using less memory, smaller screens and lower resolutions, it keeps its profit margins high.

The iPhone 6, with its ‘copycat’ big screens and record sales amply demonstrates that truth.

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