February sees Barcelona overrun with journalists looking for the latest in mobile technology. The city plays host to Mobile World Congress, an exhibition for the mobile industry attended by smartphone and tablet manufacturers – with the notable exception of Apple.
This year we saw new product launches from the likes of Samsung, HTC, Sony, and LG. As well as a few surprises, such as Nokia's new range of mobiles running Android rather than Microsoft Windows (Nokia will soon be owned by Microsoft!)
The news everyone was waiting for was the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S5 – the Galaxy being the smartphone most often compared to Apple's iPhone. However, the S5 launch fell flat, and we're not just saying that because we are iPhone fans.
Some might say that Samsung's Galaxy S5 announcement was merely an incremental upgrade - sure it features the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, fancy new Wi-Fi connectivity options, an improved camera and fitness related features, but there was nothing groundbreaking.
Apple is still leading the way with the only 64-bit handset on the market. Apple was so ahead of the curve with that one when it launched the iPhone 5s last September that the other smartphone manufacturers are still playing catch-up. New 64-bit chips were announced at the show, however. Intel showed off its dual-core 64-bit Atom chip code-named Merrifield, likely to appear in handsets in the second quarter. Nvidia is also working on a 64-bit ARM chip called Tegra K1, coming in the second half of the year. A 64-bit version of Android is also now ready, so it's only a matter of time before the industry catches up with Apple.
For many 64-bit will not come into a purchase decision – right now there are only a handful of 64-bit apps and while one of the key benefits of moving to 64-bit processing is the ability to use more memory, the iPhone has just 1GB RAM.
One feature from the iPhone 5s that did make an appearance at MWC, albeit in a slightly altered form, was the Touch ID. Samsung's Galaxy S5 has a fingerprint scanner. Other means of unlocking devices seen at the show included LG's 'Knock Code'. With LG's system you knock a number of predetermined taps on the screen to unlock your smartphone.
How the iPhone compares with other smartphones: screen size
While were no truly groundbreaking announcements at the show, Apple still lags behind in some key areas, most notably screen size. Among the new devices at MWC were a number of phablets (a class of mobile devices that sits between mobile phone and tablet). These included the massive LG G Pro 2 at 5.9in; the ZTE Grand Memo II phablet with its 5.7in display; and the Sony Xperia Z2 which sports a 5.2in display. There are even bigger phablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy Mega with its gigantic 6.3in touchscreen that launched in 2013.
Looking around MWC it is clear why there are calls for Apple to produce a phablet-sized iPhone (read all the iPhone Phablet rumours here). Indeed, some rumours point to a 5.6in iPhone in the works. However, we find phablets to be a little too unwieldy, and certainly too big to use comfortably in one hand. If you use this phone with just one hand, your thumb is likely to reach only 60% of the screen. They also tend to lose out in terms of resolution.
Phablets aside, the iPhone is still a little on the small side though. Apple's iPhone 5s has a 4.7in screen with 1,136x640 resolution at 326 ppi. When compared to the other smartphones on offer at MWC the vast majority were bigger than the iPhone. Those that were the same size, such as the LG G2 Mini, or smaller, the Huawei Ascend G6 at 4.5in, were in a lower price bracket.
Despite it's smaller size, the 326ppi Retina display on the iPhone impresses. Resolutions on the phones at MWC ranged from the Sony Xperia Z2 with 423ppi resolution down to the 245ppi resolution of the ZTE Grand Memo and the Sony Xperia's 229ppi screen.
How the iPhone compares with other smartphones: spec
Another area where Apple attracts criticism is when the spec of the iPhone is compared to other smartphones. Apple's iPhone 5s features an A7 processor clocked at 1.3GHz, and 1GB RAM. Other smartphones on the market boost up the RAM and the GHz. For example, LG's G Pro 2 phablet features a 2.26GHz Snapdragon 800 processor with 3GB RAM, the Sony Xperia Z2 offers Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 801, running at 2.3GHz, with 3GB of RAM. The Samsung Galaxy S5 also sports the Snapdragon 801 chip, this time with 2GB of RAM. There are calls for Apple to ramp up the processor speed and increase the RAM, but despite the apparent lower specs the iPhone continues to surpass other phones in real-life performance. We have to admit that we would like to have more RAM in our iPhone, we imagine that the reason Apple is keeping RAM to 1GB is to conserve battery life.
Some smartphones have less RAM and lower clocked processors than the iPhone 5s, such as the Nokia XL, which has a 1GHz dual-core chipset and 768MB of RAM, but the prices are low – in the case of the Nokia around £89.
How the iPhone compares with other smartphones: cost
Speaking of low cost, there are calls for Apple to drop the price of its iPhone 5c to gain ground in the lower end of the smartphone market. The phones on display at MWC ranged in price from the super cheap Nokias to the Sony Xperia M2 at around £250, and up to the Sony Xperia Z2 at £599 or the ZTE Grand Memo II at around £500. The iPhone 5s starts at £549 for the 16GB model while the iPhone 5c starts at £469.
How the iPhone compares with other smartphones: capacity
Capacity is another area where there are big differences between the iPhone and the competition. Apple's competition feature external memory card slots allowing users to add their own microSD storage. Some see this as a benefit, but when you consider these phones come limited storage - just 4GB of storage in the case of the Nokia XL, 8GB for the LG G2 Mini - you're going to need to use that memory card slot.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 only comes in 16GB or 32GB capacities although it can support a 128GB microSD card. An iPhone offers a 64GB option.
How the iPhone compares with other smartphones: camera
Capacity is a big deal to anyone who takes a lot of photographs, and smartphones are pretty much the camera of choice these days, so how do the smartphone cameras on show at MWC compare with the iPhone? The iPhone features a 8MP camera. LG's G Pro offers 13MP, the Samsung Galaxy S5 has a 16-megapixel sensor, and the Sony Xperia Z2 has a 20.7MP camera. However, more megapixels doesn't make a better camera. Apple has always focused on the quality of the sensor over the number of megapixels. Cramming more megapixels onto the sensor means that these pixels have to be smaller and quality suffers, as Apple's Phil Schiller said in the keynote announcing the new iPhone 5s: "Bigger pixels equal better picture".
How the iPhone compares with other smartphones: design
Finally, there's the design and the build quality of the smartphones on offer. Samsung's Galaxy S5 features a plastic case available in black, blue, white or 'copper gold'. The Sony Xperia Z2 is available in black, white and purple. The LG G2 Mini in black, white, red or gold. Also on display at MWC was the Lenovo S850 in hot pink. Can any of these match the design of the iPhone 5s? We don't think so.
As for weight, Apple's iPhone 5s weighs just 112 grams, meaning it's still one of the lightest phones around – the Sony Xperia Z2 weighs 163g and the Xperia M2 is 148g. The Samsung Galaxy S5 is 145g.
With all this in mind, we don't think that Apple has much to be worried about in terms of the smartphone market.
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