It’s been quite a year when it comes to smartphone launches. With nearly half of the U.S. using these smart devices as their primary mobile phone, it’s no wonder manufacturers are churning out new products once, twice and even three times a year.
In the ongoing arms race between smartphone makers in the tech industry, it can be tough to decide which device reigns supreme. Each smartphone comes with its own advantages and drawbacks; some boast innovative design, others come with more enhanced displays or more impressive specs. But the key to pinpointing the top smartphone of 2012 was determining which device is the best at blending all of these elements together.
The decision wasn’t an easy one, but we’ve decided to crown Apple’s iPhone 5 as the best new smartphone of 2012.
Tech geeks and Apple fanatics have been waiting for this device ever since the iPhone 4S launched about one year earlier, and the iPhone 5 seems to deliver everything fans have been waiting for.
Apple’s September iPhone 5 launch has been referred to as the biggest smartphone debut in history. The smartphone became available for pre-order on Sept. 12, hit store shelves on Sept. 21 and sold five million units in its first three days. Granted, there wasn’t much we didn’t know about the iPhone 5 before it was released, but the finished product certainly lived up to the hype. Here's why.
Design. The iPhone 5 completely rebuilds the body of Apple’s iPhone as we know it. While the iPhone 5 is still shorter than most of its Android counterparts, it puts to rest most gripes about the smartphone's short and thick body. Apple's previous iPhone models featured a 3.5-inch screen; the newest variant has grown to a full four inches. The body of the iPhone 5 is thinner and lighter than any Apple smartphone that came before it, without the plastic-ish feel that comes with Samsung’s Galaxy S3.
Display. The iPhone 5 features Apple’s signature Retina display, which was initially introduced with Apple’s iPhone 4 back in 2011. Not to mention, it’s 16:9 aspect ratio finally allows users to watch full videos in widescreen, making it possibly the best handheld device for gaming and watching movies on the go. While the iPhone 5’s screen isn't "Android big," it’s certainly large enough to accurately present content. Its smaller size, which measures in at 0.8 inches shorter than Samsung’s Galaxy S3, also makes it more compact and easier to hold while still allowing for plenty of screen space.
Besides size, it’s also important to keep in mind the crucial difference between Apple’s and Samsung’s smartphone displays. Apple uses Retina display technology in its LCD screens, which means that individual pixels cannot be discerned with the naked eye at any distance. As a result, the images shown on the screen are the crispest, clearest and sharpest possible. Apple boasts one of the best displays on the market, squeezing 326 ppi into the phone's four-inch screen.
Samsung, conversely, endows its smartphone screens with OLED technology, which many analysts consider highly promising but not very refined just yet -- colors are more exaggerated in OLEDs, which can lead to distorted, saturated and gaudy images. The Samsung Galaxy S3's Super AMOLED HD screen, for example, affects the way colors are displayed and the amount of energy used more than it enhances the image itself. According to The Tech Scoop, the most basic definition of AMOLED technology means that pixels do not require a backlight to produce colors and whites, and pixels can change fast enough to keep up with quickly-changing animations.
While both display technologies are impressive, Apple's iPhone 5 provides a significantly better, sharper and more color-accurate display compared to the Samsung Galaxy S3. This isn't just my opinion; an extensive analysis from Amherst, NH-based Displaymate proved the iPhone 5 was significantly better at providing accurate colors and brightness at all viewing angles.
Specs. The specs found in Apple’s iPhone 5 appear to be fairly standard, but it’s really the new processor that makes it shine compared to its predecessor. The iPhone 5 uses Apple’s fresh A6 chip, which boasts enhanced performance and a smaller, sleeker presence. Both the GPU and CPU are said to perform twice as well as the previous A5 chip.
In addition to a better processor, the iPhone 5 also comes with the standard 8-megapixel camera with HD 1080p video recording, a port for its brand new Lightning dock connector, and 4G LTE connectivity.
A premium user experience. Aside from the glitz and glamour that comes with the iPhone 5’s Retina Display and sleek new body, it’s really the user experience that makes the iPhone 5 our top choice.
Nothing beats the smooth, clean interface of Apple’s iOS. When Apple has an update, it releases it for all of its devices at the same time across carriers. There’s no waiting for months on end for an individual device to receive an update, which is typically the case with Android’s software updates.
Although Apple Maps turned out to be a disaster and Android fans will argue that they love the customization that comes with Google’s mobile OS, iOS is far more intuitive. Samsung has rolled out some pretty impressive features to its Galaxy Note 2 and Galaxy S3, and the iPhone’s lack of NFC cannot be overlooked -- but iOS is a clear winner when it comes to simply navigating the software.
When it comes to purchasing a smartphone and comparing iPhone vs. Android, it’s always a matter of personal taste. We’ve voted the iPhone 5 as the best smartphone of 2012 because we feel it offers the best combination of premium hardware and software and the best overall user experience. The Galaxy S3 came in at a close second, but we’re interested to see what the smartphone industry holds for 2013.
Lisa Eadicicco is a reporter covering mobile technology and video games for The International Business Times. Lisa joined the editorial team at IBT in January 2012, and has...