The iPhone 4S is still considered top dog, even though some recently compared phones like the Motorola Droid Razr and Samsung Galaxy Nexus have come closer and closer to overtaking Apple’s moneymaker. Then today AT&T announced, perhaps preemptively (LG has scheduled their own event to reveal something on December 1st), LG’s Nitro HD. So let’s take a look at how the Nitro stands up to the iPhone 4S.

Size

The iPhone 4S is nowadays considered a small smartphone; 4.3″ displays are the standard, and the Nitro HD is on the larger side of Android handsets at 4.5″. With a big display comes a big phone, and Apple’s long-time requirement of one-handed use really comes into focus past the 4.3″ screen. At 4.5″, handsets feel too wide in the hand.

Winner: iPhone 4S feels more natural in the hand and better fits a pocket or bag, even with a thick case.

Appearance

The iPhone 4 has an iconic look, even though it breaks easily thanks to it’s hardened glass shell. Meanwhile, the newer Nitro HD looks like almost every other Android handset to come out in the last six months. It’s sleek, has a nice display and a weaved back cover, but phone makers are going to have to try harder to beat the iPhone in looks alone. And the iPhone looks good in both black and white.

Winner: iPhone 4S is still the most visually stunning phone around.

Display

While the iPhone 4 has for a long time had the greatest screen density, recent phones like the HTC Rezound and Galaxy Nexus have revealed 720p ready displays with higher pixel density than Cupertino’s Retina Display. The Nitro HD is no different, and while the pixel per inch count is still in question, it’s 4.54″ display boasts the same resolution as the Galaxy Nexus, and presumably the same pixel density. Add to that the higher resolution display to clearly view 720p video content, and the answer is clear.

Winner: Nitro HD, with a bigger, sharper display at a higher resolution.

Operating System

The Galaxy Nexus is the first phone that’s already found it’s way into the wild, though it’s still hard to find and impossible to buy on contract yet, and sports the latest Android 4.0 operating system. The Nitro HD doesn’t, and while Android 2.3.5 is a solid OS, iOS 5 is better. It’s unclear whether the Nitro HD will be bumped up to 4.0 either, or when for that matter, though LG has recently announced that their Optimus line of Android phones will (at some point) upgrade to 4.0.

Winner: iPhone 4S, because the Nitro HD isn’t shipping with Android 4.0 and we don’t know whether it’ll receive the upgraded OS, and if so, when.

Processor

The iPhone 4S’s A5 processor is underclocked to 800MHz. The Nitro HD has a 1.5GHz Qualcomm CPU, nearly twice as fast. That same CPU is blazingly fast in the HTC Rezound, and I have no doubts that the Nitro HD will be just as speedy.

Winner: Nitro HD, with a CPU nearly twice as fast.

Storage

The iPhone 4S comes in three flavors: 16GB, 32GB and 64GB, while the Nitro HD sports 4GB of internal memory and comes with a 16GB MicroSD card. That means the base model iPhone has only slightly less storage than the Nitro HD, while the $50 more expensive iPhone model has 12GB of more space.

Winner: iPhone 4S, with more space and more space options with better pricing.

Wireless Connectivity

Both phones are available on AT&T, but only the Nitro HD supports both HSPA+ (what AT&T calls 4G) and LTE. AT&T’s LTE network is only available in 15 markets, mostly on the east coast, though the company is rolling out the faster network as fast as it can. The Nitro HD will be one of of the first phones to run on AT&T’s LTE network, while the iPhone 4S is stuck with HSPA+ until (presumably) next year.

Winner: Nitro HD, which has access to AT&T’s LTE network, however small that is for now.

Camera

Both feature 8MP stills and 1080p video, so the only way to say which is better without testing both devices side by side is to look at the history of each. The iPhone 4S already has a huge following, and the iPhone 4 is the most used camera phone on Flickr. It’s 1080p video beats out today’s competing devices to boot. Meanwhile, the few LG devices I’ve tested have had decent cameras, but they’ve typically lacked the speed and clarity that the iPhone is known for.

Winner: iPhone 4S, based on historical use alone.

Battery Life

As the news has been over the past few weeks, Apple has some battery problems with the iPhone 4S. They’ve released a fix for it, but that patch hasn’t actually solved the problem. Meanwhile, the Nitro HD has to sport a massive battery, though neither AT&T nor LG have released the numbers on it or how long they expect the phone to last in between charges. That’s no surprise for an LTE device. 4G phones typically drain their batteries quickly, but considering the iPhone 4S doesn’t have 4G and still has no fix, it can’t compete.

Winner: Nitro HD, at least until we get some significant numbers regarding call/4G time for the Nitro HD or the battery on the iPhone 4S is fixed.

Carriers

Apple’s phone is available on the three largest US carriers, Verizon, AT&T and Sprint, though it can only call and use data simultaneously on AT&T. The Nitro HD is exclusive to AT&T.

Winner: iPhone 4S, which is available on more carriers (though it makes no difference for current or future AT&T customers).

Price

As mentioned earlier, the iPhone 4S is available at three prices: $200, $300 and $400 with a two-year contract ($650, $750 and $850 off contract). The Nitro HD is (so far) available only on a two-year contract for $250, which is right between the two cheaper iPhone models. Considering that the $200 iPhone 4S is a 16GB model and the $250 Nitro HD has 20GB of storage, it’s far easier to get more bang for your buck with the iPhone 4S in terms of storage alone. Plus, service contracts vary greatly between service providers, especially between Verizon/AT&T and Sprint, with it’s unlimited plans.

Winner: iPhone 4S, with more pricing options and better service pricing across multiple carriers.

Overall Winner

 

At 7-4, the iPhone 4S is the clear winner over the LG Nitro HD. There are a few key areas where LG’s phone could be more competitive, namely with Android 4.0 (or at least the promise of an upgrade from 2.3.5) and storage/pricing. The Nitro HD is certainly competitive thanks to it’s access to AT&T’s LTE network, but that network is currently too small to make any prospective buyers to pick up the Nitro HD for that feature alone. The 720p display is certainly great as well, but I’d have really liked to have seen better storage/pricing options, such as a $200 starting price tag or a 32GB flash card instead of the included 16GB card (and perhaps a price increase to $275/$300 to match the additional memory).

Those two things would instantly put the Nitro HD on par with the iPhone 4S for prospective buyers, and make the purchasing decision much harder. Without them, I would absolutely recommend the iPhone 4S over the Nitro HD.



James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.