The iPhone 5 may be the hottest phone right now, but as we talked about just a short while ago, it’s major improvements over the previous iPhone 4S aren’t so massive. In fact, after having some time to play with the iPhone 5, it’s clearly a better phone, but not necessarily the phone we as consumers wanted.

Nokia, however, has been seriously struggling to regain any foothold in the smartphone market. The Lumia 900 we tested months ago proved to be a great handset, but only a few months later it was upstaged by the announcement that it would not receive the Windows Phone 8 update, and that those new WP8 devices would come with a massive hardware and software overhaul.

Well, we’re almost at the point where those devices are at the ready. In just a month the new Lumia 920 and 820 (like the 800, a less expensive alternative to the flagship) will release to the public as some of the first WP8 devices. But can it stand up to the iPhone 5, which isn’t our top-dog as the best smartphone in the world (that’s still a title held by Samsung’s Galaxy S III), but is the most popular phone in the world right now?

Size

While the iPhone 5 has grown since its predecessor the Lumia 920 has not. It’s the same as the 900, with a 4.5″ display, rounded sides with a flat top and bottom, and an overall large but bold design. In our original comparison between the iPhone 4S and Lumia 900, the iPhone won out because ultimately the Lumia felt too bulky and clunky in the hand. The same will likely hold true for the latest model, which is significantly thicker and larger than the iPhone 5.

Winner: iPhone 5, has a smaller overall size that’s thinner, lighter, and easier to use and hold.

Appearance

Again, with so few differences between the previous models of both devices, there’s very little that’s changed with the iPhone 5 and Lumia 920. The iPhone 5 is certainly sharper than the 4S, but I’m not entirely fond of the new design. The previous glass encasing was, while flimsy and easy to break, far more pretty too look at. Not to say the iPhone 5 is ugly, because it isn’t. It just doesn’t have that iconic look to it anymore.

The Lumia 920, however, does, albeit in an entirely different way. It’s almost grotesque, with such strong colors and and a design that matches both the outside shell and internal software. That alone, along with the latest additions to Windows Phone 8 which allows users to both set the size of live tiles and change their individual colors makes it unique enough to stand out in a crowd, and not in a bad way. Meanwhile, the iPhone 4S still looks iconic, and the iPhone 5 looks and feels like it was built by a robot; stylish, but cold.

Winner: Tie, because the iPhone 5 looks good but is cold, and the Lumia 920 comes dressed in matching clothes but is still very loud.

Display

The only reason the iPhone 4S lost last time to the Lumia 920 was because of color contrast. The AMOLED display on the Lumia 900 was beautiful. This time around Nokia opted for an IPS LCD panel similar to Apple’s construction, but has updated the OS and display to a 1280×768, 332 ppi screen with what the company is calling PureMotion+. Last time it was PureView, and it looked great. So while we haven’t seen the new display, considering Nokia’s recent history it’s fair to say that the new one will look great.

In contrast, the iPhone 5 hasn’t improved significantly over the iPhone 4S. There is an improvement to color contrast and brightness, but nothing outstanding. The biggest improvement is to the increase in screen size, from 3.5″ to 4″, which makes it a widescreen panel far better for viewing media. I’m not satisfied that increasing the size of the phone was a good move, though here at Gadget Review we have bemoaned watching HD TV and movies on the smaller, non-HD display. So feelings are mixed, to say the least.

What really settles it for me is the actual resolution. At 1280×768, any media viewed on the larger but more dense 920 display will be at full quality, compared to the slightly downscaled 1164×960 screen on the iPhone 5. Sure, any media purchased on iTunes will be formatted to fit the screen better, but if you’re like me and watch most media either streaming or from your own source, then the smaller size and downscaling will make images look slightly worse.

Winner: Lumia 920, which has a larger screen that can display at 720p without downscaling.

Operating System

After very long and serious consideration, I realized the victor of this bout is obvious from the get go. Just look at our image above signifying the OS. Microsoft has failed to make a name for itself in the mobile space. Hell, the software giant has even refused to put its acclaimed Office suite on competing platforms. It’s obvious they just don’t know what they’re doing.

But as much as I’d like to say iOS is better, the truth is I just don’t know. Windows Phone 8 will introduce a gargantuan list of new features, many of which will, according to Microsoft, make you want to buy one of their phones. Without any hands-on time, how can anyone judge? Windows Phone 7 was a great OS but it had, and continues to have, one major flaw: no apps.

That’s why this decision goes to iOS 6. Apple’s OS has the most and the best apps in the mobile space. Android is constantly getting closer and closer, nudging ever so near, but Microsoft? They’re so far behind Amazon’s specialized Android store that they can’t even compete with one device when it comes to apps. How can it compete to the likes of iOS or Android?

Winner: iOS 6, but not because Windows Phone 8 isn’t better; it’s because WP8 will start out with limited apps, and it may never catch up to the number and quality of available apps on the platform.

Processor

The iPhone 5 has done one thing really well, and that’s skew the benchmark scores. It’s repeatedly set a new standard for every benchmark on the device, especially in browser performance and straight up graphics horsepower. It’s the most powerful phone I’ve tested thus far, above and beyond even the latest Qualcomm Krait processor on the LG Optimus G or the Tegra 3 T33 in the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T, perhaps the best tablet available.

Meanwhile the Lumia 920 somehow is using the older model of the Krait processor, the same one in the HTC One X and US version of the Galaxy S III. It’s a great chip, but it doesn’t compete at the same level with the iPhone’s A6 processor, let alone the newer Krait that’s already available on select devices.

Winner: iPhone 5, because the Lumia 920 is using a generation-old processor that competed reasonably well with the previous A5, but still didn’t outperform.

Storage

The Lumia 920 is currently listed in one model, 32GB, with no expandable storage. With AT&T carrying the exclusive, I have no doubt that the 920 will have a 16GB base model, potentially followed by a 32GB model like most phones today. The iPhone 5 offers exactly the same, except that it’s available in three storage options, 16/32/64GB. We’ll have to wait and see regarding pricing, but in options alone the iPhone 5 wins.

Winner: iPhone 5, with more available storage options.

Wireless Connectivity

Unfortunately, and definitely stupidly for the Lumia 920, Nokia has an exclusive deal in the US with AT&T. That means you have to be on Ma Bell if you want this new phone, which puts some 220M users out of the market. Meanwhile, the only carrier without the iPhone is T-Mobile, the smallest of the four major carriers.

Of course, that’s all for the carriers section below. The bigger predicament is if you want to use the phone outside of the US. With the iPhone, no problem no matter which model you have or where you go. All models support GSM and CDMA, though only the AT&T model supports HSPA+, so (relatively) high-speed data is out of the question if you have the Sprint or Verizon model in a non-LTE country. Which is 99% of the world. As for the Lumia 920? It supports only GSM (which is worldwide), has HSPA+ and LTE, but doesn’t support CDMA in countries with it like Japan. It’s also stuck on one carrier, so if you have no plans of switching carriers, well, tough

Winner: iPhone 5, which works on both GSM and CDMA, so users don’t need to switch carriers if they want to take the phone internationally.

Camera

With the iPhone 4S vs Lumia 900, I listed the 4S as the victor because, with both phones on hand, the 4S provided better photos. I don’t have the Lumia 920, which isn’t due out for another month, but after the Pureview 808 with its 43MP camera, I have no doubt that Nokia has implemented some significant improvements to the company’s camera technology.

At the same time, Apple hasn’t done much to the camera to improve photo quality. In my short time with the iPhone 5 there are some improvements to the camera, but they aren’t significant. Some users are even having trouble with bright light sources turning blue, although I haven’t experienced it myself.

In total, without the Lumia 920 to actually test, it’s too tough to say. The Pureview 808 indeed had a better camera based on pictures and comparisons taken online, but that doesn’t directly indicate that the Lumia 920 will have a better shooter than the iPhone 5.

Winner: Tie, until we can test the Lumia 920.

Battery Life

I’m still somewhat shocked that the iPhone 5 doesn’t include a significantly denser battery than the iPhone 4S. The differences between the two are essentially nothing. 4S owners will think that the iPhone 5 lasts longer, but that’s compared to a phone that’s been used for around a year. Very little can compete with that.

But the Lumia 920? The Lumia 900 lasted awhile on a single charge, but its LTE chip and several other components were surprisingly power-hungry. The phone itself barely managed a full day’s use, which was pretty equivalent to the iPhone. Windows Phone 8 will likely have better support for power conservation, as most OS updates these days do, though it’s unclear what sort of hardware the 920 is using. The CPU and GPU are both well rated for battery life, and the 2000 mAh battery is decently sized. The 10 hours of talk time and 67 hours of music playback aren’t half bad either, though it is strange that video playback time isn’t listed.

Ultimately both are troubling. The Lumia 920 for not having enough data available regarding the battery and internal components, and the iPhone 5 for not actually boosting the battery whatsoever even though the phone is larger. As much as I’d like to say the Lumia wins this one, Nokia just hasn’t shared enough information regarding it’s upcoming flagship device, and neither has Microsoft on the improvements to Windows Phone 8 in regard to power use.

Winner: Tie, because the iPhone 5 is no improvement over the 4S and the Lumia 920 lacks data surrounding the battery.

Carriers

Did you read our Wireless Connectivity section? Good, then you know the answer here. Lumia 920: AT&T only. iPhone 5: Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, plus a small but growing number of smaller carriers including Metro PCS (which, mind you, will be partnered with T-Mobile this time next year).

Winner: iPhone 5, with more carrier support.

Price

I was and am pretty upset about the current iPhone 5 pricing because upgrading storage is ridiculous. However, that has no bearing on the Lumia 920 as both phones will have a starting price of $200 (that’s not confirmed by Microsoft or AT&T, but considering 99% of new high-end smartphones released today that are not exceptional in some strange way, like the Samsung Galaxy Note II [5.4" display, tablet/smartphone] or Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD [massive battery] release for $200, it’s a safe bet). The only difference is that we don’t know if the Lumia 920 will have alternate capacities, but the Lumia 900 didn’t. Considering the exclusive deal with AT&T, chances are users will only have one option for the phone, except for various color schemes.

Meanwhile the iPhone 5 comes in three capacities, so at least there’s some choice. It’s not much of a choice, but some choice is better than none. That’s how dad did it, that’s how America does it…

The only potential change here can come if the Lumia 920 ships with 32GB as a base, in which case it will be a better value for the price. While Android requires more space for user-defined media and apps and the iPhone requires space for large apps/games and a media library organized by iTunes, the Lumia 920 will have the same simple media coalescence that the iPhone has (which Android still lacks and desperately needs to get), but no major apps to fret over. With 32GB of space though, users could stock up on enough media for a trip without worrying about running out of space.

Winner: iPhone 5, sells for the same base price but offers more expensive, higher capacity models as well.

Overall Winner

 

The score seems ridiculously in favor of the iPhone 5, but as we’ve been seeing more and more frequently with our comparisons, the basic score is not the whole story. The appearance and wireless connectivity are much closer than a point difference, with the latter subject to user’s approval and the former based more around people who don’t stick to one country a year. Storage is still an unknown, though history shows that no phones start with 32GB of storage from the get go. Nokia may be bucking that trend, however. The camera is still in the wind, and I’m inclined to believe that considering the minimal improvements to the iPhone 5 Nokia may surpass it in photography shortly.

Of course, the other reason there’s so much disparity in the score is proof. We just haven’t seen enough of the Lumia 920 yet. Some things we know: the process is already a gen old (which is almost unfair to say; only a handful of phones are using the Krait processors, which a few months ago were considered the best…and we’re already moving on). Others we just have no idea about, like how well Windows Phone 8 will handle battery life or what the storage capacity will be. There are certainly indicators: we expect the Lumia 920 to sell as a 16GB model for $200 in multiple colors, but who’s to say it won’t have 32GB for that price?

What really concerns me for potential Lumia 920 buyers is the app ecosystem. I’ve always liked Windows Phone 8 because it brought users back from the app-centric mindset that Apple and Google are pushing for, and reminds us that it’s a phone first, computer second. Windows Phone 8 offers that same feeling, I believe, with a higher level of customization than any mobile OS allows for, but again we know so little about how it functions that there’s really very little to say about it. And developers haven’t revealed if they’re interested in working with Microsoft for WP8; there have already been dozens of reports of companies like Pandora refusing to jump to the tiny platform.

Still, the iPhone 5 is an excellent phone, and if potential users have to choose between the two this holiday, stick with Apple. It’s the safer bet by far, and you won’t regret it. Then again, our current top-marking phone, the Galaxy S III, may be a better fit for you.










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.