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Apple iPhone 5 promises to change the Apple-or-Android choice

Consumer Reports News: September 19, 2012 04:08 PM

The iPhone 5 hits the market this Friday, and Apple's fifth-generation phone promises to change the pros and cons of iPhone and Android smart phones—still the two major choices. Of course, just how fully it does so will become clearer when the new phone launches.

Here is an updated take on Apple vs. Android, given the iPhone 5; iOS 6, Apple's new OS for new (and most old) iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads; and the recent Android announcements and launches.

Large displays: Apple ups its game, but the Android advantage holds.
The iPhone 5 has the biggest iPhone screen yet, at 4 inches, with a slimmer 16:9 aspect ratio—but Android phones offer a growing array of 4.5-inch-plus displays, including the 4.8-inch screen on the Samsung Galaxy S III and the groundbreaking 5.5 inches of the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 2, that are better for viewing wide-screen video and game content.

Voice assistance: iPhone should increase its edge.
Android's voice-driven searches and message-dictation capabilities have generally been top-notch. But Apple's Siri has offered all that and more, including the ability to understand and execute complex requests in natural language—and acknowledge them by speaking back to you.

Now iOS 6 expands Siri's sphere of influence to car navigation and popular apps from third-party sources such as Facebook. What's more, the iPhone 5's improved noise-cancellation technologies, along with the iPhone 5's ability to access fast 4G LTE data networks, promise to help Siri hear commands more clearly and respond more rapidly.

Navigation: Too early to tell.
Free, spoken, turn-by-turn directions, and traffic updates will no longer be the exclusive domain of Android phones, with their built-in Google Maps Navigation software. Those freebies will now be available via Apple Maps, its own mapping and navigation service on iOS 6, along with a Flyover feature that takes you on a virtual aerial tour of major cities. And Siri should make it easier for iPhone-owning drivers to program destinations while keeping their eyes on the road and their hands upon the wheel.

Camera: Best guess? A draw.
iPhones have consistently led the pack when it comes to image quality, particularly regarding videos. The latest model promises even better low-light performance and the ability to take panoramic still shots.

However, panoramic stills are old hat for many Android phones, and the latest models in our Ratings from HTC and Samsung have been tying iPhone on still-photo quality while trailing only slightly behind on video. What's more, these Androids can snap up to 20 pictures in rapid-fire succession and snap stills while shooting videos . [corrected]

Paying by phone: The Android advantage will likely hold.
Right now, only Android phones support wireless NFC (near-field communication) technology, which enables you to pay for products and services at store registers or over the Internet using apps linked to one or more of your financial accounts. While iPhones don't have this payment capability, Apple iOS 6 has a feature called Passbook, which promises to be a one-stop shop for managing boarding passes, credit cards, and movie tickets, and more.

We expect to receive the iPhone 5 from multiple carriers on Friday, just like other consumers, and plan to report our initial impressions later in the day.

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Buzzword: What is NFC?

Mike Gikas

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