Ditch the iPhone for an Ice Cream Sandwich phone?

In this Ask Maggie I help a reader figure out whether to leave Apple for one of the latest Google Android phones.

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich smartphones are rolling out and they're giving the iPhone 4S a run for its money.

In this edition of Ask Maggie I offer some advice to a reader who is considering replacing his iPhone with either the Samsung Galaxy S III or the HTC One X. I also offer some advice about waiting for the new BlackBerry 10 phones.

Which Ice Cream Sandwich is right for me?

Dear Maggie,
My contract with AT&T expires this summer, and I am torn between which new phone I should get next. I currently have an iPhone 3GS. So I am considering the iPhone 4S or even the iPhone 5 when it's eventually announced. But the new Android Ice Cream Sandwich phones look really appealing to me, especially the Samsung Galaxy S III and the HTC One X. So which one do you think I should get? Should I ditch Apple for Android?

Thanks,
Tempted by Android

Dear Tempted by Android,
This is a tough question. For one, the Samsung Galaxy S III was only announced this week. It won't go on sale in Europe until the end of the month. And it won't be available in the U.S. until this summer. What's more Samsung has not said exactly which carriers will get it first or even what the final specs will look like on the U.S. version of the device. And we still don't know the pricing for the phone here in the U.S.

Samsung Galaxy S III
The Galaxy S III is Samsung's latest smartphone volley. Samsung

As for Apple, it's also unclear when it will introduce the new iPhone. Some people speculate it could be announced in June, as Apple has done with previous iPhone launches. But since the iPhone 4S was only announced in October, many believe that Apple has shifted the cycle slightly and the new device will be available in the fall. Since that device hasn't even been announced yet, there's no way to even try comparing it to either of the new Google Android Ice Cream Sandwich devices.

So what should you do?

Well the good news is that you have a little bit of time. You said your contract with AT&T doesn't expire until the summer. By that point, we should know where the Samsung Galaxy S III will be available in the U.S., and whether any of the specs have changed. We'll also have pricing information.

Also by summer, we will have a better handle on when Apple will announce its next product. If you are willing to consider the iPhone 4S, which you said you were, you should check out CNET Reviews for more information. Reviewer Brian Bennett has put together comparison of the HTC One X, the Samsung Galaxy S III and the iPhone 4S.

Based on specs alone, it looks like the Samsung Galaxy III is the phone to beat. But choosing your next device should be about more than simply speeds and feeds.

The new HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III are loaded with some very cool features, including fast shutter-speed cameras and faster network connections, that may tempt some Apple fans. I'm a long time iPhone user, and I have to admit that iOS is looking a little long in the tooth compared to some of the features of the new Ice Cream Sandwich phones.

Even the hardware and software functionality of the iPhone 4S may not match up entirely to the latest Android phones on the market, there may still be advantages to buying it for someone already entrenched in Apple's ecosystem.

For one, it's just plain easier to get another iPhone. All your apps, music, videos and contacts will easily sync from your old device to a new iPhone 4S. So you will save yourself a lot of hassle by simply sticking with Apple. But since Apple may soon upgrade the iPhone 4S, as I mentioned above, you may want to wait a few months before buying a new phone if you want to stick with Apple.

But if you're willing to make the switch to a different platform, then I'd definitely recommend one of these Google Android Ice Cream Sandwich smartphones. Of course, the question is which one is better? This is also tough to answer for a couple of reasons.

First, I want to be clear that I have not seen the Samsung Galaxy S III for myself. And as I mentioned, we don't yet know the specs of the device for the U.S. market.

But I have seen the HTC One X. And I think it will be a hard device to top.

That said, based on spec sheets alone, the Samsung Galaxy S III and the HTC One X offer very similar features. They each offer an 8 megapixel camera with a very fast shutter so you don't miss any important shots. These devices can take up to three frames per second. And they automatically offer you the option to select the best shot of the bunch and to delete the rest. They each offer 1080p HD video recording. They run the same Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS. And they are roughly the same size. What's more, the U.S. version of the Samung Galaxy S III is expected to support 4G LTE, so the devices should be operating on the same fast network.

My advice to you is this. When the Samsung Galaxy S III comes to market, you should go to the store and compare the look and feel of it to the HTC One X. And also check out the added features on the device.

The Galaxy S III also offers some added voice recognition and facial recognition technology. The device knows when you are talking to it. And it knows when you're looking at it so that it doesn't go to sleep when you are reading a book or looking at the screen.

These features may sound really cool to some users. But they may seem frivolous to others. Remember that Samsung and HTC layer on their own software onto their Android devices, such as those voice and facial recognition technologies on the Galaxy S III. Some Android users have complained about one company's version of extra software over another company's version. This is why it's important to check out the phones for yourself at a store. See if you like the added software features of the Samsung device. You can also see which new features of the HTC phone you like or dislike as well.

I hope this advice was helpful. Good luck!

BlackBerry 10?

Dear Maggie,
I've been using a BlackBerry for years. Recently, I've been considering switching to an iPhone. But I don't want to give up my physical keyboard. I'm an attorney and I use my BlackBerry to send tons of emails. I heard this week that the new BlackBerrys won't have real keyboards anymore. Please tell me this isn't true! Also what's your advice on waiting for the new BlackBerry 10 phones versus getting an iPhone?

Thanks,
Mike

Dear Mike,
I have some good news for you. RIM is not getting rid of its physical keyboard. The company demonstrated the new BlackBerry 10 software at its conference BlackBerry World earlier in the week. And it showed off a new intelligent virtual keypad. But RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said that doesn't mean that the company is abandoning the physical keyboard. He promised the company would still offer devices with real keyboards once the new BlackBerry 10 devices hit the market later this year.

The keynote speech in Orlando, FL where BlackBerry 10 was announced. Brian Bennett/CNET

So when will these device hit the market? And should you wait? Well, so far RIM has given no firm commitment on the timing of when the new BlackBerry 10 devices will be introduced. Some rumors suggest the phones could be ready as soon as August. But others say October. One thing is clear, RIM will be in big trouble if the company can't deliver devices by the Christmas season.

But should you wait for the new BlackBerry 10 or buy an iPhone? If you are a heavy email user then BlackBerry is still the device for you. And the BlackBerry 10 devices will have a better browser and "super" apps that will allow you to run several apps at once.

I hope that advice was helpful. Good luck!

Ask Maggie is an advice column that answers readers' wireless and broadband questions. The column now appears twice a week on CNET offering readers a double dosage of Ask Maggie's advice. If you have a question, I'd love to hear from you. Please send me an e-mail at maggie dot reardon at cbs dot com. And please put "Ask Maggie" in the subject header. You can also follow me on Facebook on my Ask Maggie page.

 

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