Wait for the iPhone 5 or go Google Android?

The latest Google Android devices on the market are impressive. And with Google's latest software release, it's hard to imagine that Apple will come up with anything to top it. But should you wait for the new iPhone anyway? Ask Maggie's Marguerite Reardon offers some advice.

It's going to be pretty hard for Apple to top the Samsung Galaxy S III and the latest release of Android 4.1 that will be running on the Galaxy Nexus later this summer.

In this edition of Ask Maggie I offer some advice on whether it's worth it to wait for the new iPhone expected in the fall. I also explain why Samsung is releasing the new Galaxy S III on different carrier networks on different dates.

iPhone 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S III vs. Samsung Nexus

Dear Maggie,
I have an iPhone 3G (yes it's old) and I want (need) to buy a new phone. My question is should I buy the Samsung Galaxy S III or wait for the iPhone 5? I'm also thinking of buying a Galaxy Nexus because I hate when i don't have the newest OS on my phone (one of the reasons why I am buying a new phone).

Thanks,
Bog

Dear Bog,
The first thing you need to consider is whether you're willing to switch from Apple to Android. If you've been using an iPhone 3G for the past few years then there's a good chance that you've accumulated a lot of apps and maybe even some music in iTunes.

Josh Miller/CNET

I've written about what a pain in the neck it can be to make this switch in previous Ask Maggie columns. Any apps you've purchased or downloaded from iTunes will not automatically transfer to your Google Android device. You'll have to redownload apps and in some cases repurchase them.

Also, any music that was ripped or purchased from iTunes that is encrypted won't be able to be moved over to your Android phone. But there are plenty of ways to get your unencrypted iTunes music onto an Android device. You just have to be willing to put in a little effort to get things set up.

If this sounds like a great big hassle to you, then I'd suggest waiting for the iPhone 5. It's likely coming out September or October, and unless your iPhone 3G is dead, chances are you don't really need a new phone right now.

But if you are tired of being a slave to Apple, then I'd say it's not necessary to wait for the next iPhone. Samsung has built two really fantastic Google Android devices that you mentioned: the Galaxy S III and the Galaxy Nexus.

First, these two phones are very similar when it comes to hardware. The only major difference I'd note is the fact that the Galaxy S III has a much better camera. Not only does the Galaxy Nexus have fewer megapixels, but some reviewers have complained about the poor low-light performance and mediocre focusing.

But the real difference between these devices is in the software. The Nexus is a pure Google phone. This means that Samsung has not included any of its own TouchWiz software flavor to the device. It also means that you will get the latest and greatest software on your phone when it's available from Google. The latest version of Android 4.1 called Jelly Bean is coming to the Nexus in July.

Jelly Bean isn't a massive upgrade, like the one from Gingerbread to Ice Cream Sandwich, but there are a few notable updates. The most important new feature is Google Now, a real time updating and search service that actually anticipates the kind of information you are likely to request.

Samsung TouchWiz on the Galaxy S III offers Samsung's own Siri-like voice recognition search. But Google Now is different. Google Now learns what you search for, which apps you use, and even where you go. Then it offers information to you, sometimes even before you have asked for it.

CNET blogger Scott Webster wrote in his critique of Google Now that the software was actually able to advise him that it would take 17 minutes to get his son to karate. Scott said he hadn't even told the device that he had to take his son to karate. The class wasn't scheduled in his Google Calendar either. But Google knew based on his location history and past check-ins that his son was likely taking karate lessons at that particular location on that particular day.

There are a few other enhancements to Jelly Bean as well. For instance, the notification bar has been updated. And the user interface of the entire Android software is just smoother on Jelly Bean than on Ice Cream Sandwich.

While there's a good chance that the Samsung Galaxy S III will get Jelly Bean at some point, Samsung hasn't said when that might be. So chances are, you'll have to wait awhile before your carrier makes it available to you.

The Galaxy S III also has some software bells and whistles that the Nexus doesn't have, thanks to Samsung's special sauce TouchWiz. For instance, Samsung offers Smart features like Smart Stay, which keeps the phone "awake" while you're using it. And then there is S Voice, Samsung's answer to Apple's Siri voice activated search.

But on the whole, I can't say that the new TouchWiz features impressed me all that much. But if you like the look and feel of the software, then you'll like this iteration on the Samsung Galaxy S III. I sort of like the water ripple effect on the home screen of the Galaxy S III, but functionally it doesn't really offer anything. And it's completely unnecessary. And as I mentioned I really like the camera. So with those factors in mind, I'd probably choose the Galaxy S III.

That said, Google Now via Jelly Bean is really cool. And if getting the latest and greatest software updates from Google is what's the most important thing to you, get the Nexus. You won't be disappointed with the true-Google experience.

You could wait to see what Apple comes out with this fall. But I don't think you really need to. I don't think that Apple will be able to race ahead of Google when it comes to advanced software functionality or even hardware specs or performance.

Good luck with your decision.

What's the hold up with the Samsung Galaxy S III?

Dear Maggie,
I was wondering if you could tell me why the Samsung Galaxy S III (and other phones) become available for purchase for different carriers at different times. I couldn't seem to find a rationale for this online.

Thanks,
Froggy

Dear Froggy,
This is a great question. But sadly I don't have a great explanation for you since Samsung never got back to me with an answer. I asked some of the carriers if they could explain why they have different release dates for the same device, but they deferred to Samsung. AT&T's spokeswoman added "the different times are a result of the supply chain issues they (Samsung) experienced."

Apparently, Samsung is dealing with some inventory issues right now that are specific to the Galaxy S III. This has delayed the launch of the device on various carrier networks. For example, Sprint and AT&T had said earlier that they planned to sell the Galaxy S III starting June 21.

Sprint only began selling the phones yesterday on July 1. And AT&T has said its Galaxy S III will be available starting July 6. Verizon Wireless will begin selling its Galaxy S III July 11. T-Mobile hasn't said yet when it will sell its Galaxy S III.

One thing that may be causing these inventory issues is the fact that Samsung has to include different radio components for different U.S. carriers. AT&T and T-Mobile are GSM carriers, so these devices need different radios than the devices made for Sprint and Verizon, which use a technology called CDMA.

What's more the Galaxy S III also supports 4G LTE. But because AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint all use different frequencies for their 4G LTE networks, they each need their own specific LTE radio in devices made for their networks. (T-Mobile doesn't yet support 4G LTE, so it's phone doesn't require this support.)

These differences in technology may account for some of the manufacturing issues, which has delayed the release of the phone on these networks. But there have been times when there are no supply chain issues, manufacturers like Samsung have released the same phone on different networks at different times.

Why? The only explanation I can give you for this is that the carriers have worked out some kind of exclusive deal in an effort to differentiate themselves from the competition. Even with the Samsung Galaxy S III, AT&T has managed to get the device in red, while its other competitors only offer it in white and blue.

Sorry I couldn't offer you a more detailed response. When and if I hear back from Samsung, I'll update this post with a better explanation.

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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