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Phones

iPhone 4S vs Samsung Galaxy Nexus vs Motorola Razr

We smash three magnificent mobiles into each other -- which will be left standing when the silicon dust settles?

Good grief, there's a tonne of new phones flying about all of a sudden! Fear not, dear reader, for CNET UK is the flood barrier that stands between you and a baffling smart phone tsunami. We're stood on the banks, pipe in hand, ushering the latest mobiles through our calming breakwater and settling them safely into harbour, so you can see which ones are seaworthy, and which are shipwrecks waiting to happen.

Today we're bringing the iPhone 4S, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the Motorola Razr into port to see which is HMS Victory and which is RMS Titanic.

The iPhone 4S needs no introduction. The first iPhone was the device that kick-started the smart phone revolution, and this latest iteration adds voice control witchcraft in the form of Siri, a stonking 8-megapixel camera and a ruthlessly rapid A5 processor. But it's only a minor upgrade to the iPhone 4 -- is it still the coolest phone in town?

Shaking things up a deal more is the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. This is the latest Google flagship phone and it's running the very latest version of Android -- Ice Cream Sandwich. Add to that a massive 4.65-inch screen with a blisteringly high resolution, and this is shaping up to be one incredible blower.

And then we have the outsider, the underdog, the Motorola Razr. Channeling the spirit of the original super-thin must-have handset, this phone wants to amaze you with its processing power and incredibly slim frame. But it takes a lot to impress us -- is the Razr sharp enough to steal our hearts?

Design

The iPhone 4S knows a thing or two about looking good. But that's not surprising -- it steals all its style from its older brother, the iPhone 4. We can forgive its hand-me-down looks though, because this phone still cuts a fine figure.

Glass in the front and out the back with a chic metal loop surrounding it, the 4S looks like a dream, and no other manufacturer has quite managed to best its minimalist, industrial chic. Our only gripe? It's fairly fragile, and dropping this blower on the pavement could end in tears.

The Galaxy Nexus sadly doesn't deliver the same design thrills. It's by no means ugly, and at 7mm at its thinnest point it's certainly slender, but the moulded, patterned back and grey-ish plastic finish is hardly inspiring. The camera module juts out like there's a tiny robot face straining to break out from the inside of the phone too. Creepy.

The Motorola Razr has some pleasing angular edges, and the majority of its back plate is just 7.1mm thick, making it thin enough to squeeze into just about any pocket. We're not sure about the big bulging camera section at the top of the casing though -- the Razr looks like the Hunchback of Moto Dame.

Design winner: iPhone 4S

Hardware

The Razr packs some tasty tech into its thin frame. There's an 8-megapixel camera that can record 1080p video, and a 4.3-inch screen. The Razr has a higher display resolution than most other mobiles, squeezing 540x960 pixels into its Super AMOLED Advanced panel.

It's really fast too, thanks to a 1.2GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM. Sliding across homescreens and opening apps all occurs with no lag or stutter, and we suspect this phone will be a decent choice if you're into watching hi-def movies on your mobile.

The iPhone 4S also packs a blisteringly quick processor -- the A5 chip housed inside this phone blasted through our benchmark tests. It's also got an 8-megapixel camera that's performed exceptionally well in our tests, and can also snatch 1080p video. Clever girl.

The 4S has an absolutely staggering display too, somehow cramming 640x960 pixels into its 3.5-inch panel. Everything rendered on this screen looks crystal clear, and trying to discern individual pixels is liable to make your eyes melt. It's the same screen you'd find on the iPhone 4, but the many months since its predecessor came out have not diminished our love for the so-called retina display.

That is, until the Galaxy Nexus hove into view. It has an unbelievably promising screen, thanks to a 720x1,280 (yep, that's proper HD) resolution display, and a 100,000:1 contrast ratio. Massive, and with a staggering resolution, we can't wait to see how movies and games look on this monster.

The processor is not to be sniffed at, another 1.2GHz dual-core number, and there's NFC tech on board, meaning that if Google brings its mobile payment tech to the UK, you'll be ready. A lack of microSD card slot would be a minor nuisance (the iPhone doesn't have one either) but there's a nasty rumour that the Nexus will only be available in the UK with 16GB of storage. We'll let you know what transpires there.

The Nexus Prime has a 5-megapixel camera, which is a curiously low resolution for a cutting-edge mobile. Our brows are furrowed, though we're hoping features such as face detection, rapid-fire capture and some quirky camera effects can make up for the drop in pixels.

The camera may be behind the curve, and the storage is a concern, but the 720p display puts the Nexus Prime ahead of its rivals. We're throwing this one Samsung's way.

Hardware winner: Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Software

The Motorola Razr comes with some cool Motorola apps, including one called Smart Actions that lets you program new instructions for your phone using a tiled interface. It's impressively flexible -- for example, you could set your Razr to open the music app when you plugged in your headphones, or turn off Bluetooth and GPS when your phone isn't plugged into its charger.

Motocast, meanwhile, lets you get at the files stored on your home PC or Mac remotely, and download them to your phone if you feel like it. It also comes with the same Webtop OS you'll find on the Motorola Atrix -- plug the Razr into a supported laptop dock and it'll open this secondary interface on the big screen, letting you browse Firefox.

But Webtop OS wasn't too impressive on the Atrix, and crucially when it launches in November, the Razr will be running Android Gingerbread, which any Android addict will tell you is not the latest version. That honour belongs to Android Ice Cream Sandwich, which can be found running on the Galaxy Nexus.

Motorola has promised to put Ice Cream Sandwich on the Razr in 2012, but we're not that patient, and using an old OS when we know people are enjoying a more advanced version brings us out in a rash.

The Nexus Prime suffers no such slights, running the very freshest edition of Android right out the box. Ice Cream Sandwich is supposedly the update to unify the mobile phone and tablet versions of Android, mushing them together into one squishy, creamy mess.

It offers an interface overhaul, a new multi-tasking system and a host of other treats, such as the ability to unlock your phone using your face (by letting it identify you using its camera, not by hitting your head against the screen).

Because the Nexus Prime is running Android with no manufacturer tinkering, it's likely to get updates as soon as they come out, making it even more tempting for Android adorers. If you like tinkering with your gadgets, this phone will likely satisfy.

The iPhone 4S, meanwhile, runs iOS 5, which is the new version of Apple's own operating system. We love iOS for its simplicity -- it's easier to use than Android, and a bit less geeky.

iOS 5 is fantastic, but you can also get it on the iPhone 4, so right now it's not as exclusive as the Samsung Nexus Prime. The iPhone 4S has a software treat in the form of Siri, however, a voice control assistant that can make appointments, send texts and set reminders among other things.

Siri's usefulness in the UK is hampered though -- Apple doesn't have a deal with a provider of local information over here, so you can't ask Siri questions like "Where's the nearest pub?" or "What's the quickest route home from the pub?" Its ability to accurately hear what you're saying isn't phenomenal either, so you might end up never using it.

But iOS is still on top in one regard -- apps. The App Store is packed with great downloadable goodies, and it's easier to discover new apps thanks to a simple layout in the App Store itself. Games are a strong point on iOS too, from Infinity Blade to Tiny Wings, Apple's platform has some cracking timewasters at its disposal.

We can't wait to take Ice Cream Sandwich for a spin, but for now the 4S' library of apps makes it the more appealing platform.

Software winner: iPhone 4S

Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus wins the hardware battle, thanks to its massive hi-res screen, which almost makes us forget about the less powerful camera. The fact that it's rocking an operating system you can't get anywhere else (for now) is also very cool.

The iPhone 4S might be more of the same, but with so many apps at its disposal and an operating system simple enough you could teach a chimp to use it, it's still amazing.

We're calling this one a joint win between the battleships iPhone 4S and Galaxy Nexus. The Razr looks cool enough, but apart from a few Motorola-specific apps, it doesn't offer much to make it more appealing than its competitors. It's definitely the dinghy in this dock.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Nexus/iPhone 4S

We'll be serving up full reviews of both the Galaxy Nexus and the Motorola Razr very soon, so stay tuned. In the meantime, have we made a miscalculation? Do we need to recalibrate our excitement sensors? Set us straight in the comments section blow, or on our Facebook wall.