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iPhone 5 touchscreen 2x faster than best Android screen

A new benchmarking tool for touchscreen response times shows Apple's iPhone 5 is twice as fast as Android competitors. It's a close race for top spot in the Android pack.

Seamus Byrne Editor, Australia & Asia
Seamus Byrne is CNET's Editor for Australia and Asia. At other times he'll be found messing with apps, watching TV, building LEGO, and rolling dice. Preferably all at the same time.
Seamus Byrne
2 min read
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A new benchmarking tool for touchscreen response times shows Apple's iPhone 5 is twice as fast as Android competitors. It's a close race for top spot in the Android pack.

Agawi's Touchscope measures the time between activation and a light response. (Credit: Agawi)

Agawi, a company that uses cloud technology to stream apps and games to mobile devices on iOS and Android, has devised a new benchmark for testing just how responsive a touchscreen will be.

Everybody loves a benchmark: the more things we can quantify about our gadgets, the happier we are when we try to compare Apples and Androids.

With smartphones, the biggest factor staring us in the face is the touchscreen, but until now, there has been no quantifiable, comparative measure for testing one against another. Many have argued that the iPhone "feels" more responsive, but it has always been a conversational dot point, not something to write on a spec sheet.

The Agawi team has developed TouchMarks as a touchscreen latency test to see if raw numbers can quantify those gut feelings of how "snappy" a device feels when in use.

Agawi has built a basic app for both iOS and Android that flashes a full white screen as quickly as possible in response to a touch. By measuring the time between activation (measured with a force-sensitive resistor) and the white screen appearing (measured with a light-sensitive resistor), we get a TouchMarks Minimum App Response Time (MART) score in milliseconds (ms).

The first set of TouchMarks test scores. (Credit: Agawi)

The results from a minimum of 50 tests show the iPhone 5 executing at 55ms — less than half the response time of the best Android performer, the Samsung Galaxy S4, at 114ms. The iPhone 4 fell in the middle at 85ms. The Galaxy S4 led the rest of the field, followed closely by the Lumia 928 (a US variant of the Lumia 925) at 117ms, the HTC One at 121ms and the Motorola Moto X at 123ms.

Agawi intends to add scores for Apple's latest iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c soon. Further tests are planned for specific apps and games, as well as expanding the testing to tablets.

The TouchMarks team at Agawi plans to explore further variables that might create this speed difference. Suggestions include testing different runtimes and codes to see where latency is being introduced between the input and output. iPhone code is written in Objective-C, which Agawi describes as "closer to the metal" compared with Dalvik or CLR runtimes on Windows Phone 8 and Android, respectively.

The team will also release specs and code for the TouchMarks system soon so that others can build copies of the same set-up to give everyone the chance to replicate the test.