The iPhone 5 is set to release this Friday, September 21, and some predict Apple could sell as many 10 million units by the end of the weekend. Prior to ever having the device in hand, several million sold out pre-orders of the device within an hour of their availability. It's clearly a highly anticipated device, and one that will likely be used as the standard for smartphones until this time next year. Accordingly, we've already compared the iPhone 5 to the Samsung Galaxy S III, the Galaxy Nexus, the HTC One X, and even the iPhone 4S. But one company has yet to receive a turn on the "Try An Beat The iPhone" game show.
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The Motorola Photon Q was released August 19, ships with 8 GB of internal memory, and comes with the same $199 price as the 16 GB iPhone 5. It's only available on Sprint, comes with 4G LTE access, and voice/data plans carry the exact same price tag as the iPhone 5. So the only question is which one is the better buy?
iPhone 5 vs Motorola Photon Q - Processor & Performance
We still don't have exact numbers on the iPhone 5's new A6 chip, only alleged benchmark results which appeared in Geekbench, but I don't expect Apple's new flagship device to lead the smartphone pack when it comes processing power. Apple has consistently found ways to do more with less, and I'd expect nothing less from Cupertino with the iPhone 5 in the interest of extending the device's battery life. That being said, if the Geekbench results are accurate, the iPhone 5 will ship with a higher score than any device except a Samsung Galaxy S III with Android 4.1 installed by the owner.
The Motorola Photon Q, on the other hand, features a 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor and 1 GB of RAM. Motorola's updated MotoBlur UI is much faster than its predecessors, and more closely resembles the look and feel of the official Ice Cream Sandwich UI. The Motorola Photon Q offered lightning-fast response times during my hands-on time with the device, and you certainly wouldn't have had a hard time convincing me that the Photon Q was meant to be Motorola's new flagship if I didn't know otherwise. Unfortunately, the device's benchmark numbers don't lie, and the Motorola Photon Q's Snapdragon simply doesn't appear to compete with Apple's new A6 chip. Even with a boost from Jelly Bean, when it's inevitably released by Google or the Android community, the Motorola Photon Q comes up short in the processing department.
Winner: iPhone 5
iPhone 5 vs Motorola Photon Q - Display
While many of the features discussed in an iPhone 5 vs Motorola Photon Q comparison leave some room for personal preference, there is at least one category where a device can claim clear superiority: The display. Unfortunately for Google's Motorola division, the Motorola Photon Q just can't match the beauty of the iPhone 4S' Retina display; so I can only assume the same will be true for the iPhone 5's larger screen. That isn't to say that the Motorola Photon Q's 4.3-inch "ColorBoost" screen doesn't deliver an impressive picture, with its 960 x 540 resolution (256 ppi), but it's hard to compete with your opponent when they cram an extra 66 pixels into every inch of screen space.
Winner: iPhone 5
iPhone 5 vs Motorola Photon Q - Camera
The iPhone 5 will ship with a similar camera assembly to the iPhone 4S, but with a thinner lens cover that allowed the device's designers to slim down the entire phone. Early photos, released by Apple, show little improvement over the iPhone 4S at first glance, but I imagine that mobile photographers will be finding ways to get just a little bit extra from the device in no time. In fact, as far as iPhone 5 photography is concerned, prospective owners' only real worry should probably be Google's recent acquisition of Nik Software. It seems unlikely, given Google's continued development for iOS, but Android-exclusivity for popular photography apps like Snapseed could be a major blow to iPhone 5 photographers everywhere.
In my opinion, photos taken with the Motorola Photon Q easily hold their own when compared to friends' iPhone 4S photos or the iPhone 5 shots released by Apple. That's thanks to an eight megapixel camera, with LED flash, that is also capable of recording full 1080p HD video at 30 frames per second. While the stock Camera app does leave a bit to be desired, that problem can be rectified with a trip to the Photography section of Google Play. But, out of the box, the iPhone 5 clearly tops the Motorola Photon Q's production with each device's respective eight-megapixel camera.
Winner: iPhone 5
iPhone 5 vs Motorola Photon Q - Sound
Unfortunately, like most people, I've yet to get my hands on an iPhone 5. Because of that fact, it's impossible for me to evaluate the speaker quality of the device. However, the speaker has been more than adequate previous iPhone iterations, and it seems like most people rely on headphones these days anyways. The Motorola Photon Q also ships with a more than adequate speaker, so let's just call this one a tie, and move on to the extra features that you guys actually care about.
iPhone 5 vs Motorola Photon Q - Extras
Apple claims that the company has added more than 200 new features to the upcoming iOS 6, though a comprehensive list of said features has yet to appear. Personally, I'm going to assume some portion of the list is little more than "added a photo sharing menu to X", but we do know that the new iPhone 5 eschewed NFC technology in favor of an update to the Passbook app. The iPhone 5 will also be the first iPhone to launch without native Google apps, including the search giant's popular Maps app, in favor of Apple's own replacement apps. Siri not only remains, but has received an upgrade that keeps the iPhone 5's "virtual assistant" vastly superior to Google's Voice Actions - the Android operating system's response to Siri.
The Motorola Photon Q can absolutely claim navigational superiority, thanks to Google's native Maps app, and its drastically inferior iOS competitor. Motorola's Photon Q is also one of the few smartphones to support external storage, and will allow the use of micro-SD cards up to 32 gigabytes in size. But, if you're reading an "iPhone 5 vs Motorola Photon Q" article, I'd be willing to bet it's not because of Google Maps. You're probably interested in Photon Q's hardware keyboard, which is good, because it might be the best QWERTY keyboard currently available on a smartphone. In my opinion, the keyboard's quality easily justifies the extra thickness and weight that accompany slider phones, and it's great for those of us with bear paws. It's also nice to have standard micro-USB and micro-HDMI ports on the phone, instead of having to rely on brand-specific cables and adapters for the iPhone 5's Lightning port.
Winner: Motorola Photon Q
iPhone 5 vs Motorola Photon Q - Verdict
Some might argue that pitting the iPhone 5 vs Motorola Photon Q isn't even a fair comparison, considering the Photon Q isn't meant to be a flagship device. It certainly doesn't have the specs, in many areas, to give the iPhone 5 much of a run for its money. However, I'd argue that it's absolutely a fair comparison, given the devices' equal $199 price tag. I mean, who doesn't want to feel like they got the most for their money?
On paper, there's no doubt that the iPhone 5 is the superior phone. It's got an incredible Retina display, increased performance courtesy of the A6 chip, a great camera, and quite possibly the most user friendly mobile operating system on the market. However, much like other writers, I find myself unimpressed with the iPhone 5. Maybe it's because I just haven't held it in my hand. Maybe it's because I've owned Android phones for a longer period of time than I did my iPhone. Maybe it's because I'm secretly biased, and just looking to stir up anger and resentment among Apple fanboys.
In all honesty, I suspect it's only because I was born in the 90's, and still use my phone as a phone. I'm not particularly interested in becoming "Mayor" of anything, uploading pictures of every event in my life to Instagram/Facebook, multiplayer smartphone gaming, or attempting to win a photojournalism award with my phone. I'm happy if my phone reliably makes phone calls, receives/responds to messages, and has access to a few decent single-player games in whatever mobile marketplace I'm currently tied-to. I don't care that my phone can power near-Vita quality games, because I don't use my phone for gaming. I have a PC for that. I also really like having a QWERTY keyboard. Virtual keyboards just don't work for me, and I'm not partial to Swype or similar keyboard-replacement apps either.
Simply put, it's the superior device on paper, but I won't be buying an iPhone 5. There's a definite possibility that my next phone will be a Motorola Photon Q though.