Apple iPhone 4S vs. Samsung Galaxy S II vs. HTC Sensation: Smartphone comparison

How does the iPhone 4S stack up against the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Sensation?

It may not be the iPhone 5 that everybody expected but Apple does have a new iPhone, the iPhone 4S. Unveiled by new Apple CEO Tim Cook, the iPhone 4S is best described as an evolutionary upgrade over the iPhone 4: it boasts the same design, the same screen and an identical look and feel, but has an upgraded processor, a better camera and a new voice recognition feature called Siri.

Read our detailed iPhone 4S preview and our reviews of the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Sensation.

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Though the iPhone 4S is expected to remain one of the most popular smartphones in the world, it has plenty of competition. In Australia, the iPhone 4S will immediately go up against two of the most popular Android smartphones currently on the market when it hits the shelves on 14 October: the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Sensation.

The Samsung and HTC Android phones have similar specifications — the HTC Sensation sports a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, a 4.3in qHD display, an 8-megapixel camera and wraps it in a unibody aluminium design. The Galaxy S II also has a 4.3in screen and an 8-megapixel camera, but uses Super AMOLED Plus display technology that produces more vibrant colours.

So how does the iPhone 4S stack up against the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Sensation when it comes to specifications?

Apple iPhone 4S vs. Samsung Galaxy S II vs. HTC Sensation: Specifications

Feature Apple iPhone 4S Samsung Galaxy S II HTC Sensation
Operating system Apple iOS 5 Google Android "Gingerbread" Google Android "Gingerbread"
Display size 3.5in 4.3in 4.3in
Display technology Capacitive LED-backlit IPS Capacitive Super AMOLED Plus Capacitive S-LCD
Display resolution 640x960 480x800 540x960 (qHD)
Pixel density 330 ppi 217 ppi 256 ppi
Multitouch Yes Yes Yes
Front camera VGA 2 megapixels VGA
Rear camera 8 meapixels w/single-LED flash 8 megapixels w/single-LED flash 8 megapixels w/dual-LED flash
Camera features Autofocus, touch focus, geotagging, face detection, video stabilisation Autofocus, touch focus, geotagging, face detection, smile detection, image stabilisation Autofocus, touch-focus, geotagging, face detection, image stabilisation, instant capture
Video recording 1080p HD @ 30fps 1080p HD @ 30fps 1080p HD @ 30fps
FM radio No Yes Yes
GPS Yes Yes Yes
Internal memory 16GB, 32GB or 64GB 16GB 1GB
Expandable memory None microSD microSD
Dimensions 115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3 mm 125.3 x 66.1 x 8.5 mm 126.1 x 65.4 x 11.3 mm
Weight 140g 116g 148g
Application Store Apple App Store Google Android Market Google Android Market
Processor Apple A5 dual-core (800MHz) ARM Cortex-A9 dual-core (1.2GHz) Qualcomm MSM 8260 Snapdragon dual-core (1.2GHz)
RAM 512MB 1GB 768MB
Australian 3G networks HSDPA 850/900/2100 HSDPA 850/900/2100 HSDPA 850/2100
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n 802.11a/b/g/n 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP 3.0 with A2DP 3.0 with A2DP
NFC (Near Field Communication) No No No
HDMI-out No (Yes with Apple Digital AV adapter) No (Yes with MHL adapter) No (Yes with MHL adapter)
Quoted battery life Up to 8 hrs Up to 8 hrs 40 min Up to 6 hrd 40 min
Battery capacity 1420 mAh 1650 mAh 1520 mAh
Adobe Flash support No Yes Yes
Carriers Telstra, Optus, Vodafone Telstra, Optus, Vodafone Telstra

iPhone 4S vs. HTC Sensation vs. Samsung Galaxy S II: Design

The Apple iPhone 4S retains an identical design to the iPhone 4. It's constructed largely from aluminium and glass, is just 9.3mm thick and has an industrial look and feel with distinctive, sharp edges. The iPhone 4S also retains the iPhone 4's glass back that does look slick but attracts plenty of fingerprints. The iPhone 4S remains a very well constructed smartphone, but is beginning to look a little outdated.

The Samsung Galaxy S II is an entirely different proposition to the iPhone 4S. It's made largely from solid feeling plastic and is just 8.49mm thick, making it the thinnest smartphone in the world (at least until another competitor trumps it). The Samsung Galaxy S II has an attractive carbon-like finish on its rear battery cover that does feel a little flimsy when removed, but helps keep it impressively slim.

Galaxy S II The Samsung Galaxy S II Android phone is just 8.49mm thick, making it thinner than the iPhone 4S and the thinnest smartphone in the world.

One of the most lauded features of the HTC Sensation is its unibody aluminium design, which has also been used on a number of HTC's other Android phones including the original Desire, the Desire HD, the Legend and the Incredible S. The HTC's unibody casing is constructed from a single piece of aluminium and gives the phone a premium look and feel.

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iPhone 4S vs. HTC Sensation vs. Samsung Galaxy S II: Display

The iPhone 4S has the same display as the iPhone 4. The 3.5in sized screen uses IPS technology and its 640x960 pixel resolution it has been described as a "retina" display, due to the human eye being unable to distinguish individual pixels. The iPhone 4S's screen has a pixel density of 330ppi — higher than both the Galaxy S II and the Sensation. Text is crisp and clear and images are sharp.

The Samsung Galaxy S II has a much larger 4.3in display compared to the iPhone 4S's 3.5in screen. It uses Super AMOLED Plus screen technology: a refinement of the original Samsung Galaxy S' Super AMOLED technology. The screen produces a clearer and brighter image than previous iterations of the technology, though it has a lower resolution (480x800) compared to both the iPhone 4S and the HTC Sensation.

The HTC Sensation has a 4.3in display but the big draw card here is its resolution. The Sensation's 540x960 pixel resolution makes it a quarter HD (qHD) screen. In general, the higher resolution the better, as it increases the pixels per inch on the display. That being said, the iPhone 4S still trumps the HTC Sensation when it comes to ppi: 330 compared to 256.

iPhone 4S vs. HTC Sensation vs. Samsung Galaxy S II: Software

The iPhone 4S runs Apple's latest iOS 5 operating system. It offers the same familiar swipeable home screen enhanced by folders, and the consistent Apple UI look and feel extending across all of the standard applications. If you have never used an iPhone before, you can expect a device that is easy to pick up and use, a well-populated App Store, and excellent multimedia capabilities. The latest iOS 5 version of Apple's platform also introduces iCloud, a cloud storage solution that automatically stores your content and makes it available on multiple devices including a Mac or PC. All iPhone users get 5GB of cloud storage for free but can upgrade to larger capacities for an extra cost: 10GB for $21 per year, 20GB for $42 per year or 50GB for $105 per year.

Both the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Sensation run the latest 2.3 version of Google's Android operating system, otherwise known as "Gingerbread". Version 2.3 of Android equips the Galaxy S II and the Sensation with a revamped keyboard, better copy and paste, improved power management, and a slicker user interface compared to previous versions of Google's mobile platform. Of more importance, however, is the UI overlay that Samsung and HTC have applied over the top of the regular Android interface: it's a bid to distinguish their devices from the wealth of Android masses.

HTC Sensation

The HTC Sensation includes the latest version of HTC's Sense UI overlay, which includes customisable lock screens, 3D transitions between screens, and an improved weather app.

The Galaxy S II gets Samsung's TouchWiz 4.0 UI overlay. Samsung-exclusive features include Social Hub, which groups social networks like Facebook and Twitter, Readers Hub, which stores your downloaded eBooks, Game Hub, which is a portal for compatible games and Music Hub, a streaming music service that will officially launch in Australia later this week.

The HTC Sensation comes with the latest version of HTC's Sense UI overlay. Unique features include a customisable lock screen, 3D transitions between home screens, an improved weather app with more vibrant animations and a soon to be launched video-on-demand service called 'HTC Watch'.

iPhone 4S vs. HTC Sensation vs. Samsung Galaxy S II: Camera

The iPhone 4S has an upgraded camera. It jumps from 5-megapixels to 8-megapixels and now has a backlight illuminated CMOS sensor that claims better performance in low light situations. The 4S camera can record 1080p video (up from 720p on the iPhone 4) and also has a new image signal processor for image stabilisation and face recognition. Apple was keen to point out its speed: the company says the camera app takes 1.1 seconds to be ready for a photo and then just half a second between successive photos.

The Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Sensation also have 8-megapixel cameras. Both have geo-tagging, touch focus, face and smile detection, and image stabilisation, but the Sensation has a dual-LED flash compared to the Galaxy S II's single LED, and also boasts a feature called instant capture. According to HTC, the instant capture feature eliminates shutter lag; the moment you press the button is the same moment the photo is captured. While it's not exactly instant per se, the Sensation is pretty quick to snap a photo.

iPhone 4S vs. HTC Sensation vs. Samsung Galaxy S II: Internals

The iPhone 4S is powered by a 1GHz Apple A5 dual core processor and 1GB of RAM. It also has a dual-core graphics processor to speed up gaming. According to Apple, the dual core CPU combined with the dual-core GPU makes graphics performance up to seven times faster than the iPhone 4. Though these specifications are an improvement over previous iPhone models, they only bring the iPhone 4S in-line with Android competitors, rather than push it ahead. One positive is the addition of a 64GB model iPhone 4S, along with the standard 16GB and 32GB models.

Both the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Sensation stack up very well to the iPhone 4S when it comes to grunt. The Galaxy S II is powered by a 1.2GHz ARM Cortex A9 dual-core processor, has 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal memory, along with a microSD card slot for extra storage. The HTC Sensation is powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor, has slightly less 768MB of RAM and comes with a microSD card slot for extra storage. A real downside to the Sensation is its paltry 1GB of internal memory.

iPhone 4S vs. HTC Sensation vs. Samsung Galaxy S II: Other features

The Apple iPhone 4S doesn't come with a HDMI-out port, but an optional Apple Digital AV Adapter ($45) can mirror whatever is on your iPhone 4S screen to a high definition TV. It's a similar story for both the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Sensation: both smartphones come with a new connection technology called Mobile High-definition Link (MHL). The on-board MHL technology uses the standard micro-USB port on each device for outputting 1080p HD video and audio via HDMI. You'll need to purchase an optional microUSB to HDMI MHL connector to enable this feature, but the beauty of MHL means it can also be used with a USB adapter, meaning both the HTC Sensation and the Samsung Galaxy S II can utilise USB on-the-go functionality like the Nokia N8.

iPhone 4S The iPhone 4S comes with a software feature called Siri voice control, described by Apple as an "intelligent assistant".

The iPhone 4S comes with an exclusive software feature called Siri voice control. It's a voice assistant that lets you talk to perform tasks, such as asking for the weather forecast, getting driving or walking directions through Google Maps, making a calendar appointment or setting your alarm. It will originally be a beta release, but Apple says the software will improve as it learns your voice. In good news for Aussies, Siri will work with Australian English in addition to US and UK English. We can only hope its better than most voice recognition software at understanding our accent, as this is often the failing of most voice operated features.

Another point worth noting is the fact that the iPhone 4S is a world phone, meaning it will work across both 3G and CDMA networks. There are no longer any CDMA networks in Australia, but for those who frequently travel to the US, the iPhone 4S' status as a "world phone" will definitely come in handy.

The Samsung Galaxy S II is a quad-band HSDPA phone, so it will work across all Australian 3G networks including Telstra's Next G network. The HTC Sensation on the other hand is only a dual-band 850/2100 phone: it will work on Telstra's Next G network, along with the standard Optus and Vodafone 3G networks in Australia. However, it won't tap into Vodafone or Optus' new 3G networks, which run on the 900MHz 3G spectrum.

What do you think about the iPhone 4S, the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Sensation? Tell us in the comments below!