By Jonathan Charles | Jun 23, 2012 11:03 AM EDT
The launch of the Samsung Galaxy S3 on June 21 means many are wondering whether the phone should be bought. It's definitely a competitive phone, and one of the best Android devices, but with Windows Phone 8 revealed, is it worth waiting for Microsoft's next major version of its mobile OS?
Microsoft revealed numerous new features in Windows Phone 8 which include: a new, more customizable Start screen that appeals to both power and casual users; support for multiple cores and higher resolutions; and there's integration across Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 - developers can build apps for the two operating systems simultaneously. The result is that Microsoft is bringing its operating system in line with Android and iOS, especially in regards to hardware.
Talking of hardware, Microsoft is going to have three tiers of devices: there will be "Zenith" which brings 4.7-inch displays, quad-core processors and eight-megapixel cameras - presumably on the front - along with 42Mbps HSPA+. Chances are LTE will also be integrated, especially in the U.S.
The second, mid-range tier is called "Accord" and will bring around 4.3-inch screens and dual-core processors along with 42Mbps HSPA+, NFC and 1GB of RAM. Then there's "Rio," still offering 4-inch screens on a WVGA display, 14.4Mbps HSPA connectivity, five-megapixel cameras, 720p video, a Snapdragon S4 processor and 512MB of RAM. The low-end devices will still be competitive, but higher-end phones such as the Galaxy S3 do edge ahead with the eight-megapixel cameras and quad-core processors.
If this was a comparison between Android and Windows Phone 8, then it would be reasonable to say that Android phones are offering the aforementioned hardware already.
Windows Phone 8 isn't coming to Windows 7 devices outside of the feature-limited Windows 7.8 upgrade to devices such as the Nokia Lumia 900, due to the Windows NT Kernel, but it's reasonable to estimate that Windows Phone 9 - or whatever it's called - will be supported on the second generation Windows Phone devices. Major Android versions roll out relatively quickly - Google could unveil Android Jelly Bean on June 27 - and then there's the question of when and what devices will be getting the upgrade. Samsung, among other companies, is slow to roll out updates. If you want the latest and greatest version of Android through official means, it may therefore take a while. Or never, and in a two-year contract the phone's support should be a chief consideration.
Also, software makes the hardware. It's important to consider what device fits the needs of the user. Windows Phone is best described as a semi-closed operating system: users can resize and reposition tiles, and change the color of the operating system, but installing a custom theme - like MIUI on Android - or rooting a phone to get the stock Android experience like users can on devices running custom skins on top of the OS isn't easily possible. Power users are undoubtedly at home on Android, and if installing the stock Android experience is a goal then the Samsung Galaxy S3 - or just about any other high-end Android phone - will be fine. It also means users don't have to worry about carrier updates and if the next version of Android is coming.
Google Play, the Android app store, and the Windows Phone marketplace do differ: Windows Phone devices have access to 100,000 apps, Microsoft revealed during its Windows Phone 8 announcement, but there is still the question of quality. That question can also be addressed at Android, though Google did publish design guidelines at the beginning of 2012, but the number of apps is much greater.
Windows Phone 8 devices are expected to arrive by the end of this year, Microsoft said. By then there could be a Google Nexus-esque Jelly Bean device announced, so the Galaxy S3 may have been eclipsed. That's worrying for users who are entering a two-year contract with a device that could then be outdated within weeks, or months.
On carriers the S3 is available on Verizon, Sprint and AT&T among others. Will Verizon - it's only Windows Phone 7 handset was the HTC Trophy - be supporting Windows Phone 8? Fran Shammo, CFO of the carrier, said it's fully supportive of Windows Phone 8 and will have devices by the year's end. When Microsoft launched Windows Phone 7, it had a range of devices on numerous carriers. If Microsoft follows a similar path, there should be plenty of choice for prospective users.
Ultimately it comes down to when a user needs a device: if a new smartphone is needed now, the Galaxy S3 is an excellent choice. If waiting until the end of the year is possible, then Windows Phone 8 may yet be attractive. There's also the question over which ecosystem a user is integrated into: Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are going to be closely tied in terms of aesthetic and developer support if Metro is widely adopted, while Android and the Galaxy S3 offer direct integration into Google's services.
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