iPhone 4S Versus Windows Phone 7: Round One, Fight!

Apple announced the iPhone 4S today, which millions of hipsters and fruit fanatics will be lining up to purchase on October 14. Does the new iPhone threaten to stall Windows Phone’s rise to the smartphone big leagues? In some ways, yes. Whenever the competition rolls out a new product line, that’s always cause for concern. In the following editorial I’ll spell out the different areas that Apple has me worried. Just don’t forget that I absolutely love Windows Phone and I’d sooner give up one of Rich Edmond's kidneys than live without it.

Head past the break to find out in which areas the iPhone 4S may have current Windows Phones beaten.

Strong like ox

The iPhone 4S’s A5 dual-core CPU/GPU combo stands out as Apple’s most significant hardware advantage over Windows Phone. We still haven’t heard of one upcoming Windows Phone that utilizes a dual-core processor. This gives the iPhone a major leg up in both multitasking and processing power, though the clock speed of its CPU is unknown so it’s hard to make real estimates just yet.

Windows Phone can’t do multitasking in the strictest sense just (without a software hack), but it has similar functionality. Fast App Switching, just introduced in the Mango update, allows users to jump back and forth between up to five different apps by pressing and holding the hardware Back button. Apps and games produced prior to the Mango update must be updated to support Fast App Switching. Said updates continue to roll out every day; we expect pretty much all the ones people would actually want to run will become fully Mango-compliant by the end of the year.

Background services are another Mango addition. They allow apps to download data and update themselves in the background. Apps can check for data every 30 minutes while not plugged in or connected to Wi-Fi and every 10 minutes when a USB cable and Wi-Fi are present. Background services could potentially be improved by the move to dual core processors. But because anything running in the background still uses power, don’t expect a dramatic increase in background functionality whenever dual core Windows Phones finally materialize.

Sparkly games

Now, the area where a more powerful CPU and GPU really make themselves felt is graphical performance. Windows Phone has always been behind iPhone in 3D graphics. The best looking 3D Windows Phone games like Hydro Thunder GO really can’t compete with the big-budget iPhone titles such as Infinity Blade, which debuted in 2010. Admittedly, Windows Phone is a newer platform, whereas developers have had years to wrap their heads around making iPhone games. But the beefier hardware of the iPhone 4S is going to widen the graphics gulf even more.

Speaking of Infinity Blade, Epic Games chose today to announce a sequel exclusively for iPhone. Make no mistake; it’s a killer app. We’ve seen some terrific games on Windows Phone, but nothing approaches even the first Infinity Blade as far as looking and feeling like a big-budget console title. The new game will run on all iOS devices from the iPhone 3GS and up.

Now, existing Windows Phone hardware is more than a match for the 3GS, which means an Infinity Blade 1 port wouldn’t be out of the question. We know Microsoft has a good relationship with Epic Games, whose Gears of War series is exclusive to the Xbox 360. The big MS should capitalize on their existing relationship and either get Epic to port Infinity Blade straight away or start a new killer franchise, exclusively for Windows Phone. Why not find a way to adapt Gears of War while they’re at it? The same applies to other iPhone heavy hitters like Gameloft; gamers are impatient for their high-spec games.

Xbox Live versus Game Center

Despite the dearth of killer games (and the multitude of iPhone casual game ports), Windows Phone has an ace up its sleeve with Xbox Live. The platform’s Xbox Live integration attracts console gamers like me, plus it can potentially convert average smartphone users into fans of Microsoft’s gaming platforms. Mango even revamped the Windows Phone Games hub, fully integrating Xbox Live to create a more seamless experience.

Apple has long been playing catch-up to Xbox Live with their iOS Game Center. iOS games may have Game Center Achievements, but those don’t hold the same appeal to console gamers as their Xbox Live counterparts. Today Apple announced some major Game Center improvements, most notably cloud save support (opens in new tab). Users will be able to play a game on their iPhone and then resume it on the iPad, with the save file transferred wirelessly. That’s a big one-up over Windows Phone.

While Microsoft’s mobile platform does support some cloud services, the issue of transferring or backing up game save data has never been addressed in any form at all. Saves can’t be transferred via USB cable or cloud, a major oversight. But there is hope. One of the major features of the upcoming Fall 2011 Xbox 360 dashboard update is cloud support. Sure, that applies to console games, not mobile ones. Still, the feature will likely trickle down to Windows Phone within a year or so.

Small advantages

In most other ways, the iPhone 4S’s hardware advantages don’t amount to much. The 4S sports a nice 8 megapixel camera, and so will the HTC Titan. Yes, Apple’s new phone can shoot 1080P video whereas Windows Phones can’t shoot videos above 720P resolution. But take it from someone who owns a 1080P video camera: 720P is far more practical from a memory standpoint. Unless you’re planning to produce Blu-Rays or something (which I’d still use a dedicated camera for over a phone), 1080P is more than you really need.

While we’re on the subject of resolutions, both the iPhone 4 and 4S boast 960 x 640 screen resolutions, while Windows Phone currently maxes out at 800 x 480. It’s another reason that 3D games can look more detailed – resolution really does matter. But the 4S’s screen size, like other iPhones before it, will be a scant 3.5 inches. The Samsung Focus’s 4 inch screen is noticeably larger to even casual users, and the HTC Titan’s behemoth 4.7 inch screen will positively dwarf Apple’s offerings. Given the choice between a tiny screen with extra pixels per inch or a large one with slightly less, I’ll pick the bigger one.

Finally, Apple demonstrated some impressive iPhone 4S voice recognition via video. Actors casually asked their phones to text loved ones or what the weather is like, only to be politely answered by a nightmarish machine voice. Windows Phone has included some voice frecognition features from the get-go. Time will tell whether Apple's version works much better; we can expect Microsoft to fire back with further improvements down the line if so.


At last we come to Microsoft’s greatest strengths: The Windows Phone OS and Metro UI. Simply put, Metro is more attractive and intuitive to use than iOS. Well-designed Windows Phone apps match the look of the platform, differentiating themselves from software for other smartphones. Metro is so revolutionary, Microsoft is even rolling it out to Xbox 360 this fall and Windows 8 next year. The day will come that people see using Windows Phone as a natural extension of what they already do on PC and other devices.

And how about staying in touch with others? That’s what phones are all about, after all. Windows Phone sports social network integration that surpasses anything iPhone has done. Yeah, we can download an official Facebook or Twitter app for either platform. But with Windows Phone, you don’t even need to do that. Just plug in your credentials and suddenly you can post pictures to your wall or send out a tweet with practically no effort at all. There are so many more great Windows Phone software features, we’d be here all day if we named them all.

Fight the good fight

Clearly, the iPhone 4S possesses several advantages over Windows Phone. It’s got more muscle under the hood, better games, and a sharper screen resolution. Apple also has incredible brand recognition, to the point that people actually do wait in line for their newest products.

Microsoft may be one of the largest companies in the world, but they’re still the scrappy little up-and-comer in the world of smartphones. Still, Windows Phone is really special. With the right management and effort, it can catch up to the iPhone someday.

One way to beat your competitors is by delivering a better product. Microsoft is largely doing just that with the Windows Phone OS, Metro UI, and to an extent, mobile Xbox Live. But the Windows Phone hardware specs should catch up and surpass iPhone specs sooner rather than later. Currently we’re about one year behind Apple in processors and screen resolutions, to say nothing of battery life. I’m sure 2012 will see Windows Phones will dual core processors, but unless they also pack a little extra punch, they’ll just end up behind the next iPhone come the following autumn. And when those powerful processors do come along, they’ll need a higher resolution screen to show off what they can do. Let’s hope Microsoft doesn’t allow the 800 x 480 limitation to live beyond next year.

Whether or not the 4S had been announced, the number one area Microsoft needs to work on is brand awareness and advertising. When new Windows Phones like the HTC Radar and Titan quietly slip out to retailers instead of receiving a media blitz, somebody isn’t putting their back into it.

While I’m mentioning retailers, better in-store displays and employee training are very much in order. People shouldn’t be able to walk into a phone store and not be tempted by Windows Phones.

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

  • we need that nokia windows phone, like right now :p
  • Yeah, the iPhone4s does look pretty neat, but I still think WP7 takes the OS cake with its metro UI.
  • "Simply put, Metro is more attractive and intuitive to use than iOS."Isn't that more of an opinion? :PBut srsly, I see WP7 (8?) eventually catching up with iOS in terms of # of users and such. It will just take a while. No one thought Android would catch up either, but look at how it's doing now. One thing that might speed the process up is if there was some actual real advertising for WP7 devices, aside form those goofy AT&T commercials.
  • Practically the whole thing's an opinion. It's an editorial piece.I agree, real advertising is a must!
  • I used to have an iPhone 4, but I started working for Sprint in April. So I made the switch to Sprint for the employee plan. I tried Android and my goodness does that OS just suck. Crashes ALL the time. I tried Blackberry. Hardly any apps and wasn't sold on the design. Then I decided to try out the Arrive with Sprint. Fell in LOVE with the OS. So smooth. Not an abundance of apps, but they are surely growing and way past BB. Keyboard is a nice addition, but I find myself using the touchscreen keyboard more. Overall I am pleased with WP7, but now that Sprint is getting the iPhone 4S I'm definitely going back. I'm really tired of carrying this brick of a phone. I wish Sprint would release a WP7 phone that's just all touch. It seems like all the other carriers have one, but not Sprint. So I'm going back to the iPhone. Plus I have a Mac. It'll make things easier.
  • well you at least wait for a nokia windows phone and get one unlocked if you like the os enough or get a samsung focus s unlocked
  • unlocking a gsm phone won't help on sprint as they are a CDMA carrier.hopefully sprint gets some of the new hardware sooner rather than later, maybe the new omina variant and/or the radar look possible, for some reason or another, the cdma based networks don't seem to be picking up the lager, flagship handsets, which really sucks.give people even half the choice in hardware that android offers and i can see the platform taking off much faster.
  • You must where some pretty tight jeans to feel that tiny bit thicker feel in your jeans. I wear jeans that are semi tight and it is not bulky at all. Plus Nokia is probably going to release some pretty rocking phones in a month or 2.
  • seriously? going to downgrade urself over bulk? the arrive isn't that much bigger than the iPhony.
  • If you don't even find a use for the hardware keyboard, it's kind of dumb to be carrying a device with one. Windows Phone in fact discourages the use of it due to the poor landscape support.All in all, this review is correct at least in one way - Microsoft can boast numbers of apps and whatnot, but at the end of the day they don't have anything killer and they are just falling behind.XBox Live? Microsoft, you are disgracing that name. There are some indie games that far surpass what you offer. Upgrade those devs to XBL for free - that's a move that will benefit everyone. Stop wasting time chasing Laporte.Get good games out on a consistent basis. It's sad that I can scroll through every single XBL title in seconds. It's been a year.
  • Didn't they announce Twitter and FB integration today.
  • Twitter yes, but not Facebook. WP7 is still the only one with integrated Facebook.
  • even though it's integrated, it isn't official, it's just 3rd party, that's why you can't watch some of your facebook posts or photo gallery.... wp7 people hub is just 3rd party
  • as if it'll be that way forever.
  • Actually Mango allows you to view photo galleries from your contacts by swiping over to the pictures pivot when viewing contact information.I think WP7 has all the right parts of Facebook integrated, with the app available on the marketplace to provide any extra functions that are missing from the OS itself.The People Hub might be 3rd party but it still has to use the Facebook API to access your account.
  • I do think the iPhone does have WP beat in overall ecosystem and support... for now.The only reasons I'm an enthusiastic WP supporter is because I love the People First paradigm, the data-centric UI, and I believe that Microsoft's ecosystem will eventually be superior. And I don't want to invest in Apple's ecosystem in the short term when I feel like I will be using Microsoft's in the long term.Though I must say, Apple's use of voice recognition and response has Windows Phone beat for now. I do hope that TellMe gets better integrated and becomes more robust soon.
  • Apple definitely wins in voice recognition, and apps are a HUGE part of an ecosystem. Apple wins by a clear margin there - and with this release, it is increasingly evident that Windows Phone is behind in BOTH quality and quantity.I will be interested to see how many people will use Siri. If anyone can popularise a nerdy technology, it's Apple. However, I think it's very possible that it will hardly be a consideration to anyone who is looking at purchasing a product (as opposed to going with hype).
  • You do know that TellMe is cloud based speech recognition, so as more people use it the better it will get.I believe Siri has no connection to the cloud, someone correct me if i'm wrong, so it doesn't get better until Apple release an update.
  • Who are the other two guys? Android and Rim? Come on Nokia, be our Shoryuken.
  • Samsung Focus owner here and although I don't hate on iOS by any means, I'm becoming a staunch WP7 fanboy. That being said, the last part of the article listing Microsoft's strengths sounded a lot like opinion and cheery rhetoric ... but when dealing with a UI like Metro that's bound to happen; it's difficult to describe.On another note, these kinds of articles are a welcome change here on WPCentral. It's nice to see a comparison/editorial piece as opposed to another review or spin on some PR release.I really enjoyed the read, Paul!
  • Nothing beats Metro. iPhone 4s is nothing to worry about. Wait for Samsung to come with a killer-phone, running quadcore Kal-El processor.
  • By 1jaxstate1 on Tue, 04 Oct 2011 9:17 pm EDT new Score+0Didn't they announce Twitter and FB integration today. twitter integration yes, FB no. Still third party app.
  • they need to advertise the **** out of it. just sayin'
  • I can't believe it. It seems like they are pulling the 2010 launch all over again. I'm really annoyed at the people who are saying "they are waiting until the Nokia". We said the same thing last year - "they are waiting for the US launch". Every single milestone has been done and dusted, and we still see zero marketing?Ballmer, ever wonder why your platform isn't growing as you expected? Because surveys indicate something like 50% of volunteers don't know what the heck Windows Phone is! That number is probably much, much higher considering surveys will probably target fairly well-off and knowledgeable people.And of the people who have heard of it, do they know what it is? Or is all they see a very, VERY controversial home screen and a sales rep telling them the OS lacks features and apps?
  • Is the screen resolution in WP limited to 800 x 480? Is that a fixed limitation of the OS?
  • Yes, it's a fixed limitation.
  • This is a great article. Keeping it real. I hope someone at MS reads this.
  • Thanks man. Glad you enjoyed it.
  • We've been saying since practically before WP7 launched that MS needs to advertise it, and they have continually failed to do so. That the Titan can be available and not a word anywhere is astounding. Remember the 1st Samsung Omnia? Samsung had the guts to announce it on an iphone launch day after hyping it up beforehand. Didn't stop the iphone juggernaut but at least it got them noticed. They were obviously let down by the OS at the time but imagine what could be accomplished with such a campaign now with an OS like WP7 w Mango. Just looks like no one is interested in making any kind of effort to promote WP7. Apart from us fans, which is not how it should be.
  • I donno dudes, THIS HIPSTER is staying Windows Phone. Cause.....it's truly more hipster. Modern typography and design....truly digital...Not this cutesy analog design **** that Apple does that apparently older people must like. Oh! and did I mention it's less popular?!
  • Does it count as indie? 1-2% of sales is fairly indie, no?
  • I'm hoping Tango does more than build out the low end. It'd be a good idea to start widening the range o