Review: iPhone 4s vs. Samsung Galaxy S3 vs. HTC Incredible 4G LTE - 1

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Review: iPhone 4s vs. Samsung Galaxy S3 vs. HTC Incredible 4G LTE - 1
Make no mistake. This is not your everyday, run-of-the-mill, spec-heavy mobile handset review. Furthermore, this isn't about slapping down 1000 words to earn geek cred.

Not that I don't do that. On occasion.

This is about the phone that is going into my pocket for the next two years. That's huge. I love my phone. I mean, I LOVE MY PHONE. So read every word with weight, because this decision wasn't handled lightly.

We happen to be in a convergence period in which there are two distinct handsets vying for the title of Best Smartphone in the World. Apple's iPhone 4s is nearing the end of its run, which has allowed Android's Ice Cream Sandwich (and even more so Jellybean) on the Samsung S3 a window of opportunity in which to catch up and pass iOS.

And I know what you're thinking, but the HTC Incredible is the only recent entry into the Android ICS market that isn't bigger than my head. This is key and I'll get to it.

In any case, I spent way more time with these three devices than any socially-adjusted person should. You get the fruits of that labor. Plus you get a nice story.

See, I was on vacation a couple weeks ago when I was reminded that I had 48 hours in which to upgrade my phone and my wife's phone without losing unlimited data on Verizon. The pros and cons of that deadline are best left to another column that I don't want to write, the point is I had to get to the closest Verizon store and drop some cash.

Quite honestly, it was time. My wife and I were both way out of contract and she was still rocking a feature phone.

So while I had the opportunity to experiment, knowing that I was going to get my hands on the S3 and the Incredible within the next two weeks, I opted for two gorgeous iPhones and walked out of the door with a newfound smugness.

Who Needs the iPhone 4s?

Review: iPhone 4s vs. Samsung Galaxy S3 vs. HTC Incredible 4G LTE - 1

But here's the funny part. Initially, I couldn't get home.

Remember, I was on vacation, and had used my old Android phone, which was now a brick, to get to the Verizon store in the first place. So walking out of the new store (still smug), I discovered that the iPhone was more than happy to tell me how to get back to the hotel, it just couldn't navigate me there.

Yeah, I found MapQuest and eventually got back, but that was a microcosm of my issues with the iPhone. As a long-term Android user, I expected certain things to be there and some were (Bluetooth connectivity to the car), and some weren't (turn-by-turn).

My wife kept the iPhone. She loves it. And she should. It's an awesome phone.

Who Needs the Samsung S3?

Review: iPhone 4s vs. Samsung Galaxy S3 vs. HTC Incredible 4G LTE - 3
If the iPhone was the only 5-star phone, it isn't anymore, because the S3 is probably the first 5-star Android. For every plus Apple has packed into the design, Samsung has crafted the same into the power and usefulness.

It's sleek and big. The screen looks great and it's big. It's easy to use and intuitive. And big.

The S3 and Android easily matched or surpassed the iPhone in terms of the screen, the user interface, the flexibility, the camera, and the speed. Further, Ice Cream Sandwich has come a long way in terms of making the mobile experience more mobile and less computer-on-a-phone, which was the main hang-up with Android.

Within 45 minutes, I was able to get the Samsung S3 exactly the way I needed it, everything from contacts to apps to preferences. It was the same experience I was used to, only better.

But it's so damn big.

I've ranted about this before in previous reviews, but this time it really hit home. I just couldn't USE the S3, not use comfortably, but use at all. I dropped it several times trying to manipulate my way around the interface with one hand (sorry Samsung!). I found I kept it out of my pocket because, while it is incredibly thin, it's a lot of real estate in the pants.

Come on, you know I was going there eventually.

Who Needs the HTC Incredible 4G LTE?

Review: iPhone 4s vs. Samsung Galaxy S3 vs. HTC Incredible 4G LTE - 4

This is the phone I ended up keeping. And it all comes down to the size. The Incredible was always implied as an iPhone copy, and this version, while packing almost all of the power of the S3, is just slightly bigger than the iPhone.

I love my phone. I'm that guy. But I'm giving up screen resolution. I'm giving up the great camera. I'm giving up some battery life. I'm giving up a lot of style and design.

But technology-wise, the playing field is nearly level, for now. So when it comes to the S3 vs. the Incredible, I'm not giving up a great camera for a crappy camera, I'm giving up a great camera for an average camera, so there's a value-based decision to make.

Average camera vs. uncomfortable pants.

And it's not that the iPhone is bad at the things that the S3 is good at, but there is a new user type to contend with. Apple had a huge advantage converting feature phone users, Blackberry users, and I'd even argue early Android users -- but take a die-hard Android current and give him or her an iPhone and there are things they are going to miss.

Like the keyboard. Or widgets. And not that these are game-changers but they are things that we are already used to, and that, I believe, is going to be the determining factor is choosing a handset.

For the foreseeable future, these are the parameters of the decision-making process, not how awesome the streamed preview of 21 Jump Street looks or the quality vs. quantity argument of the apps. Or Siri. Or G-Noise or whatever the Android version is.

The Best Smartphone in the World is going to be the one that works for you.