Frankenphone. Building a perfect smartphone from iPhone 5, Nokia’s Lumia 920, Android and Blackberry Bold

Android has captured the lion’s share of  the growing smartphone market in barely three years. iPhone is the world’s most popular (and profitable) smartphone. Blackberry desperately clings to double digit market share in many important markets, and its long-time users continue to sing its praises. Nokia, which only recently helped bring a billion mobile devices to the world has faltered badly. Now they are fully aligned with Microsoft, which appears confident in its abilities to become a major, possibly dominant player in the global smartphone wars.

Each of these platforms wants us not only to choose their device, but hopes to lock us in to their ecosystem – device, apps, digital content, services and related products. Think of Apple’s integrated ecosystem for iPhone, Mac and iPad, for example. Or Microsoft’s hopeful Windows 8 operating system crossing PCs, tablets and smartphones. But what if we could choose only the bits we like across all companies and platforms? What if we could take what is available today and build the very best smartphone? How would that work?

You have to start with the operating system. This means Apple’s iOS. It’s tightly controlled, battle tested, easily the most intuitive. Android offers more rapid development iterations, allows handset makers to build services on top of it, and provides developers greater access. Those can be positives, but in my experience, nothing beats Apple’s iOS. Microsoft is trying to do some innovative work on their Windows Phone OS, but, really, that’s still at the starting gates. Apple wins.

It’s hard to talk about smartphone operating systems without acknowledging how they are further empowered through their ecosystem. Again, Apple wins here. iOS works across iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Increasingly, Apple integrates features across iOS and Mac (and Apple TV). Apple offers the biggest, simplest and most robust platform for buying apps, music, videos. Payments are a snap. Amazon’s “&droid” ecosystem is a close second, though only in the US. Apple offers more apps, free, freemium and premium. You can be reasonably assured they work with your latest – or oldest – iOS device. Personal preferences aside, for most users, Apple’s ecosystem is best, biggest and easiest.

We use our smartphones for more and more activities. We carry them with us wherever we go. This puts a premium on design. I think the iPhone 3G and the original Blackberry Bold were the most beautiful, elegantly designed smartphones for their time. Apple has spent the past 30 years preaching the user benefits of design. That said, I will go with Nokia. Their Lumia 900/920 may be the most beautiful-functional smartphone design for the present day. Sony makes beautiful designs, and HTC tries. But for now, I think Nokia wins on design.

Usability, apps, content, design; those are all important. Another critical factor is availability. Will it work on the carrier of your choice? Will it work in your primary location? Can you buy it from as many vendors as possible? Android is tops here, without question. That said, Apple sells only its devices in its physical and online stores. No one offers more reliable customer support. That should not be overlooked.

Next comes price. Again, Android wins. Nokia make a range of devices. Apple sells iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S at a discount. But the range of devices at all price points is a clear strength of the Android ecosystem.

What else?

For many smartphone users, they keep their device less than 2 years, some even less than a year. For those of us who do not, however, updates to the software are important. Apple has this down cold. Android is a mess, and you can never be certain your device, no matter the carrier or handset maker, will get timely updates via Google. Not so with Apple. Similarly, build quality matters a great deal. These devices are not cheap, after all. This is a tough call, but I think Apple wins. Blackberry is a distant second. Nokia should be a close third but their near wholesale embrace of the relatively new Windows Phone platform makes me cautious.

Across all platforms, much of the functionality is equivalent, a matter of personal preference. Still, some things are particularly important – camera/optics, for example. In this, everyone is chasing Nokia. Many Android device makers promote their many-megapixel cameras. Apple does a great job of building software to enhance the visuals. Their app store offers great photo editing tools. Still, I think Nokia is tops in this always-important category.

New smartphone buyers seem to have fully embraced Apple’s vision: apps and a full touchscreen. The best screen, the most responsive touch controls, hands down, come from Apple. Their lead in touchscreens is, in my view, similar to Nokia’s lead in smartphone camera technology, maybe greater. But what of those who love a physical keyboard? There are a number of Android devices to choose from, and in my experience, Motorola does best here, trumping Samsung. Still, none are the equal of Blackberry.

Though these devices are really portable computers, we call them smartphones. The emphasis remains on ‘phone’. Had I written this a couple years ago, I would have handed the call quality crown to Blackberry. Now, any new device of reasonable quality will deliver adequate voice service.

We should also consider quality of services. Apple’s Messenger, for example, or FaceTime. BBM from Blackberry. Here, I think Android – thanks to Google’s leadership – wins easily. Mail, search, mapping, voice controls. Moreover, it is Android, partly thanks to Google and partly thanks to its robust handset maker ecosystem, that is quickest to embrace new technologies, like “quad core” processing – and old ones, such as NFC. This comes at a price, of course. Many functions of an Android device can be difficult to learn and equally difficult to use. There are issues with reliability and no platform has been harder hit by malware and viruses. Nonetheless, and despite those caveats, the range of services and technologies offered by Android put it well ahead of the rest.

Where does that leave us? If you could put together your own smartphone, taken from existing devices and platforms, it might look something like this:

  • OS/UI: Apple (iOS)
  • Ecosystem: Apple
  • Design: Nokia
  • Availability: Android
  • Customer support: Apple
  • Price: Android
  • Updates: Apple
  • Build quality: Apple
  • Call quality: Any
  • Camera: Nokia
  • Touchscreen: Apple
  • Keyboard: Blackberry
  • Location-aware services: Android
  • New technologies: Android (with caveats)

What about you? How would you construct your own smartphone?

Author: Brian S Hall

Brian S Hall writes about technology, immortality and food for ReadWrite, Techpinions, Unwired View and other publications. His thoughts on the 'smartphone wars' and how these are rapidly de-constructing markets, industries, business models and relationships around the world can be found on his personal site at www.brianshall.com.

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  • Brick ONeil

    You’ve got a little brown on the tip of your nose there. Might want to grab a kleenex.

  • http://twitter.com/Wigmundo Wig Shire

    Sickeningly biased, uneducated report

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kelly-Prophet/100000555833996 Kelly Prophet

    I agree with the other two commentors, biased purely fictional opinion dribble.
    I am personally sick of iOS. When I sold my iPhone 4 I panicked for a moment after I wiped the phone of all data – realizing I had failed to backup my voicemails.

    Then I remembered; Ohh yeah, on iOS you can’t do that. In fact, there are a LOT of things you can not do on iOS that you can do with competing products – that there is really no valid justification to prevent you from doing.
    Ultimately, iOS is for folks who like to be controlled – and are OK with the fact that you lose some freedom of choice and control of your own data as a result.
    How is that for Un-American!

  • praegrandis

    Comparing OEMs and an OS–just great!

    Anyway, I think the call quality and touchscreen should go to Nokia. Design and UI can be any–it’s a matter of preference.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000089286668 Truitt Dill

    OS/UI: WP8Ecosystem: AppleDesign: NokiaAvailability: AndroidCustomer support: ApplePrice: AndroidUpdates: AppleBuild quality: Nokia (known for making sturdy phones)Call quality: NokiaCamera: NokiaTouchscreen: AppleKeyboard: No PreferenceLocation-aware services: AndroidNew technologies: Nokia for Hardware and Android for software

  • Jason

    iOS is great for the majority of users (80% or more). Most people don’t want to perform advanced personalization available on android, and they aren’t worried about customization of the experience. It isn’t about being controlled, it is about easier. Before I get ripped as a fanboy know that I have used android and iOS and my next phone will be a Lumia 920. They all have great points, and things that need work.

  • robmxa

    I just want a Nokia Lumia 920 in yellow, period. When can I have one?

    Best mapping, best screen, best phone, best operating system etc etc, best smartphone period.

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.d.haberberger James Haberberger

    Brian…. you are as biased as ever…. if you love Apple so much then just buy it and shut up. People like you love canned applications that are easy to use… Android, windows and all other applications out there are just as easy to use and all do require a small learning curve. Don’t be a mindless ISheep your whole life!

  • Biased faggot

    The best screen, the most responsive touch controls, hands down, come from Nokia.

    Fixed that for you.

  • http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002VH8ECQ Brian S Hall

    I fear it’s too late for Nokia. I am not sure they will be here a year from now, maybe less.

  • http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002VH8ECQ Brian S Hall

    You may be right. Call quality is good across the board but perhaps there’s a slight edge to Nokia. With the new iPhone 5 touchscreen, I think Apple wins that battle easily.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1415877902 Rey Mars

    too late for NOKIA… I’m guessing you are not paying attention to headlines… Nokia partners in map technology … Oracle and cars like Mercedes and BMW, too name a few and Amazon also….US carriers have been named also Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile…not to mention China Mobile, the world largest mobile suscribers in the world…if ever the Lumia 920 doesn’t catch attention, Nokia has a motherload of patents from their Seimens Network, which is a different class of LTE… read and research

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003510718511 Harley Meekins

    What are you talking about? How does the iPhone 5 screen beat the Lumia 920 screen in any way?

  • http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002VH8ECQ Brian S Hall

    I hope you are right. I want them to survive. But I doubt it. Apple will throw off more cash — just this quarter — than the entire market value of Nokia.

  • http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002VH8ECQ Brian S Hall

    I am in the US. There is no such thing as a Nokia Lumia 920. We are told there *will* be such a thing as Nokia Lumia 920 — “soon”. If so, then I can re-compare iPhone to it. Right now, the 920 does not exist. How much time have you spent with it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/gmiguel83 Jorge Miguel

    LOL

  • http://www.facebook.com/gmiguel83 Jorge Miguel

    Dude you are a total sheep LOL

  • http://www.facebook.com/cquinsland Colin ‘cq’ Quinsland

    I have to agree with these guys, the iPhone has not been the king of the screen for at least a year now. Yes, Apple right now has the highest ppi screen IN AMERICA, but both the Galaxy SIII and the HTC One X have much higher resolution screens at decently close ppi to the Apple screen, which mean they just plain look better. I have heard from many reviewers that they infinitely prefer the One X’s screen to the iPhones. Engadget even said it was the “Most gorgeous display we have ever stared at on a phone” and they are usually pretty huge iFanboys. Your better screen is here, and has been for well over half of a year.

    And lets not forget that the Nokia 920’s screen is going to eat the iPhone’s screen for breakfast and the One X’s for lunch. Just because it is not being sold in America until early November does not mean it does not exist. That is a pretty ignorant statement, all due respect.

  • http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002VH8ECQ Brian S Hall

    Saying “the Nokia 920’s screen is going to eat the iPhone screen for breakfast” is the same as me saying the iPhone 6 screen will eat the 920 for lunch. When the 920 actually exists, meaning, when I can walk into a store and buy one, then we can discuss. But your comment does bring up a larger point. I was sort of mashing together screen quality (e.g. resolution) and touchscreen feel and responsiveness. In that way, I think iPhone 5 is superior to what’s currently available in the market. However, I realize that can be misleading, particularly to more educated users who actually know screen resolution numbers. The One X and SIII do have great screens.

  • Michael Wiley

    iOS is just boring and ugly. No matter how long I use my phone, it doesn’t know me any better than it did when I bought the phone. I could trade phones with my friend and it wouldn’t matter.

  • simonesweetweet

    @brian
    Yes You are total Sheep
    And i buy Lumia 920

  • liveTexas

    Nexus One – the Perfect Phone (sans memory)

  • Guest

    For me:
    OS/UI: Microsoft (Windows Phone 8)Ecosystem: AppleDesign: Nokia (Microsoft)Availability: AndroidCustomer support: Apple (However, all they do is replace stuff, and as of recent, they have been goind down)Price: AndroidUpdates: Probably Windows Phone (Microsoft)Build quality: Nokia (Indestructible pl0x)Call quality: AnyCamera: NokiaTouchscreen: Nokia (60Hz, super sensitivity, ClearBlack tech, most responsive, reasonably sized)Keyboard: BlackBerry (N/A really, touch screen keyboards are definitely better now-a-days)Location-aware services: Windows Phone 8 (Nokia Maps trumps Google outside of the U.S.)New technologies: Android/Windows Phone 8

  • robmxa

    What does it matter what cash Apple throws off. If the Nokia 920 sells as I expect Nokia will be back in the game.

  • LikeWaah

    Brian, I understand what you are saying, but your argument is weak.

    Yes, the Lumia 920 is not *available for sale*, but to say “it does not exist” would be incorrect. The hardware itself does exist, as it is being used in the current prototypes. Would you say that the OIS in the Lumia 920 doesn’t exist too? Because it clearly does, as there have been demos of it.

    Not being available for purchase is not the same as not existing.

    Oh, you mean I can’t walk into my local Walmart and buy a US Air Force Predator drone? If I can’t buy it, then it must not exist. /sarcasm

    Lastly, the Lumia 920 is only a month away. Not 3 months, 6 months, or a year. You act as if the Lumia 920 is vaporware. I assure you it is not, and it will be in stores very soon.

    Hold on to your title of “Best smartphone screen” tightly. It will be gone soon.

    That being said, I do think Apple’s technical feats in the engineering of their new screen is impressive. But I don’t think that necessarily translates to a better user experience.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000089286668 Truitt Dill

    ya kno they still have the largest market share in the world and sell a million phones a day. just saying.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000089286668 Truitt Dill

    i couldnt agree more.

  • LikeWaah

    Do you think before you write? Or do you just spout off your knee jerk reactions?

    You should take a closer look at Nokia’s financials. They aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. They may be operating at a loss, but they have actually built up their cash position.

    The majority of their restructuring costs have already been accounted for, so the cash burn is no longer a problem.

    Even if their smartphone division only breaks even, the other divisions of Nokia can easily shoulder the company. Nokia Siemens Network is cash flow positive, soon to turn a profit. The Locations & Commerce division has just announced contracts with Garmin, Volkswagon Group (more than just VW, they own multiple brands), BMW, Mercedes, and Hyundai, among other companies.

    That’s not even including Nokia’s feature phone division, whose Asha line is selling very well in emerging markets.

    You couldn’t be further from the truth Brian.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363727960 Storm Holloway

    The Lumia has been announced though, and will be out in a month. iPhone 6 is not even close. Plus, if you can’t compare screens then why make the article at all? It’s not like the screen is the only part of the 920 nobody has used. On paper, the Lumia 920 has a better screen in every way, bigger, more ppi, more sensitive. Either write the article according to what we know of the 920 or wait until the 920 is out. It’s just inconsistent.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363727960 Storm Holloway

    Do you genuinely think Nokia will be done in a year? Do you consider yourself a journalist? They’ve partnered with Microsoft and are about to release the most advanced, innovative phone on the market before the holidays. Besides they just signed, like yesterday, to provide mapping for Oracle. They provide mapping data for Garmin. They have huge appeal in China and Europe. Surely you’re trolling.

  • http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002VH8ECQ Brian S Hall

    Credit Suisse has downgraded them and recommended they be sold. They are burning through their cash.
    http://www.streetinsider.com/Analyst+PT+Change/Credit+Suisse+Downgrades+Nokia+(NOK)+to+Underperform%3B+Things+Arent+Getting+Better,+a+Break-Up+Needed/7759647.html

    Nokia’s entire market cap is less than the cash Apple will generate just from the previous (pre iPhone 5) quarter.
    Take your own advice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cquinsland Colin ‘cq’ Quinsland

    If “most people” didn’t want advanced personalization (which I read as basically ANY customization at all), then the Android market share would be dwindeling and Apples would be growing. Instead of that, Apple’s kept growing to 34% and Android’s grew to 52.6, neither losing ground. People aren’t leaving Apple for Android and people aren’t leaving Android for Apple. Or if they are, its a negligible amount. Either way, your point is wrong.

  • LikeWaah

    Oh yeah, because that link is really detailed and goes into Nokia’s financials in depth. *roll eyes*

    I am not disputing the fact that they have operating losses. I am saying that it seems premature to state that they will be out of business.

    Nokia ended Q2 2012 with 9.4 billion euros in cash (~12.14 billion USD), with a net cash position of 4.2 billion euros (~5.4 billion USD). Nokia actually increased their net cash position by 102 million euros. Let me repeat that for you: *increased* their position by 102 million euros. That’s including a 742 million euro dividend payout. If they had not announced a dividend, they would have increased their cash position further.

    Now I’m not going to do all your homework for you, but if you look more carefully, you’ll notice that a significant amount of debt that is counted against Nokia’s cash position are long term bonds. Most importantly, those bonds don’t mature until 2014, 2019, and 2039.

    Since mathematics doesn’t seem to be your strong suit, I’ll just let you know that it will be 2 years until the first set of bonds mature. That is at least twice as long as you gave Nokia to survive.

    Brian S. Hall: “I fear it’s too late for Nokia. I am not sure they will be here a year from now, maybe less.”

    What is the conclusion? That Nokia has at least 12 billion in cash to burn through before it will die. Even at the most pessimistic approximations of cash burn, Nokia has a large enough cash position to last 3 years (-1 billion/quarter), assuming their operating losses don’t increase. Given that their restructuring costs are largely accounted for, that shouldn’t be an issue.

    It’s clear to me that you are just a parrot. You seem to employ very little critical thinking, and even less due diligence. Tell me to take my own advice again, :)

    And lastly, even though I’ve completely shredded your argument, the fact that Nokia’s market cap is less than Apple’s earnings from just one quarter proves nothing about whether Nokia will remain financially solvent or not.

    If anything, it more than likely means that Nokia is undervalued by the market. They are still the world’s 2nd largest producer of mobile phones in the world.

    Care to eat some humble pie?

  • http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002VH8ECQ Brian S Hall

    This is a joke, right?
    Nokia’s *entire market cap* is **under** $10 billion. But you’re saying they have $12 billion cash on hand?
    Here’s Reuter’s more detailed analysis of $NOK, though I am sure you think me and Reuters and Credit Suisse are all just trolling. You are not interested in facts, clearly.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/18/us-nokia-cash-idUSBRE84H0BD20120518

  • LikeWaah

    No Brian, this is not a joke.

    It’s entirely possible for a company’s market capitalization to be less than their cash position.

    Market Capitalization is a function of a company’s outstanding shares, and their corresponding share price. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_capitalization

    In fact, if you had taken the time to actually read the article that you have linked, you’ll find that Reuters backs up my claim of Nokia’s bonds.

    Reuters: “The company, which had more than 10 billion euros in cash on hand in 2007, has two bond issues outstanding, 1.25 billion euros of 5.5 percent bonds maturing in 2014 and 500 million of 6.75 percent notes due in 2019.”

    It’s strange to me that Reuters quotes their cash position as of 2007, when they have more recent financials to quote. However, if you were to actually look at the link I posted for you, you’ll see clearly that Nokia’s gross cash position is 9.4 billion euros. Nokia must be accurate in their quarterly filings; their cash position is an indisputable fact.

    I am very much interested in facts, which is why I am refuting your baseless speculations. And for the record, the information that I have provided regarding Nokia’s financial situation is all fact. The statements of Reuters and Credit Suisse are not facts, but opinions.

    Care to have your pie yet?

  • http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002VH8ECQ Brian S Hall

    Too funny.
    Those 2014/2019 bonds are classified as *junk bonds*!
    The market cap is billions less than you claim they have on hand. (see: GM)
    Reuters noted 2007 to show just how far and how fast their cash reserves have fallen.
    They are at risk of defaulting on their debts.
    They ended the quarter with 4.9 billion euros available — you reversed it and said 9.4 billion euros.
    They are planning on not paying their dividend (at all) in a desperate effort to preserve their little remaining cash.
    Apple could buy 10 Nokias, just with cash. But you keep spinning.

  • LikeWaah

    Brian, I’m really not sure how much more I can make this clear.

    Go read Nokia’s financials, and you will see for yourself.

    Their market cap is a function of their stock price and number of outstanding shares, not a function of their cash position. Again, Market Cap and Cash Position are not interchangeable terms.

    Do you know what the meaning of ‘junk bond’ is? It simply means that the credit agency doesn’t believe Nokia will be able to fulfill their bond obligations. It has no bearing on the fact that the bonds do not need to be addressed until 2014, at earliest.

    Yes, there is a chance they may default on their debts (as with any company), but they will not default until 2014. Still twice the amount of time that you gave them to remain solvent.

    I did not reverse any of my figures. If you would simply go and actually read the financial statements that I linked to you, you would see for yourself that I am not making anything up.

    You seem to have trouble understanding the difference between *gross cash* and *net cash*.

    As for the dividend, I think it would be a prudent idea to eliminate the dividend until they become operationally profitable, but all that means is that they will last even longer than you stated, since they will be reducing their cash burn — which pretty much supports my claims that Nokia will remain financially solvent longer than one year.

    Again, Apple’s cash position has no bearing on whether Nokia will remain operational.

    This is getting ridiculous, you have just shown yourself to be a fool in need of some serious financial education.

    Seriously, just look at Nokia’s most recent quarterly filing that I linked for you, and you will see for yourself.

  • http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002VH8ECQ Brian S Hall

    And again…
    $4.2 billion Euros cash (last quarter), $2 billion by end of this year (check their own projections), and burning through $300 million a month.
    Do basic math.
    Gone in a year unless Finland bails them out and/or backs up all their loans.

  • LikeWaah

    You refuse to even listen to the points I make. At this point you’re just being a troll.

    I have mentioned more than once that there is a difference between GROSS cash, and NET cash.

    I am clearly arguing with a fool, and you’ve beaten me with experience.

    I will let the other readers decide for themselves what is factual and what is baseless speculation. I think the facts will speak for themselves.

    In any case, Nokia’s Q3 will be reported Oct 18th, so we will have a clearer picture of their financial situation very soon. I anticipate that Nokia will have reduced their cash burn by then.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Amir-Lukmanhisyam/100000239066933 Amir Lukmanhisyam

    build quality Apple with iScratch?
    call quality any (if Apple, that’s not the proper way to hold a phone) ^_^
    add one more category, customer money: Apple

  • http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002VH8ECQ Brian S Hall

    Because of its availability and number of handset makers, for incorporation of “new technologies” I went with Android. But, I do think Windows Phone is a potential close second for that category.

  • God

    lol, “most advanced, innovative phone on the market”… really? W8 has been out how long and has gotten no where, and the only people buying them are MS/Nokia fanboys.. Now MS has admitted to creating and releasing their “OWN Windows phone” in 2013. Google it.. Why would MS build their own WP in house, and compete directly against Nokia, whom they have invested in? Cause they are betting Nokia may not survive and need to have phones out there. You don’t compete against the very same company you invested in, if you don’t think they may not produce, help, or be around.. But truly, at the end of the day, these are phones, jesus, no wonder the world is as screwed up as it is, when you have losers fighting over who’s phone is better, and hating on others for their phone choices.. How about be productive and make the world a better place, instead of worrying about a phone, and why you think yours is better then someone else who has a different like.

  • Jason

    No I think it is spot on. Most android users don’t use the features available either , that is why over 50% of android users are using a badly outdated OS while 1% use jellybean. Most people just want a phone that works. The advanced stuff is what gets 20 percent of the market excited

  • Matthew Merrick

    Apple has the highest PPI screen in america? the HTC Rezound and Atrix HD laughs at you and your ignorance.

  • Nuren Thapa

    I jailbreak my iPhones and customize heavily. Most people don’t care or need to customize. And remember one iPhone against hundreds of Androids. People buy for many reasons, including bigger, better, cheaper. I have a Samsung Note too which I mostly leave at home. I will probably get both the Nokia Lumia 920 and Rim Blackberry 10 phones when they come out, but, nevertheless, I’ll always have the iPhone with me.