25 things my new Android phone does that makes my iPhone feel like it comes from the 1990s

My new Android phone makes my old iPhone feel like a dinosaur. I did not root my phone. Every app you see here is a standard product, available from the Google Play store. This is what you can do right out of the box.
1 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

There are (at least) 25 things my old iPhone can't do

I ditched my old iPhone 4S and got a brand-new Samsung S4 Android phone.

My new phone led me to a rather surprising realization: it makes my old iPhone feel like a dinosaur. We have a bunch of Nexus 7 tablets. I use mine almost every day. But a phone is a far more personal device, so the desire to make it truly fit with a lifestyle is strong.

I knew the S4 had a lot more features than the iPhone. But until I started playing with it, the scope of the advancement of the device over even the iPhone 5 wasn't immediately apparent. This gallery should rectify that.

The iPhone seemed advanced five or seven years ago, but using it now, holding it next to the new Android phone, it feels so dated. It seems older than just the last decade. It seems like something from before the turn of the century.

The second thing I want to say is that I did not root my phone. Every app you see here is a standard product, available from the Google Play store. This is what you can do right out of the box.

Well, without further ado, let's explore the 25 things my new Android phone does that makes my iPhone feel like it comes from the 1990s.

2 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#1 You can replace the battery

Will modern miracles never cease? With some of the more advanced Android phones, you can actually replace the battery if it dies while you're on the road. Just pop the back off, and drop in a spare battery. It's almost like magic.

By contrast, if you want a longer run with your iPhone, you have to mount it in some sort of ugly cradle backpack or battery sled, increasing its bulk and wait to more than the original phone.

How to buy a new phone: The CNET smartphone buying guide

If, someday, the entire phone frame becomes a battery, and battery life lasts a week instead of a day, it might make sense to eliminate replacement batteries. But, for now, the replacement battery of the S4 seems light years more advanced than a phone that just dies when it runs out of juice.

Image courtesy Samsung.

3 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#2 You can add an memory card to your phone

Not only can you replace the battery, you can add a memory card. This isn't just a boon for adding capacity, it also is incredibly useful if you want to carry a large amount of content or switch content based on the context of what you're doing or where you're working. Memory cards are incredibly small and inexpensive, so this is a level of flexibility that just makes sense. It's also something the iPhone just doesn't have.

Image courtesy Samsung.

4 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#3 You can replace the back cover

While some Android phones don't have this feature, the Samsung S4 has a back that you can easily replace. Even better, unlike my old iPhone 4S, the new Android phone does not have a back made of easily-breakable glass.

In fact, you can replace the of the Samsung S4 with hundreds of others, in all sorts of different patterns and colors. These are quite inexpensive, so if you do happen to do some damage to the back of your unit, the replacement cost can be under ten bucks. Now, that's progress!

Image courtesy Amazon and "I Need" specialty shop.

5 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#4 It supports wireless inductive charging without a bulky sled

Ever since the ill-fated Palm Pre's Touchstone inductive charger, I've wanted wireless charging for my phone. iPhone add-ons can make that happen, but they're large sleds that strap around the iPhone, making it bulkier and uglier than necessary.

The Galaxy S4 supports replacing the plastic back. Just pop off the stock back that comes with the phone, snap on the new back, and you have a phone that supports wireless charging straight from the manufacturer.

Otterboxes won't fit, because they're built with absolutely no tolerance for "gooshiness" around the frame, and the S4's wireless charger adds about a 1/32 of an inch extra bulk to the back of the unit. If you want a wallet-style case (most of which merge their own back into the phone), you might be out of luck.

Even so, the few case disadvantages are worth it for integrated wireless charging. My new Android phone has it. The iPhone doesn't. I've always found the lack of iPhone wireless charging rather strange. Wireless charging seems like such an Apple-like thing to do, it's odd that the company seems to have thusfar ignored this incredibly convenient technology.

Image courtesy Samsung.

6 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#5 Wonder-of-wonders: you can actually plug a USB cable into it and drag and drop files from your computer

Stop-the-presses! Hear ye! Hear ye! Your attention please!

Ladies and gentlemen, you're about to behold a sight so incredible, so amazing, so advanced, so utterly incomprehensible in the iOS world, that I urge those of you who are easily shocked, frightened, suffer from medical conditions, or love your Apple devices above all others, to forgo reading this item.

You have been warned.

If you have the courage, the intestinal fortitude to read past my previous warnings, if you believe that you can withstand the greatest of all shocks, then read on.

Are you ready? Can you dig it?

Here it is: you can actually plug a USB cable into it and drag and drop files from your computer.

"Amazing," you say! "Incredible," you whisper. "There's just no way," you mumble. And yet, it is the truth I type. You can indeed simply plug a USB cable into your computer and then into your Android phone and — woosshh! — copy files from the desktop.

Will wonders never cease? Now, we truly know we're in the future!

Image courtesy my desktop, Android's astonishing ability to do something my iPhone should have been able to do out of the box for years, and the Samsung manual.

7 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#6 It's got a full 1080p HD display

The much-vaunted iPhone Retina display doesn't come close to the display in my new Android phone. The iPhone 5 has a non-standard 640×1136 pixels at 326 ppi, while the Samsung Galaxy S4 has true 1920x1080 HD at an even-more-Retina-than-Retina 441 ppi.

Samsung's Super AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) display merges the digitizer layer with the display layer, making the display far easier to see in direct sunlight, as well as packing more pixels into a smaller area.

Containing 35.06% more pixels than even the iPhone 5, it's hard to argue that the old iPhone is keeping up.

Image courtesy CBS Interactive and CNET.

8 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#7 You don't have to use iTunes

Admittedly, more modern versions of iOS allow you to control most of your phone's functions and data interchange over WiFi, but the iTunes application is still there, ready to haunt your dreams.

My favorite description of iTunes comes from our own Ed Bott: "And you wonder why I dislike iTunes with a passion that burns like the fire of a thousand suns?" I couldn't agree more.

Image courtesy my Mac mini OS X Server which continually insists on launching iTunes even though I've turned off the iTunes helper AND checked the "Prevent iPods, iPhones, and iPads from syncing automatically" AND can't uninstall the application because OS X won't let you AND have never connected an iOS device to it because it's a SERVER but still insists on launching. But I'm not bitter.

9 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#8 You can completely replace your launcher

Fed up with the launcher that comes with your device? You can completely replace it, customize it, and tweak it out. I don't know about you, but the iPhone application grid with folders made up of little, barely visible icons has grown really old.

In this example, I've replaced the TouchWiz launcher (left) that comes standard on Samsung Android phones with Buzz Launcher (right), one of many launchers I've downloaded to tinker with.

Image courtesy my Android phone, TouchWiz, and a Buzz Launcher standard configuration.

10 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#9 Your home screen can be alive

Tired of the old iOS dead-fish home screen with nothing but a grid of icons? In Android, you can add widgets that do and display all sorts of information. In this screen, for example, I have a Flipboard widget displaying a top news item, the current Dow index, how much data I've used so far, how long it will take to drive home (and whether or not there's traffic — green means a smooth ride), the current temperature, and the barometric pressue.

All at a glance. The iPhone can't do that.

Image courtesy way too much time spent playing with widgets.

11 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#10 You can replace your unlock screen with a customized version

Not only can you customize or completely change your launcher and customize or completely change your home screen widgets, you can also completely customize your lock screen. Since your lock screen is the very first at-a-glance use of your phone when you pick it up, being able to customize the lock screen is a key to truly maximizing the productivity of your phone.

In this example, I'm showing an image from a $3 program called WidgetLocker. I've got this installed on my phone (although my lock screen doesn't look this cool yet), and what's nice is that not only do you get this screen, but you still get all the lock password security you expect.

Image courtesy TeslaCoil Software and WidgetLocker.

12 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#11 It's a frickin' tricorder

You can download a free app called WeatherSignal that provides measurements including temperature, light, humidity, pressure, acceleration, and even magnetic flux (measured in microteslas).

While there's some useful information to be gained by all these sensor readings, one thing I learned is that there's one heck of a lot of magnetic flux within a few feet of my big server. It's a good thing I don't sit in front of it all day. Fortunately, the Inverse Square Law applies, so my desk (which is about six feet away) has almost no measurable flux (unless, of course, I exceed 88 miles per hour).

Once again, the iPhone can't do this.

Image courtesy my phone and the WeatherSignal app.

13 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#12 It supports near field communications (NFC)

NFC was supposed to be the gateway drug to easier credit card payments, but this hasn't happened yet. The carriers are getting in the way (as usual) and some users claim Verizon has disabled Google Wallet.

Even so, you can use NFC for some hacky activities, like triggering Tasker events (more about Tasker later) when placing your phone down on NFC stickers like these made by AndyTags (who explains NFC quite well). There are also a few substitute passbook apps, like the one from Attidomobile pictured above.

While NFC might well be a technology in search of a solution, my Android phone has it and my iPhone didn't.

Image courtesy Attido Mobile.

14 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#13 It has an IR emitter

Apple has long offered the ability to control your Apple TV with your iPhone over WiFi. But if you want to control any other device in your entertainment center, you've been out of luck.

Not anymore. My new Android phone has an infrared emitter, which effectively turns the phone into a universal remote.

Image courtesy Touchsquid Technologies.

15 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#14 You can turn your phone into a stealthy TV-B-Gone

This is one I can't wait to try out. Down here in Central Florida, if a TV is on and blaring in a doctor's office, restaurant, or other public place, it's either blaring a soap opera, some very-not-mainstream religious programming, or some very off-brand home shopping channel. Florida is a strange place.

Now, it can look like you're playing with your phone, but you can power off almost any TV. It might not be the most well-behaved use of your phone, but you'd be doing a public service.

Image courtesy TV Off.

16 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#15 The thing senses hand gestures above it

Imagine you've just sat yourself down to a wonderful, messy, sticky plate of ribs, and you want to read the latest post by our very own Jason Perlow. If you had an iPhone, you'd have to slather the screen with sticky sauce to scroll the page.

On the other hand, since my new Android phone senses gestures without requiring physical contact, if you had your own Galaxy S4, you'd be able to simply wave your hand (without touching the device) and still be able to control it.

See? Now you can have your ribs and read it, too!

Image courtesy Flickr user jasonperlow (yep, the one and the same). It makes me wimper just looking at these pictures.

17 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#16 It watches your eyes

The Galaxy S4 will track your eyes. This opens up the door to all sorts of interesting applications, like rotation tracking, where it knows what angle you're reading the phone at. I do a lot of reading in bed, with my head down and at an angle, and I've always had to engage the rotation lock to keep the screen from getting all wonky. This solves that problem.

At a more novelty level, the phone will also stay on as long as you're looking at it, will scroll web pages when you look down on the page, and pause video playback if you look away (which I'm thinking may lead to all sorts of psychological disorders if used too much).

While these are certainly not make-or-break features, they're part of what make the Galaxy S4 seem modern and  current and the iPhone 5 seem so terribly dated.

Image courtesy my Galaxy S4.

18 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#17 It has a 16 megapixel camera

My new Android Galaxy S4 has a 13 megapixel back camera, with full HD and capable of capturing video at 30 frames per second. By contrast, the iPhone 5 only has an 8 megapixel camera.

Even the front-facing camera is better. The iPhone 5 has 1.2 megapixel 720p camera, while the Galaxy S4 is a 2 megapixel camera capable of capturing 1080p.

In addition, while there are a load of apps that add all sorts of neat photo options to the iPhone, the Galaxy S4 has a sophisticated photo options menu built right in.

Image courtesy my Samsung S4.

19 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#18 Its camera can remove objects that don't belong in the image.

Photo effects have been around for decades now, but some things are easier to do than others. One neat trick that the Galaxy S4 can do is remove unwanted objects from a background.

This is done at shoot-time, not at edit-time. The key is the camera can grab a stable picture of a background and then can notice the elements that change over time. Since it has both the background and the changed elements, it's able to remove one or more individual elements from a picture. That means if someone walks across your perfectly composed image of the Statue of Liberty, you can instantly edit him out.

There might be an iPhone app for that, but it comes standard on my Android.

Image courtesy my Samsung S4.

20 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#19 Its camera can take multiple images and composite them together automatically

Samsung calls this feature Drama mode (like we need more drama in our lives...sigh). In any case, this feature works like the object removal feature in that it knows what the background is and what has changed. As a result, if your subject is moving across the landscape, it can composite multiple frames into one image, giving a dramatic slow-mo-in-a-snapshot feel.

It's a little silly as features go, but the iPhone 5 doesn't have it.

Image courtesy my Samsung S4.

21 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#20 You can install apps from a browser on your PC

Seriously, how is it possible that Apple can't do this yet? You can install apps straight from the Google Play Web site, using your favorite browser. Sure, you can also install apps right on your phone, but you're certainly not stuck with having to launch iTunes.

I've said this before and I'll say it again. It's time for iTunes to die.

Image courtesy a real Web browser.

22 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#21 It can show two apps on-screen at once

My new Android phone supports multi-window mode, which allows it to display two apps on-screen at once. While I'd certainly find this far more useful in a tablet, it's still a modern wonder that my old iPhone can't duplicate (neither can the iPad).

Image courtesy pressing the home and power buttons at the very same time and holding for a few seconds.

23 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#22 You can automate almost everything

There are a bunch of app automation tools for Android. The one I tried was Tasker, an app that costs all of three bucks. With Tasker, you can automate everything. For example, since I have other phone handsets at home, I have Tasker set up to determine when I've connected to my home WiFi connection and when connected, turn off the ringer on my Android phone so we don't get a bunch of handsets ringing at once when someone calls. When I get into my car (and Tasker senses the Bluetooth in my car), it increases volume and launches Maps.

You can do a lot more with Tasker, including a lot more sensing options and a lot more action options, but I'm just getting to know the program. While there are things you can do with Tasker if you root your phone (which I do not recommend), everything I've done has been with a plain, vanilla, factory-fresh phone using apps only downloaded from the Google Play store.

If any one thing makes this phone feel modern and my old iPhone feel like it comes from the 1990s, it's Tasker.

Image courtesy Craft Apps EU, the makers of Tasker.

24 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#23 When you buy something on the Google Play store, you get an email receipt within minutes, not weeks

I can't begin to explain why Apple takes so long, but when you buy something from iTunes (whether from the infernal desktop application or on an iPhone or iPad), it can take weeks to get a receipt from Apple via email. By the time the receipt arrives in your email inbox, you've forgotten what it is you ordered, and why.

I could understand it if this was the 1990s and the receipt was sent through the physical snail mail system. Then, allowing two weeks for a confirmation message would make sense. But this is the land of the Internet and it makes no sense why Apple should take so long to email a simple receipt.

By contrast, the Google Play store sends receipts within minutes. It seems so... modern.

Image courtesy my inbox.

25 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#24 It integrates (mostly) nicely with Google Voice

Sure, Google Voice works on my old iPhone, but if I want to make a call, I have to launch the Google Voice app to do so. On the Android phone, all I have to do is launch the phone app, and my outgoing number is shown as my Google Voice number.

There is a gotcha. SMS isn't quite as well integrated into Google Voice (it's no better on the iPhone), so some hacking is involved to get incoming and outgoing SMS messages to work right(ish). Even so, it's an improvement on the iPhone and a very important tool for my daily phone use.

Image courtesy Google Play.

26 of 26 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

#25 You can have a new hobby (whether you want it or not)

I promised myself I wouldn't go fiddling with my phone. I have a very busy life and a very busy schedule and the last thing I have time for is adding all sorts of apps, switching out launchers, and setting thousands of options to get the absolutely perfect dashboard widget configuration.

Well, that didn't work out. I've been stuck with a phone for five years that I couldn't tweak or customize at all, so having the Android phone with all its customization options has been an irresistable force. I charged up my Google Play account with fifty bucks and haven't used it all up.

Yet I've got thirteen pages of apps installed, along with another few pages of apps I've since removed, and I keep tinkering.

One thing I'll say about the iPhone vs. my new Android phone: you can't tweak it. So, in that regard, the iPhone is, indeed, a time-saver.

Image courtesy the author's compulsion to tinker.

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