Samsung ; Apple
By Lisa Eadicicco
September 7, 2017

Apple’s keynotes, typically loaded with new iPhone and iPad surprises, are some of the most closely watched product launches of the year. But in view of the features packed into recent Android rivals like the Galaxy Note and Essential Phone, the anticipation around Apple’s imminent late summer event is unusually high. The Cupertino, Califorinia-based tech giant is expected to debut three new smartphones on September 12, including a 10th anniversary edition iPhone that could bring the biggest changes Apple’s iconic mobile devices have seen in years.

With this new iPhone, which may cost upwards of $1,000, Apple is expected to make several much-needed alterations that should give it a leg up in the perennial clash of iPhone vs. Android. Among the most noticeable may be a radical redesign that adds a sharper, larger screen and new sensors for facial recognition. Such changes would be crucial for Apple to keep pace with Android smartphone makers like Samsung, Essential and OnePlus, all of whom have stepped up innovations in design and power consumption that leave Apple’s current iPhones behind in key areas.

Here are five ways Android phones have pulled ahead of the iPhone in recent years.

Faster charging

Given our reliance on mobile devices for everything from finding our way home to catching up on work emails, a smartphone’s battery never lasts long enough. While endless battery life is a pipe dream, some manufacturers have made strides in charging speed, making it easier to top off your battery if, say, you only have 15 minutes near an airport outlet. Samsung’s flagship smartphones have included quick charge technology since 2015, while even OnePlus’ low-end 3T model offers the feature. Apple hasn’t made any advancements in this area yet, but rumors indicate the company’s 2017 iPhones may support the USB-C version of USB Power Delivery, which enables speedier charging experiences.

A bigger and better screen

This is arguably the area where Apple currently lags most. Take a look at the iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus alongside the latest phones from Samsung, LG, and Essential, and the iPhone 7 family feels archaic. That’s because these smartphone makers have redesigned their newest mobile devices to include screens so large that they dominate the face of the phone. Many have done so by making the borders around the display smaller (not unlike the shrinking frames around flat-screen TVs), allowing for more visual real estate without expansing the phone’s physical dimensions.

By comparison, Apple’s most recent iPhones still have chunky bezels above and below the display, where components such as the home button, speaker and front-facing camera are situated. That could all change next month, as the 10th anniversary edition iPhone is expected to lose its physical home button and add a gigantic edge-to-edge screen. It’s an overhaul the iPhone needs in order to keep up with its biggest Android competitors.

But the quality of the iPhone’s display could stand improvement, too. Although the iPhone’s display is top-notch, the liquid crystal displays (LCD) on Apple’s smartphones don’t offer as much contrast as the organic light emitting diode (OLED) screens on rival phones made by Samsung. Plus, OLED displays don’t require backlights, potentially netting battery life savings. This is another improvement Apple is expected to introduce on its premium iPhone next month.

Storage options that are more affordable and flexible

Apple’s entry level iPhone 7 offers 32GB of storage, which is half the 64GB storage capacity offered by some Android phones. If you need more than 32GB, you have to shell out another $100 for the 128GB model.

Essential’s phone is one example of an Android device that offers a better deal when it comes to storage. With Essential, consumers get 128GB inside a phone that costs $700, whereas Apple charges $749 for the version of its iPhone with the same capacity. And although Samsung charges $724 for the 64GB Galaxy S8, which is only $25 cheaper than the 128GB iPhone 7, the S8 includes a microSD card slot for adding additional space. The OnePlus 5 also provides 64GB of storage in its base option, which only costs $479, making it $179 cheaper than the 32GB iPhone 7.

There’s a slim to none chance that Apple will ever add expandable storage to the iPhone. But the company is rumored to be bringing back the 64GB configuration with its next smartphone, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

USB-C for universal charging

Wouldn’t it be great if you could pack the same charger for both your iPhone and laptop? As gadget manufacturers have gradually adopted the new USB-C standard, Apple’s proprietary Lightning charger feels increasingly inconvenient. Nearly every major Android phone uses a USB-C port for charging, which is the same type of connector used to charge many modern laptops and non-iPad tablets as well. The Wall Street Journal said in February that Apple is planning to replace the iPhone’s Lightning port with a USB-C slot. But KGI Securities’ Kuo has a slightly different take: He predicts that new iPhones will retain the same Lightning port, but this year’s models will have USB-C Power Delivery baked in to speed up the charging time.

More durability

Apple finally made its smartphones water resistant when it introduced the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus last year, but it’s done little else to make the iPhone less prone to damage. Companies like Motorola are leading the charge in this area by adding shatter-resistant displays to phones such as the Moto Z2 Force and Droid Turbo 2. Essential’s phone also has a titanium frame that’s said to be more sturdy and durable than the aluminum used on most smartphones. Little has been said at this point about next-gen iPhone shatter-resistance, but if the so-called iPhone 8 or iPhone X is capable of wireless charging (as rumored), it stands to reason the new phone may include technology like full waterproofing as well.

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