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HTC HD2 vs. Apple iPhone 3GS

Back in 1981, before computers took over the world of financial number crunching, Hewlett-Packard built the 12c calculator. Even today, it’s considered one of the finest financial calculators ever built – the apex of a dying breed. In 2020, we’ll probably look at the HTC HD2 in much the same way. Windows-Mobile-based smartphones may be headed for the dumpster, but the HD2 is destined to be remembered as one of the finest ever built – and if you want to live out two more years with it, it might be the best way to do it. Here’s how the HD2 stacks up – in tech specs alone – next to its principle rival, Apple’s iPhone 3GS.

Display

Winner: HTC HD2

Both the HD2 and the iPhone 3GS both use LCD screens, rather than the increasingly popular OLED tech. But side-by-side, they’re like comparing apples, and… well, grapefruits. From a size perspective, anyway. The HD2 uses a whopping 4.3-inch display, while the iPhone has a 3.5 incher, and the resolution to match: Only 480 x 320, compared to 800 x 480 on the HD2. That makes this a no-contest win for the HD2.

Portability

Winner: iPhone 3GS

A wise man once said, “With great screen size comes great bulkiness.” Or something along those lines. In any case, the HTC HD2 is both heavier and significantly larger than the iPhone thanks to the oversized mini TV on the front, making it a pocket anchor in the truest sense of the word. At 4.8 inches tall and 2.6 inches wide, the HD2 could completely cover the 4.5-by-2.4-inch iPhone on a table, and tip scales its way, too, at 5.5 ounces to the iPhone’s 4.8. We will concede, though, that it’s technically thinner at just 0.43 inches deep, compared to the 0.48-inch iPhone.

Processor

Winner: HTC HD2

The 833MHz ARM Cortex A8 chip in the iPhone is no slouch. But the 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon in the HD2 has it beat, especially considering the iPhone chip is underclocked to 600MHz right out of the box. It’s worth noting, of course, that the iPhone also features a PowerVR SGX dedicated graphics processor, which makes up some of the difference when it comes to 3D rendering – like in games.

Keyboard

Winner: HTC HD2

Apple’s iPhone once ruled the roost with one of the first touch keyboards to make typing on glass acceptable, but in the years since its introduction, many competitors have successfully copied the formula. Including HTC. The HD2 ditches Microsoft’s archaic keyboard intended for styli and instead embraces a revamped version with the Sense user interface. Besides addressing the fat-finger issue with a bigger screen and therefore bigger virtual keys, it includes Swype, which allows users to string together words by dragging across the letters, rather than tapping on them. Not everyone will embrace it, but the option alone – alone with greater size – elevates it to something more than Apple offers.

Storage

Winner: iPhone 3GS

Both the iPhone 3GS and HTC HD2 offer 16GB of storage for $200 with contract, but Apple builds it into the phone, and the HD2 carries it on a microSD card. Either phone can handle 32GB maximum, but they each come with their own caveats: The HD2 can be upgraded to a 32GB microSD card, but right now they run $200, putting your total expense at $400. Apple offers a 32GB iPhone for $300, making it a comparative bargain, but because it’s internal, you’ll have to decide at the time of purchase how much storage you want your phone to have. We love removable storage, but side with Apple on this for the value part of the equation. Until 32GB cards come down in cost, anyone who wants the maximum phone capacity gets a better deal with the iPhone 32GB.

Camera

Winner: HTC HD2

Neither camera will really best even a basic point-and-shoot camera here due to pint-sized optics, but the HD2 manages a closer approximation in part because it offers an LED flash to help brighten up night shots. Its sensor also offers 5-megapixel resolution to the 3.0-megapixel shooter on the iPhone 3GS, and side-by-side tests seem to indicate the same.

Software

Winner: iPhone 3GS

As we noted at the beginning of this comparison, Windows Mobile 6.5 is on its last legs. It has looked dated for years, and the iPhone OS puts it to shame in all categories except multitasking. The number of Windows Mobile apps available also pales in comparison to iPhone apps, and when Windows Phone 7 Series arrives this fall, we expect the last remaining Windows Mobile developers to jump onto that platform. Fare thee well, Windows Mobile.

Battery Life

Winner: HTC HD2

The battery life on the iPhone 3GS has never been particularly impressive, so it should come as little surprise that the HD2 will outrun it on both talk and standby time. According to HTC, the HD2 should deliver 6.3 hours of talk time and 490 hours of standby, while Apple only claims 5 hours of talk and 300 hours of standby for the iPhone 3GS.

Overall Winner: HTC HD2

The HTC HD2 outspecs Apple’s iPhone 3GS in nearly every vital category, making it a winner on technicalities, but we’re still hesitant to declare it the best buy. With an aging, soon-to-be-replaced operating system, it’s tough to recommend the HD2 on the merits of hardware alone. The HD2 proves to be the cream of the crop for Windows Mobile devices, but those aspirations of apps, slick sliding menus and full-featured Web browsers should look elsewhere, like at the still-competent iPhone 3GS, HTC Incredible, or Palm Pre.


Check out our other smartphone comparisons:

iPhone 4 vs. Droid X

iPhone 4 vs. Android’s Best: Spec Face-Off

Apple iPhone 4 vs. HTC EVO 4G

HTC Incredible vs. Apple iPhone 3GS

Motorola Droid vs. HTC Incredible

HTC Incredible vs. HTC HD2


Check out our full iPhone 3GS and HTC HD2 reviews.