New vs Old – How much faster are new smart phones?

I want to show you a little picture. This is the results of the Quadrant smart phone benchmark test I performed on the Samsung Galaxy S7 earlier this year. It’s a pretty fast phone, although not the fastest even then, and I imagine the latest generation is even faster. Here’s the test result:

You will notice that its overall score of 37935 is eight times higher than that of the next highest, the HTC One X. Why is should that be? And with an even higher discrepancy with the seven other lesser performing phones listed there on the graph? Well, that’s because the creator of the benchmark app put them there when he created it as sensible real-world yardsticks. But that was then. The app is no longer maintained because, as I was told by the developer, “Unfortunately Quadrant never generated much cash flow and therefore little budget could be allocated to its development”.

So what is this HTC One X that delivers only one eighth the speed of the S7? It was a 3G phone running a quad core Nvidia Tegra 3 T30 processor with 1GB of RAM. It was HTC’s premium model through much of 2012. That is, five years ago.

We reviewed very positively at the time: “The first handset for HTC in 2012 is an awesome smartphone, bringing together a high definition screen, fast quad-core processor, and Google’s latest version of Android in a handset of winning proportions.”

Using a different Benchmark – the up to date Basemark OS II – it turns out that the current premium HTC, the U11 (reviewed here) is fourteen per cent faster than the Samsung Galaxy S7. Given the use of two completely different benchmarks, one shouldn’t combine the results for any formal purposes, but we’ll do so for fun. That would make the HTC U11 more than 9.2 times faster than the HTC One X.

The corrupted version of Moore’s Law (it’s actually about the density of integrated circuits) would have had it 10.1 times faster. Not too bad at all!

LG’s first premium phone

Now let’s compare a different premium phone with a range of current models.

My first smart phone was an iPhone 4. But in March 2013 – just four and a half months ago – I upgraded to LG’s very first premium Android phone, the LG Optimus G. It was my main phone until early 2016. I put it aside with a view to redeploying for another role, and then forgot about it. But now I’ve pulled it out, scrubbed off the dust and dirt and charged it up, and it’s working about as well as ever.

LG Optimus G

The reason? I wanted to run new benchmarks on it. Despite it running Android 4.4.2, the latest version ever released for it, the phone could run Basemark OS II. The results were pretty appalling, primarily because the Web element of the benchmark gave a dreadful result. Seriously, the lowest Web score for any of the phones I’ve tested is 679, and most premium phones score above a thousand. The Optimus scored 9 or 10 on repeated tests.

But it downloaded apps at a reasonable speed, so I’m guessing some incompatibility with that aspect of the test. I’ve ignored it and gone for a simple arithmetic mean of the other three elements of the test: System, Memory and Graphics. Here is how it stacks up against a number of phones I’ve reviewed this year:

So it’s significantly behind even low cost 2017 models like the Huawei Y5 and the Oppo A57. And what about gaming? That’s where the Basemark X 1.1 benchmark app is a better measure:

Still at the bottom, although not quite as far behind as on all round performance.

In addition: all but the lowest cost phones now have full HD displays. The LG Optimus G score 768 by 1280. And that was higher than usual for the day. It had a relatively generous 32GB of storage, but no expansion capability. It ran one of the hottest processors of the day, a four core, 1.5GHz Snapdragon Qualcomm S4 Pro with 2GB of RAM.

But it’s slower than a low cost Huawei or Oppo.

How things have changed. For the better, in a big, big way.