Android Flagships Are Twice as Slow at Touch as iPhone 5

App maker Agawi has developed a new benchmark, which it hopes will challenge phonemakers and cast light on the performance of their touchscreens.  Dubbed TouchMarks, the benchmark targets devices running Apple, Inc.’s (AAPL) iOS, Google Inc.’s (GOOG), and Microsoft Corp.’s (MSFT) Windows Phone — the three most used smartphone platforms on the market.

The results of Agawi’s preliminary tests are fascinating — and pretty embarassing for Windows Phone and Android.

In order to measure latencies typically in the millisecond range, Agawi has come up with a set of probing hardware dubbed “TouchScope” and supporting software, all of which it hopes to open source.  

The TouchScope utilizes probes hooked up to an Arduino microcontroller and is capable of measuring Minimum App Response Time (MART) — i.e. the fastest response you can expected from your smartphone touchscreen.  Agawi warns that actual responses in-app may be slower as the touch processing has to contend with other resources, e.g. graphical rendering or streaming data I/O, where as the TouchMarks app is a bare bones native app.

The TouchScope is powered by an Arduino microcontroller. [Image Source: Agawi]
In the tests the iPhone 4 — a three-year old device — beats every single Android and Windows Phone tested in response time.  Nokia Oyj.’s (HEX:NOK1V) Lumia 928 managed 117 milliseconds (ms), while the fastest Android — Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd.’s (KSC:005930) Galaxy S4 — managed a barely better 114 ms.

Meanwhile the iPhone 4 scored an 85 millisecond response time.  And it’s clear Apple isn’t resting on its laurels — the iPhone 5 achieved an even more formidable 55 ms.  Apple was the only OEM to achieve under 100 ms.

No Android or WinPhone was capable of iPhone-like response times. [Image Source: Agawi]
Fluidity of the interface is often cited as a selling point of iOS/the iPhone.  It’s pretty sad to see all Androids/Windows Phones getting beat by a three-year old Apple device.  Agawi raises an interesting point, speculating:
Another possibility is that while the Android and WP8 code are running on runtimes (Dalvik and CLR respectively), the iPhone code is written in closer-to-the-metal Objective-C, which may reduce some latency. In future TouchMarks, we’ll compare C/C++-based Android apps to Java based apps to determine if this is the case.
If so, Google and Microsoft might be wise to incorporate features into their development environments to require native compilation of touch-related secitons of code.