Currently, Apple's devices do best in all three areas. Android devices as a class come in second, though the variations in Android user interfaces from vendor to vendor and even device to device mean that the Usability scores for Android devices can differ from one another. BlackBerry and Windows Phone fare worse than Android, for similar reasons: Both have very nice front ends (the tile interface in Windows Phone and Hub in BlackBerry OS), but as you move into specific apps and functions, you start seeing the seams underneath their façades.
We've upped the weight of the Hardware category from 10 percent in the old scoring system to 20 percent in the new system, simply because the hardware has become more sophisticated than it was four years ago. Sophisticated cameras, quality audio, a growing array of sensors, increasing support for peripherals' connectivity, and a bevy of unique features such as Apple's Touch ID fingerprint sensor, Motorola's X8 motion coprocessor, and Samsung's stylus make today's mobile devices substantially different from their predecessors.
But we have reset our scores to lower the average, so there's room for growth in hardware capabiities. We now assume that a business-class device will have a responsive, crisp, high-density touchscreen; will support video-out and Bluetooth 4 connectivity; will be made of quality, durable materials; will have battery life will be sufficient for all-day use; and will provide enough storage and processing capability to perform like the computer it is.
A device scores at least a 6 if it does decently in these areas. To score higher than 6, a device has to bring in extra hardware capabilities that work well, or somehow take several standard capabilities and bring them to a useful new level. In our new scores, you'll see that nearly all devices score a 6 or 7 -- only the terribly underpowered ZTE Open gets the minimum score of 5, and none scores 8 or higher.
A note on scoring
You might have noticed the phrase "minimum score of 5" in the preceding section. InfoWorld has been testing products for nearly 35 years, and in that time, the scores between 1 and 4 have become increasingly uncommon as even bad products hit basic standards. Thus, today, the InfoWorld Test Center scores range from 5 (poor) to 10 (excellent). A score of 6 is fair, 7 is good, and 8 is very good. If these were grades in school, a score of 5 would correspond to a grade of D, 6 to C, 7 to C+, 8 to B, 9 to A, and 10 to A+.
What about F? These days, it's rare that a product is that bad. A product must lose data or be regularly unreliable, highly inadequate, or highly unsafe to score below 5. But if it's merited, we will score below 5.
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