Conscious that the world of mobile devices lacks benchmarking tests to measure the responsiveness of touchscreen displays, app-streaming company Agawi has developed the TouchMarks benchmark to measure touchscreen latency. In a company blog post published last Thursday, the company reveals that, according to its tests, Apple's year-old iPhone 5 screen response time is more than twice as fast as the best Android phone tested, the Samsung Galaxy S4. The iPhone 4, released June 2010, was also significantly faster than the non-Apple handsets tested.
Agawi says that the benchmarking procedure uses a number of high speed cameras shooting at 240 frames per second to measure the delay between the user sensing that they've touched the screen and seeing the response. This is a similar method to that used to measure latency in computer games. By developing very simple apps which cause the screen to flash white when touched, Agawi aims to ascertain the best possible response time of each device. Agawi calls this the Minimum App Response Time or MART. OpenGL and DirectX rendering were used to ensure screen responses were as close to immediate as the device makes possible.
The company found that the iPhone 5 achieved a response time of 55 ms while the best-performing Android device tested achieved 114 ms. The Nokia Lumia 928 Windows Phone managed 117 ms, and the HTC One and Motororola Moto X clocked in at 121 and 123 ms respectively. The iPhone 4 managed 85 ms.
"As you can see, the results are remarkable," Agawi writes. "At a MART of 55 ms, The iPhone 5 is twice as responsive as any Android or WP8 phone tested. All the Android devices' MARTs fell in the same 110 – 120 ms range, with the WP8-based Lumia 928 falling into that bucket as well."
Agawi suggests that the superior response times in the Apple phones may be down to superior touch sensitivity or calibration, or because iPhone code is written in "closer-to-the-metal" Objective-C rather than within virtual machines as is the case with Android and Windows phones.
"Regardless of the reasons, the conclusion is clear: the best written apps on iPhones will simply feel more responsive than similar apps on the current gen of Android devices," the company concludes. "(We speculate this might be a major reason why the iPhone keyboard generally feels better than the Android keyboard to many people.)"
Agawi says that it will make the method open source in order for results to be replicated and the process improved. That may go some way to assuage doubts about the benchmarking process, though a debate about the significance of these lag times is sure to ensue. Agawi will likely test newer devices as they become more widely available.