Apr 9, 2013

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5

If you’ve ever found yourself in the middle of the impossible decision of choosing between iOS and Android for the first time, you see just how exciting a time it is for the mobile industry. Samsung and Apple seem to be the heavyweights right now, and the new Galaxy S4 is more than enough to give Apple something to worry about.

Apple and Samsung both have phones that exist on nearly every network in the world, but for the purposes of this comparison we’re going to be looking at the Verizon Wireless variant of the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S4 just to make sure things are as fair as possible. These two LTE superphones are easily the best of their breed, but which of the two offers the best overall experience?

Are you case sensitive?

We’ve reached a point where smartphone manufacturers are unable to sell a smartphone solely using its spec sheet. The experience offered by the operating system, the app ecosystem, and whatever exclusive features are what drives competition today. That doesn’t mean that specs don’t matter at all, especially when you are looking for a phone to perform well throughout a whole day, offer superior functionality on a WiFi or mobile network, or be able to function with the current and next generation of accessories. Out of context, a spec sheet isn’t helpful anymore. When you compare phones that are able to offer similar features, however, the spec sheet could be what acts as the final push to choose one over the other.

If you are looking for the best phone to fit in your pocket (or in your hand if you’ve got small hands) the iPhone 5 is undoubtedly better than the Galaxy S4. It’s lighter, thinner, and the display just over an inch smaller overall on the diagonal. The iPhone 5 was the first 4-inch phone Apple released, even though the rest of the mobile industry has been leaning towards larger and larger phones. The Galaxy S4′s 4.99-inch screen makes the whole phone noticeably larger than the iPhone 5, but it is also just slightly thicker.

The Apple’s case features an aluminum body with a slightly textured coating, while Samsung’s is a glossy plastic, again with a slight texture. These handsets both look and feel very different — Apple’s glass-and-metal mix vs. Samsung’s high-tech polycarbonate.

Specs absolutely matter

Under the hood, Samsung and Apple are nothing alike. Apple’s dual-core A6 processor clocked at 1.2GHz certainly feels like more than enough for the handheld computer, but Samsung’s 1.9GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 is an incredibly powerful chip capable of much more. Samsung also includes twice the RAM as the iPhone, while the GPUs offer a comparable experience in daily usage. Both of these phones also offer the highest quality mobile radios, capable of a diverse collection of network types. Their Bluetooth and storage options are identical, though the Galaxy S4 allows for an additional 64GB of storage.

The only other area on the spec sheet Samsung and Apple differ is the inclusion of an IR blaster and the availability of 802.11AC for the S4.

More than Retina, for what it’s worth

The screen is typically the most important part of a smartphone, and in this area Samsung and Apple have always been different. Apple’s LED-backlit IPS LCD and Samsung’s Super AMOLED displays each offer an amazing experience, but nothing ever really looks exactly the same on these displays. Apple’s LCD technology washes out in direct sunlight, but offers an unparalleled experience in terms of viewing angles. Samsung’s screens are amazing in direct sunlight, and their rich colors and deep blacks offer a great viewing experience, but their use of the PenTile display matrix is often off-putting for many.

Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5

Whatever your thoughts on the screen technology, there’s no arguing which is the more impressive experience. The iPhone 5′s 1136 x 640 resolution Retina display offers 326 ppi. On that 4-inch screen, Apple’s software makes everything look amazing despite the low resolution. Samsung’s latest display is 1920×1080 (that’s 1080p) at 441 ppi, which is a significant increase over any display currently being used by Apple. The Super AMOLED display in the Galaxy S4 is the first of its kind, and stands proud next to the iPhone 5′s smaller display.

The more powerful processor, and larger screen size undoubtedly takes its toll when it comes to battery life. Apple’s phones aren’t exactly known for being able to get you through a whole day without the need to charge, the iPhone 5′s 1440mAh battery is more capable than most. Samsung’s 2600mAh battery is a bump from last year’s model, but there’s still a lot going on that can drain the battery. Fortunately for S4 owners the battery is removable, and a larger battery can be installed. In contrast, Apple’s phones are sealed, which helps the design, but means you’re on your own when the battery gets low.

Ecosystem and Apps: It’s all about preference

Access to apps is incredibly important, but we’ve pretty much reached a point where Apple and Google are able to offer the same app experience. Both of their stores are growing at an exponential rate, and most companies release apps for both platforms on the same day. There are a few outliers, and depending on what you do that may make all the difference in the world, but most people can pick up either an Android phone or an iPhone and get by pretty easily.

What makes both the iPhone and the Galaxy S4 unique are the experiences that only they offer. Apple’s exclusives are pretty well known. If you get roped into iTunes, iCloud, Siri, or any of Apple’s exclusive apps, you’ll have a hard time finding anything like them on another platform. Samsung’s exclusives are pretty new, and not really all that well known. The Dual Camera modes offer one of a kind photography and video experience, making it possible to use both the front and the rear camera simultaneously. If you’ve got multiple people using Galaxy S4s, you can link them all together and play the same song simultaneously. All these small features might not sound like much on their own, but in combination Samsung has built a powerful array of software into this smartphone.

Both phones offer a wireless streaming system, and while Miracast and Allshare are more functional than Airplay, Samsung can’t compete with how easy it is to set up Apple’s offering.

In the end, the experience you create on these phones is all about choice. Samsung’s Galaxy S4 is clearly the more powerful phone, and the hardware is clearly designed to remain relevant for quite a while. The iPhone 5 is just barely 6 months old, and Apple is already far behind in the hardware game — Samsung’s previous model, the Galaxy S3 , was enough to compete with the iPhone 5. As long as you aren’t tied to the Apple ecosystem already, the Galaxy S4 will be able to offer you much more than the iPhone is capable of.


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