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iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S4

Andrew Williams


iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S4

The iPhone 5S is Apple's newfor 2013. It looks a lot like the iPhone 5, but there's a lot of new stuff going on under the shell - and a bit on its surface too. It's a great phone, but is it the best phone out there?

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is perhaps the iPhone 5S's biggest rival. We've compared the two mobiles to see if the iPhone really is the new smartphone king.

iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S4 – Reception and Problems

The Samsung Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5S were almost unanimously praised on release. Naturally, we think you don’t need much more than the TrustedReviews verdict – we gave both phones our Recommended award. However, other tech magazines and websites agreed this time around.

It’s a little too early to judge on the public perception of the iPhone 5S, which can be judged by looking at the return rates of phones.

So far, the iPhone 5S hasn’t come into any major problems. With largely the same hardware design as the iPhone 5, Apple was working with familiar tools, and even the new hardware feature – the Touch ID sensor – hasn’t been plagued by any stories of high failure rates.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 has experienced a few problems. Its battery has been the biggest issue. There have been reports of batteries draining down very quickly, and even of them swelling up. Samsung has responded (always a sign that an issue is serious) by offering battery replacements to any owners of Galaxy S4s affected by the problem.

Samsung says the issue has “affected a limited number of customers”, and as the battery is easily removable, slotting in a new one takes all of about three seconds. There doesn’t appear to be a particular safety issue here – although there are reports of Galaxy S4s being a fire risk, this is when used with unofficial batteries and/or chargers.

Read more about Samsung Galaxy S4 problems

iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S4 - Video

iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S4 – Release Date and Price

iPhone 5S - 20 September UK release, starts at £549.99 SIM-free

Galaxy S4 - April 2013 UK release, now starts at around £420 SIM-free

The Galaxy S4 arrived quite a long time before the iPhone 5S - almost six months earlier. That's a long time in the tech world.

It has given the iPhone series a bit of time to catch up with Samsung's Android-powered Galaxy range, but has also let the Galaxy S4's price slip down to a far more attractive level than it was at release. Back in the day, the Galaxy S4 cost around £600 SIM-free. Nowadays, you can get one for around £420.

The iPhone 5S costs £549.99 SIM-free, and you can bet that figure will barely drop until the next iPhone release next year. Although they'll be thought of as heated rivals, the Samsung phone it a good deal cheaper outside of a contract.

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iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S4 – Design

iPhone 5S – Aluminium frame, glass inlays,

Galaxy S4 – Plastic rear (removable)

Apple hasn't changed the design of the iPhone much in the 2013 iPhone 5S. It's a light, largely metal-bodied phone that feels almost unnervingly light. And put next to the plastic Galaxy S4, it appears almost comically small.

If you have tiny hands or teeny pockets, the iPhone 5S is going to pose far fewer problems, size-wise. The Galaxy S4 is 70mm wide, where the iPhone 5S is 59mm wide. If you're used to the larger phones that have started appearing over the last year, you shouldn't have any problems. But it is certainly a handful.

However, the Galaxy S4 is the curvier, smoother phone. The iPhone 5S has relatively severe edges, giving it a more angular feel in-hand.

iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S4 1

The iPhone 5S feels like the more carefully engineered phone in person, but there are advantages to the plastic design of the Galaxy S4. Its rear is removable, giving you easy access to the battery. Few people take around spare batteries with them, but it also makes replacing the battery much easier, should it fail.

You also get a microSD memory card slot, missing from the iPhone 5S.

The iPhone 5S has a feature we've not seen in a phone before. The Home button also acts as a fingerprint sensor that scans a digit as a means of identification. It'll unlock the phone and let you avoid having to type in your iTunes password. Handy. The closest thing the Galaxy S4 has to this is face detection. But it's pretty rubbish.

iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S4 7


Spotlight on Tech - Touch ID Sensor vs Face Detection

But how does the Touch ID sensor work? It's quite different to what you might expect.

Rather than scanning a visual map of you thumb, the iPhone 5S's Touch ID sensor scans the conductive properties of your thumb or finger. It's the same sort of sensory tech that lets an iPhone's touchscreen sense the presence of your finger.

The sensor is just 170 microns thick and scans your finger at a resolution of 500dpi. In our experience, it's fantastic. It's sensitive enough to reliably differentiate between people accurately, and is super-quick. It'll unlock your phone in a flash. It's probably the most innovative part of the phone too - at least given how much it alters the way the phone is used. iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S4 5

The only issue is that it can't do much. Apple has said the Touch ID sensor will never be available to third-party apps, limiting it to system-level things like unlocking your phone. In the future we expect it to be able to route you through to different user profiles. But at present it just unlocks the phone.

Let's take a look at the Galaxy S4's closest alternative - Face Unlock.

It's simpler, it's less clever and it's much less secure. It scans for faces using the front camera. The Galaxy S4 has a fairly good front camera, meaning it can find faces fairly reliably, but the phone can easily be unlocked using a photo of the owner, or by someone that looks similar.

Face Unlock judges who a person is based on their facial geometry - primarily the positioning of their eyes and mouth. It's by no means secure, and it also feels much wonkier in use than the Touch ID sensor.

It's a pretty good indication of Apple's and Samsung's approach to tech. Where the iPhone 5S's Touch ID is virtually 'invisible' - you can forget the tech processes going on behind the scenes - the Galaxy S4's Face Unlock makes what's going on very obvious. You even have to correctly position your face for it to work.

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iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S4 – Screen

iPhone 5S – 4-inch 1136 x 640 pixel IPS

Galaxy S4 – 5-inch 1080p Super AMOLED

As with the bodywork, Apple hasn't messed with the core screen specs too much in the iPhone 5S. It uses a 4-inch 1,136 x 640 pixel screen – the same 'Retina' pixel density that caused this term to first be used back when the iPhone 4 was released in 2010. It's a very similar panel to the one used in the iPhone 5.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 actually has higher pixel density despite using a much larger display. It has a 5-inch 1080p-resolution screen. It's big, it's sharp, it's very impressive. iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S4

In actual use, we find the larger screen of the Galaxy S4 much better for watching movies and TV episodes on than an iPhone 5S-size screen. And it's also superior for playing games, giving your thumbs extra room to work with.

The screen technologies these phones use are completely differnet. The iPhone 5S has an IPS display, the Galaxy S4 a Super AMOLED screen.

They're excellent examples of both screen types, but they still suffer from some characteristics associated with these kinds of panels. Top brightness is a bit better in the iPhone 5S, but contrast and black depth are better in the Galaxy S4.

Unlike some AMOLED screens, top brightness is commendable though. It has a much brighter screen than the relatively dim Galaxy S3.

Both of these are high-quality displays that are hard to fault technically – AMOLEDs tend to oversaturate colours, but the Galaxy S4 packs in colour temperature customisation options to help you fix this.

As these are such fantastic performers all-round, the main thing to consider is whether you really want a giant screen, or would prefer a smaller, more pocket-friendly mobile. But for the sake of this comparison, we'll hand the win to Samsung.

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iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S4 – Storage

iPhone 5S – 16/32/64GB non-expandable

Galaxy S4 – 16/32GB, microSD (64GB in some countries)

The Samsung and Apple appropaches to storage are pretty different. Samsung always tries to make it easy to let you add extra storage, by including a memory card slot.

The Samsung Galaxy S4's microSD slot lives under the phone's removable plastic battery cover. Samsung makes 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions of the S4, but you'll only find the 16GB and 32GB editions in the UK. The 16GB edition is by far the most common.

It's easy to get your hands on each of the three storage iterations of the iPhone 5S (aside from intermittent stock shortages) - 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. It's partly because you can get them directly from Apple, and partly because the lack of a memory card slot necessitates higher-capacity options. We had hoped to see Apple introduce a 128GB iPhone, but there is no 128GB iPhone 5S. Yet.

Apple has never included ways to increase storage in its mobile devices with a memory card slot. And that's not going to change any time soon.

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iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S4 – Software

iPhone 5S – iOS 7

Galaxy S4 – Android 4.2 with TouchWiz interface

The iPhone 5S was the first device to launch with iOS 7, arguably the biggest change in the iOS platform since the system was launched in 2007.

It's a visual and functional reworking of the software. Jonny Ive was the man behind the re-vamp – he was part of the team that designed the iPod, the iMac, the iPhone and more.

At the other end of the ring, the Galaxy S4 uses Android 4.2 Jelly Bean with the TouchWiz interface plastered on top.

Their visual styles are quite different. Where iOS 7 tries its best to look sharp and stylish, TouchWiz makes do with 'happy' and 'colourful'. It's not the coolest Android interface we've seen. It cares much more about adding features.

TouchWiz adds a crazy amount of features to Android – some of which have encouraged Google to add features to Android itself in the past.

Good additions include gesture typing, a power management mode, enhanced notifications bar and sine decent custom widgets. There are loads of slightly wonky and superfluous extras too, though. Like Air Gesture and Air View.

For more read our top 10 new TouchWiz features article

Although it has traditionally kept things very simple, iOS adds some extra features bulk with iOS 7. It has power management options in its drop-down notifications bar, the camera app has gotten a lot richer. It also offers new productivity apps including Keynote.

For more, head to our iOS 7 tips and tricks guide.

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iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S4 – CPU and RAM

iPhone 5S – Apple A7 dual-core 64-bit chip, 1GB RAM

Galaxy S4 – Snapdragon 600 1.9GHz Quad-core, 2GB RAM, Adreno 320 GPU

Released almost six months after the Galaxy S4, you'd hope that the iPhone 5S would be clearly more powerful than the Samsung phone. And it is. However, it doesn't sound that way from the numbers alone.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 has a Snapdragon 600 1.9GHz quad-core processor, the iPhone 5S a dual-core A7 chip. The S4 also has more RAM – 2GB against 1GB.

The Galaxy S4 sounds more powerful, but it is not. Benchmarks show that the iPhone 5S is a significantly more powerful phone, and it's also the first 64-bit phone produced.

Here's a run-down of how they perform in benchmarks, relatively.

Sunspider (lower is better)

Galaxy S4 - 1100ms

iPhone 5S - 410ms

Peacekeeper (higher is better)

Galaxy S4 - 450

iPhone 5S - 1732

iPhone 5S benchmark

Geekbench (higher is better)

Galaxy S4 - 1620

iPhone 5S - 2553


3DMark Icestorm unlimited (higher is better)

Galaxy S4 - 10379

iPhone 5S - 13995


The iPhone 5S's Apple A7 processor is fantastic, especially given it's 'just' a dual-core chip. However, it will take a while to see the benefits of its 64-bit architecture.

The iPhone 5S also has a separate motion sensor chip, which monitors the gyroscope, compass and accelerometer. It's called the M7, and we imagine it's there to increase battery efficiency for fitness apps that need the read-outs from these sensors.

The iPhone 5S will also triumph in terms of the software that will actually make use of that power. Although it'll take devs a little time to get their heads around the hardware (think weeks, not months), the iPhone 5S will have many more impressive games.

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iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S4 – Camera

iPhone 5S – 8-megapixel cameras with LED flash

Galaxy S4 – 13-megapixel camera with LED flash

In a surprise move, Apple has not changed the camera resolution of the iPhone series with the 5S. Like the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5, it has an 8-megapixel sensor.

However, it's a good deal better. It's 15 per cent larger, resulting in larger sensor pixel size. Larger sensor pixels means better low light performance and - generally - better image quality.

The iPhone 5S has pixels of 1.5 microns, where the higher-resolution Galaxy S4 has smaller 1.1 micron pixels. Judging by our previous photo comparison of the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S4, in 100 per cent optimal conditions the Samsung phone should be able to capture more detail. Let's see if it actually does.

Camera pics

Camera pics 1

Camera pics 2

The iPhone 5S's photo is more lively a bright than the Galaxy S4's. There are some areas of overexposure, though - where details in brighter/whiter are blown out because of over-keen exposure compensation.

Fine detail capture is superior in the Galaxy S4 - check out how much clearer the lines between the windows are, in the building in fron of the Gherkin. The files are also simply bigger - the comparison crop-out shows the actual pixels of the photos.

Camera pics 3

Low-light performance is marginally better in the iPhone 5S. Our standard low-light test shows that both phones are pretty rubbish when lighting conditions are very poor. The iPhone 5S's shot is a little less noisy, although colour accuracy is better in the Galaxy S4.

The camera apps of the Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5S are quite different in their approaches.

iOS 7 adds a bunch of features to the iPhone 5S camera, but it's still very simple to use. You just choose your aspect ratio, whether to use HDR and whether to use an arty filter or not. There are no scene modes to worry about - the app does all that for you.

The Galaxy S4 is way more feature-packed. There are more than 10 modes, most of which use pretty invasive photo effects, including those that merge multiple exposures.

You can do a whole lot more with the Galaxy S4, but we tend to find the iPhone 5S a more satisfying everyday shooter. It's a slightly faster photographic performer, and with the Galaxy S4 you need to manually switch to Night mode to get the best results in poor lighting.


One of the most useful extra modes common in smartphones is HDR. this merged multiple exposures to improve photo performance in tricky lighting conditions. It's a great way to mitigate the technical limitations of a phone camera. Here's the Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5S modes in action.

Camera pics 4

Camera pics 5

As we saw in the landscape shot, the iPhone 5S's shot is brighter, but the exposure is actually better in the Samsung photo. HDR mode is also better in the Samsung phone. Check out the tiny crane in the far background. It's clearer in the Galaxy S4 pic thanks to the lesser-exposed sky, and the undulation of the clouds is much clearer too. Nice work, Samsung.




In terms of pure specs, the iPhone 5S doesn't appear to have a huge upper hand over the Samsung Galaxy S4. However, look very close indeed and you'll see where those extra months of progress have gone. The various tech tweaks and the more efficient CPU make the 5S the most technologically impressive phone.

Next, read our comparison iPhone 5 vs Galaxy S4


September 10, 2013, 8:50 pm

Hello,no offense. IGZO and IPS are different technology in scenario. IPS could be realized by using IGZO TFT.


September 10, 2013, 8:50 pm

So it's a year behind and it's still arguably equal or lesser. And there are far better droid phones out now than the GS4...And the price point is a rip-off...and on and on and on. You still have to be someone who doesn't shop around if you waste your money on an iphone. Heck, wait for Nokia to come out with their predecessor to the 920/1020. Apple has fallen behind what Droid and WP8 have had available for a long time now. Save your money.

Simon Kirk

September 10, 2013, 9:03 pm

Why not compare it to the more recent LG G2, Samsung Galaxy Note 3 or Sony Xperia Z1 all of which are sporting the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC & all have superior cameras to the now old Samsung Galaxy S4?


September 10, 2013, 9:03 pm

We will in time. We only have so many people! :)

Simon Kirk

September 10, 2013, 9:05 pm

Perhaps instead of the S4 then....


September 10, 2013, 9:25 pm

Good Review but I'd hardly call the S600 outdated by today's standards. Maybe the fact that the S800 is now the standard on Android phones doesn't mean the S600 is a slouch by any means.

Heather 'Nerison' Stewart

September 10, 2013, 9:26 pm

The IPhone 5s absolutely blows the Samsung out of the water !! The next big thing from Samsung will be all the copied features from the IPhone!


September 10, 2013, 9:38 pm

Why not compare it to the flagship Android phone (HTC One)

Unless of course you want to give the iPhone more of a chance


September 10, 2013, 9:44 pm

Isnt fanboyism a little outdated?


September 10, 2013, 10:23 pm

GIve us.... 24 hours or so and we'll have it done ;) It's been a long one tonight...


September 10, 2013, 10:29 pm

Stupid comment unless you have tried them both. You sound like a true isheep. The newest Blackberry was awesome too when it first came out. In my humble opinion the screen size alone make the new iphone a failure.


September 10, 2013, 10:34 pm

Love the review s4 vs the just annouced 5s. I own the s4 its a great phone better than the iphone 5 but thats my opinion.
but as others said compare the iphone 5s with the new breed of phones and the iphone 5s looks out of date already even before it comes out.
One good feature i like is the thumb scanner love it. But thats abiut it.


September 10, 2013, 10:42 pm

So can you use iphone 5 cases with the 5s? Like outterbox it covers the home button, so I guess u wouldn't be able to use the finger print unlock


September 10, 2013, 11:18 pm

As a iPhone fan, it disappointed me :-( a loooot with the same old features,
1. With 1 GB RAM
2. Still same old 8MP camera
3. Still same old 4 inch screen
4. Still same old design
5. No improvement in weight
Very hard to believe the makers of iPhone.... It is a shocking news for me...
It takes ages to recover for me from this depression...
I am thinking of Samsung S4 or HTC :-(

Lazy Reader

September 10, 2013, 11:21 pm

Read the whole damn thing only to find you still had no answer to which one was better...


September 11, 2013, 12:01 am

Great point! How are we going to use a "drop proof" case on the phone while still being able to use the fingerprint scanner?


September 11, 2013, 12:17 am

Can the iPhone 5s give you widgets on your home screen or lock screen? Can it give you swype texting? A 13 megapixel camera with a dozen different features? A majority of the various features included in the S4? A full HD display? Can it give you Android, which has been proven to be objectively better than ios? Can it give you front-facing speakers with beats audio like the HTC One? Can it give you top-of-the-line hardware with an octa-core processor and 2gb of ram? Has it had nearly every feature of ios 7 for years? The only reason people buy an iPhone is because they are drawn to them and are lead to believe they are quality. This will lead to the iPhone's demise whether you think so or not and the same goes with the fact that it is worse than Android and will remain that way.


September 11, 2013, 12:24 am

Without actually testing the 5S it's a little early to say yet.


September 11, 2013, 3:12 am

yeah, you will be able to use it but miss the double-led flash and the Fingerprint. But i'd just entered lifeproof web page and it says that a case for the 5s and 5c are coming soon! That's quite a big deal


September 11, 2013, 3:15 am

iPhone… no one compares. I have always love the iPhone, and apple never stops surprising us. Even tough numerous tweaks. iPhone 5s is perfect… as every iPhone


September 11, 2013, 4:36 am

Agreed, plus, if one were to want to swap out the colors and replace the sapphire button can it be done?


September 11, 2013, 4:48 am

iPhone 5S has a *quad-core* A7 chip.


September 11, 2013, 5:06 am

I think that there may need to be more of an in-depth comparison of the latest batch of phones...I noticed 'iSheep' mention the HTC One but I think the latest Xperia and LG G2 could have a good shout as well...I've been a user of iPhone now for about 5 years and it's a very difficult decision whether to move on...


September 11, 2013, 6:50 am

only comments in favour of iphone are wanted?I submitted a comment but it's not published.What a joke.

amit kerai

September 11, 2013, 7:10 am

isnt that the new google nexus

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