The Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5 are guaranteed to be two of the biggest phones of 2013. But which one is right for you?
Picking between two great phones is never easy, so we’ve broken down the argument for you.
Samsung Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5 - Video ComparisonDon't fancy poring over a load of text? We've produced a little video that compares the Samsung Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5 side-by-side. Give it a watch.
Samsung Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5 – Price, Deals and Release Date
Samsung Galaxy S4 – 16GB only, From £35 a month, 26 April 2013 release
iPhone 5 – 16GB: from £33 a month, from September 2012 release
Both these phones are high-end devices. That means you can’t get them on the cheap.
When the Samsung Galaxy S4 launched on 26 March, we calculated how much each network’s deals would cost you over the term of a contract. Over a two-year contract, the full cost is between £840 and over £1000.
The best deal we could find came from TalkTalk, which cost you £840 over two years. Contract deals start at £35 a month.
Although the iPhone 5 is older, having launched back in September 2012, it doesn’t cost much less. Contracts start at around £33 a month on contract, so you’re still looking at almost a grand over the contract’s term.
Which phone is more popular? Samsung recently announced that the Galaxy S4 is on track to sell 10 million units within its first month. The iPhone 5 sold five million in its first weekend. Who wins? It's tricky to tell without directly comparable figures. However, both broke records within their respective as the fastest-selling phones to date.
Samsung Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5 - DesignSamsung Galaxy S4 – 7.7mm thick, plastic rear
iPhone 5 – 7.6mm thick, aluminium rear
The Samsung Galaxy S4 sticks with the design traits of the 'S' range. That entails using a plastic removable battery cover, rather than a unibody or metal chassis.
It’ll be available in black and white to start with.
What separates the Galaxy S4 from its predecessor is how slim it is. At 7.7mm thick it’s just 0.1mm thicker than the iPhone 5, and a full millimetre thinner than the its predecessor.
In truth, we’re not sure quite how much the average Joe phone-buyer will care, but engineering-wise it’s an impressive feat.
As a phone that has been available to buy for quite some time, the iPhone 5’s body feels quite familiar. If you’ve never held one, though, you’re likely to be startled by quite how small and light it is.
The clearest difference between it and the Samsung phone is that the iPhone 5 is made of aluminium. This gives the phone a harder feel, without resulting in a lot of extra weight. The Galaxy S4 is 133g, the iPhone 5 112g – the difference is down to the extra size of the Galaxy phone. It’s much, much larger thanks to its huge screen.
Just like the Samsung Galaxy S4, the iPhone 5 comes in two finishes. There’s Slate, which is a dark grey/black and plain white.
While you might assume that metal is stronger than plastic, iPhone 5 owners really need to be careful as aluminium scratches pretty easily. Black/slate iPhones in particular are seriously susceptible to damage.
Samsung Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5 - ScreenSamsung Galaxy S4 – 1080p, 4.99-inch Super AMOLED
iPhone 5 – 640 x 1136 pixel, 4-inch IPS
The Samsung Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5 may only be 0.1mm apart in thickness, but the 0.99 inches of screen real estate that separate them is a massive gulf. Anyone but Andre the Giant would have trouble reaching a thumb from one side of the S4’s screen to the other.
This will be a serious usability issue to some but, in the same breath, put an iPhone 5 next to a Samsung Galaxy S4 and it will look like a toy. For babies. A baby’s toy.
A huge screen makes handling the Samsung Galaxy S4 more problematic, but if you want a phone to watch movies on, the size is an excellent bonus.
The screen sizes are so different that they have completely different aims, and so does the tech that runs the show. The iPhone 5 uses an IPS display just below 720p in resolution, while the Samsung Galaxy S4 uses a jaw-dropping 1080p OLED-type screen.
It’s not the same type of OLED we’ve seen in the past. This type is new. It's a Super AMOLED variant – it uses a new PenTile-based array of subpixels. Rather than being arranged in a line, though, the subpixels are ever-so-slightly skew-wiff. This arrangement is likely to be used to allow Samsung to fit all those extra pixels into the screen. It also reportedly uses less battery.
A PenTile array does reduce clarity, but as the Galaxy S4’s pixel density is so much greater than the iPhone 5’s, you’re unlikely to be able to notice much of a difference in sharpness. Both should be pin-sharp.
The benefit of OLED over IPS is that is offers incredible contrast and black levels. The Samsung Galaxy S4 promises to have nigh-on perfect blacks. However, we’re a little worried that it may suffer from the same colour oversaturation problem as the Samsung Galaxy S3. Oversaturated colours don’t look good to our eyes.
Samsung Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5 - StorageSamsung Galaxy S4 – 16GB baseline, microSD slot
iPhone 5 – 16GB baseline, 32GB and 64GB models available, non-expandable
Here’s where the geek gloves really come off. Like every iPhone, the iPhone 5 doesn’t let you use memory cards. The Samsung Galaxy S4 does.
This makes getting loads of storage on your Samsung phone dirt cheap, but also means no-one in their right mind will ever buy a 64GB Samsung Galaxy S4. Heck, despite the popularity of the phone the lack of demand for a higher-capacity model stopped the 64GB Galaxy S3 from surfacing in the UK.
It’s bad news for Samsung in a way, but great news for us. Have you seen how much a 64GB iPhone 5 goes for? It’s around £700.
Because of the relative lack of desirability of higher-capacity Galaxy S4s, we’re not sure which models will actually see wide distribution in the UK beyond the 16GB edition.
Samsung Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5 - CPU and GPUSamsung Galaxy S4 – Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 1.9GHz CPU, 2GB RAM,
iPhone 5 – Apple A6 dual-core 1.2GHz, 1GB RAM, PowerVR SGX 543 GPU
When the Samsung Galaxy S4 first launched, we thought it would be an eight-core phone. However, shortly after we were informed that in the UK, we’ll get the quad-core edition.
Rather than the Exynos 5 Octo-core chip that some markets will enjoy, we have to make do with a 1.9GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 chip. This is marginally less powerful than the Octo-core variant.
However, it’s far from slow. It’s clocked faster than any of its current Snapdragon 600 rivals, such as the HTC One.
Making a direct comparison with the iPhone 5 is a little trickier. The iPhone uses an Apple-designed processor called the Apple A6 chip. It’s a dual-core 1.2GHz model. It sounds far less powerful than the Galaxy S4, but the truth is a little more complicated.
The iPhone’s GPU, a PowerVR SGX 543, is more powerful than the Galaxy S4’s Adreno 320 GPU. It’s a minor victory, though. What’s more important is how the phones’ software utilises the power. iOS keeps a tighter rein on what third-party apps, causing fewer lag issues on an app-laden phone.
However, the Android 4.2 software at the heart of the Samsung Galaxy S4 is also super-slick when not driven into the ground, thanks to the Project Butter speed optimisation made in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.
The Samsung also makes hardware compensations for the extra degree of app juggling an Android phone has to do. The Galaxy S4's RAM is double that of the iPhone 5 – 2GB against 1GB.
Samsung Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5 - SoftwareSamsung Galaxy S4 – Android 4.2 with TouchWiz
iPhone 5 – iOS 6.1
So far, we’ve encountered big hardware differences that are pretty easy to explain. The difference between iOS and Android with TouchWiz is even greater, though.
However, the difference in quality of experience between the two is much less great than it was previously. Android used to be the plucky lovable geek. It’d fall over constantly but had more features than a year’s worth of New Yorker magazine issues. Since the Project Butter speed optimisations of Android 4.1 came into play though, Google’s OS is looking damn slick. It’s arguably as slick as iOS.
Not only that - iOS is starting to look a wee bit long in the tooth too. Its look has barely changed since its introduction in 2007. It’s as if Ford were still producing Model Ts, but with better engines under the hood.
Still, iOS is still reasonably pretty, superbly easy to use and pretty practical as long as you have less than 100 apps installed.
Samsung has “enriched” the Samsung Galaxy S4 with the custom TouchWiz UI. This is the umbrella name for all variants of Samsung’s Android interface, but it’s only top dogs like the Galaxy S4 that get absolutely all of the swish new features.
Samsung has introduced a few new and fresh ones with the Galaxy S4 too. And, boy, are they gadget-tastic.
The most headline-grabbing of them relate to eye-detection tech. For example, videos will stop when you look away from the screen and, you can make the Galaxy S4 let you scroll text with a tilt of the phone – but only when your eyes are gazing at the display.
You’ll get no such frivolous extras with an iPhone 5, although some of you may class such things as gimmicky nonsense anyway.
Samsung Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5 - CameraSamsung Galaxy S3 -13-megapixel sensor, LED flash
iPhone 5 – 8-megapixel sensor LED flash
The clearest straight generational shift between these two phones is in their cameras. Apple’s iPhone 5 uses Sony’s older 8-megapixel sensor while the Samsung Galaxy S4 uses Sony’s new 13-megapixel sensor – as do many other flagship 2013 phones.
It’s progress, but not the most interesting kind, because the new 13-megapixel sensor doesn’t do anything dramatically interesting. As it’s roughly the same size as the old 8-megapixel model, the pixels in the sensor are absolutely tiny – smaller than those of the iPhone 5’s.
Given good lighting conditions, you can expect the Samsung Galaxy S4 to produce some truly impressive detail-packed shots. However, in low light it’ll struggle just as the iPhone 5 does.
To get beyond this phone camera stalemate, we’ll have to see incorporation of more dynamic phone camera techniques such as hardware image stabilisation (as seen in the Nokia Lumia 920) or larger sensor pixels (as seen in the HTC One).
Early VerdictIn many spec respects, the Samsung Galaxy S4 easily beats the iPhone 5. The generational upgrades are difficult to ignore. However, for some – if not many – the Galaxy S4 will simply be way too large. This is a phone that will need two hands to handle at times. We'll be back with deeper impressions once we get a Galaxy S4 in to review.
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