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Samsung Galaxy S3 vs iPhone 4S

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If the iPhone ever had a real challenger to its lofty position atop the smartphone throne, it was last year's impressive Samsung Galaxy S2. With the Galaxy S3 now fully revealed, Apple's mobile monster has renewed competition.

Both the iPhone 4S and the Samsung Galaxy S3 have a lot going for them, each with unique bonuses and drawbacks. We compare the key features and specs of both to help you decide which you should be splashing the cash on.

review-line.JPGDesign and Build Quality

iPhone 4S
Though it's a rehashed version of the iPhone 4 (with the dreadful antenna issues all ironed out) it's hard to fault the iPhone 4S design. Whether you grab it in black or white, the angular unibody design with chrome trim oozes style. It's arguably hit the sweetspot for mobile-phone size at 115.2 mm x 58.66 mm x 9.3 mm too. It does however lack a HDMI-out port, pretty much a standard with high-end Android handsets these days, and it's a little delicate, with its glass prone to shattering if dropped from even a modest height.

Galaxy S3
Thin at just 8.6mm and light at 133g, the Galaxy S3 feels great in the hand, and slips almost invisibly into a pocket. Available in Pebble Blue and Marble White, its curved edges are meant to conjure memories of nature. However, its plasticy "Hyperglaze" finish lacks that premium feel, and some may decide the Galaxy S3 is a little flimsy, albeit unfairly.

Winner - iPhone 4S
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Screen

iPhone 4S
The latest iPhone's Retina Display is pretty much as good as it gets for mobile display technology right now. Measuring 3.5 inches diagonally, it uses LED backlit IPS TFT LCD technology to deliver images at a staggering 326ppi. What the screen lacks in size it more than makes up for in detail, with vibrant colours, lush brightness and deep blacks.

Galaxy S3
A 4.8 inch Super AMOLED HD display sits on the front of the Galaxy S3 and it's gorgeous. Though its extra size and resolution mean it "only" hits a 309ppi pixel density, to the naked eye that won't make a difference. Vibrant and colourful, it dwarfs the iPhone 4S screen, which is a far less comfortable size to view videos on. Bigger, in this case at least, is better.

Winner - Galaxy S3

Processor

iPhone 4S
Apple's 800Mhz dual-core A5 chip may sound a little dated in this age of quad-core mobile CPUs, but thanks to Apple's careful marriage of software and hardware, you'll never find the iPhone 4S being overly taxed. You'll fly through menu screens, tap away at breathtaking polygonal-3D gaming apps and playback detailed HD video without a stutter.

Galaxy S3
Samsung have popped a quad-core 1.4Ghz Exynos processor in the Galaxy S3. And despite having to push more pixels than the iPhone 4S (and running off the sometimes temperamental Android OS) there wasn't a stutter or hang to be seen. This is one powerful phone, best presented by the Pop Up Play feature that offers true picture-in-picture multitasking, offering windowed HD video playback. Impressive is an understatement.

Winner - Galaxy S3

Storage

iPhone 4S
Though Apple's iPhone 4S doesn't offer expandable storage, they at least offer three different configurations when it comes to size. 16GB, 32GB and 64GB iPhone 4S models are all available, with pricing rising appropriately. It's a crafty tactic though, as those opting for more storage space have to pop money directly into Apple's coffers, rather than picking up cheaper expandable storage elsewhere. With the iCloud back-up feature too you've got a little leeway with which to store files remotely too, though extensive cloud storage through Apple doesn't come cheaply.

Galaxy S3
Samsung's generous storage options make Apple look very cheap here. For starters, you've got the same 16GB, 32GB and 64GB handset options. Add on to that the option of popping in as much as an extra 64GB from a microSD card. Then pile on top the 50GB of FREE Dropbox cloud storage that comes as standard with every Galaxy S3 purchase. There's no competition here.

Winner - Galaxy S3
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Battery

iPhone 4S
The iPhone 4S is said to have 200 hours worth of battery standby time, 8 hours talk time on 3G, 14 hours talk time on 2G, 6 hours 3G browsing, 9 hours Wi-Fi browsing, 10 hours of video playback or 40 hours of audio playback. In reality however, you're going to be juggling through all these tasks (at times simultaneously) throughout a day, meaning that you're going to need to recharge that battery long before the day is done.

Galaxy S3
Samsung have popped in a whopping 2100mAh battery in the Galaxy S3. It sounds awesome, but remember there's a massive screen to power, as well as a quad-core processor draining juice all the time. Touches like the Smart Stay tech should keep battery usage as low as possible, but we can't pass judgement here till we've put the phone through its paces for a bit longer. We'll call it a tie for now.

Winner - Tie

Software and Apps

iPhone 4S
Apple say there's an app for everything, and with the iOS App Store, that's pretty much true. With over 500,000 different apps available in Apple's store, there's pretty much an app to cater for every potential need. From fitness to finance, arts to archaeology, you name it, there's a shed load of apps for every possible niche. Gaming in particular is well served on the iPhone, with it more than a match for handhelds like the Nintendo 3DS or PS Vita these days. Just check out Infinity Blade 2 if you need convincing.

The iPhone 4S also features the much-publicised Siri voice control app. With it, you can search the web, set calendar reminder, dictate emails and much more with just your voice alone. In the US it's a fully-featured service that has a giant database of details on local businesses and events. In the UK, it's far less comprehensive in terms of what it can do, making it a bit of a novelty for the time being.

As for the iOS operating system itself, it's incredibly easy to use and looks beautiful. It pretty much invented the grid-based app layout that everything from the Xbox 360 to Roku entertainment players have ripped off since. It is also however incredibly limited in terms of customisation, and if you're a tinkerer who likes to get under the hood of his device and tweak every property and potential UI layout, it's not a patch on Android.

Galaxy S3
The Galaxy S3 runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich. When it comes to apps, Android just can't compete with iOS. For starters there are fewer apps available, and they tend to be uniformly less visually appealing than similar ones available on the Apple App Store.

Likewise, Android is a far less user-friendly OS, but what it lacks in dummy-proofing, it excels with customisation options. You can make your Android look and act pretty much however you want it to, freely adding widgets and personal touches throughout the device.

Samsung have also gone a long way to stamping their own touches into the software of the phone too. As well as the aforementioned Pop Up Play feature, there's superfast data sharing over NFC with S Beam, intelligent facial recognition and photo tagging capabilities, eye-tracking screen dimming tech called Smart Stay and their own Siri rival called S Voice.

Winner - iPhone 4S
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Camera and Video Recording

iPhone 4S
Though its megapixel count of 8 isn't any higher than the majority of top-tier smartphones the iPhone 4S's imaging systems consistently deliver stunning results. Using a lens with an aperture of f/2.4, and combining that with clever HDR and Macro software, you get excellent still image results almost every time. A super-fast shutter speed that lets you snap multiple images directly after each other sweetens the deal, as do the many superb photography apps on the App Store. However, you can't tweak sensitivity settings like white balance and exposure, which may irk pro photographers.

1080p video recording with anti-shake functionality likewise returns brilliant results on the iPhone 4S, with the iMovie app letting you make a few simple edits on the go.

Galaxy S3
Samsung's top-tier smartphone camera seems every bit as good as the iPhones. Again, it's an 8MP offering, with impressive start up speeds of 990ms, and the ability to fire off 3.3 photos a second. A 20 in a row, six photos per second, burst mode also features, alongside Best Shot, which takes 8 pictures and picks out the best based on framing, lighting and blur, as well as elements such as open or closed eyes on the subject.

Then there are the facial recognition features. Snap a friend, tag them in one photo, and every subsequent picture you take of them in the future should automatically be tagged accurately by the handset. Groups of people appearing in the same shots can also have group tags associated with them, making organising large photo libraries incredibly easy. Images can quickly be shared via email or social networks using this feature too.

Elsewhere, more standard features like High Dynamic Range (HDR), panorama, Smile Shot and Beauty Modes are onboard too, as well as plenty of manual settings for things like Exposure values.

Though we spent less time with it, 1080p video recording is also onboard. Just like the S2 before it, the results from our early tests looked a real treat, with video stabilisation options working superbly. Up front, a 1.9MP camera for video calling and shooting 720p video is also available.

Winner - Tie

Price

iPhone 4S
Unlocked, the iPhone 4S in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB sizes cost £499, £599 and £699 respectively.

Galaxy S3
We're still waiting for official pricing for the Galaxy S3, but if the Galaxy S2 was anything to go by, expect premium pricing. The S2 started at around £500 SIM-Free too depending on retailer, so we'd imagine things to be similar with the Galaxy S3.

Winner - Tie

review-line.JPGOverall Winner - Samsung Galaxy S3

There's not much in it, and the Apple faithful will likely see nothing that will make them change their ways, but our first impressions of the Galaxy S3 suggest it may be the best smartphone on the market today. A great camera, superb screen and innovative software features show Samsung have really pushed the boat out with the Galaxy S3. If the price proves right, and the battery is up to scratch, we could have a new smartphone king on our hands. Remember though, the iPhone 4S is based on a design (that of the iPhone 4) that is now a couple of years old. With the iPhone 5 launch almost certainly looming, the tables could turn yet again very quickly...

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  • Gavain McDonald

    To be fair:
    It is dishonest to presume that, because we love Apple, that iPhone devices have no hardware/software glitches. The Home button is still only incrementally successful. I'll be so happy when it's gone.

    Both systems are great. I use both. As funny as it sounds, the real deciding factor for me between the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S IV is going to be form factor. Is the larger screen on the i5 big enough to make an impact for me? Is the form factor for the 5" screen of the Galaxy S4 too big to carry comfortably in my pocket?

    The performance of the phones is about even. Some of the features I was looking for from Apple still remain unrealized, where Android devices have had them for a while. Alternatively, the iPhone and iTunes platforms are very user friendly and I already have a bunch of apps. However, I also have the same apps (mostly) for Android because of my tablet.

    I think what I will likely do is upgrade to the new Galaxy phone when it is available (which should be about the same time the iPhone 5 is really available for purchase) and upgrade my iPod touch when it is updated to a larger screen.

  • Surfs_up6

    Having used an i phone 3gs and then a 4 for the last few years i fancied a change and got myself a shiny new gs3 having used it for a month now im so gutted i wasted my money on the worst phone ive ever had!! Yes the screen is great but other than that its just another iphone wannabe that falls way short of the mark!! People say apple have too much control over the iphone but what about the 30 or so useless apps that samsung force u to keep on the phone!! And u cant delete them! No apps u dont want on the iphone u have total control! Im sure that technically the galaxy is more powerful bla bla bla but when it comes to usability its just crap the keyboard is so dimwitted its shamefull and google play is an insult to the internet. Sorry people but weather u android nobs like it or not apple have just got it sorted! The only reason androiders hate apple so much is because android is sooooooo shit!!!!!!

  • noone

    yeah the two are good but the blackberry Dev alpha will be the BEST!

  • Sebas

    How much Apple going to sell an i5 that meet S3 spec and come with a premium housing? Could it be lower quality components in it?

  • SteveyJobless

    omg sgs 3 vs old skool ip4s again???????

    apple fans please wait for your release of new iphony to compare !!

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