If the iPhone 5 has one true Android-based competitor, it’s Samsung’s Galaxy S3. Already selling like hot-cakes, Samsung’s latest smartphone carries on in the proud tradition of their Galaxy S series, offering a customisable, powerful handset with more features than you could shake a well-sized stick at. But Apple’s iPhone 5 has plenty of its own tricks up its sleeve, from new iOS 6 features to a significantly changed design.
Both the iPhone 5 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.
Design and Build Quality
The iPhone 5 brings with it a considerable re-design for the iPhone line. Measuring 7.6mm thick and weighing 112 grams, it’s 20% lighter than the iPhone 4S. Available in two colours, either black or white, the rear panels are different on each. The white version has a raw aluminium back plate, while the black version has an anodised black finish on its rear. The biggest change comes with screen size. 4-inches diagonally, it now sits in a taller, widescreen ratio. It’ll still fit comfortable in one hand, but will also be better for viewing films on than previous models. Made entirely from aluminium and glass, it has a real premium feel to it, though we’re not personally sold on the whole two-tone look. 4G download speeds also hit the iPhone for the first time.
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, as well as other exclusive shades depending on your carrier, 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. The Samsung Galaxy S3 also has NFC features, whereas the iPhone 5 does not, as well as including 4G connectivity.
Winner – iPhone 5
A Retina display with 326ppi again features with the iPhone 5, in a 4-inch screen of the usual width, but taller than previous iPhones. The resolution of the display sits at 1136 x 640. Closer to a 16:9 ratio than before, the iPhone 5 is now better for viewing films on, with 44% better colour saturation, and with touch integrated into the display to reduce glare in sunlight. It may be the biggest iPhone screen to date, but it’s still considerably smaller than that of the 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 5 screen, despite it being the biggest iPhone screen to date. For some, bigger, in this case at least, will prove better.
Winner – Tie (iPhone 5 has the pixel density, Galaxy S3 the bigger size)
A new iPhone, a new processor. The iPhone 5 comes equipped with an A6 processor, which is said to be 2x as fast with both CPU and GPU processing as the already-speedy dual-core A5 chip found in the iPhone 4S. Shrinking down the transistor size, it’s smaller and more energy efficient too. Apps will load as much as 2x faster using the new chipset. It’s not yet clear how many cores the A6 chip uses, nor who makes it. There’s a strong chance it’s Samsung built, despite the ongoing legal battles.
Samsung have popped a quad-core 1.4Ghz Exynos processor in the Galaxy S3. And despite running off the sometimes temperamental Android OS there isn’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, though this could change as Apple reveal more on the new A6 processor
Though Apple’s iPhone 5 doesn’t offer expandable storage, they at least offer three different configurations when it comes to size. 16GB, 32GB and 64GB iPhone 5 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 you’ve got a little leeway with which to store files remotely too, though extensive cloud storage through Apple doesn’t come cheaply.
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
225 hours of battery life on standby are quoted for the iPhone 5, with 8 hours 3G or LTE talk time, and 10 hours Wi-Fi usage. In reality however, you’re going to be juggling through all these tasks (plus video or audio playback) throughout a day, meaning that you’re going to need to recharge that battery long before the day is done.
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 not by much. This is still a “charge-a-day” handset.
Winner – Tie
Software and Apps
Apple say there’s an app for everything, and with the iOS App Store, that’s pretty much true. With well over 700,000 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 5 also again features the much-publicised Siri voice control app. With it, you can search the web, set calendar reminders, 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 design of 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. The latest version of iOS, iOS 6 (which the iPhone 5 ships with) also drops the superb Google Maps app in favour of Apple’s own Maps application. Apple’s take on cartography is pretty, but nowhere near as extensive as Google’s and lacking useful features such as Street View.
The Galaxy S3 runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich, with a 4.1 Jelly Bean update due to land next month. 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. It does however use Google’s Maps app, which we’ve already stated is the superior mapping option.
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 5
Camera and Video Recording
Though its megapixel count of 8 isn’t any higher than the majority of top-tier smartphones the iPhone 5 sees Apple’s imaging systems again improved. A dynamic low-light mode for better night time shooting is added to the 5-element lens and f/2.4 aperture. There’s also a panorama shooting mode natively built into the camera app for the first time, with a 360-degree shot resulting in a giant 28 megapixel image. The A6 chip allows for faster photo capture too, as well as a smart filter for better colour matching and reduced noise. Share Photo Streams allow you to share photos with pals, and receive messages on your snaps too.
Combine all that with clever HDR and Macro software, and you’ll 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.
1080p video recording with anti-shake functionality and facial recognition tech will likely impress too, with the iMovie app letting you make a few simple edits on the go.
Samsung’s top-tier smartphone camera seems every bit as good as the iPhone’s. 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.
1080p video recording is also onboard. Just like the S2 before it, the results from our tests look 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
So far, only the entry level 16GB iPhone 5 price has been revealed. Unlocked, it’ll cost £529. That’s expensive, but network contract subsidies will see that initial outlay drop significantly.
Unlocked, the 16GB Samsung Galaxy S3 now sits at around £425, 32GB at £470. The 64GB option is set to launch in early October, at an as-yet-unspecified price.
Winner – 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 iPhone 5 suggest that Apple really have a fight on their hands this time around. A great camera, superb screen and innovative software features prove Samsung really pushed the boat out with the Galaxy S3. iOS remains the superior operating system, but aside from 4G connectivity, it’s seemingly a smaller, incremental update for the iPhone this time around. As a fashion statement, the iPhone 5 still looks the business, but it is pricey and offers scant few features over its now cheaper Samsung rival.