Apple iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 2

September 13, 2012
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As we look back over the past few years, one might certainly get the impression that Apple and Samsung are the best example of a love-hate relationship.

On one hand, Apple is Samsung’s biggest client when it comes to display panels, memory chips and CPUs – components that made their way into several popular Apple products such as the iPhone 4S and the new Apple iPad (third generation).

On the other, the two tech giants are absolute competitors in the smartphone market and are involved in various legal disputes all over the globe. As all love-hate relationships eventually turn out, the love is all gone, and all we now have left is the intense competition between the two.

Now that Apple has finally announced the intensely hyped iPhone 5, tech fans all over the world started analyzing how well does the Apple iPhone 5 stack up against the two current Samsung flagships: the Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Note 2. We’ve compared the Apple iPhone 5 with the Samsung Galaxy S3 in this article here, but seeing as the Samsung Galaxy S3 was launched back in May this year (that’s before the trial,) it is much more interesting to compare the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 against the Apple iPhone 5, as these are the first smartphones announced by Apple and Samsung after that controversial decision that everyone is talking about.

The post-trial products

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, let me bring you up to date: Apple and Samsung have been suing each other in various parts of the world for quite a while now, but up to a couple of months ago the two companies never actually went to trial in the USA. That changed back in July when lawyers from both Apple and Samsung were making their opening statements in the biggest tech trial ever. Following a very controversial decision, all U.S. models of the Samsung Galaxy S and Galaxy S2 were deemed to infringe on various iPhone patents. Samsung was given a billion dollar fine and is facing an imminent U.S. ban for eight of the smartphones that were found to infringe on Apple’s patents.

After the trial was over (I can’t help noticing the huge publicity that both Samsung and Apple got out of the entire trial), both giants were bound to make a move. And so they did, as in an interval of only a couple of weeks Samsung has unveiled the Galaxy Note 2 and Apple has officially announced the iPhone 5.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 or the Apple iPhone 5: which is better and why?” This is the question on everyone’s lips! So let’s head out and find out the answer to that question, shall we?

Display & Footprint

iphone 5 front

The Apple iPhone 5 brings the most important change ever made to the iPhone line: a bigger display. While all previous 5 models of the Apple iPhone (original, 3G, 3GS, 4, and 4S) used a 3.5-inch display, the new Apple iPhone 5 uses a 4-inch display. The width of the phone is the same, but the screen is now longer just enough to accommodate an extra row of icons on the homescreen.

The width of the resolution is the same on the iPhone 5 as it is on the iPhone 4/4S: 640 pixels, but the height resolution has been increased to 1136 pixels. That gives the iPhone 5 display a PPI (Pixel Per Inch) density of 326. Apple also claims that the LCD retina display used on the iPhone 5 offers color saturation that’s 44 percent greater than on the iPhone 4S.

Apps that have not been optimized for the iPhone 5 will be letterboxed, meaning there will be 88 black pixels at the top and 88 at the bottom. The actual size of non-optimized iPhone 5 apps will remain consistent with the iPhone 4S: 960 x 640 pixels.

In the Samsung corner, the Galaxy Note 2 uses a gargantuan 5.5-inch Super AMOLED display, one that natively runs a 720p resolution (1280 x 720 pixels) at a 267 PPI density. Samsung has opted to throw away the often criticized PenTile pixel arrangement and has used an RGB matrix, although it is arranged slightly different than what we’re used to. Hands-on reports claim that the Galaxy Note 2 display is probably the best display there is, perfect for viewing HD video or browsing the web.

But since the Super AMOLED display on the Galaxy Note 2 is 1.5-inches bigger than the Retina display used on the iPhone 5, this obviously translates into a larger footprint. The Galaxy Note 2 measures 151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4 mm and weighs in at a hefty 180 grams. The Apple iPhone 5 measures 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm and weighs 112 grams (the iPhone 5 is the lightest of all flagship smartphones at the time being).

As a very interesting side note, Apple claim that the iPhone 5 is the slimmest smartphone in the world, although the Oppo Finder is the actual bearer of the title, with a thickness of just 6.6mm. The Motorola Droid RAZR is also thinner than the iPhone 5, so I wonder where does Apple get its title belts from.

Using the Galaxy Note 2 display with just one hand can prove to be difficult for those of you with smaller hands. As expected, Apple claims that the iPhone 5 is designed to be used perfectly with just one hand.

Verdict: If consuming video content and browsing the web are your top priorities, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is obviously the right way to go. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a compact smartphone with a crisp display, the Apple iPhone 5 is a decent alternative.

Internal Hardware

CPU, GPU and RAM

The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is the bearer of the most impressive specs we’ve seen on an Android smartphone this far. Samsung took the Exynos 4412 quad SoC that it has used with the Galaxy S3 and slightly overclocked the processor. This way, you get a 1.6GHz quad-core A9 processor and a Mali 400 MP GPU alongside 2GB of RAM.

The Apple iPhone 5 uses the new Apple A6 SoC. Apple claims that the A6 CPU sports double the processing power of the A5 CPU, while the GPU is twice as fast as it was on the A5 SoC. Most experts are assuming that this numbers are when compared against the A5 SoC that you can find inside the iPhone 4S, and not against the A5X SoC that you can find inside the third generation iPad.

If Apple did not lie about these numbers (as it did when it claimed that the iPhone 5 is the slimmest smartphone in the world), the A6 SoC might prove to be faster than the Samsung Exynos 4412 chip inside the Note 2. However, we’ll have to wait for benchmark results to start rolling in before we give the “fastest smartphone in the world” crown over to the iPhone 5.

Note: If the Apple A6 SoC proves to be equally as fast (both CPU and GPU wise) as the Apple A5X, this would give the iPhone 5 a small advantage over the Galaxy Note 2 when it comes to CPU speed, and a major advantage over every single other smartphone out there when it comes to graphical performance. At the Apple conference where the iPhone 5 was unveiled, officials mentioned that the iPhone 5 will feature graphics performance that is almost on par with current gaming consoles such as the Microsoft Xbox 360 or the Sony Playstation 3.

3G & LTE

Another major change that was brought to the iPhone line starting with the iPhone 5 is LTE connectivity. The iPhone 5 will arrive in three versions, and you should choose one depending on your carrier:

  • The North American GSM A1428 model for use on AT&T in the US and Bell/Virgin, Rogers/Fido and Telus/Koodo in Canada
  • The CDMA model A1429 supports Sprint and Verizon’s CDMA network in the U.S. and KDDI in Japan.
  • The Europe/Asia bound GSM A1429 model for use in Germany (on Deustche Telecom), UK (Everything Everywhere), Australia (Optus/Virgin and Telstra), Japan (Softbank), Singapore (SingTel), Hong Kong (SmarTone) and South Korea (SK Telecom and KT)

Back to Samsung’s Galaxy Note 2, an LTE-enabled version of the smartphone has been promised to arrive soon, although no official statement was made regarding a release time frame or LTE band compatibility. We’ll update this article with Galaxy Note 2 LTE info as it becomes official.

Internal Storage, Cameras & More

As it was expected, the iPhone 5 comes in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB variants, with no SD expansion slot available. The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 comes with the same three internal storage options and also adds an SD card slot that can work with SD cards up to 64GB in size.

On to the cameras, Apple claims that the iPhone 5 will use an improved version of the 8MP iSight camera that was featured by the iPhone 4S, although we’ll have to wait for uncontrolled test photos to show up before we can make any comment on the actual quality improvements. The 8MP camera on the Galaxy Note 2 is the same camera used by Samsung on the Galaxy S3. Steve Wozniak, one of the people who helped build Apple in the ’70s has mentioned in a recent interview with Bloomberg, that he finds the camera on the Galaxy S3 to be better than that of the iPhone 4S, so it’s interesting to see how much better the camera on the iPhone 5 is (if at all).

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the iPhone 5 might be able to capture pictures of higher quality than the Galaxy Note 2, although even one of the most basic point and shoot dedicated cameras are preferable to both sensors in question here.

On to the “more” segment, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 has NFC and a standard microUSB port for charging and data, while the iPhone 5 does not come with an NFC chip (I’ve seen plenty argue that NFC is still a developing technology, one that is currently not needed by most people) and a proprietary port for data and charging (why Apple, why?).

Verdict: We’ll have to wait for benchmark results to check Apple’s claims on the A6 SoC (we’ll update this section when we have some numbers), but leaving that aside, LTE compatibility with networks all over the world could mean that iPhone 5 haters will only have to grab on to the lack of a microSD slot and no NFC chip.

OS & Ecosystem

iOS vs Android

If you’re an Android fan, you surely know that the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 was the first flagship smartphone to launch with the latest version of Android available, namely Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (as usual, Samsung has slapped its proprietary user interface – TouchWiz – on top). You can read more about how cool Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is in the previous article here. But Samsung decided not to stop here, and has added a few neat features that are unique to the Galaxy Note 2 to buttery sweetness of Jelly Bean.

The first set of features that I would like to mention as being an advantage for the Galaxy Note 2 over the iPhone are called the Smart Actions. Smart Actions are also available for the Galaxy S3, and you can read more about them in the previous article here.

The second set of software features that are unique to the Galaxy Note 2 have everything to do with the unique Galaxy Note Accessory, the S-Pen. Just to call them out by name, the S-Pen enabled Galaxy Note 2 comes with a few very interesting features such as Air View, Quick Commands, PopUp Note, Easy Clip, Enhanced Handwriting, Photo Note, and an improved version of Samsung’s S Note app.

Apple’s iPhone 5 uses iOS version 6, an operating system that was available in beta for some months. While iOS clearly represents an evolutionary step forward, it is still a walled garden, a cage that offers little room for customization. On the other hand, the Apple App Store is a bit more versatile than Google Play when it comes to apps, and a lot more diversified when it comes to movies, songs and books.

Overall, those of you with limited technical knowledge might want to use Apple’s iOS as it’s fairly bulletproof against non-techs. On the other hand, if you want complexity and the ablity to customize the hell out of your smartphone, Android is the only way to go!

Verdict: The website’s called Android Authority, so you should be able to figure this out for yourself!

Prices, Release Dates

The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 will launch in various markets around the world starting October. A U.S. launch is also scheduled for late 2012. We have no information regarding any actual dates, nor do we have any pricing info at this time, but we’ll update this article whenever such info becomes available.

The Apple iPhone 5 will be available for pre-order in nine countries starting with September 14. In the United States, the Apple iPhone 5 release date is scheduled for Sepember 21 and will be priced at $199 for the 16GB model, $299 for the 32GB model and $399 for the 64GB model. These are all on-contract prices, ones that you can sign with Sprint, Verizon or AT&T.

Other markets such as the UK, Canada, Germany, France, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore will also get the iPhone 5 starting September 21, although pricing information for these countries is currently unavailable (yeah, we’ll update this too when the time comes!).

A Conclusion

To me, it’s funny how far Apple fanboys and Apple haters go when discussing the iPhone 5. It is certainly not the best smartphone for everyone, although it will surely prove to be a good smartphone for most users. It’s designed to work well for everybody. If you’re not a power user and all you really want is a compact smartphone that’s fast, sleek and responsive, get the iPhone 5.

On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is for those of us that want the biggest display they can get on a smartphone. It’s for those of us that want Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (and all its complexity) out of the box. It’s for those of you that draw often, those of you that are not afraid of picking up what looks like a pen (any S-Pen pun would be useless at this point, wouldn’t it?) and actually drawing things on their smartphone.

Personally, I stand by Samsung’s Galaxy Note 2. It’s a kick-ass smartphone with more personality than I’ve ever encountered on a device so far. The Galaxy Note 2 is unique. The Apple iPhone 5 isn’t!

But what do you guys make of all this? Who won? Apple’s iPhone 5 or Samsung’s Galaxy Note 2? Drop us a line in the comment section below and share a thought!

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