iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy Note – video comparison

by: J. Angelo RacomaSeptember 22, 2012

Apple’s latest iPhone 5 is already available in its initial markets, and in the words of my colleague Darcy LaCouvee, it truly is an engineering marvel. And that’s coming from a die-hard Android fan. After all, the iPhone 5 won against the Samsung Galaxy S3 in our drop tests.

But not everyone is going to drop their phone from ear-level on a cobbled Hong Kong pavemenet. Let’s see how well the iPhone 5 stacks up against another flagship smartphone — this time, the Samsing Galaxy Note. While we’re sure this won’t exactly be an apples-to-apples comparison, we will look at the benefits and disadvantages of each device.

Not enough time to go through all the text? Jump straight to the Video Comparison or the Pros and Cons sections!



One of the biggest arguments for buying the Samsung Galaxy Note is its bigger screen. At 5.3 inches, you definitely have bigger space to work on, which makes it easier on the eyes to read e-books and websites. You also get a bigger display for playing games and doing artwork or notes with the S Pen.

The iPhone 5, meanwhile, has a marginal improvement over its predecessor in terms of screen size, at 4 inches, which gives you a 0.5 inch increase in size diagonally. The iPhone 5’s advantage, however, is its resolution. At 326 ppi versus the Galaxy Note’s 285 ppi, you have a smoother and crisper display with the iPhone 5’s Retina Display, and with a bit more screen real estate (as opposed to raw size).

Additionally, there’s the argument of screen size versus usability. Apple designers wanted the iPhone to be usable one-handed, so the screen was stretched by height, but retaining the same width as the previous iPhone, which means your thumb should, in theory, still be able to reach from corner to corner.

Build quality and design

The iPhone 5 retains the same distinctive rounded corners as the iPhone 4S, although the height has been increased. The new iPhone also sports an aluminum back instead of glass, which should help distinguish it from the 4S. The iPhone 5’s integrated display (meaning no additional capacitive layer is needed since this is integrated), contributes to its thinness. Apple also used a new proprietary connector on the iPhone 5, which helped give way to the thinner design.

Our Android Authority drop tests showcase how durable the iPHone 5’s aluminum construction can be. The iPhone 5 has survived ear-level drops with only cosmetic scratches on the body.

The Samsung Galaxy Note, meanwhile, features a polycarbonate construction, which means the phone is not as structurally rigid as the iPhone 5, but offers some flexibility over its Apple counterpart. The Note also offers a removable battery, which can be a plus for users who want to be able to switch battery packs in times of emergencies.


Comparing specs on two different platforms is like comparing apples to oranges, especially with the Samsung Galaxy Note being a 2011 device. But the Note does have some advantages over the new iPhone at least in terms of raw specs.

In the processor department, the Note offers a faster dual-core Samsung Exynos/Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 processor clocked at 1.4 or 1.5 GHz (depending on market). The iPhone 5, meanwhile, features an Apple A6 dual-core processor clocked at 1 GHz. In terms of actual performance, though, we know Apple has optimized its A6 platform for iOS, which should offer real-world improvements, especially given how Apple tightly controls its OS and app platform. As a side-note, analysts point out that Samsung very much likely produced the A6 for Apple, judging from due markings on the chip.

Elsewhere, both devices come with 1 GB of RAM and an 8-megapixel camera. The iPhone 5’s rear cam features backside-illumination, which means better performance in low-light situations. The iPhone also has an advantage in internal storage, with the highest-spec’d model coming at 64 GB.

The Galaxy Note trumps the iPhone 5 in some hardware specs, such as the presence of NFC, better front-facing camera resolution and bundled S Pen stylus. The Galaxy Note also has a higher-capacity battery, and is rated at 13 hours of talk time, versus the iPhone’s 8 hours. The Note’s storage is also expandable with microSD.

Software and ecosystem

Apple’s iPhone 5 launched with its latest iOS 6, which comes with at least 200 identified features and improvements over iOS 5. These include improvements to SIRI, the much-awaited Passbook application that acts as a virtual wallet, and FaceTime over cellular connections.

The Samsung Galaxy Note, meanwhile, still runs Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich. An upgrade is due by October, depending on carrier and region, although users can expect performance improvements, better notifications, better camera software and the inclusion of Google’s Smart Now voice-based interface, among others.

The iPhone 5 is a clear winner when it comes to content such as songs, movies and videos from iTunes. The iTunes App Store also trumps Google Play in terms of raw application count, at about 700,000 versus Android’s 600,000. It may also be noteworthy that Android has been criticized for malware and virus risks associated with a fast-growing platform.

However, if Maps are a big thing for you, then you should note that iOS 6’s built-in maps drew some flak for inaccuracies and lack of features. You can either wait for Google to release a native Google Maps app for iOS 6, or use the mobile web Google Maps app via the browser.

Video comparison: Galaxy Note vs iPhone 5

Pros and cons

iPhone 5 pros

  • Great build quality
  • Thinner and lighter than predecessor and competitors
  • Latest iOS 6
  • LTE battery efficiency
  • Almost global LTE support
  • Updated SIRI voice assistant
  • Passbook
  • iTunes apps and content

iPhone 5 cons

  • Higher price, starts at $649 unlocked
  • Smaller screen than the Galaxy Note (if screen size is an issue)
  • Apple Maps inaccuracies
  • Lack of NFC support
  • New charger/USB connector (support for older accessories necessitates $29 accessory)
  • Limited customization (unless jailbroken)

Galaxy Note pros

  • Bigger screen
  • S Pen and built-in stylus-specific apps
  • Cheaper at $520 unlocked (given its age)
  • NFC payments with Google Wallet
  • Google Play content

Galaxy Note cons

  • Bigger screen and physical size can be a usability issue for some (no one-handed operation)
  • Age – the Galaxy Note was launched October 2011
  • No Jelly Bean support yet


Surely, this is not an apples-to-apples comparison (more like an apple-to-note one), especially given that the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy Note are different class devices. The iPhone 5 is a smartphone, while the Galaxy Note is a tablet-smartphone hybrid. As such, the “phablet” will be geared toward users who want  a bigger screen and the ability to interact with the screen using a stylus.

The question here would be your purpose for buying a phone or phablet. The iPhone should be adequate for any smartphone user, be it a first-time one or a smartphone aficionado. The Galaxy Note’s main advantage would be its tablet-like size and functionality, including S Pen support. If you really intend to buy a phablet, though, you might want to wait for the recently-launched Samsung Galaxy Note 2 to ship, as it’s just around the corner.

Your choice should also be dependent on the platform you’re already using. If you’ve been a long time iPhone user, then better stick with the apps and services you’re already using. But if your digital life deeply integrates Google services like Gmail, Google Maps and the like, then the Android platform would be the better option.

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  • Young_Droid_Girl

    Why does AA often compare two TOTALLY different products… and then claim “gee, see how different/better/worse they are?”

  • coaching editor

    this comparisn was utterly pointless. secondly its irrelevant ans noone on planet earth is making a buy decision between iphone 5 and galaxy note 1

  • Both are cellphones, but Note is more than a cellphone.

  • yarrellray

    The better comparison would’ve been the Galaxy S3 vs the Iphone 5. 15mins on the Galaxy Note and iphone 5 ….WOW…..Don’t be scared to let the world know that the Galaxy S3 PIMP SLAPS the iphone 5….

    • Tito73

      This comparison, and like all the other, goes not deep enough! C’mon! Just too many words and no features showed!

    • Viksym

      Apple is incomparable to samsung’s guava or grapes .not everyone can afford the apple

  • wyndslash

    this is a silly comparison. it should have been ip5 against the newer phones

  • I can use the note and note 2 one handed fine, iphone is still a tiny screen, big hands for the win haha

  • Silly to complete are these…


    Apple is best …. Not others like Samsung.. Silly company…

    • Tito73

      Ha ha, you trendy fellow! I see you have never experienced one of the best or middle class android phones, otherwise you would not be so silly! Grow up!

  • eccoo damo

    So if the old Note pretty much goes head to head with the new Iphone 5, imagine what the Note 2 is going to do to the Iphone 5. Yep, blow it away.

    • Viksym

      He he he dual core 1 gb ram(i5) vs s3 quad core 1.5 2 gb ram still apple beat the hell in the benchmarks, so big pocket doesn’t mean big money Chinese yan cant compare to us$

  • Note all the way!! ;D
    Cant wait to get the Note 2 next month.

  • excellent review! i’d go for the note…..

  • leifemagnuson

    The note doesn’t have Google wallet. It is a hardware issue that won’t allow it. Its nyc chip is not compatible.

  • Rick Scorgie

    iPhone 5 feels like a cheap plastic toy from a cereal box, which is surprising to me at least. I still have my first iPhone, the original offering that started this whole smart phone thing as a life style of sorts (discounting RIM) and that was great.

    Don’t know about engineering marvel as being very accurate, to me more rinky dink. A first miss by Apple for me in a long time.

    • Viksym

      Cheap plastic is Samsung s3
      I5 is high standard build check the drop , hammer & water test u chin

  • Well I went n got the note. Very much luv it. Now as the other half has baggsed it, I need another phone as well. And older S2 or new S3 or note 2. Not really that fussed, will wait a couple of weeks n c. S2 survives a lot of abuse, S3 doesnt, either did the note, Note 2?? Like the I5 might be better in a drop test. Who knows?

  • Peter

    One thing: you listed good build quality as iPhone’s 5 pro. Are you mad ? Where have you been when an avalanche of poor build quality came down on iPhone 5 ? Roughly 1/4th of devices come with build defects out-of-box like scratches etc. You can’t call that good build quality mate…

  • suri

    Who ever is operating this website is largely biased by Apple. Every thread is talking more about iPhone 5. If it is so, well played Apple.