The most talked about device of this fall is, without doubt, the iPhone 5. Hate it or love it, the sixth generation iPhone is a device that is worthy of your attention. It’s the first iPhone to come with a large(r) screen and LTE connectivity, and, while many will point out that those are standard fare these days, I am sure that Apple will boast record sales once again.
Now for the big question – how is the new iPhone 5 faring against the crème de la crème of the Android ecosystem? Today, we bring you a hands-on video comparison between the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the iPhone 5.
We’ll look at the specs, build quality, displays, software, and features. Let’s kick it.
The much-touted Retina display looks sharp and Apple claims that the iPhone 5 is now capable of “44% more color saturation.”
The Super AMOLED HD display on the Galaxy S3 is nothing short of beautiful. Plus, it’s 0.8-inch (2cm) larger than the iPhone’s, which, in my book, gives it a massive advantage. The display on the new iPhone is now in the 16:9 format, which is great for watching movies, but will introduce a novel problem to Apple users – fragmentation. Apps have to be rewritten to take advantage of the extra pixels, otherwise they will show black bars on the sides, and nobody likes that.
In terms of PPI, the two phones are close, but the iPhone 5 has a slight edge, albeit a hardly noticeable one. To wrap up, both displays are a joy to gaze at, and the size is the only differentiating factor.
Build quality and design
Samsung got a lot of flak over the years for the build quality of their flagship devices. Some are perfectly fine with plastic (I think that my Galaxy S2 looks quite classy), but others swear by the high-end materials that Apple uses in its devices.
While the S3 feels quite good in the hand, the aluminum unibody of the iPhone 5 is much sturdier (check out or drop test if you like some proof). We are not that fond of the glass inserts, but overall Apple has shown its design prowess once again.
The Galaxy S3 is taking the lead in the hardware department. While the user experience is likely to be similar in terms of smoothness, the Galaxy S3 just has more oomph, not to mention a number of extra features like NFC, microSD slot, and wireless charging (with a special backplate).
Not many apps make use of all the cores of the Exynos 4412 processor (or the Snapdragon S4 for some versions) inside the Galaxy S3, meaning that you might not get a real advantage out of it (besides the bragging rights, of course). Nevertheless, we feel that the Galaxy S3 is more future-proof than the iPhone 5, and more powerful and versatile all around.
Software and ecosystem
The Galaxy S3 features Android 4.0.4 with Samsung’s new “designed for humans” TouchWiz 5 overlay. We are all for stock Android here at Android Authority, but some of the features and modifications of TouchWiz might be useful for some users – things like GroupCast, SmartStay, and picture in picture. And, while critics love to hate TouchWiz, I am sure that many find it intuitive and fun to use.
Few pieces of software get more intuitive than iOS 6, though. Apple has always worked hard to make its OS as smooth and easy to use as possible, and you have to give them that. With that said, savvy users will find iOS lagging behind Android in terms of breadth of features and flexibility. Plus, even diehard Apple fanatics will admit that the iOS interface could use a refresh. What’s the point of having all that processing power if you use if for displaying static rows of icons?
Another big downside of iOS 6 is Apple Maps, which is, to be gentle, half-baked. If you are a heavy Google Maps user, you might want to stay away from iOS6 and the iPhone 5, at least until a Google Maps app makes it to the App Store.
The ecosystems behind the two phones are both vast and rich. Gone are the times when you could say that the iPhone has an edge in terms of apps, and Google is working to bring more music, movies, and books to more users every day. That said, Google has been lagging in launching its full Play Store internationally, so, if you live in a smaller market, you might find it impossible to buy music or books from Google.
Video comparison: Galaxy S3 vs iPhone 5
In a nutshell
iPhone 5 pros
- high-quality build
- classy design
- smooth user experience
- thinner and lighter than most flagship smartphones
- simple updates
iPhone 5 cons
- the UI is dated and inflexible
- smaller screen than most modern smartphones
- Apple Maps is a mess
- specs will be dated in a few months
Galaxy S3 pros
- large beautiful display
- more software features than iOS
- the flexibility of Android, plus all the Google apps
- more future proof
- NFC, microSD card, removable batter, wireless charging (optional)
Galaxy S3 cons
- it’s big for many users
- cheap plastic build makes it less durable
- Android updates are problematic
What’s going to be? The Samsung Galaxy S3 or the new iPhone 5? it’s hard to proclaim a winner without ignoring certain pieces of the equation.
Think about what you want to do with the phone. Do you want a super-polished experience neatly packed in a gorgeous shell of aluminum and glass? Go for the iPhone 5. But be prepared to give up flexibility, and 4-inch should better be enough for you.
Do you want a powerhouse with a large screen and specs that will stay decent well into 2014? The Galaxy S3 is a wonderful phone and the right choice for you. Plus, it gives you access to Google’s best apps and to the flexibility of Android, and I am not talking just about rooting and swapping ROMs. Android is far more innovative and open than iOS, and we are all behind that at Android Authority.