Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Apple iPhone 5 quick comparison (updated)

March 15, 2013

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Update: we’ve published a new in-depth Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5 comparison. Check it out here.

When it comes to mobile technology, it just doesn’t get any bigger than Apple and Samsung, which are – by far – the two most successful companies in the highly competitive mobile market today. As a direct consequence, each time a new iPhone or Galaxy S model is officially unveiled, one of the first things tech bloggers, much like regular consumers do, is compare the most recent versions in both lines.

Now that Samsung has just announced the Samsung Galaxy S4, we obviously couldn’t let a comparison against the Apple iPhone 5 slide under the radar.

Taking sides in this battle is a very easy thing to do, as these companies are not only direct competitors in a number of markets, but are also based on two different philosophies. Although this is an Android fan blog, this aims to be an objective comparison, as we will try to highlight the strong and weak points of each of these two high-end and very capable smartphones.

If you’re looking for a quick video comparison of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Apple iPhone 5, jump to the video below. On the other hand, if you’re interested in learning all the details, the following sections will divide the main battle into four equally important duels: display, design and build quality, internal hardware, and OS & software tweaks.

Specs

Specifications Samsung Galaxy S4 Apple iPhone 5
Dimensions 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm, 130g 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm, 112 g
Display 4.99-inch, Super AMOLED1920 x 1080 Full HD, 441ppi 4-inch IPS LCD640 x 1136 pixels, 326 ppi
CPU and GPU International version

  • Samsung Exynos 5 Octa
  • Quad-core A15 (1.6GHz) + Quad-core A7 (1.2GHz)
  • PowerVR SGX544MP3

US version

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 APQ8064T
  • Quad-core Krait 300
  • 1.9Ghz
  • Adreno 320
Apple A6dual-core, 1300 MHzPowerVR SGX543MP3
RAM 2GB 1GB
Storage 16GB/32GB/64GB internalmicroSD, up to 64GB 16/32/64 GBNon-expandable
Cameras 13MP rear, LED flash, autofocus, burst mode, Shot with Sound, Dual record, Smart Erase 8MP rear, LED flash, autofocus, HDR, F2.41.2MP front, 720p, 30fps
Battery 2600mAh, removable 1440 mAh, non-removable8h talk time (3G)
Networks GSM, UMTS, HSPA+/LTE GSM, UMTS, CDMAHSPA+, LTE
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n acWi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot, DLNA, NFCBluetooth 4.0 A2DPmicroUSB, MHL 2, infraredA-GPS Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/nWi-Fi hotspotBluetooth 4.0 A2DPLightning connectorA-GPS
Operating system Android 4.2 TouchWiz UIAir View, Smart Scroll, Smart Pause,S Translate, Knox, S Drive iOS 6.1

Display

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The Samsung Galaxy S4 uses a 4.99 inch Super AMOLED display running at a pixel resolution of 1920 by 1080, thus featuring a Pixel Per Inch (PPI) density of 441. The best way to characterize the display on the Samsung Galaxy S4 is that it is the best AMOLED display that we have ever seen on a mobile device.

Although the inaccurate color reproduction of AMOLED panels is considered to be a major drawback by some, there are a lot of others who put more emphasis on this technology’s better contrast and brightness levels.In the Apple corner, the iPhone 5 uses a 4 inch IPS LCD panel running at a resolution of 1136 by 640 pixels, one that measures a 326 PPI density. The overall quality of the display on the iPhone 5 is about as high-end as it gets, and despite that it features a lower PPI density than the Samsung Galaxy S4, the iPhone 5 display is remarkably vibrant and accurate in representing natural colors.

Verdict: Both are great displays: if you’re looking for vibrant colors on a big display, opt for the Samsung Galaxy S4. On the other hand, if you prefer compact displays that you can easily operate with one hand, the iPhone 5 is one of the best choices out there.

Design and Build Quality

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Unfortunately for those who are growing sick and tired of Samsung’s ‘plasticky’ builds, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is not very much different than the Samsung Galaxy S3 (or the Galaxy Note 2 for that matter) in terms of design and build quality, though it does feature a few minor upgrades to the exterior bezel, making it appear and feel more premium.

Design wise, we’re talking about asymmetrically rounded corners and a metallic frame that fits with the plastic back, but I’ll let the pictures do more talking.

S4-build-quality

The Samsung Galaxy S4 measures 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm and weighs at a very svelte 130 grams, making it one of the lightest handsets we’ve played with to date.

The more square-shaped Apple iPhone 5 uses an aluminum unibody that just gives it a premium feel and aesthetic. If there’s one area where Apple usually shines it’s in the design and build quality of its products, and the iPhone 5 makes no exception, here.

The Apple iPhone 5 measures 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm (4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 in) and weighs 112 g (3.95 oz). Overall, the iPhone 5 is one of the most compact and best looking smartphones out there.

Verdict: Both are premium devices, and while the internals of the Galaxy S4 are undoubtedly superior, 5 inch phones may be too big for some. The iPhone 5 arguably has better build quality, and proved impervious to the drop tests we subjected it to, not too long ago. It remains to be seen how resilient and strong the Galaxy S4 is, but Samsung does make durable devices. First impressions leave us with a mixed reaction, but the unibody construction of the iPhone 5 is undoubtedly superior.

Internal Hardware

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CPU, GPU & RAM

The Apple iPhone 5 is based on the Apple A6 SoC, one that consists of a 1.2 GHz dual-core CPU and a PowerVR SGX 543MP3 GPU. Add 1GB of RAM and a first glance, the Apple iPhone 5 might not look like much of a power house. However, once you start bringing up benchmark results, it reigns obvious that these components have been carefully tweaked and optimized to play well with Apple’s iOS. Make no mistake about it, the Apple iPhone 5 is a very powerful smartphone.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 will arrive in two versions: an LTE version that will use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 SoC (the same internals as with the HTC One, consisting of a 1.7 GHz quad-core Krait CPU, Adreno 320 GPU and 2GB of RAM), and an international/3G version that will use Samsung’s new Exynos 5 Octa SoC (consisting out of a quad-core A15 processor and a quad-core A7 processor paired in the big.little configuration, a PowerVR SGX 544MP3 GPU and 2 GB of RAM).

The Galaxy S4 has substantially more powerful hardware, but iOS plays nice with less juice under the hood. According to the benchmarks we were able to produce, it’s nearly two times as powerful as Apple’s latest iPhone. And that’s not to say that the iPhone 5 isn’t a fast, premium device – because it is. It’s just that iOS is, how should we say – a much simpler operating system.

Internal & Expandable Storage

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As with all Apple products, the iPhone 5 has no microSD card slot for expandable storage, meaning you’ll have to make due with the amount of internal storage that Apple fitted in. The iPhone 5 is available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is also available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions and, unlike the iPhone 5, can work with microSD card slots of up to 64GB in size.

Cameras

The Samsung Galaxy S4 uses a 13MP primary camera and a 2MP secondary camera. The Apple iPhone 5 uses an 8 MP primary sensor and a 1.3 MP sensor for video calling. However, we’ll have to wait for more time with the Galaxy S4 before we properly judge the quality of the pictures taken with its higher resolution camera.

Battery

The Samsung Galaxy S4 uses a 2600 mAh battery, while the Apple iPhone 5 uses a 1440 mAh battery. However, battery life is expected to be similar between these two smartphones, mainly because the Galaxy S4 has much more power thirsty components.

Verdict: Although the Samsung Galaxy S4 might seem to be more powerful, you should bear in mind that iOS requires much less hardware resources as compared to Android, a much more demanding and complex mobile OS.

Operating System

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The Samsung Galaxy S4 comes with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean out of the box.

In its traditional fashion, Samsung has overlaid a new and updated version of its TouchWiz UI on top of Android. Fortunately, unlike the custom UIs coming from other Android manufacturers, Samsung has indeed managed to noticeably improve the overall Android experience thanks to the Smart Functions…

The Apple iPhone 5 runs on iOS 6.1, the most recent version of Apple’s mobile OS. For a more detailed Android 4.1 vs iOS 6.1 comparison, check out our previous article and video here.

Verdict: If you’re into customization and enjoy having more freedom over your device, go for the Samsung Galaxy S4. If you want access to the most intuitive  mobile OS out there, the Apple iPhone 5 is something you should be looking consider.

Video

Conclusion

Choosing between the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Apple iPhone 5 is a very tough thing to do, but here’s a way of summing it all up:

Do you want a customizable OS, a large display, a removable battery and a microSD card slot? Then get the Samsung Galaxy S4!

Do you want a compact smartphone that runs on a very fluent (albeit closed) OS? Get the Apple iPhone 5!

What do you guys think? Which one is better and why: the Apple iPhone 5 or the Samsung Galaxy S4? Let us know which way you swing in the comment section below!

Comments

  • Allen Themba

    Mike, you sure had a tuff time finding a balance between the two. Its inconparable man, until we get the 5s or 6 from apple. Comparisons above only boil down form/style, but the rest its a walkover. I dont like the plastic by sammy, but substance is so much that i have given inn.

    • Lau

      everyone says “Oh I don’t like the plastic.. aluminium is way better” and the f…ing use their phone with a case/cover

  • Sammy Protector

    It said on the announcement that the S4 got 4.2.2 on it

    • http://twitter.com/danmcsw danmcsw

      Some mistakes in this article. As well as the piece about the Android version being completely wrong, the article also make it sound as if the Qualcomm version of GS4 is clocked the same as HTC One @ 1.7GHz, when it is in fact clocked @1.9GHz.
      Both of these facts are confirmed in the hands on video by AA’s Joshua Vergara from last night’s show, where he goes into the “About” screen of the phone.

    • http://AndroidAuthority.com/ Bogdan Petrovan

      Fixed. Thank you.

  • Toss3

    This is by far the best tech blog out there right now. You’re the only ones that actually managed to run any benchmarks and get any information about the underlying hardware. Well done. Going to come here for information in the future.

    • uu

      and this is the only site who praised the premium design of galaxy s4.. im tarting to like its design

  • http://www.facebook.com/CorruptionDee Diogenes Jimenez

    Initially I was extremely excited for the Galaxy S4, but after the leaks started to surfaceI went for the Samsung product we all know is the best….The Galaxy Note 2. I’ve owned every Samsung Galaxy, but this is one I may sit out for. The best new additions are software related, and half will end up on the Note 2. It’s more powerful for sure, but not a quantum leap especially in the design department. This is Samsung’s Apple moment where the hype was to the stratosphere, but in the end the final product is a minor evolutionary upgrade released less than a year later.

    My personal opinion is that the Galaxy S4 is designed for people who were holdouts for last year’s S3 and Note 2. I’m waiting to see what they do with the Note 3.

    • Anonymousfella

      If you have sgs3/note2 then this phone is not for you…its for people who looking for an upgrade from their 2year old hardware or first smartphone…

  • M.Beg

    …one phone made of plastic for barbie and ken. Other made of glass for stylish handicap people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/CariasZimm Mirza Mašić

    There’s no question which one is better. Even Galaxy S3 was better than iPhone 5, and now S4, which is easily the best mobile phone to date. Only thing that iPhone has (better) is its design/size/weight and brand.

    • http://twitter.com/BongBong BongBong

      If you are looking for a bigger, more customizable phone get a Samsung, if you want a beautiful phone that simply works better, get Apple’s offering.

      • http://www.facebook.com/chris45389 Christopher Linnett

        How does the iphone 5 work better? Every time I hear this it’s referring to the iPhone having less functionality, if you want to argue this, why not start advertising the Nokia 3315 again

      • http://www.facebook.com/domagoj.tokic Domagoj Tokić

        By stating “it simply works”, you probably mean that it’s idiot proof.

      • pAUL

        ABOUT IPHONE-

        Overyhyped, overpriced, overrated

        No NFC
        No quick access to
        No widgets
        No killer feature
        Almost same shit from 2007
        IOS6 is boring as hell
        Can’t change it to live wallpaper
        Not a true multitasking like Android.
        No removable battery
        No sd slot
        No good features like smart stay
        Crappy notification system
        No customization

        Force to use Itunes

        No more than one option to unlock your phone

        • http://www.facebook.com/johnphillip.saayman John-Phillip Saayman

          Best summary I have seen. Tells you all the basics you’re missing out on

          • john’s son

            no john. actually you suck. period.

  • pp

    there shouldn’t be any comparision of masterful piece Samsung Galaxy S4 with piece of S**T Iphone 5…
    Specification wise & Quality wise Apple making phone which are equal to Galaxy Grand…..USeless Apple who think people are fool….

    • http://twitter.com/BongBong BongBong

      What a juvenile thing to say. The Galaxy has been accurately presented in the article. Your irrationally bashing the iPhone doesn’t help your credibility.

      • flamencoguy

        It “You’re”

  • http://www.facebook.com/kunatiabhi Abhishek Reddy Kunati

    S4

  • michael sanchez

    If the HTC one had a removable battery I would probably buy it as of now I think I’ll wait to see what moto will send out.

  • Jeff Jameson

    plastic kills the s4 for me, no larger and crisper screen kills the iphone 5 for me, so i guess htc one it is.

  • http://twitter.com/BongBong BongBong

    Very fair early comparison.

  • Alan Sánchez

    apple can suck it, even when the S4 looks kind like the S3, the software and some hardware improvements make it wroth! the only innovation of apple is make a larger iSh*t.. their iSh*t’s looks all the same and they dont innovate in nothing.. the only defense of apple is their stupid patents…

  • Abousteif

    Thank you for being humble and unbiased, you can leave that to us. S4 completely dominates over the “a phone 5.”

  • Jaime Larios

    How is the unibody an advantage? No removable battery, and no micro sd is a huge fail derived from the unibody. Also I’m sick of people saying we are tired of plastic. Look around you, even the more premium things have plastic.

  • flamencoguy

    S4 is miles better than iPhone 5. It may take iPhoney 6 to catch up.

    Both hardware and software wise.
    1. touchless scrolling. awesome
    2. Auto movie pause. awesome
    3. Photo element eraser. awesome.
    4. hardware. awesome.
    Watching Apple squirm. Priceless

  • Ayjaysee

    A very balanced, open-minded review. Kudos to you, Mike.

  • Nacos

    Fully agree with the conclusion. The debate can go on forever but in the end it’s all about the user: habbits, knowledge and expectations.

  • Andres

    Too bad the s4 international version is not LTE, a killer for me. I am sticking to my s3 for the meantime.

  • Pranay Nagpal

    although GS4 is better than iPhone 5, we must also keep in mind that iPhone 5 was launched in sept. last year and the mobile industry has taken quite a leap since then

  • http://profiles.google.com/olavamjelde Olav Alexander Mjelde

    Also consider sony xperia z. Waterproof, thin, quad, fhd 5″, metal and glass