Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Samsung Galaxy S3: Is it worth to upgrade?

by: Mike AndriciMarch 15, 2013

samsung galaxy s4 vs galaxy S3 aa 600

Battle of the siblings – Galaxy S4 vs Galaxy S3! Is it worth to update?

The wait is over, guys. The hottest Android smartphone of the year is now official. Samsung has just unveiled the Samsung Galaxy S4 and now the device needs to live upto a lot of expectations.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is the first generalist high-end smartphone that Samsung has launched since the Galaxy S3 (I think the Galaxy Note 2 is still a niche device), many expected the Galaxy S4 to be a massive improvement and a huge commercial success.

Even though we are pitching the Galaxy S4 versus the Galaxy S3 here, we won’t try to pick the better smartphone. Instead, what we are trying to do here is to find if owners of the Galaxy S3 have enough reasons to upgrade to the new Galaxy S4.

So, is the Samsung Galaxy S4 a worth upgrade, if you already own a Galaxy S3?

For a quick sum-up, you can jump to the video comparison at the end of the article. If you’re interested in a more complete answer, keep reading. We pit the Galaxy S4 against the Galaxy S3 in each of the following sections: display, design and build quality, hardware, and software.

Specs comparison


Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S3

Dimensions136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm130g136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm (5.38 x 2.78 x 0.34 in)133 g (4.69 oz)
Display4.99-inch, Super AMOLED1920 x 1080 Full HD, 441ppi4.8 inch, HD Super AMOLED (PenTile)1280 x 720 pixels (HD), 306ppi
CPU and GPUInternational 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
Exynos 4412/ Snapdragon S4Quad-core 1.4GHz/Dual-core 1.5GHzMali-400MP/Adreno 225
Storage16GB/32GB/64GB internalmicroSD, up to 64GB16GB/32GB internalmicroSD, up to 64GB
Cameras13MP rear, LED flash, autofocus, burst mode, Shot with Sound, Dual record, Smart Erase8MP rear, LED flash, autofocus, burst mode, HDR, F2.61.9MP front, 1080p HD, 30fps
Battery2600mAh, removable2100mAh, removable11.6h talk time (3G)
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n acWi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot, DLNA, NFCBluetooth 4.0 A2DPmicroUSB, MHL 2, infraredA-GPSWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n acWi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot, DLNA, NFCBluetooth 4.0 A2DPmicroUSBA-GPS
Operating systemAndroid 4.2 TouchWiz UIAir View, Smart Scroll, Smart Pause,S Translate, Knox, S DriveAndroid 4.1.2, TouchWiz Nature UI


The Samsung Galaxy S3 features a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED display running at a resolution of 1280 by 720 (also known as 720p or HD). The pixel per inch (PPI) density of the panel rests at 306, which is a decent level, but Samsung used a PenTile subpixel arrangement, which is notorious for the fuzz it shows around certain graphic elements, such as text. In fact, the display of the Galaxy S3 has always represented a weak spot when compared to other Android flagships.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 makes use of a 4.99 inch Super AMOLED display running at a resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels. Samsung has now officially joined the 1080p club with the Samsung Galaxy S4. The phone features the only full HD AMOLED display available on the market, and it might be a while before other companies catch up with Samsung in this area.

The display on the Samsung Galaxy S4 is very crisp, something that is reflected in its pixel density of 441. We’ll have to wait for more time with the device to see if Samsung has managed to temper the traditional issues of AMOLED panels (oversaturated colors, thus an inaccurate color reproduction), but the brightness and contrast levels seem to be on par with what the Samsung S3 has to offer.


The Galaxy S4 features a novel subpixel matrix, with diamond shaped pixels

Verdict: The full HD display on the Samsung Galaxy S4 is clearly superior to the panel of the Samsung Galaxy S3.

Design and build quality

If you place the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy S3 next to each other, you might mistake one for each other, especially if you don’t know what to look for in advance. The Galaxy S4 is the same height as the GS3, but it’s a bit narrower, and also thinner.

On the front of the device, the most significant change is the narrow bezel on the Galaxy S4, which we found quite attractive. Other than that, the design language is roughly the same with the Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Note 2.

The plastic case of the Galaxy S4 comes in the same glazed that debuted last year in May, but in different color schemes.

samsung galaxy s4 9 aa 600

The Samsung Galaxy S3 measures 133 g (4.69 oz), but Samsung managed to shave off a few grams and bring the Galaxy S4 down to an impressive 130 g (4.59 oz). Basically, the Korean phone maker has managed to fit a bigger display in a smaller package, which is something we always appreciate.

We’ll have to wait before our Darcy LaCouvee gets his hands on a Galaxy S4 unit he can drop (test) before we talk about the Galaxy S4’s resistance to impact, but at least at first blush, it looks like there isn’t much improvement in this department.

Verdict: Samsung has used almost the exact same design language and materials with both the Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy S4, the latter is a bit more compact.




The Samsung Galaxy S3 came in two versions: one with LTE that used a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 SoC (1.5 GHz dual-core Krait CPU, Adreno 220 GPU and 2GB of RAM) and a 3G version that used the Exynos 4 Quad SoC (1.4 GHz quad-core A9 CPU, Mali 400MP) and 1 GB of RAM. Although the Exynos 4 Quad is a bit faster in some benchmarks, both versions are roughly equally powerful overall.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 will also come in two versions: a North American version that uses a Snapdragon 600 SoC (1.9 GHz quad-core Krait CPU, Adreno 320 GPU and 2 GB of RAM) and an international version that will use Samsung’s new Exynos 5 Octa (a 1.6 GHz quad-core A15 CPU and a 1.2 GHz quad-core A7 CPU paired in the big.Little configuration, plus a PowerVR GPU), and 2 GB of RAM.

The Snapdragon 600 is proven to be blazing fast, and we’ll have to wait before we get the Exynos 5 Octa into some benchmarks to see where we stand, but either version will deliver a noticeable improvement in performance over the Exynos 4 Quad inside the Galaxy S3.

Massive improvement in AnTuTu benchmark scores

Massive improvement in AnTuTu benchmark scores

Internal Storage

Both the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy S3 can be fitted with SD cards of up to 64 GB in size (kudos to Samsung for their decision to keep this feature) and come with 16 GB, 32 GB, or 64 GB of internal storage.


The Samsung Galaxy S3 uses an 8MP primary camera and a 1.9 MP secondary camera, while the Samsung Galaxy S4 uses a 13MP primary sensor and a 2 MP secondary sensor. Samsung added some interesting functionality to the camera software on the Galaxy S4, such as the ability to record a sound snippet and attach it to an image, or the dual recording mode.

samsung galaxy s4 12 aa 600


The Samsung Galaxy S3 uses a 2100 mAh battery and generally provides decent battery life. Hopefully, the Galaxy S4 and its 2600 mAh battery will provide the same mobility. The bigger, crisper display will surely draw more power, but perhaps the big.Little architecture would offset the increased power consumption. We’ll get back to this section once we have tested the Samsung Galaxy S4 for battery life.

Verdict: Although the Samsung Galaxy S4 is definitely faster, only those with a passion for cutting edge specs should feel the urge to upgrade from the Galaxy S3.

Samsung Galaxy S4 3 aa 600

Android implementation and software

The Samsung Galaxy S3 was launched with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, but has since been updated to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The Galaxy S4 will feature Android 4.2 out of the box.

In terms of software feature, the Samsung Galaxy S4 definitely improves upon the Galaxy S3 (I’m talking about the Smart Functions, as well as about the Premium Suite for Galaxy S3). New functionality includes Air View (floating touch), Smart Scroll, Smart Pause, S Drive and S Translator. You can read about all the new software features that Samsung has added to the Galaxy S4 in our article here.

Verdict: The new software tweaks on the Samsung Galaxy S4 are a welcomed addition to an already feature-rich implementation of the Android OS.

Video comparison

The Bottom Line

It doesn’t take an expert to notice that the Galaxy S4 is the most incremental update in the S series so far. But if you take the time to look at the Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Samsung Galaxy S2 article that I wrote a year ago, the S3 wasn’t really a revolution either when compared to its predecessor.

From where I’m standing, the improvements in smartphone technology become obvious only if you look a couple of years back instead of just one. Indeed, if you take a step back and compare the Samsung Galaxy S4 with the Samsung Galaxy S2, you’ll find that smartphones are evolving at a phenomenal rate.

Should you upgrade to the Samsung Galaxy S4 from the Galaxy S3? Yes, if you’re a power user and need the extra processing power, or if you must have the absolute best display.

On the other hand, if you are a casual user, you won’t need all the extra processing juice. In this case, an upgrade would basically mean that you shell a good amount of cash on a slightly better display, a few extra bells and whistles, and (probably) better battery life.

What is your take on the newest member of the Samsung Galaxy S line? Let us know what you think in the comment section below and vote in our poll.

[poll id=”236″]

  • ddas

    “The Galaxy S4 is almost the same height as the GS3, it’s a bit wider, but also thinner.” Well according to your spec sheet, its less wide and thinner.

    • Kevin Wong

      wider as in screen size he meant?

    • Fixed. Sorry.

      • DaHarder

        So… The Samsung Galaxy S4 features:

        * smaller overall size
        * weight reduced
        * screen is larger
        * resolution is up to 1080p
        * superior camera (resolution up to 13mp)
        * memory increased to 2G (international)
        * faster cpu
        * faster gpu
        * newer wifi with ac support
        * touchscreen with hover and glove support
        * new sensors (temp/humidity)
        * larger battery

        … and yet you still consider it to be “the most incremental update in the S series so far” – Really?

        • taz89

          I know everyone keeps saying this but it’s what everyone’s also doing but no one calls them incremental.. Minus the design which I have no such issue with and think it looks better than the s3 stay was Samsung supposed to add? They have no reason to change the design where as the likes of HTC Sony do as they are not selling like Samsung or apple…

  • yjia

  • Guys, I guess that you are already frustrated by comments like these, but this phone.. It’s amazing, but not amazing enough to go for an upgrade. I will myself wait a few more months till’ the Google I/O and see if there is anything like Nexus or X-Phone coming out anytime soon. Recommend you too sticking with your GS3 if you have one :)

    • Nevi_me

      I share your sentiments. I’m due for upgrade, but I’ll wait till May, if Google doesn’t come with something great I’m getting an S4. By then it’ll be available in my country

  • M.Beg


  • lorkin

    I don’t think its worth an upgrade just yet, most operator’s will nail you down too a two year contract and the technology only really makes any noticeable increase every other year. I’m sure that like last year Samsung will say that they have no intention to released an S5 any time soon (as they did last year when the s3 was released) by which they mean this time next year. If your contract is up, go for it but like a lot of us who got the s3 and end up with the dreaded 18/24 month contract wait for the s5.

    • Nevi_me

      Mine’s up, but I have till end of May to upgrade. I’m considering waiting to see whether Google releases another Nexus phone this year, if they do I’ll just swallow the pill and import one, and if they don’t I’ll jump on the Samsung wagon :)

    • Timmy

      This is where prepaid is better. April will be a year on prepaid (ST) and I’ll have saved enough from lower per month charges along with the sale of my Note 1 to buy the S4 (or the Note 3). I’m going to hold off another month or so and hear how this works in the real world.

      • Note 3 is bound to bring another big jump in tech (well we hope), I would say hold out till we get more specs on that.

  • Michael McGrade

    Not sure on the standpoint pod coming from an S3 but I have an S2 and this will be an amazing upgrade. I can’t wait.

  • No.. especially with the the new updates in software coming to the S3 as well.. screw the specs… same functionality..


      i can remember that Samsung commercial for the iPhone 4S where people discuss ” How will people know that i upgraded ?” same applies here

      • taz89

        People keep saying that but the 4 and 4s literally looked the same, you could hand it to someone and they won’t know which is which… The s3 to s4 there is similarity to do people know it’s a galaxy and imo it’s like the jump from the 4s to 5 as they look similar… Hand someone the s3 and s4 and they will able tell it’s a different phone because it’s less curvy, bigger screen, bigger button, different finish… Its keeping the same design language and there’s nothing wrong with that as it’s working for Samsung… HTC Sony have to change there design cause it’s not working for them.

    • taz89

      The things the s3 will get I think is smart pause and scroll and maybe some of the camera features… The main ones like floating touch and using the phone with gloves and the main cam features like dual camera and eraser etc don’t think it will make it

  • rvichar

    While it may not look like big changes were made I still think that these upgrades all add up in a big way to take a device like this to the next level. I own a note II so I can only imagine what the note III will be getting. Perhaps Exynos 5 with LTE and a better camera not to mention a better display on 5.5-6″ will make an even bigger impact. Why would Samsung blow up their design just to make it look different and face more lawsuits from Apple. A lot of the software changes seem gimmicky but at least there are some cool things like s translate if it works well that would be useful when pulling out your phone in a 3 rd world country and asking $hey did you see the guy who stole my s4?

    • freedomspopular

      Also, don’t underestimate how much of a difference the size will make The Note 2 is just slightly narrower than the Note 1, bit it’s SO much easier to operate, especially with one hand, and is far more comfortable to hold. I think we’ll see the same thing here too.

  • freedomspopular

    I hate all that wasted space above and below the dock. They could easily fit an extra row of icons there. And I just realized the total irony of that statement — perhaps they did it on purpose to avoid that.

  • Fernando García

    If you need to satisfy your vanity then upgrade to the S4, the specs won’t be fully used in the near future(this year) as the software for smartphones is not as demanding as the PC software, can’t imagine Angry Birds asking Octa core with 2GB in RAM and 1GB in your SD…

    • taz89

      There are more intense games than just angry birds you know like realracing 3 real boxing nova etc and with screens with 1080 future games will be 1080 needing that power.

      • Real Racing 3 eats up battery. When a single charge on my S3 normally lasts me all day on casual use, Real Racing 3 takes it from 100% battery to dead in a matter of 3-4 hours it varies on play time.

        • taz89

          I know that am just saying that there are apps out there will use these specs and it’s not all just angry birds

          • i was trying to give an example to help support your statement

          • taz89

            Lol thought you were trying to say what’s the point of these games ifit kills your battery.

          • Hell as long as i get some real use i dont mind if it kills battery these newer hand held gaming systems they dont have battery life but to last for a few hours while gaming anyway unless it is a low graphics game. I believe most hand held gaming devices only last 5-6 hours on a full charge. But back in the day i can remember playing any of the Pokemon games all day long on a single charge. Could you imagine the battery life of one of these older Hand Helds if they had one of todays batteries running them? Get a Gameboy Advance running for 20+ hours or a Sega Game Gear Doing the same it would be insane.

  • nice useful article

  • Another mistake i found. You listed that the S3 had 1Gb ram which is true but i believe the States Version had 2 to make up for the dual core processor

  • “How would people I upgraded if it looks the same?” – Samsung’s The Next Big Thing ad

    • Saw a comment of this nature making fun of the Samsung commercial on many Apple blogs. I agree the design is very similar but they’re still different. The external design of the iPhone 4 and 4S were exactly the same…

  • Meh

    I was kinda hoping we’d see some flexible screen goodness. I shall be waiting for a more significant shift before trading up from S3. Can’t believe Samsung hasn’t dropped the awful hardware home button at least and i’d (like most people) switch off all the gimmicky touchwiz enhancements after a few days. They sound quite irritating.

    • Agreed. I’ve have the S2 and S3. Currently using the S3 and I hate the physical buttons and lack of multitasking button. Onscreen buttons is where it’s at.

      • adrian

        press and hold your homebutton.. it is the multitask button. I disagree when it comes to the physical home button. I like it. especially when things freeze a little

  • Dan

    “The hottest Android smartphone of the year” ???? I am not of the same opinion…Samsung hasn’t been able to do nothing original in ears..i personaly own a gnex and a galaxy tab and i am very bummed over the build quality. They should realy focus on that stuff also if they want to charge 700€( i live in Italy) for a plastic phone. Personaly i am really looking forward to the HTC One market release.

  • asdf

    LOL check out the s3 vs s2 article last year, the top comments are about people saying theyre not gonna switch, but guess what? the s3 is the most popular phone of 2012 and chances are s4 will be the most popular of 2013, so skeptics shut the fuck up :P

  • Sal

    I’m sorry but no its not worth it espcially if the S3 might be upgraded to Android 4.2.2 jellybean, gets some of the new features the S4 has and such. You can easily pass and wait for the S5 like me since my contract ends next year.

  • Aus_Roh

    You missed one important thing. The S4 has an infrared transmitter. If you keep losing your remote, you might want to get the S4!! (Why this isn’t already in most smart phones already beats me.)

    The new CPU has not been tested yet. The whole point of it is to supply grunt, but make the battery much longer when grunt isn’t needed. If this proves to be true, and a user has battery problems, then an upgrade will be quite worthwhile.

    These two features put the S4 ahead of many phones.

    If you’re a blogger, the video/photo picture in picture makes this phone a very hot item.

    If you’re a traveller, the voice translation (if it works well), plus the above PIP feature, also makes this phone a very hot item.

    Flipping the screen without touching it, is great, especially if you have messy fingers.
    Ok, so Apple bought out the touch screen better than Blackberry (and a 30% commission closed store scam). Now Samsung S4 is the next step, you don’t have to touch the screen and mess it up!!

    I believe this phone is the first to use a new video codec, H.265.

    Many are saying this phone is just an incremental improvement. That’s just because it looks similar (whoopy-doo). I think there is a bit of a leap in this phone actually. I can’t believe people don’t see this. It is clearly understated.

  • Martina

    I am a person who loves Samsung products, they have never broken on me or let me down. I own quite a few Samsung products, home appliances,cameras, smartphones and tvs. The upgrade from an s3 to an s4 isn’t worth it for me because I could not make use of the S4s amazing features. I got an S3 as a gift for X-mas 2012, played with its features for a while, but it quickly became just a phone, and I also use it to take pictures. That being said, the S4 is an amazing phone. Just not worth it for me right now.

  • Martina M

    I recently became an owner of the galaxy S3. Its is an amazing phone and I love it. I needed a new phone as the previous one just died on me after 5 years of good use. The price was over 200 euros cheaper than its launch a year ago, so it was a good affordable deal. I use pre-pay so no upgrades for me. New smartphones are being released at an alarmingly fast rate and most people using pre-pay couldn’t afford to buy the new flagship model every year. If I had interest in a contract, I would definitely be interested in getting the S4, as a pre-pay customer thats a no can do. It all has to do with affordability in the end.

  • Odhiambo Ombewa

    The only reason these bashers have is plastic, however plastic is not the problem. The problem is apple who does not want to see any Samsung phone shaped like the Iphone. Indeed apple had patent agreement with the other companies to allow near rectangular shaped devices. Samsung is tied of law suits. Samsung had metal covered phones before and the next iteration of galaxy series will. I believe we need bold designers/lawyers for Samsung. Some of the concept shapes are pretty good and can be borrowed by Samsung. In the hardware front Samsung has raised the bar, they are leading, they have mastered the android platform. There is good staff in S4. Negative comments were made about s3, but it is still selling! Any new technology must have challenges, the day for AMOLED/PHOLED has come courtesy of Samsung!The only reason these bashers have is plastic, however plastic is not the problem. The problem is apple who does not want to see any Samsung phone shaped like the Iphone. Indeed apple had patent agreement with the other companies to allow near rectangular shaped devices. Samsung is tied of law suits. Samsung had metal covered phones before and the next iteration of galaxy series will. I believe we need bold designers/lawyers for Samsung. Some of the concept shapes are pretty good and can be borrowed by Samsung. In the hardware front Samsung has raised the bar, they are leading, they have mastered the android platform. There is good staff in S4. Negative comments were made about s3, but it is still selling! Any new technology must have challenges, the day for AMOLED/PHOLED has come courtesy of Samsung! The specs and functionality are perfect. the design and appearance may not be at par with the top ranking phones but overall it takes the lead.Over all good Desig/material but great features, removable battery, expandable memory, great screen, good sound n that’s all in good affordable price.

  • I believe that the S4 is worth the upgrade (if you planning one), the added benefit of the larger battery (2600 mAh Vs 2100 mAh) and the CPU (Big.Little technology 4 x A15 cores and 4 x A7 cores) will provide a major battery performance boost. I’m a Note 2 user and I’ve found all S3 users to complain bitterly about their battery consumption, the S4 helps a lot in that regard and should bring it closer to the Note 2’s battery life.

    For most users carrying around a second backup battery is just pointless. Something users should strongly consider is your can have the fastest / best device on the planet, if the battery does not last as long as you need it to then its just a glorified paper weight.

  • Myla M. Tongcayo

    Thanks for sharing the complete information such as SPECS, video and feature of samsung galaxy S4. This was truly awesome. And its more wider than the S3. That’s why the bigger the better. See more here

  • ejagas09

    Will wait for s5.

  • tough choice. I think the price will ultimately be the determining factor.

  • Jean-Claude

    I am excellently sure that if the S4 had a little more different design every blog and website on the internet would be screaming : UPGRADE!!!

  • Olivia Medina

    it’s the first review i have seen for the Galaxy S4. I must say, great review as always.thumbs up!!!
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