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Apple iPhone 4S Vs Samsung Galaxy Note 2

August 29, 2012

I don’t know why, but whenever a new Android flagship gets officially announced, almost every single person that has ever owned a smartphone starts comparing that smartphone with the latest version of Apple’s iPhone. If it’s a Samsung smartphone, the situation gets even worse. Add into context the latest legal showdown between Samsung and Apple, and you’ll understand why, the moment Samsung has officially announced all the details regarding its Samsung Galaxy Note 2, everyone started comparing this second gen phablet to the iPhone 4S in the back of their minds.

Just in case you happen to fall into this category (and you know you do), we’ve decided to give a little help in your quest of discovering which one is better: the Galaxy Note 2 or the iPhone 4s.

At this point, it should be mentioned that it’s almost obvious that the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is a better smartphone than the iPhone 4s, considering the fact that the latter was released back in October 2011, while the Galaxy Note 2 will be released internationally in October 2012. A year of progress is a lot in all domains, at any given point, but it means even more in the tumultuous waters of the smartphone market. So I guess a better question would be: “by how much is the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 better than the Apple iPhone 4s”? But that wouldn’t be much o a title, would it now? Once the iPhone 5 is announced (probably at the end of next month), we’ll be able to find the Galaxy Note 2 a more properly suited Apple-esque competitor. But until this comes to past, all we can do is shame Apple’s current flagship, the 4S.

If you’re looking to analyze how much of an improvement is the Galaxy Note 2 over its predecessor, head to the article right here. We’ve also got you covered in case you want to compare the Galaxy Note 2 against the HTC One X.

So let’s dive right in, shall we? I’ll divide the Galaxy Note 2 vs iPhone 4s showdown into segments, so that we can take a closer look at the details.

Note 2 vs iPhone 4s: Display, Design and Form Factor

Take a closer look at the picture above, and you’ll clearly notice the biggest difference between the Galaxy Note 2 and the iPhone 4s: the size of the display. While Apple has used the same length – 3.5 inches – across the diagonal of all its iPhone displays since they’ve introduced the original iPhone back in 2007, Samsung is counting on a totally different approach – one that’s heavily mirrored across the entire Android ecosystem: diversity.

If you want a Samsung smartphone with a more regular sized display (there’s a study placing the optimum size of a smartphone’s display between 4.0 inches and 4.5 inches across the diagonal), you can go ahead and check out the Galaxy S3. But if you want a smartphone with a big a*s display, Samsung offers the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, a smartphone-tablet combination that features a gargantuan 5.5-inch display.

The advantages of a 5.5-inch display on a smartphone are obvious (from a mile away): YouTube clips, photos, and all visual content is a joy to watch. The main disadvantages are that a 5.5-inch display is kinda hard to operate with just a single hand, as well as the fact that big smartphones like the Galaxy Note 2 are way harder to pocket comfortably. A smaller display makes for a more balanced all-around experience, but subjectively speaking, I find a 3.5-inch display to be just too small to make a joy out of… anything really. It’s almost like everything is just too small.

Design is also a matter of personal taste, but I really find both the Galaxy Note 2 and the iPhone 4s to feature a sexy design. In the Samsung corner, the Note 2 is in many ways like a bigger brother to the Galaxy S3, and the design sticks to this trend. The Note 2 measures 80.5 x 151.1 x 9.4 mm. In the Apple corner, the iPhone 4s has the exact same design as its predecessor, the Apple iPhone 4, measuring 115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3 mm.

On to the resolutions, the 3.5 inch LED-backlit IPS display on the iPhone 4S runs at 960 x 640 pixels and features a 330 pixel per inch (PPI) density. On the other hand, the Galaxy Note 2’s 5.5 inch Super AMOLED HD display runs at 1280 x 720 pixels and features a lesser 267 PPI. While PPI densities are just but one factor in judging the quality of a display, it generally means that a display is crisper.

Verdict: It’s a matter of personal preference, really! If you want a smartphone with a big, vibrant display, get the Galaxy Note 2 and handle the comfort inconveniences. Want a pocketable smartphone with the crispest display around, get the iPhone 4S. It’s that easy!

Internal Hardware

The one year old iPhone 4s uses the even older Apple A5 SoC (originally introduced by the Apple iPad 2 in March 2011). That’s a dual-core 1GHz Cortex-A9 CPU, a PowerVR SGX543MP2 GPU and 512MB of RAM. It’s not slow or anything (given that most iPhone apps are properly optimized), but its internals just can’t compete with the new Exynos 4 SoC from Samsung.

As it was believed months before the Galaxy Note 2 was officially announced, the second incarnation of the Note uses an overclocked Exynos 4 quad SoC (the same SoC used by Samsung in the international version of the Galaxy S3), one that packs together a 1.6GHz quad-core A9 processor and a Mali 400 MP GPU overclocked at 400 MHz. Add 2GB of RAM, and the Note 2 is really the fastest smartphone on the market right now.

The Galaxy Note 2 is at least equally fast as the international version of the Galaxy S3, as it is based on the same SoC. Here’s a CPU benchmark:

Here’s a GPU benchmark showing how much faster the Mali 400 GPU inside the Exynos 4 Quad is compared against the PowerVR SGX543MP2 GPU of the iPhone 4S:

iphone 4s vs galaxy note 2 GPU

On to the cameras, it’s worth mentioning that despite the fact that both the iPhone 4s and the Galaxy Note 2 both use a 8MP sensor for their primary camera, the iPhone 4S takes photos and records HD video like no other smartphone out there.

Both the iPhone 4s and the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 come with 16 GB / 32 GB / 64 GB of internal storage, but while the iPhone 4S has no microSD card slot, the Note 2 can work with microSD cards up to 64 GB in size.

Verdict: The Galaxy Note 2 is the fastest smartphone currently available and that’s that!

OS and Software Tweaks

The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 will be launched with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean preinstalled, but this isn’t the only thing that Samsung has impressed us with on the software side at IFA 2012. I’m talking about the improvements made to the S-Pen integration, and the cool new software tweaks built around the S-Pen, such as the ability to hover over a folder with the S-Pen to view additional info without switching screens, the S-Pen quick command functions or improved hand-writing capture. We’ll go into further details on the S-Pen related features of the Galaxy Note 2 in a jippy, and we’ll update this article with a link once that’s done.

The iPhone 4S uses Apple’s iOS 5.1 operating system, one that features an unmatched number of properly optimized apps, although the number of apps that are iOS exclusive has dropped considerably over the past year or so. There are a lot of fun apps, that’s for sure, but the OS itself offers little room for customization.

Verdict: Since this is an Android website, you know what’s our stance when it comes to Android vs iOS! Note 2 + Jelly Bean = Note 2 wins!


It wasn’t even a fair fight really! The Note 2 features blazing fast internals, comes with the latest version of Android available and makes even better use than the original Note did of the S-Pen (thanks to the new software tweaks and S-Pen optimized apps). It’s literally one year ahead of the iPhone 4S in all aspects.
If you want the biggest smartphone display that money can buy, yet you can handle the large footprint, the Galaxy Note 2 is really the only viable choice you can make!

What do you guys think? Was this even a fair battle? Let us know what you guys make of the Note 2 and the iPhone 4S in the comment section below!