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Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Google Nexus 4
The Samsung Galaxy S3 GT-I9300 is one of the hottest smartphones on the market. Samsung claims that it sold 30 million units within the first 150 days after the Galaxy S3’s initial release. This phone runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and introduces the natured-inspired TouchWiz Nature UX by Samsung.
Google’s Nexus devices are also known for the pure Google experience that they offer to their users. The newest addition to the Nexus line comes in the form of the Google Nexus 4 E960 by LG. This phone carries the latest Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and some new goodies, such as Photo Sphere and a revamped Camera app.
Does the Nexus 4 have what it takes to match the smartphone giant, the Samsung Galaxy S3? Let’s find out. You can also skip to our comparison video below.
Physical Build and Design
Dimensions and Weight
|Nexus 4||Galaxy S3|
|Height||133.9 mm (5.27 in)||136.6 mm (5.38 in)|
|Width||68.7 mm (2.70 in)||70.6 mm (2.78 in)|
|Thickness||9.1 mm (0.36 in)||8.6 mm (0.34 in)|
|Weight||139 g (4.90 oz)||133 (4.69 oz)|
Though taller and wider than the Nexus 4, the Galaxy S3 is lighter and slimmer. These two phones almost have the same physical dimensions. They’re both light and I can hardly tell which phone is heavier or lighter in my hands. These two phones are very portable, too. You won’t have any problem slipping either one into your pocket.
Both phones’ front designs are simple and have distinct looks.
The Nexus 4’s front screen is all glossy black. You cannot find any physical button here. Navigation is done through virtual buttons on the screen. The screen is flat and smooth except for the earpiece grille at the top.
At a glance, the phone looks like a Nexus S or a Galaxy Nexus. What makes this phone unique is its all-flat screen. The Nexus 4 did not inherit the curved display of the previous Nexus phones. You can find the 1.3-megapixel front camera and light sensors at the top. The Nexus 4’s notification light is found at the bottom bezel and can only be seen when it lights up. A silver plastic frame accents the front screen.
For this article, I got to play with the blue variant of the Galaxy S3. The Galaxy S3’s front design is also simple and contains some of the elements found in earlier phones in the Galaxy S series, but better and more beautiful. The Galaxy S3’s Home button is still located at the bottom, but now it is more slender and wider than the Home buttons on the Galaxy S or the Galaxy S2. On either side of the Home button are the capacitive buttons for Options and for Back. At the top bezel, you can find the notification light, sensors, earpiece grille, and the 1.9-megapixel front camera. The Samsung logo in silver sits below the earpiece grille. A light-blue plastic frame surrounds the phone.
Both phones’ have wider top and bottom bezels, giving you a wider screen to use while holding them in portrait, as well as better handling when you’re holding the phone in landscape view.
The sides of both phones are protected by a plastic frame, silver for the Nexus 4 and light-blue for the Galaxy S3. On the top and bottom sides of the Galaxy S3, the plastic frame meets its plastic back cover.
The location of buttons and ports on both phones are the same.
On the left side of both phones, you can find the Volume Rocker. The Nexus 4, however, has its SIM tray on this side, as well. You’ll need a pin to open this tray.
On the top side of both phones, you can find the 3.5 mm headphone jack and a small hole for the microphone.
You can find the Power button on the right side of both phones.
Both phones have their Micro USB ports at the bottom side, but the Nexus 4 also has two torx screws here which hold the phone’s chassis in place. I wasn’t nosy enough to see what would happen If I were to remove these screws. On the Galaxy S3, you can find another hole for the microphone.
Both the Galaxy S3’s and Nexus 4’s back covers have distinct and elegant designs.
On the Nexus 4, you can see crystal-patterns shining on the black back cover. This is LG’s Crystal Reflection Method. You can see these patterns when you hold the phone against the light at certain angles. These patterns create the illusion of the Nexus logo floating in space, surrounded by glittering stars or crystals.
The Nexus 4’s back is topped with Corning Gorilla Glass 2 that can withstand scratches; however, this glass is not shatter-proof. You might want to invest in some protection to keep the glass damage-free in case of falls. The back is smooth and flat and is interrupted only by the LED flash housing and the loudspeaker grille at the bottom. The 8-megapixel rear camera sits underneath the glass layer.
Similar to the glossy minimalistic design on its front, the Galaxy S3 has a simple and polished polycarbonate back cover. At the top, you can find the LED flash, the loudspeaker grille, and the 8-megapixel camera that slightly protrudes from back cover. The Samsung logo is embossed on the back.
The Galaxy S3’s flimsy polycarbonate backcover is both a blessing and a curse. It’s durable enough to not shatter or break during falls. If you have seen our Galaxy S3 drop test, the front screen had shattered while the back cover remained intact. Though the back cover appears durable, it is still prone to scratches. I have been using the Galaxy S3 for some time now and I can see some ugly scratches on the blue back cover. However, scratches may be less visible on the Galaxy S3’s white variant.
The good thing, though, is that you can replace the original back cover with a sturdy third-party one. The battery is removable and is also replaceable, too.
I compared the displays on both phones and they both performed well. The colors on the Galaxy S3 were more vibrant, more saturated, but less realistic. Colors on the Nexus 4, on the other hand, were a bit subdued but were more realistic. HD images are no problem for both of these phones. Under direct sunlight, both phones’ displays were still visible and usable.
The Galaxy S3’s HD Super AMOLED screen is an ideal screen for media consumption. But, If you want a display that is more realistic, the True HD IPS+ screen on the Nexus 4 might suit you better. The Nexus 4 also uses Zerogap Touch technology that reduces air gaps on the screen, making the screen slimmer, more responsive, and brighter. Basically, you only have the top glass between you and the screen.
|Nexus 4||Galaxy S3|
|Chipset||Snapdragon APQ8064||Exynos 4412|
|CPU||quad-core 1.5 GHz Krait||quad-core 1.4 GHz Cortex-A9|
|RAM||2 GB||1 GB|
|Internal storage||8/16 GB||16/32/64 GB|
|External storage||none||up to 64 GB|
Both the Galaxy S3 and the Nexus 4 are powered by quad-core processors. Navigating between homescreens, browsing Web pages, and playing HD games were smooth and seamless on both phones; however, it seems that the Galaxy S3 lags a little bit when launching apps. I also noticed some minor jitter while scrolling using the stock Web browsers on both phones.
The Nexus 4 also has additional RAM. Though, I find the 1 GB of RAM on the Galaxy S3 just enough to support the phone.
In terms of storage, the Galaxy S3 has storage capacities of 16-, 32-. and 64-gigabytes to choose from. The Nexus 4 has only 8- and 16-gigabyte variants and doesn’t have a slot for microSD card expansion. You can expand the memory on the Galaxy S3 with its microSD slot that can take up to 64 gigabytes of additional storage.
|Benchmark||Nexus 4||Galaxy S3|
|Vellamo Mobile Benchmark HTML5||1131||1417|
|Vellamo Mobile Benchmark Metal||550||557|
|Linpack for Android Single Thread (MFLOPS)||39.883||54.937|
|Linpack for Android Multi-thread (MFLOPS)||91.866||460.838|
|GLBenchmark 2.5 Egypt HD C16Z16 Offscreen||26 fps||15 fps|
|GLBenchmark 2.5 Egypt HD C16Z16 Onscreen||26 fps||15 fps|
|Nenamark 1||58.8 fps||60.0 fps|
|Nenamark 2||57.6 fps||58.8 fps|
|Google V8 Benchmark Suite||1006||1744|
In terms of CPU and GPU performance, the two phones have varying results. Some tests point to the Nexus 4 as more powerful, while others say it’s the Galaxy S3. In terms of browser performance, though, the Galaxy S3 scored higher than the Nexus 4.
Both the Nexus 4 and the Galaxy S3 can connect to 2G, 3G, and Wi-Fi. Although, some variants of the Galaxy S3 can connect to 4G networks.
To be able to use the phone capabilities on both phones, you need to insert a micro-SIM card. The Galaxy S3’s SIM tray is located underneath the back cover. For the Nexus 4, you’ll need a small pin to access its SIM tray.
Other means of connectivity on both phones are Bluetooth, NFC, DLNA, and Wi-Fi Direct. Both phones use standard-compliant Micro USB cables and ports for transferring files and connecting the phone to its wall charger.
The Galaxy S3 and Nexus 4 feature simple and flexible camera apps, though they each have something up their sleeves to amuse users.
The Nexus 4’s Camera app features the following new goodies:
- Capturing 360-degree images with Photo Sphere
- Improved viewfinder layout
- Shooting 8-, 6-, 5-, 3-, 2-,1.3-megapixel, VGA, or QVGA images
The Galaxy S3’s camera app, on the other hand, also lets you enjoy the following:
- Taking images in 8-, 6-, 3.2-, 2.4-, 0.9-, and 0.3-megapixel sizes
- Using Burst Shot to capture the perfect shot
- Letting the phone choose the perfect picture with Best Photo
- Instantly sharing images with Share Shot
- Applying various filters and effects
- Using voice-enabled controls
Both phones use an 8-megapixel shooter to capture images. Both cameras were very fast and took a picture the moment I pressed the shutter button. Auto-focus usually took about 1-2 seconds but took longer in low-light settings.
Let’s take a look at how these two 8-megapixel cameras fare in different settings:
The shots above look crisp and good, though, I notice some yellowish tint on the image taken with the Nexus 4. Colors on the Nexus 4 are quite subdued compared to the vibrant colors on the Galaxy S3’s picture.
Indoors, both phones produced noisy images, but the Nexus 4’s picture had more noise, as illustrated by the photos above.
Each phone has a LED flash but not all flashes are created equal. I prefer the Galaxy S3’s flash because it evenly distributes light on the subject. The flash on the Nexus 4, however, was so bright that our Bugdroid friends were not seen.
The Nexus 4 has a 1.3-megapixel front camera, while the Galaxy S3 has a 1.9-megapixel front camera. Let’s see how these cameras fared:
Both phones produced acceptable images in bright environments. The Nexus 4’s image colors are darker compared to those on the Galaxy S3’s picture.
In low-light settings, though, both images were noisy but more noise was seen on the Nexus 4’s image.
Both camera apps can record 1080p, 720p, and 480p videos. The Galaxy S3’s camera can even scale down the quality further to 240p. The Galaxy S3 also has the Anti-Shake feature for image stabilization while recording your videos.
Videos from both cameras turned out great, but the colors on the Nexus 4 were subdued, while colors on the Galaxy S3 were vibrant and colorful.
The Galaxy S3 and Nexus 4’s respective video players are straightforward and contain the necessary buttons to control your videos. Both phones can play 1080p video without choking or lags.
Aside from the usual buttons you can find on a video player, the Galaxy S3 has a button for the Pop up play feature. This feature allows you to watch your favorite movies while browsing webpages or composing a text. The Nexus 4 doesn’t have this feature.
The Video Player app on the Galaxy S3 animates some of your video thumbnails, giving you a sneak peek at your videos.
For listening to music, you have the Play Music app on the Nexus 4 and the Music Player app on the Galaxy S3. Both players are simple and look like the usual music players.
Both players also have equalizer presets that allow you to configure sound level and quality. The Galaxy S3 calls this SoundAlive. You can manually adjust the equalizers, too. The Nexus 4’s Play Music app has a 5-band equalizer with Bass boost and 3D effect. The Galaxy S3’s Music Player, on the other hand, allows you to do more with its 7-band equalizer and extended settings for Bass, 3D effect, Reverb Level, Room Size, and Clarity.
Sound quality from both loudspeakers is good, but I can hear distortion when I tune up the Volume on both phones. The Nexus 4’s loudspeaker is muffled when you lay the phone on a flat surface. The Galaxy S3’s loudspeaker doesn’t suffer the same fate, as the camera’s protrusion from the backplate keeps it from being covered when the Galaxy S3 is on its back.
The Galaxy S3 uses a Li-ion battery rated at 2,100 mAh that can give you up to 12 hours talk time on 3G. The Nexus 4, on the other hand, uses a Li-Po battery with the same rating, which can provide up to 15 hours talk time on 3G.
To see which battery would stand out, I conducted our informal battery test on both phones. I turned on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS; increased screen brightness to maximum; enabled sync options; and never allowed the screen to rest. I played an HD video on loop for the first hour. For the second hour, I browsed a graphics-heavy website.
Two hours after, the Galaxy S3’s battery was at 61% while the Nexus 4’s battery level was at 50%. With moderate use, I think both phones could last about 10 hours or more. The Galaxy S3, however, seems more likely to make it to the end of the day.
The Galaxy S3 was released with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich and later received an upgrade to Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean. The Nexus 4, on the other hand, is the first Android smartphone with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean out of the box.
Compared to the pure Android interface of the Nexus 4, the Galaxy S3 has Samsung’s TouchWiz Nature UX on top.
The lockscreen on the Nexus 4 looks similar to the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean lockscreen but with the new features of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. You can now swipe left and right on the lockscreen to scroll to different lockscreen pages. Here, you can place widgets, such as Gmail, Calendar, and Messages, and launch the Camera app directly from the lockscreen. To unlock the phone, simply tap the lock ring icon and swipe in any direction.
The lockscreen on the Galaxy S3 was inspired by nature. When you tap on the screen, you can see ripple effects and hear the sound of water droplets. Just tap anywhere and swipe in any direction to unlock your phone. You can also place up to 5 app shortcuts on the lockscreen.
Since both phones are running Android, you can enjoy your homescreen as your personal space. You can group your favorite apps together, place widgets, and personalize the homescreen. The Nexus 4 can only give you 5 homescreen pages, while the Galaxy S3 lets you use up to 7 homescreen pages.
Both phones also have a dock bar at the bottom for app shortcuts and folders. Each dock bar contains 4 app shortcuts or folders, with a button for the App Drawer. At the top of the Nexus 4’s screen, you’ll find its persistent search bar; the Galaxy S3 does not have this feature.
For both phones, simply swipe down from the Status bar to open the notification menu. The Galaxy S3’s notification menu looks similar to the Nexus 4’s Jelly Bean notification menu layout, but with a few changes courtesy of the TouchWiz UI. At the top of the Galaxy S3’s notification menu, you can find toggle buttons and a brightness bar so you can do your adjustments directly from there.
The Nexus 4 also has toggle buttons but they are situated in a different notification menu. You can find a button at the upper-right corner to view your notifications or to switch to toggle buttons. You can also swipe down from the status bar with two fingers to open the toggle buttons menu.
All your apps are stored in the App Drawer. The Galaxy S3’s app drawer looks the same as the Nexus 4’s, with some minor changes and customizability options.
The app drawer on the Galaxy S3 is a 5×4 grid, whereas the Nexus 4 uses a 5×5 grid. The Galaxy S3 also allows you to change your App Drawer into a Customizable grid, Alphabetical grid, and Alphabetical list. You can even hide some apps from the App Drawer. You cannot do these on the Nexus 4.
Both App drawers also contain a dedicated tab for widgets. You can view your widgets here and place them on the homescreen.
Being Android devices, both phones have a unique features that allow you to customize the phone’s interface.
The Nexus 4 allows you to do the following:
- Use screensavers, also known as Daydream, while charging the phone or when it’s on its dock
- Download and install third-party keyboards, launchers, and apps
- Use live wallpapers
- Group apps into folders
- Use widgets on the lockscreen
The Galaxy S3, too, has its customizable features such as:
- Select from two homescreen modes
- Change the font style
- Select from 4 screen modes
- Enable/disable motion gestures
- Use live wallpapers
- Download and install third-party apps, keyboards, and launchers
- Rearrange apps in the add drawer
The Nexus 4 uses the stock Android Keyboard while the Galaxy S3 uses its very own Samsung Keyboard. Both keyboards are easy to use and have their own unique features.
Android 4.2 Jelly Bean’s Android Keyboard features swipe gestures. With this keyboard, you can compose a text without lifting your fingers from the screen. If you’re tired of typing, you can compose your messages by using your voice; this voice-to-text feature does not need an Internet connection to work.
The Samsung Keyboard also lets you swipe to text with Continuous input. You can also write text messages with your hand or with a compatible stylus using the Handwriting feature. The keyboard also has a voice-to-text feature but it doesn’t seem to work offline. Google on the Galaxy S3 has an offline voice recognition feature but it doesn’t seem to work. I’m not sure if this is an isolated case on our test device.
The Nexus 4 uses Google Now as its default search app. I like how this app displays results on flashcards and automatically displays reminders or updates according to your data on Google. Google Now also allows you to search the Internet using the Nexus 4’s camera. You can take a picture of a monument and Google Now will search for info about it.
The Galaxy S3 also uses Google Now as its search app. You also have a virtual assistant called S Voice. You can ask S Voice for search terms, to set reminders, to set the alarm clock, to compose your text, to launch apps, and even search for nearby locations.
The Nexus 4 and the Galaxy S3 feature the same stock Android security features, such as:
- Screen lock types such as Slide, Face Unlock, Pattern, PIN, and Password
- Encrypting the data on the phone
- Enabling/disabling installation of apps not from the Google Play Store
- Showing or hiding passwords
- Adding a PIN for the Google Play Store app
The Galaxy S3, however, has added security features, such as:
- Motion unlock
- Face and Voice unlock
- Remote controls via SamsungDive
Check out our comparison video of these two phones:
Pricing and Availability
Google sells the the 8 GB and the 16 GB Nexus 4 for the price tags of US$299 and US$349, respectively. The Galaxy S3, on the other hand, comes in 16-, 32-, and 64-gigabyte variants with estimated prices of US$550, US$680, and US$800, respectively.
Both the Nexus 4 and the Galaxy S3 are excellent phones. These two phones have almost the same dimensions, eye-popping displays, fast processors, good cameras, and run on Android. I actually have a hard time deciding which phone to pick.
In terms of operating system, both phones run Jelly Bean but the Nexus 4 features the latest version, Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean, which is much smoother and carries new features such as Photo Sphere, lockscreen widgets, and UI improvements.
The Galaxy S3, on the other hand, has the features of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean with a lot of customizations and modifications through Samsung’s TouchWiz Nature UX. The OS on the phone is generally smooth, but not as smooth as Android 4.2 Jelly Bean on the Nexus 4.
Which phone are you getting for the holidays? Is it the newest Google Nexus 4 E960 or the popular Samsung Galaxy S3 GT-I9300? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment and voting in the polls below.