iPhone 5s vs Samsung Galaxy S4 (hands on comparison)

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o longer than a few weeks ago, Apple began selling the iPhone 5s.  According the company they sold 9 million iPhone 5s and 5c phones just three days after their launch.  This brings the total number of iOS devices to a staggering 200 million.  Not bad for a company that almost went bust in the 90s.

The iPhone 5c is effectively an iPhone 5 with a wider array of colorway options.  So that said, the iPhone 5s is the phone to beat.  And in this particular instance, the Samsung Galaxy S4.  The Galaxy S4 is Samsung’s flagship device, at least for now, and was also the number 1 seller across 3 major carriers (Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile) here in the US for the months of June, July and August.  But that changed when the iPhone 5s launched in September, unseating Sammy from the top spot, and taking the coveted pole position across all 4 major US carriers.  So without further adeu let’s examine what has made these two devices such a big hit.

iPhone 5S
iPhone 5
Samsung Galaxy S4
iPhone 5s
Size 4.87(H) x 2.31(W) x 0.30(D) inches 5.38(H) x 2.75(W) x 0.31(D) inches
Weight 3.95oz 4.59oz
Body Composition Aluminum / Glass Polycarbonate / Glass
Display 4-inch (diagonal) Retina display; 1136 x 640 resolution; 326 ppi 5-inch (diagonal) TFT – Super AMOLED display; 1920 x 1080 resolution;       441 ppi
Battery Built-in rechargeable 1,570mAh (not confirmed) lithium-ion battery / Charging via USB to computer system or power adapter / Talk time: Up to 10 hours on 3G / Standby time: Up to 250 hours / Internet use: Up to 8 hours on 3G, up to 10 hours on LTE, up to 10 hours on Wi-Fi / Video playback: Up to 10 hours / Audio playback: Up to 40 hours Removable, rechargeable 2,600 mAh lithium-ion battery (wireless charging in some markets) / Charging via Micro USB to computer system or power adapterTalk time: Up to 15 hours on 3G / Standby time: Up to 290 hours / Internet Use: Up to 8 hours (3G/4G/LTE); Up to 10 hours on Wi-Fi / Video playback: Up to 10 hours / Audio Playback: Up to 83 hours
Processor Apple A7 with 64-bit architecture; 1.3 GHz; 1GB RAM;  M7 Motion Co-Processor* Qualcomm Snapdragon 600; 1.9 GHz;
OS iOS 7 Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean)
Storage Flash Memory: 16GB / 32GB / 64GB Flash Memory: 16GB / 32GB / 64GB;Up to 64GB additional via removable microSD card
Camera 8 MP iSight Camera (rear); Video recording: HD (1080p) up to 30 frames per second with audio;  1.2MP FaceTime HD camera (front); Video Recording HD (720p) up to 30 frames per second  13 MP camera (rear); Video recording: HD (1080p) up to 30 frames per second with audio; 2 MP camera (front); Video Recording: HD (1080p) up to 30 frames per second with audio
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.0 4.0
Price  16GB $199 / 32GB $299 / 64GB $399 with contract;16GB **  $649 / 32GB $749 / 64GB $849 without contract  Varies greatly from carrier to carrier with service contract: $99 – $300 depending on provider **  Purchased without service contract “unlocked”: $300 – $700

Size and Weight

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Needless to say the Samsung S4 out weighs the iPhone 5s by almost 20 grams.  But rightfully so, as it boasts a larger screen measuring 5-inches from corner to corner.  The iPhone 5s has a 4-inch display – the same as the iPhone 5 – and weighs 112 grams versus the S4′s 130 grams.

In the hand there is almost an impercievable difference in weight between the two handsets.  At least at first.  But after a few back and forths it’s relatively obvious that the Galaxy S4 is the heavier of the too.

As for actual physical size the iPhone 5s can easily fit inside of the S4′s footprint.  Moreover, the S4 is a bit thicker than the iPhone 5s.  But what really matters is in the pocket.  And in this instance the iPhone 5s wins hands down.  In my experience the Samsung S4 can be intrusive to any pair of slim fitting pants, where as the iPhone 5s fits into the mix more seamlessly.  It may seem like a petty quibble, but it’s one I take to heart.

Winner: Tie.  The size and weight of each device is different, but with that comes caveats for both; the S4 is heavier but has a larger screen.  The iPhone 5s is lighter and svelter but has a smaller screen.


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Needless to say, Apple’s iPhone 5s is virtually identical to that of the iPhone 5, save for the slightly different looking Home button (i.e. Touch Sensor ID).  They’ve also added a new set of colorways, including Gold, which is a love it or hate it scenario.

The Galaxy S4 isn’t all that distinguishable from its predecessor, the Samsung S3, though it doesn’t boast a larger screen and updated internals.

Comparing the two is a bit like apples to oranges.  The Galaxy S4 uses a polycarbonate casing (i.e. plastic) that feels cheap, especially when the back casing is removed and standing alone.  The iPhone 5s is made from anodized aluminum, and feels down right industrial and high end.  In other words, it’s easy to see why the iPhone 5s appeals to those with a penchant for style.

In terms of the layout of things, the iPhone 5s’s speaker makes much more sense as it’s positioned at the foot of the phone.  Lay it flat on a surface and you can still easily hear it.  The S4′s speaker is on the back of the handset, as are so many other Android handsets.  Though, Samsung has created a sort of speaker guard that ensures its back isn’t flush with the surface it’s laying on, and in turn lets sounds escape less hindered.

Both phones have a physical home button and perform similar actions.  I prefer a touchscreen home button, as found on the Nexus 4, so it’s a rather moot issue in this case since both have neither.  What the iPhone 5s does have that the Samsung Galaxy S4 doesn’t, is a mute/vibrate switch that allows you to instantly silence your phone.  With the S4 you have to use your volume rocker switch or hold the power/lock button for a second until presented with the onscreen option.

If a call or text is missed the iPhone 5s can repeatedly vibrate or emit a tone.  The option is user adjustable.  The Galaxy S4 on the other hand has an LED light that will flash intermittently.  If so desired, the color of the LED can be changed depending on the notification.  I prefer the S4′s notification system since it can be seen from far away, even when the phone is silenced, and will flash in perpetuity.

Winner: Tie.  Both phones have their pros and cons in design.  The iPhone 5s is clearly more high end looking and feeling, but there are some pros that in the S4 you won’t find in Apple’s handset.


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Despite the size difference in battery – 2600mAh for the Samsung Galaxy S4 versus the iPhone 5s’s 1560mAh – they both last for about a day.  Of course this depends on use, but since I’ve used both phones from day to day, and for roughly the same activities, I can anecdotally say they’re each good for a day of battery use.  However, the Galaxy S4′s battery is user replaceable, and because of that I’m giving the nod to the Galaxy S4.

Winner: Galaxy S4.  The battery is user replaceable and swappable.


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One thing is absolute: the Galaxy S4 has a larger display, and significantly so measuring 1-inch larger from corner to corner.  I much prefer the bigger display of the S4 over the iPhone 5s, simply because I feel as though I can be more productive on the device, especially when it comes to business related activities.

The whites are whiter on the iPhone 5s, which can be attributed to the type of panel used on Apple’s handset; IPS.  The Samsung Galaxy S4 is of the AMOLED type, which has a blue hue by its very nature.

Resolution with respect to screen size is a moot issue in this comparison, as both are so pixel dense it’s impossible to tell that one is full HD (Galaxy S4) and one isn’t (iPhone 5s).   The Galaxy S4 is a bit more contrasty, which is to say the darks are more evident.

Unfortunately today isn’t a sunny day, so a direct sun light test will have to wait, but both are equally bright and clear.  The iPhone 5s, however, does have a wider viewing angle, albeit it’s only a discernible difference after a point where it become widely impractical.  In other words, the iPhone’s screen can be seen further off axis, but at an angle that isn’t usable.


Day to day, both of these phones are blazing fast.  Yet, I couldn’t help but notice that the iPhone 5s loaded up Gadget Review perhaps a half a second or a second faster.  The S4 boasts Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 600 processor, which is second to their most powerful of chips.

The iPhone 5s is sporting the A7 processor, Apple’s latest and greatest.  Arguably the iPhone 5s’s processor is more future proof since it is 64-bit, but for now it won’t be reflected in day to day use.  That said, the iPhone 5s is zippy as can be, bit it’s not leaps or bounds over that of the Samsung Galaxy S4.

While I’ll dig into the camera in a separate section, the iPhone 5s captures photos at the same speed as a blink of an eye.  This can be partially related to software tweaks, but some of it, along with the ability to do slow-mo on the fly, can be attributed to the power house of  chip that is under the hood.

As for benchmarks, here are the Basemark results for each respective device:

iPhone 5s:
On Screen:27.683 fps
Off Screen:15.982 fps

Samsung Galaxy S4:
On Screen:8.858 fps
Off Screen: 7.498 fps


I need to perform more hands on tests.  I know, I know.  That’s not exactly fair, but I wanted to publish this comparison before any more time transpired.

The iPhone 5s’s camera is impressive and on usability alone I give it points over the S4′s.  The megapixel count on the S4 is higher, but size isn’t every thing, everyone knows that.  Moreover, Apple has increased the size of the pixel to 1.5µ pixels, which is said to collect more light and help the iPhone’s camera perform better in low light scenarios.

I own a Galaxy S4 Google Edition, so my handset is devoid of Samsung’s camera tricks. So, unfortunately I can’t compare its software tricks to that of the iPhone 5s’s.  Nevertheless, the iPhone 5s’s ability to capture 120fps at 720p (slowmo video) alone makes it a remarkable camera.  However, it’s a struggle to export that video and retain the slowmo effect, something I learned in the early days of using my iPhone 5s.

Winner: For now the iPhone 5s.  And I believe it will stay that way.  The Galaxy S4′s camera has never been all that great, unless in very bright scenarios.  Also, the UI is beleaguering and more cumbersome to use than Apple’s.

Operating System

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OS, or operating system, is very subjective.  While I like the look and feel of iOS – it feels more polished – it offers less in terms of utility.  And despite Apple copying a number of features that have long been available in Android – such as the task view, notification center and control center – there still are no home screen widgets.  My S4 includes two widgets (work calendar and email) on separate screens adjacent to the home screen – one or two flicks away.

And although the iPhone now has access to Google Now, it’s not as fully backed as the Android OS, which can read emails and tell you if a package is on time, your flight is delayed, or what your check in information is for a flight.  Google Now can also serve up suggest on close by places, the weather, and tell you when to leave to get your next appointment or reservation.  It’s both creepy and awesome at the same time.

Both handsets have access to a cloud storage service.  And because Google’s is device agnostic – though it works better on an Android – it means I can go from device to device without hassle.  So again, I’m drawn to the Android OS.

Winner: Android.  Keep in mind I’ve used both OSes extensively.  In fact, I’ve used iOS longer, but I still prefer the overall utility that Android brings to the table, especially with their cloud service.  Plus you can remove Apps from the home screen.

After thought: with a Nexus device you can tether no matter your data plan.


This one is ultra easy: the Galaxy S4.  You can add 64GB microSD, which means you’re not locked at whatever capacity you bought.  The iPhone 5s is limited to just three options: 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S4.  It has a microSD card slot that supports up to a 64GB card.


Look.  It’s obvious that each phone has its pros and cons.  The iPhone 5s’s Touch ID Sensor is a feat in and upon itself, and while it’s remarkable and groundbreaking for a handset, it’s not one that adds so much utility or convenience that it should convince you to not get another phone – in this case that’s the Galaxy S4.

The iPhone 5s’s screen, especially after using the Galaxy S4 for many months, is awkwardly small by comparison, and makes the device less useful in business cases.

Apple’s OS is for the more tech averse, as things are more transparent, but with that comes less customization and the sensation that you’re locked into a dumbed down device despite how much you can learn about the OS.

And then there is the camera and performance.  The iPhone 5s is rock solid and both, as seen in both just the overall camera experience as well as the processor’s benchmarks in Basemark.

But again, use both devices.  Remove the Touch Sensor ID from the equitation and I think you’ll make the right decision with the above info at hand.  Me?  I like the iPhone 5s, the camera is great, but I ultimately feel limited.



Christen Costa

Grew up back East, got sick of the cold and headed West. Since I was small I have been pushing buttons - both electronic and human. With an insatiable need for tech I thought "why not start a blog focusing on technology, and use my dislikes and likes to post on gadgets."

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