iPhone 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S3 (comparison)

With the iPhone 5 officially revealed and out in the wild, there’s only one real question to ask: does its improvements over the 4S make it a better phone than our #1 device, the Samsung Galaxy S III? It was only a few short months ago that we announced Samsung’s flagship device to be the best, and later confirmed it in our full review. With the newest iPhone, can Apple reclaim it’s throne?

Size

The iPhone may not have been the original smartphone, but one thing that Apple has managed to do so well – better than any competitor – is keep a form factor that is comfortable for one-handed use. As someone who’s on the phone as much as I’m breathing, the ability to use my phone one-handed is crucial. And a large number of people agree. Yet at the same time, bigger screens are becoming increasingly popular because they are more comfortable to look at for viewing media, browsing the internet, etc.

The difference between the iPhone 5 and GS3, then, isn’t the same as it was for the 4S vs the GS3. The 4S was smaller in every way, and lacked a widescreen display. The 5 has a larger 4″ display, displays at 16:9 for proper media viewing, and keeps that thin body for one-handed use while tacking on more screen real estate space.

Is a 4″ display that much better than a 3.5″ screen when compared to the GS3’s massive 4.8″ display? Actually, yes it is. It’s a huge difference. But is it enough to make the smaller phone better? Too tough to say until we get a unit in to hold and play with.

Winner: Tie, because while size is crucial and personal, the GS3 no longer has all the advantages it once did over the iPhone 4S. We’ll have to wait until we can actually use an iPhone 5 to make this judgment.

Appearance

The GS3 never really was a stunning looking device, though it does look great in white. But the iPhone? I wouldn’t say iconic, but it certainly does draw people’s attention, even if they’re everywhere. The iPhone 5 ups the ante in design with extremely contoured edges, high precision angles, and a new hardened aluminum back cover that manages to look better and still be safer than the 4/4S’ glass.

Winner: iPhone 5, with a great slightly new design that really fleshes out what the iPhone is.

Display

The three reasons why the GS3 beat out the iPhone 4S was because the display was bigger, a higher resolution, and offered better color contrast. The first two are still true against the iPhone 5, albeit that gap has shortened since the iPhone now has an 1163×640 display (compared to the GS3’s 1280×720 display). That’s 9% less pixels than the GS3, but also 0.8 cubic inches of screen space less. Color contrast we’ll have to see when we have a unit for testing.

With the updated display size, the difference in resolution is almost non-existent. It almost seems silly on Apple’s side, however, to keep the lower resolution when all HD media is either 720p or 1080p; unless the company has already designed the iPhone 5 to downscale all HD media to match it’s screen resolution, it’s just going to cause problems down the road for content creators. Worse yet, if all video is downscaled, then it’s going to look worse than on an actual 720p display, even if the aspect ratios are the same.

Then there’s size; the iPhone 5 is still smaller (iPhone 5, 4″ display…heh), which isn’t necessarily better for viewing media. Sure, it’s better to hold in the hand, but a smaller display isn’t right for everyone. And until we can actually play with an iPhone 5 to see how good the improved screen is, it’s clear to me that the GS3 still has the upper hand thanks to a proper HD resolution and larger display.

Winner: Galaxy S III, which has a larger, higher resolution display proper HD display that can display video at it’s native size without downscaling.

Operating System

Every time we ask which OS is better, I always go back to iOS. Even with it’s closed system and many annoying quirks, it is still more stable, simpler to use, and a generally better experience than Android. iOS 6, which I’ve played with for a few months, is equally decent, and offers some significant improvements to the OS. Even without them, iOS is still better than Android as it is now.

Winner: iPhone 5, because Android 4.1 isn’t as good as iOS 5, let alone iOS 6.

Processor

Last time, I said that the GS3 was more powerful than the iPhone 4S because it was a more powerful, newer CPU, with an enhanced GPU that would likely outperform the 4S. That won’t be the case with the iPhone 5…at least not for general computation and use.

The iPhone 5 uses the A6, which is actually an ARM Cortex-A15 system-on-a-chip. That’s compared to the ARM Cortex-A9 architecture nearly every other smartphone uses, and according to ARM, the A15 is conservatively 25% faster than the A9 with all other things identical (clock speed, die size, etc.). That is to say, there is very little chance that any chip is better than the one the new iPhone 5 has.

At least, when it comes to general computational power. If it comes to raw speed, that may not be the case, as Apple itself has shown by implementing the new iPod Touch with an A5x, which has more raw power but pays the price of higher power consumption. But compared to the GS3, the iPhone 5 will be both faster and more efficient when it comes to the CPU.

Winner: iPhone 5, which uses a new dual-core A6 processor which is more efficient and more powerful than today’s ARM processors.

Storage

Surprise surprise, the iPhone 5 has no expandable memory. It also comes in the same storage sizes as before – 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB. The GS3? It starts for $16GB, and has expandable memory. There’s also a 64GB version, which is only $100 more.

Winner: Galaxy S III, which offers expandable memory on top of identical on-board memory for less.

Wireless Connectivity

The iPhone 5 finally brings the iPhone to LTE, which is great news for Verizon and Sprint users who previously only had access to 3G CDMA networks. The GSM model will also support LTE, plus HSPA+, so even though LTE isn’t really available outside of the US. the few countries with it will have access through the iPhone, and anyone who purchases the newer Apple smartphone with LTE networks coming online will have immediate access.

And the GS3? It already supported those networks since May. The only difference is that the GS3 released on essentially all carriers in the US, and is available through everyone worldwide. In terms of wireless connectivity, it also supports NFC and FM radio. We’ll have to wait and see how good the iPhone 5’s Wi-Fi antenna is before that’s a deciding factor.

Winner: Galaxy S III, which has NFC, FM radio, and is available on more carriers worldwide.

Camera

Previously, it was a tie between the iPhone 4S and Galaxy S III, which I said was only because I needed the GS3 in for testing. Then we ran some exhaustive tests between the cameras, and found them surprisingly evenly matched. Chances are, that won’t be the case with the iPhone 5.

The improvements to the iPhone 5’s camera are few, but if they’re even a quarter as major for the end picture as Apple says, then it’ll be a big enough improvement to once again make the iPhone camera king. Previously I found that the iPhone 4S shot on par with the Lumia 900 and GS3. The only device I haven’t tested it against with a potentially better camera is the Nokia Purview 808.

Winner: iPhone 5, which with even a slight improvement will have a better shooter than the Galaxy S III.

Battery Life

Without more data, this one is tough to say. Part of the reason the iPhone 5 has increased in size isn’t just to make it a widescreen display; it was also to increase the battery size so the phone could handle LTE and other new features. There’s no doubt in my mind that the iPhone 5 has a larger battery, perhaps up to ~1600mAh, which was the standard for smartphones a year or two ago. Now, however, most high-end handsets have 2000mAh+ batteries, with some going as high as 3300mAh on the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx.

However, iOS has always been far more power conservative than Android. With minimal use, the iPhone 4S could last 2.5 days on a single charge. Most Android phones can’t do that, even with significantly larger batteries. The GS3 could; Samsung’s flagship was a rarity in this way, even with it’s massive display. But is it better than the iPhone 5’s battery?

At this time, I’ll say yes, for two reasons: first, because the battery in the new iPhone won’t be larger than the 2100mAh battery in the GS3 right now. Second, the iPhone 5 has exactly the same lifespan, according to Apple, as the 4S, even with a larger battery. If the 4S didn’t have better battery life than the GS3, then by Apple’s own admission neither does the iPhone 5.

Winner: Galaxy S III, which has a larger battery, and according to Apple the iPhone 5 lasts just as long as the 4S, albeit with more functions and a larger screen.

Carriers

We originally thought that the Galaxy S III would release on all carriers but Verizon; that turned out to be hugely wrong, and even with that mistake the iPhone lost its crown as top smartphone. No, the GS3 is available on every major carrier, and pretty much every minor carrier as well. If you get a GS3, there is no doubt that it’ll work with any cell provider in the world.

And the iPhone 5? It’s not available for T-Mobile still, but will be available for some smaller carriers like MetroPCS. We’re just waiting for that announcement. But, even then, T-Mobile is a huge market of customers who would otherwise buy the phone that can’t.

Winner: Galaxy S III, which is available on all carriers, including T-Mobile.

Price

Normally, I’d say that it’s based on today’s price. The iPhone 5 sells for $200, $300, or $400 for the 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB models respectively. Those prices for an increase in flash storage are not only ridiculous, but a sham against Apple’s own customers. Nearly every competing phone and tablet these days is offering a boost in storage for $50-$70, and for smartphones it’s almost always $50.

Meanwhile, the Galaxy S III started selling for $200, and the 64GB model sold for $300. Now, you can buy the GS3 for as low as $100 (all prices include a two-year contract). But more importantly, you get that lower-price across any carrier, and if you decide to wait or haven’t completed your contract yet, you can wait and the price will actually go down. Because that’s how things work in a capitalist economy.

Winner: Galaxy S III, which is less expensive and more price friendly in every way.

Overall Winner

While I was surprised, and in many ways happy, to see the iPhone had finally met its match in the Galaxy S III, the recent ruling on Samsung’s copyright infringement may point to an obvious reason why. Yet even then, Apple has in three very serious ways limited the iPhone 5 when compared to the best Android phone on the market: storage, carrier availability, and pricing.

When it comes to storage, it’s clear that 16GB isn’t really enough anymore, especially with most major devices moving to 720p graphics or the equivalent thereof. The only reason Apple hasn’t moved in that direction was to save money no pushing more pixels into a display that’s already remarkably dense. The iPhone just doesn’t need another 80 pixels across. Yet it does need a better base amount of flash storage; with over 700,000 apps in the App Store, and with so many good ones, it doesn’t make sense for Apple to sell an iPhone with so little space. I am constantly running out of space on my iPhone 4S and deleting media and apps to make room for new ones. And with no option for expandable media, there’s no chance for me to really get the most out of my phone.

Unless I upgrade to a significantly more expensive device with more storage. That’s the second problem. Apple sells it’s three iPhones with a difference of $100 each, when the difference in mass-producing 16GB vs 32GB of flash storage is literally less than a dollar. Yet Apple is charging over 100x that amount, and making pure profit. That’s a damn shame. The sad irony is that people who realize this but want iPhones can purchase the lower-end model out of principle, but then they have to suffer for two years…and Apple thinks people don’t need the space because they keep buying the lower-end storage option.

Finally, carrier availability. Apple can easily sell on any carrier, but they don’t. This makes sense, but if you live in a big city and use a small carrier, or a big one like T-Mobile, then you can’t subsidize the phone whatsoever. And Apple doesn’t sell their phones for cheap; it costs $650 for an off-contract iPhone 5, and you’ll have to wait a few weeks before they even begin to start selling them.

The most important thing that everyone but Apple understands is that people need to be able to communicate. It’s a necessity, a requirement. Yet Apple treats the iPhone like a luxury good, meaning people who buy it can afford to wait in line, can afford to wait a few weeks for it, etc. But when someone needs a new phone, they will go out and buy it, and if the iPhone 5 isn’t there, available on that person’s carrier of choice and not at a price the individual can afford, then Apple isn’t going to get that sale. That’s partly why the iPhone has 30% of the smartphone market in the US compared to the over 50% of Android. And while Apple’s holding steady, Android is growing.

So even if Apple’s iPhone 5 proves to be a better size, overall, the Samsung Galaxy S III is still a better option for everyday consumers.

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James Pikover

Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.

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45 Comments

  1. Galaxy S3 over this.”>Nice case, but I would recommend the Pong Research Galaxy S3 over this.The amount of wireless energy a cell phone user is exposed to depends on the technology of the phone, the distance between the phone’s antenna and the user, the extent and type of use, and the user’s distance from cell phone towers.That’s why I did research and found a case that can reduce radiation exposure.I found cases from Pong Research, I read that this technology reduces exposure to radiation while optimizing the mobile reception. I was skeptical about it, anyway, I decided to try it, because Pong is the only technology proven in FCC-certified laboratories to reduce the exposure to mobile device radiahtion by up to 95% below the FCC limit without compromising the device’s ability to communicate.

  2. Alot of the back and forth is just silly. Any tests I have seen (you tube, Cnet, PCmag etc) that shows comparisons in speed when it comes to the Iphone 5 or S3 are slight at best. I have yet to see a side by side where it took someone more then a second to pull up a page compared to the other. I have seen both beat the other. (maybe a 1/2 a sec at best, if that) They are both fast. When using my upgrade I was looking at things that matter to me. (If a milisec matters to you then whatever) I like that the Iphone 5 screen gets a little bit brighter in sunlight. I like how sturdy it feels. I like that Apple updates the past Iphone’s (which to me means they will continue to update my I phone5, something that they stopped doing with my older Samsung phone). The Iphone’s are reliable, less freeze screen, phone shutting off etc. All things I experienced with my old Samsung phone. I still almost picked the s3 but only because of the screen size. I say pick the phone the way you will use the phone, but the post saying that the Iphone or S3 is way more powerful the the other?! You my friends are being ridiculous.

    1. What is even stranger is that the S3 won the head to head and people are still complaining that it didnt win by a larger margin… i mean really??

  3. ios is better because there are more apps made for them than android…n also almost all apps r designed for ios first then android… most of the android user never buy apps, game things ..thats the reason i think n also ios is the easiest to use..n apple use best quality of materials..

  4. Remember, it is apple that is making the money in the industry – and there is a very good reason for that: they deliver more value to the customers which makes them willing to pay the premium price…

  5. Hey SG3, what’s that in your rear view mirror? Oh, it’s just the iPhone 5 riding its peddle
    bike trying to pull a trailer load of iSheep that just won’t get off the wagon
    and move to greener pastures

  6. im just going to focus on those last two sentences.. apple holds 30% of the smart phone market and android holds 50%. you literally just compared a phone to an operating system. think about that. its back to comparing macs to windows again. android is on hundreds if not thousands of products. ive been looking at plenty of iphone comparisons, and they compare only the phones.. and wonder why people buy apple products. that is half, if not less than half there is to an iphone. apple does nothing but try to integrate between all devices seamlessly and the operating system is almost always going to be the most important part of the phone. and with a larger user base there will always be more support. sure, there are a couple things that are on android that would be nice to see on the iphone (maybe), but its NOT the same. its the features iphones have more than anything. (if samsung didnt already steal them)

  7. Regarding battery life, note that it’s incredibly easy to get an insanely good third-party extended battery on amazon for the s3 (obviously not possible for the iphone)…the battery is 4200 mah made by Hyperion, and you can buy it together with a new back and protective case all for $30.

  8. I love how all the categories are weighed the same – oh, GS3 has access to T-Mobile, so +1 for GS3? LOL, who CARES about crummy providers like TM? You weigh that the same as which has a more powerful processor? Lame

  9. absolute rubbish. i stopped reading from this line on: ”
    Winner: iPhone 4S, because Android 4.1 isn’t as good as iOS 5, let alone iOS 6.”

  10. You are a biased writer. Without bias itd obvious the iphone 5 is inferior with comparison. Apple lemmings such as yourself are butt hurt because you are all in denial thay apple is sticking their stick up your behinds with this product and you are merely asking :with lube or without”

  11. James could you explain a little more about how iOS is better? This section lacks any real hard evidence and sounds just like your opinion. I have used both OS’s and I prefer the functionality of Android over the locked nature of iOS. Also feature wise iOS is just now offering things Android had many versions ago. So some real data to back up your claims would be good and make you sound less like a fanboy.

  12. iClones will always flock to iPhones. I’m currently on the iPhone 4. When my renewal comes up in spring, I’m done with apple. Only thing I like about the iPhone is the app selection (which will come on android) and the fact that I can JB it to do what I want. Well, the app store and the developers that made the apps are the only reason that apple has a product. The app store used to be a joke. Since apple continually stomps the profit out of these developers, I’m sure they’ll look to jump ship. I don’t need to JB the GS3. What’s left? Apple is a fad and the ‘cool’ thing. Now that the ‘cool’ Jobs is dead and all that’s left is the corporate losers, is it even ‘cool’ anymore?

  13. Actually the American Galaxy S3 uses the snapdragon for which in fact is an A6 hybrid so your statement is partially false.As far as raw processing they will be neck and neck

  14. I love my GS3 and has never been impressed with the IPhone, but it’s truly up to the individual user to discover which phone suits their needs.

  15. Whilst I think the comparison is decent and not necessarily biased I can’t agree with the S3 being an overall better device. I work in a corporate organisation that currently deploys S3’s and iPhone 4s’s to our corporate internal customers.

    The Galaxy S3 may be a good toy for us geeks but its not the phone of choice for every day consumers.

    Whilst the S3 is a pretty phone with beefy specs lets be honest here – its plastic, it feels weird to hold in the hand and is a nightmare to set up for users who have no idea what they are doing.

    The iPhone has always felt natural – it mimics natural gestures and doesn’t take long to master. I find the S3 doesn’t offer the same usability and it makes training difficult for end users in my job. The operating system on the S3’s is just too complicated, it doesn’t flow and many times users have had difficulty deleting something as simple as an app.

    I still think the iPhone is a better product – I have one of each for work and I will always prefer the iPhone for its ease of use and stability in business and in leisure.

    1. What the heck? Just because iPhone is suitable for the technically challenged, it is the better phone? So, if I started using my calculator to do simple sums that my son can do in his brain, I am better?

      1. a good device should be easy enough for anyone to use. why does it have to be riddled with obstacles to perform simple tasks? the iPhones wins in this department because it mimics natural gestures and gets the job done. Your technical ability should have nothing to do with the phone!!!!

        1. Not really, when on my iOS device when I am looking at a website that is blocked (i live in China) it takes me 6 steps to turn on my VPN and then 3 steps to get back to my browser. On my Android because I can set it up the way I want it takes me 3 steps to turn on my VPN an 1 to get back to my bowser. So your saying the phone that takes 9 steps as opposed to 4 is more natural? What is most natural is a phone that allows the end user the freedom to choose how they use it, not force everyone to do it the same way.

  16. I’ll just rehash what others are saying. SIII wins hands down and its not even close. Screen is tie? Iphone 5 camera wins out????? IOS(for dummies) beats out Android??? You have got to be mentally retarded to believe those three things? It’s sad, because some unsuspecting buyer will come accross this review and buy an iphone 5 and not have a clue that they are sacrificing so much..

  17. Obviously biased to apple if they win the OS contest; must have had someone bug him to make the s3 win, pretending to be balanced for the obvious only.. 8 megapixel camera on the s3 with instant shutter, hdr, panorama, and countless add-ons and editing tools; more than i’ve ever seen or could possibly dream of. The iOS is better than Android 4.1? Wtf? Let’s talk about NO widgets, NO customization, NO home screen, only staring at boring icons like a permanent app drawer. Who doesn’t like having a customized background and widgets? Processor? Wtf? S3 is also a quad core, you can’t compare just one spec of the cpu’s.

    1. you do know that the iPhone5 outperforms the S3 in todays benchmarks right? iOS is designed for the iPhone. Android is designed universally for more than just Sammy phones. iOS is simple and straight to the point. If someone wants to tinker around they can buy a computer not an S3.

    2. Strange to me that someone would use Widgets, Customization, and the Home Screen to push the point that the s3 is better the the Iphone5. My old phone had widgets, customization, but after a while I want performance. It would be nice I guess to have a little more custimization…. but it is no way a game changer.

  18. I don’t think it’s been confirmed that the iPhone 5 is using A15’s yet. And even if it is, and they are “25-40% faster than all Cortex A9’s”, that would STILL leave the dual core iPhone 5 considerably weaker than the Quad core Galaxy S3.

  19. This is why no one respcts your BS article…. See your article. ios is behind the times static icons. The customizable widgets on android allows you to glance at your phones lock screen and gather information. 4.1 trumps ios with Google now. Sur ios is the os for the technologically challanged, but for advanced users and early adopters what is offered in ios 6 is still stuck in 2007. Now apple is starting to cherry pick certain features from android. Actually thats all this releas was iphone playing android catch up not revolutionizing the industry again. Its obvious Jobs is gone because loom how stale the device is becoming.

    1. android produces a phone like every two weeks… of course iphone would be playing “catchup” with all the phones droids make that are supposed to be better than iphone, they all break down after some time so they make newer phones. iphone is by far the most reliable phone and they can afford to make one once a year as opposed to one every 2 weeks.. iphones much more reliable

      1. Your in so much denial its hilarious. Reliable? Look at drop tests and see what stays useable. Os reliability is no question since ics

        1. Lets take a look back between a comparison in my household, i own a galaxy S2, and my gf owns an iphone 4s, similar phones if your comparing the S3 with the IP5. Her phone has since been proven to be much slower than mine, the home button has more or less stopped responding, and with the smaller screen its harder to view things, and thats not including the recent loss of google to apple, and other OS custom related things. Now don’t get me wrong I personally have no issue with apple products, I own a mac as well as a pc and I honestly prefer any music player even my own phones to an ipod just for simplicity and battery life, (Which I honestly think the phones is slightly better over the S2s) but when you look at the amount of companies that are making android phones, sure, Apple is one company, with a MASSIVE amount of time to put into designing their single phone, and this is what they come up with? the iphone 5 or should i say the iphone4.3S? This shouldn’t be considered a new model rather a stepping stone up towards an IP5, steps like this should have been made AGES ago, and atop of the only having a dual core in it? Sure its “Supported” whiten the Ios so it would respond faster but a quad-core just has more power, And as a final note on durability, look at how many people have to go to the apple store to get repairs on broken screens?, Ive dropped mine out of my pocket onto pavement while riding my bike and it only dented in a corner slightly, and besides if your that worried about your phone becoming broken, just go buy a case.

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