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Thinner Lighter Better

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Apple iPhone 5 DETAILED comparison

By Andrei Girbea - @ andreigirbea , updated on August 9, 2014

Hey everyone, Mike here and today we’ll have the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Apple iPhone 5 side by side, in a DETAILED comparison.

We’re going to start with the looks. It’s obvious that the iPhone is a much smaller device than the Samsung Galaxy S4. It’s also significantly lighter, and because of that, it is going to be the more comfortable handset for most of us, unless you have giant hands. For the rest of us, the iPhone is going to be easier to use with a single hand, but that’s just one side of the coin.

The overall design and build quality is another, and the iPhone 5 is a notch over the Samsung, with its metal and glass body, as opposed to the plastic used for the S4. It’s true, Samsung upped the game over the S3 and now offers a hyper glazed design for the back cover. But it still feels a bit cheap and outdated, compared to the iPhone and many of the other top-smartphones of the moment. On the other hand, the iPhone does tend to scuff easily, especially on the black version, so you will probably need a case for both these devices.

But the Samsung does gain points on other fronts. First, I do like the button layout, with the Power button on the right, just where your thumb is, and the volume rocker near your index finger on the left, that if you’re a righty. It’s the other way around if you’re a lefty. Then, the Samsung does offer more features than the iPhone, with a microUSB slot with MHL-HDMI and an IR blaster on top, as opposed to the Lightning connector on the Apple handset. And last but not least, the plastic cover on the back of the SGS 4 is removable and once you take it off, you get access to the battery, a microSD card-reader and the microSIM slot.

So in the end, the Samsung wins when it comes to features and utility, while the iPhone is more compact, lighter and easier to grab and use by the average person. It’s up to you to pick what matters more for you.

The screens

Moving on, the iPhone 5 sports a 4 inch screen with an IPS panel, while on the Samsung there’s a 5 inch screen with a Super AMOLED panel. There’s also a pixel density advantage for the S4, thanks to its 1080p screen, which means that texts, icons and fine details are going to be extremely sharp on this one. But to be frank, you’ll almost never see the difference between the Retina display on the iPhone and the FullHD one on the Samsung during everyday use.

Other things however matter more. The IPS panel on the iPhone is brighter and displays slightly more realistic colors than the one on the Samsung, which does tends to over saturate them. Viewing angles are slightly better on the iPhone too, but the SGS 4 takes it home when it comes to blacks and contrast.

All in all, both screens are stunning, and each has its pros and cons. I should also mention that the S4 is using the latest super sensitive Gorilla Glass 3, which offers extra toughness and means that you will be able to use your phone with gloves on or other objects, while the iPhone 5 is only covered by an older generation of Gorilla Glass.

Above the screen there’s the front camera and some sensors on the iPhone, while the Samsung does bundle a couple of extras there, with an IR sensor that enables gestures and a notification LED next to the standard camera and light-sensor. Below the screen there’s the classic home button on the iPhone, and a physical button on the Samsung, flanked by capacitive Back and Menu buttons, just like on the S3 and their other top-smartphones.

Software and performances – iOS or Android?

Anyway, let’s move on. Looks and screen apart, the buyers will care about how the two phones actually act in everyday use. And here’s where the Android vs iOS debate kicks off. iOS is simple and rather dull, but snappy and backed up by a curated ecosystem, while Android is more complex and easier to customize and adapt to your style.

With the S4 though, that runs Android 4.2 JellyBean, Samsung did bring many of their own touches over the OS, starting with the TouchWiz UI and continuing with all their S Apps and Motion gestures. In fact, there are many new gestures brought by the S4. I’m not going to get in depth here, some are gimmicks, but some are actually useful. You should see my dedicated clip on motion gestures for more details about them.

iOS or Android - what would you pick?

iOS or Android – what would you pick?

At the end of the day though, both these handsets are incredibly snappy and can deal with all sorts of contents and tasks, from browsing to editing photos and videos, from chatting to playing the latest HD games. The powerful hardware inside the phones has a role in this. You can check now the specs of the two phones compared here, and while you’ll notice that the S4 washes the floor with the iPhone 5 on paper and even in most synthetic tests, when it comes to everyday use, the Samsung is still the one that gets sluggish sometimes, while the iOS powered handset does not. So this is not just a game of power, it’s more.

Of course, a smartphone still needs to handle the basics, and the two handsets compared here can handle calls at ease, offer top notch reception and quality, even in congested or noisy environments. They are great for messaging and chatting too, with a slight bump for the S4, which offers a wider screen and an excellent Swype enabled keyboard.

Anyway, let’s focus a bit on the cameras on these two devices. On the front, there’s a 1080p shooter on the Samsung and only a 720p on the iPhone. On the back, there’s a 13 MPx camera on the Galaxy, and only an 8 MPx one on the iPhone. But we shouldn’t judge cameras by megapixels alone, we judge them by results. And while I’ve seen 13 Mpx shooters fail in the past, that’s not the case here, as the camera on the S4 is capable of at least matching the one on the Apple device and even outmatching it in enough cases. See for yourself in the video review.

Besides that, the Samsung offers a much more complex photo interface, with plenty of interesting features, as opposed to the plain and simple one on the i5. You get several shootings modes, just like on the Samsung Smart Camera, filters and tons of manual settings, so we can really say that Samsung put a lot of effort in the camera on their S4.

As we get closer to the end of our comparison, we should talk about two more important aspects. First, the battery life. With average use, the iPhone can last through the day. The Samsung however can even last for two days. The SGS 4 now houses a larger battery than its predecessor, and that makes up for the more power hungry screen and hardware. So unless you’re pushing the S4 hardly, in which case you’ll only get several hours of use from it, you’re going to be happy with the battery life. Which I can’t actually say about the iPhone 5, that has been my main driver for the last months.

And then there’s the price, and while this one will vary from country to country, from operator to operator, it’s safe the say that with contracts, the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S4 are going to cost the same in most cases. Of contract, the iPhone 5 is still the slightly pricier option.

Wrap up – who wins?

OK, so time to draw some conclusions. My own conclusions, that might be different than yours, but feel free to contradict me in a civilized manner in the comments.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is a great phone. There’s no deal breaker on this one, nothing that you can really complain about. Yes, you might not like the plastic case, I don’t either. But the hardware and software, the features, the battery, the camera and the screen are among the best out there. Those being said, if you are after a large phone, the S4 is definitely an option to consider.

Both are awesome smartphones - I'll stick to the iPhone for now, but how about you?

Both are awesome smartphones – I’ll stick to the iPhone for now, but how about you?

However, I still believe that the iPhone 5 is better suited for the average smartphone user. It lacks many of the features offered by the S4, but it is more compact, easier to grab and use and snappier during everyday activities. And for me, these really matter.

For you, they might not. Either way, I’m really curious to see what do you guys think about these two handsets, so please leave your comments below and tell me which one would you pick between the two and why.

Alright, this pretty much wraps up this post. I tried to keep it short, for more details you should see my full review for the two phones and all the other detailed clips on my Youtube channel and here on the site.

Andrei Girbea, aka "Mike", Editor-in-Chief at TLBHD.com. I absolutely hate carrying around heavy stuff, that's why I'm fond of mini-laptops and portable computers. I'm primarily using such devices and have been testing them for many years now. Get in touch in the comments section below.

3 Comments

  1. Beomagi

    October 4, 2013 at 6:35 am

    The micro sd card is a big sell fo me. Being able to drop in another 64GB via a cheap card keeps the price lower than buying it built in. Plus, it provides a fast way to swap out large media files. I know a lot of people think the screen is small, but I’ve used smaller on my bus catching up on tv shows – so also yay for solid free players that decode just about anything.

  2. J.

    October 29, 2013 at 11:51 am

    It is my understanding that the audio feature on the iPhone can be challenging.

  3. Michael Connell

    December 19, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    I have to say I’ve had the iphone before and loved it. I just got a Galaxy S4 last week and it’s the best ios phone I have ever had. It has tons of things not offered on the iphone. The 64GB MiniSD for one. Also it decodes just about any video I’ve put on here. I would definitely say that the iphone if for beginner and the Galaxy S4 is for techies. Both can be broken but there is really no reason to break the S4 for me.

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