iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone comparison review

iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4: review 

The iPhone 5 launched last September and, at the time it was groundbreaking in many areas. However, since the iPhone 5 launched a number of new phones have appeared on the market giving it a run for its money, and none more so than the Samsung Galaxy S4 (at least in terms of hype). 

Available in the UK since 27 April, the Galaxy S4 is Samsung's flagship Android smartphone (read our full review of the Galaxy S4 here). The S4 has a bigger screen and other features that the iPhone 5 doesn't have, however, most of the S4's new features are limited to a handful of apps that don't work particularly well. The Galaxy might offer more features than the iPhone, but sometimes less is more.

But does the best of Samsung beat the best Apple smartphone? Read our iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone comparison review to find out. 

Our complete review of the iPhone 5 is available here, including our thoughts about Apple's handset after 11-months of use. Read more iPhone reviews here. 

You can read our comparison review of the iPhone 5s and Samsung Galaxy S5.

iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4: UK price

Apple's price for the iPhone 5 hasn't changed since it launched last September. The price starts at £529 in the UK for a 16GB model, the 32GB model is £599 and there is a 64GB option available for £699. Apple offers a pay and go deal on their Apple Store website that includes 300 minutes, 3000 texts and unlimited data for £15 a month. 

By comparison, the SIM-free price for the 16GB Galaxy S4 is £549.95 from Carphone Warehouse (earlier this year it was £629). In the UK, for some reason, Samsung isn't selling the 32GB or 64GB versions of the S4. 

We checked the Uswitch site to compare the lowest priced deals for the16GB versions of each device. These started at £27 a month for 500 minutes and unlimited data for a 16GB iPhone on T-Mobile (plus a £99.99 upfront payment). You can see the various iPhone 5 deals here.

The Galaxy S4 starts also starts at £27 a month, with 500 minutes and unlimited data, but in that case the upfront payment for the handset is £69.99. The Samsung Galaxy 4S deals can be seen here

iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4: Screen

Ask anyone what the difference is between the S4 and the iPhone 5 is and they are bound to say that the S4 is bigger. It's worth noting that the body of the S4 is essentially the same size as the Galaxy S3 but the S4's screen is larger within that expanse, providing more display area but without the bulkiness. 

The 5in Full HD screen on the Galaxy S4 is impressive. The SuperAMOLED technology means colours are vibrant but not over the top like previous models. 

The 4in iPhone 5 screen is smaller than the S4's, but it is taller than the iPhone 4S was before – exactly 14mm or 176 pixels taller. It has a 16:9 aspect ratio like your HDTV.  

With the iPhone 5 Apple extended the screen's height but kept the width identical, as a result we find that the iPhone 5 is much more comfortable to hold and use one handed. As Apple’s design guru Jony Ive explained at launch, the iPhone 5 has been designed so that you can reach all areas of the screen with your thumb without shifting your hand. Perhaps people with bigger hands can do this with the Galaxy S4, we can’t. 

The 640 x 1136-pixel display on the Apple iPhone is still IPS, and it still has the pixel-hiding Retina resolution of 326ppi. If it's pixel density that matters, the Samsung screen offers 441ppi.

Verdict: The S4 screen trumps the iPhone 5 screen in size and pixels, but the iPhone screen is more comfortable to use and suites the widescreen format better. 

 

iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4: Cameras 

The rear camera on the S4 offers 13 megapixels, while the iPhone 5 offers 8 megapixels. Megapixels are only part of the story, the quality of the lens and light sensors matter much more than the number of pixels captured.

One way in which this is demonstrated is low-light photography. With the launch of the iPhone 5 Apple improved low-light performance: the iPhone 5 now goes up to ISO 3200 for better pictures in darkened environments and the surface of the lens is made of sapphire crystal, which Apple says helps make your images clearer and sharper. Apple also claims the iPhone 5 offers improved noise reduction. Our low light images certainly appear to be better and were less noisy than those taken on older iPhones. 

The Galaxy S4, also took reasonably good low-light photos and even has a Night photo setting.

Samsung's low-light photo:

Apple's low-light photo:

In addition to Night setting, the Galaxy S4 includes a number of editing tools. For example, Sound and Shot takes photo and also records some audio to go with it, and the Drama mode takes multiple photos and combines them into one – great for capturing moving objects. There are other more regular modes like panorama, night and HDR. We liked having access to so many shooting modes. 

You can actually use both the front and rear cameras on the S4 simultaneously, although we're not sure why we'd want to use this Dual Shot mode that means the user appears in a small thumbnail in the photo. 

The other difference is the choice of aspect ratio available for photos taken with the two cameras. The Samsung camera can take photos at 13mp in the 4:3 aspect ratio, or at 16:9 in 9.6mp, while the Apple iPhone photos are only taken in 4:3 (aside from Panoramic).  

Samsung panoramic shot

Apple panoramic shot

Both rear-facing cameras are capable of recording HD video at 720p.

Verdict: It looks like Samsung has plowed megapixels into the phone’s camera, but megapixels aren’t as important as the lens quality. We liked the extra photo modes available on the Samsung, and the fact that we could shoot in 16:9 aspect ratio.  We hate to admit it, but in our testing the Samsung camera was better. 

iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4: Battery  

Battery life is the bane of every smartphone's existence and the battery life on both devices is still low. You will want to be sure to enable all power-saving modes in the Settings app on both devices to last a whole day. 

The battery in the S4 phone is about a quarter larger than it was in the Galaxy S3 and the display is said to use less power, so the Galaxy S4 should offer decent battery life, so the news that it doesn't is disappointing. 

After a day’s average use of the iPhone we are typically down to 50% battery, while the Samsung Galaxy S4 is at about the same. Sensible use of both phones can prolong the battery when required. 

Verdict: The key to better battery life is the way you use the phone. Shut down apps, stop notifications, turn down screen brightness, turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and utilize the power saving mode on the Samsung. 

iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4: Capacity 

The Galaxy S4's internal storage capacity is just 16GB – in the UK the company has decided not to offer the 32GB of 64GB model, which we think is peculiar. 

You can, however, add an SD card of up to 64GB in capacity to the Galaxy. This might sound like it answers the problem, but in reality it doesn't. The issue is that not all apps and content can be stored on the SD card. The 16GB storage could still limit you because some apps cannot be stored on the external card. Even worse, the Galaxy S4 comes with a large chunk of the storage space already used up. Our 16GB model had just over 8GB of free storage. You could quickly run out of space.  

One criticism of the iPhone is that there is no memory card slot. In practice we don't find this an issue. iCloud means that some data isn't actually stored on the phone, you can delete anything you download from the iTunes Store safe in the knowledge that you can download it again at a later data, and if you really feel the need for additional storage you can get storage devices for the iPhone, like the Kingston Wi-Drive and the HyperDrive iUSBport, that are able to share storage with the iPhone and other iOS devices.  

Verdict: At least in the UK, the Samsung phone is lacking in storage. While the S4 can take a external storage card, which some suggest is a bonus, the iPhone has various options for external storage also.  

iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4: Processor and Performance 

The UK Galaxy S4 comes with a 1.9GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor instead of the Exynos octa-core chip (clocked at 1.6GHz) that it ships with in some locations. This seems odd to us, but it should at least protect battery life here. Who needs an eight-core chip anyway?  

By comparison, the A6 dual-core chip in the iPhone is clocked at 1.3GHz. When the iPhone 5 launched, it was the fastest mobile chip you could purchase. The iPhone 5 scores 1655 points in Geekbench 2, compared to the iPhone 4S score of 632.

At launch the Samsung S4 became a new record holder in both Geekbench 2 and GLBenchmark with results of 3227 and 41fps. We expect that the launch of the iPhone 5S/iPhone 6 will reset the smartphone speed records.

The iPhone 5 still trumps the S4 in the SunSpider test - which tests browser speed - with a time of 903ms compared to 1092ms for the S4. 

The other area where the Samsung phone trumps the iPhone is RAM. The S4 features 2GB RAM compared to the iPhone 5 which has just 1GB RAM (double that of the iPhone 4S). 

Verdict: There’s no doubt that 11 months after it launched the iPhone 5 is no longer the fastest and most powerful smartphone. It’s curious that Samsung ships a different processor in the UK to that it ships in other locations. 

 

iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4: Design and Build

After months of courtroom battles between Samsung and Apple you might have thought that Samsung would make a concerted effort to produce a phone that was even less like an iPhone. Not quite: The Galaxy S4 comes in 'black mist' and 'white frost' colours while the iPhone 5 comes in 'black & slate' and 'white & silver'. In addition, the straighter sides on the Samsung S4 (compared to the S3) make it appear more like the iPhone. The straighter sides do make it easier and more comfortable to hold the S4 than the S3, which had rounded and tapered edges.

Samsung has stuck with the same flimsy plastic rear cover found on the Galaxy S3 while the Apple iPhone 5 is built around an anodised aluminium backplate and diamond-polished bevelled edges. It's obvious where design guru Jony Ives works. 

Samsung has actually managed to fit a larger screen into handset that is slightly smaller than the Galaxy S3, which is no mean feat and means the S4 is less unwieldy in the hand than the S3 was. The S4 is 7.9mm thin and 130g. Our main criticism is that the touch sensitive buttons below the screen that sit either side of the physical button are a) difficult to reach and b) get pressed too easily due their close proximity to the edge of the device. 

iPhone 5 on the other hand has a featherweight quality in comparison to the iPhone 4S before it. It weighs just 115g against the 4S' 141g. It feels wafer-like and beautifully balanced; its mass is evenly distributed to offset any bias toward top or bottom. 

Verdict: The iPhone is lightest and has the best looks. The Galaxy S4 is bigger and uglier. 

iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4: Connectivity 

The Galaxy S4 offers Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC and support for 4G LTE networks. It also includes features such as DLNA screen mirroring (which is like Airplay mirroring on your TV screen).

We find that they have very little utility currently as few apps and devices support them – for example the screen mirroring only works if you have a Samsung TV or Blu-ray player. There's no simple box like an Apple TV to convert existing devices to. 

As for NFC, that’s one area that Apple’s iPhone doesn’t yet offer support. One reason why Apple didn’t rush to include NFC is said to be its concerns about security (if your phone was directly connected to your bank account you’d want to make sure that if it fell into the wrong hands it couldn’t be used). The suggestion is that the new phone will feature a fingerprint sensor to address this. There are also rumours that Apple will look to Bluetooth Smart rather than NFC (also known as Bluetooth Low Energy). This new technology offers a low power, 50 meter range, low data rate way to transmit data. 

Verdict: The main difference is that the S4 offers NFC, Apple’s iPhone 5 doesn’t, but this is thought to be due to concerns over security.  

iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4: Security 

Speaking of security, the Galaxy S4 was supposed to ship with Samsung's Knox security system. This was supposed to offer iOS-level security APIs and theability to create separate personal and business workspaces, but Samsung delayed Knox's release. The company announced in May that it was available in beta and that it was down to the UK networks to offer it to business customers, and then in June Samsung admitted that it wouldn’t be available until later this year. 

Knox could have removed the ongoing security concerns around Android, although it is more about app management and data wipe powers for businesses than protecting users from malware. 

Apple’s iOS provides built-in security features and the rigorous testing of apps destined for the App Store, plus the sandboxing that means that apps requesting information from other apps must get your permission, means that customers can be confident that they will not be exposed to malware. Business users can securely access private corporate networks through industry-standard VPN protocols, and companies can easily deploy iPhone across an enterprise using configuration profiles. 

Verdict: Samsung had made attempts to improve its security but it still has a long way to go before it can match Apple.

iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4: Operating System and Software  

Samsung's version of Android 4.2 'Jelly Bean' in the Galaxy S4 is nearly the same as in the Galaxy S3 although there were a few new capabilities added at launch, including lots of duplication. 

For example, the Galaxy S4 comes with two browsers, Internet and Chrome; two music players, Play Music and Music; two video players, Play Video and Video; two language translators, Optical Reader and S Translator; two voice-recognition search engines, Voice Search and S Voice; two VPNs, VPN Client and via the Settings app; and two email clients, Email and Gmail.

Not all of these apps duplicate the functionality 100 percent. For example, Samsung's S Voice offers Apple Siri-like device-control functions that Google's Voice does not, though both do Siri-like web searches. 

The duplication is confusing and annoying. It's one thing to choose to download something you believe is better than what comes with the device, but Samsung appears to be in a me-to race with Google and that's just silly. 

Also new is Samsung Link. This is designed to let you access content from a Windows PC (not a Mac) or a compatible Samsung device for playback. It's a bit like Apple's Bonjour and AirPlay networking.

As you can see, many of the features are similar to those on the iPhone. 

The Galaxy S4 is also full of a lot of gimmicks that are cool in theory, but don't really work in practice, such as 'eye tracking'. The eye-tracking feature that is supposed to pause videos when you look away did not work for us. 

The infrared sensor on the front can detect gestures taking place above the screen. Samsung calls this feature Air Gestures. This means you can scroll a webpage by moving your hand up or down above the screen in the stock Android Internet browser. It doesn't always work though: we couldn't get the S4 to respond to the hand-waving Air Gesture that's supposed to open the Quick Glance status screen for alerts and messages. To be honest, scrolling above the screen really is no easier than scrolling on the screen, it's a bit of a pointless feature in our opinion. 

Air View is another feature that rarely works. It's supposed to let you hover a finger over an email message to open it or over an area in the Internet browser to magnify it. We couldn't get it to work in the few apps that support it. 

Samsung Hub is essentially a £10-per-month mashup of iTunes and Spotify, providing a store for streaming music, videos, books, and games. As a streaming service, Samsung Hub is great way to burn up your data plan and home broadband caps. Plus we found the download speeds for everything but music to be excruciatingly slow.

One reason why, despite the iPhone being one of the higher priced smartphones, and despite the fact that Apple only updates it once a year, people still flock to buy the device, is the software. The sheer volume of apps available via the App Store is certainly one feature in favour of the iPhone. 

And it’s not only Apple’s ecosystem of apps, there’s also iTunes and Apple’s iCloud services. All of this combines to provide an experience that’s manifestly better than Android handsets. 

The other reason why the App Store is a decision maker for many is that they have already spent money on apps. Many will not switch to a different operating system because they will have to repurchase apps. 

Luckily for Apple the app developers are still choosing to invest their time predominantly in building apps for the iPhone - perhaps because of the marketshare for the device, or perhaps because as Apple makes the software and the hardware it’s easier to build an app that just works - on the other hand is the Android operating system which is in fact a number of different operating systems on a number of different devices. 

The other benefit of the App Store over the other app marketplaces is that Apple vets each and every app, so you can be sure that it won’t reck your phone once you install it.  

Verdict: Samsung has packed the Galaxy S4 with its own branded apps, but many of these offer features of questionable value that don't even work properly. If you want the best selection of apps, the iPhone 5 still has no peer.

iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4: Buying Advice  

We would have expected the Samsung Galaxy S4 to prove a worthy opponent to the iPhone 5, coming about seven months after the iPhone 5 launched. In terms of processor speed it’s clear that the Samsung does beat the iPhone, but in so many other ways the iPhone 5 is still the better phone. It’s interesting to note that the quad core processor that features in the US Galaxy S4 doesn’t feature here in the UK, it’s as if someone at Samsung realised that the extra cores aren’t really necessary. 

We can’t wait for Apple to launch the new iPhone, it will knock the Samsung Galaxy S4 right out of the ball park. 

OUR VERDICT

We would have expected the Samsung Galaxy S4 to prove a worthy opponent to the iPhone 5, coming about seven months after the iPhone 5 launched. In terms of processor speed it’s clear that the Samsung does beat the iPhone, but in so many other ways the iPhone 5 is still the better phone. It’s interesting to note that the quad core processor that features in the US Galaxy S4 doesn’t feature here in the UK, it’s as if someone at Samsung realised that the extra cores aren’t really necessary. We can’t wait for Apple to launch the new iPhone, it will knock the Samsung Galaxy S4 right out of the ball park.

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