It’s a battle of the flagship phones from two of the biggest rivals in mobile as we pit the Samsung Galaxy S4 agains the newly released iPhone 5S. While the GS4 has been out since the spring, it has aged exceptionally well and is still at the head of the smartphone pack. Does Apple’s latest put Samsung’s phone in its place? Read on to find out.
Design & Build
Though Samsung has been accused in the past of lifting design cues wholesale from Apple’s smartphone and tablet lines, you won’t be confusing the Samsung Galaxy S4 with the iPhone 5S. They do have on thing in common, though: neither represents a huge departure in appearance from their respective predecessors.
The iPhone 5S features aluminum unibody construction and a look and feel that doesn’t change from the iPhone 5. The handset measures 4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 inches and weighs 3.95 ounces.
The Samsung Galaxy S4′s construction has more in common with the iPhone 5C than the 5S, utilizing a plastic composite as the main build material. Thanks to its larger display, the Galaxy S4 is noticeably bigger than the iPhone measuring 5.83 x 2.75 x 0.31 inches and weighing 4.59 ounces.
The biggest physical difference between the iPhone 5S and Galaxy S4 is its display. They are an inch apart using the standard diagonal measurement.
The iPhone 5S features a 4-inch Retina display with a pixel density of 326 pixels-per-inch. It’s the same screen feature on the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5C.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 carries a 5-inch, 1080p Super AMOLED display with a pixel density of 441 ppi. Colors are noticeably more saturated on the Samsung display. The 5S tends to offer a more true-to-life representation of colors and contrast.
On paper, the S4′s silicon seems to pack a bit more punch the 5S, but that’s not telling the whole story. Flat-out benchmarks have given the iPhone 5S the advantage in the area of performance, and hints that Samsung might be gaming clock speed tests aren’t doing the Galaxy S4 any favors.
The iPhone 5S utilizes Apple’s 64-bit A7 processor, coincidentally a component manufactured and supplied by Samsung. While Apple hasn’t officially disclosed the tech specs, the chip is a dual-core CPU that operates at twice the speed of the iPhone 5′s A6. It’s the first instance of a 64-bit CPU in a smartphone, though that facet won’t have much impact initially.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 features a quad-core Snapdragon 600 CPU in the US. In other regions, the device ships with Samsung’s Exynos platform. The performance between the two is more or less negligible.
Aside from the massive display, the purchasing decision might boil down to a user’s comfort level with the operating system each handset deploys. For the iPhone 5S, that’s iOS 7. For the GS4, that’s Android Jelly Bean with Samsung’s TouchWiz interface layer.
The learning curve is a bit steeper with Samsung’s implementation. Users get access to a wide range of special software functions, but how and when to use them isn’t immediately apparent.
iOS 7, on the other hand, strives for simplicity. It’s a straight forward smartphone experience that has won over millions around the world. Still, it has plenty of limitations in terms of customization that Android does not.
For photo fans, camera capabilities could be a make or break factor in buying their next smartphone. While the Galaxy S4 offers a competitive camera experience, it’s hard to top the iPhone 5S.
The iPhone 5S features an 8MP camera, but don’t let that fool you. Apple has gone with a larger image sensor with greater light sensitivity. A dual-LED True Tone flash makes shooting in poor lighting conditions while still getting decent results even easier.
Sasmung’s handset sports a 13MP camera, which would seem to trump Apple’s. But that’s not necessarily the case. What Samsung’s camera lacks in pure image quality it does make up for with a plethora of shooting modes, including the ability to magically erase unwanted subjects from a photo or take a picture with the front and rear camera simultaneously.
The 5S is not without it’s own special camera modes, though they are not as plentiful as the S4. Users can expect burst photo mode and 120 fps slow motion video.
Again, Samsung’s phone wins on paper with a gargantuan 2600mAh battery as well as quoted battery times. The 5S boasts 10 hours of 3G talk time and 250 hours of standby while the S4 claims 17 hours of 3G talk time 370 hours of standby.
Of course, real world usage will cause wild fluctuations in battery performance. A full day of use is a safe bet for either device, though the GS4 does edge out the iPhone 5S in overall battery life.
If you want a big screen and robust operating system, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is worth considering. However, if you a phone that ranks as the pinnacle of smartphone design, features a future-proof 64-bit processor, and an amazon camera, then it’s the iPhone 5S. If you are still having a hard time deciding, check out the full GS4 review from our friends at Phandroid, and our very own iPhone 5S review.
Our own preference is the latter option, but don’t let us make the decision for you. Which do you prefer?