Both handsets offer similarly crisp high definition screens, come with cameras at the top-end of the smartphone category and offer access to the speedy 4G network on major current providers: EE, O2 and Vodafone.
There are some differences however; not least each device’s chosen operating system that once more brings the iOS versus Android debate on to centre stage. We compare the price, design and key features of each smartphone.
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iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S4 – video
iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S4 – how do they look?
iPhone 5S: Cool aluminium
There’s a real divide between Apple and Samsung in terms of how each company has chosen to finish its handset. The iPhone 5S features the usual metallic finish the Apple usually reserves for its premium handsets. Its aluminium shell is light too, with the phone weighing in at 112g compared to the 130g Galaxy S4.
The iPhone 5S is an inch smaller than the S4, which means that though it’s perhaps more comfortable in the pocket, its 4-inch screen is more compact. As we’ve found with the iPhone 5, this can make typing out text messages and browsing the web a little cramped.
Galaxy S4: Plastic fantastic
The S4 feels like its been designed with ease of use as its main objective, with style a close second. Compiling texts, browsing the web and even watching video is all that little bit more convenient on the S4. It’s plastic shell, though not quite as luxurious as the iPhone’s aluminium, is durable and light too and designed to fit snugly in the hand.
iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S4 – three key features
An impressive iPhone processor – Apple claims the iPhone 5S’ new A7 processor chip is up to twice as powerful than the iPhone 5. While that sounds impressive, few apps will really take advantage of the extra speed. The Galaxy S4’s 1.9GHz processor still packs a punch, it triumphed in our recent fastest smartphone test.
When it comes to day-to-day tasks, like checking emails and browsing the web, the difference in speed between the two handsets will be so small as to be insignificant.
iOS versus Android, again – the iPhone 5S comes with iOS 7, Apple’s brand new operating system, installed as standard. It features a more intuitive interface that should provide faster access to your wi-fi options, for example. The Safari web browser also sees improvements, as does the way your photo albums are displayed.
The Galaxy S4 runs on Android, which is extremely similar in terms of functionality. Samsung has also brought some of its own software features to the S4, including S Voice – which works much like the iPhone’s voice recognition software, Siri. In terms of apps, the Google Play Store is simply not as well organised as the intuitive Apple’s App Store and often doesn’t get the latest downloads as quickly.
Improved iPhone photos in low light – the iPhone 5S marks a slight departure from the norm by not updating the count of its 8-megapixel (Mp) camera. Apple has chosen to up the size of its pixels instead, which should make for better performance in low-light. The addition of a dual-LED flash should also make for more natural colours in night scenes. The Galaxy S4’s camera is no slouch either, its 13Mp camera capturing high quality images, while it too performs reasonably well in low-light.
iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S4 – price
Most people will choose their next handset based on how much it will impact their wallet and, though both phone are close in price, the S4 is that much cheaper if you shop around.
The 16GB Galaxy S4 is listed on Amazon, via a seller, at £438 for example, while a 16GB iPhone 5S will cost £549 at launch as a standalone handset. It’s also likely that the S4 will be cheaper on network contracts too, though 5S network tariffs have yet to be announced in the UK.
Which? expert verdict – ‘The Galaxy S4 is cheaper and similarly impressive’
There’s no doubting that the iPhone 5S offers impressive specs, but then so too does the Galaxy S4. With both phones offering similar features and operating at similar speeds there seems little to choose between them.
To me then, the question is: does the iPhone 5S offer enough to justify spending more money? Especially when it’s a stop-gap device between the iPhone 5 and iPhone 6. It does have some great features – not least its 64-bit chip, promising camera and fingerprint scanner – but you can’t help but think that Apple is holding more back for the iPhone 6.
In comparison the S4 felt like much more of a leap in technology over its predecessor the S3. Software features such as Smart Pause, that stops video playback automatically if you look away, and the ability to use two apps at once, both being great additions. And, in terms of hardware, nothing was left untouched, with the screen, processor, camera and battery all seeing real improvements.
While the 5S is enticing with its aluminium case and potential for home console-like 3D games, I can’t currently see myself being swayed away from opting for the S4 when I’m next due an upgrade. That said, there’s still time for a strong performance in our test labs to change my mind.
Mike Plant – online writer