iPhone 5S vs Samsung Galaxy S4 – which phone is best? [video]

by , Apple 26/09/2013
iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S4

Now that firm details of the iPhone 5S have been disclosed, we can begin to compare it to its competitors. Chief among these is Samsung’s Galaxy S4, so how does Apple’s iPhone 5S shape-up against it?

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
iPhone 5S
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

Samsung Galaxy S4

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’

Mike Plant bylineThere’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

More on this

iOS 7 – five key features
iPhone 5S – key features, price and release date
Mobile phone reviews – our verdict on all the latest handsets

11 comments

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avatar

MIke

You did not mention that neither has an FM radio. Iphones have never had one but all previous versions of the Galaxy did.
I use the FM radio a lot. Internet radio apps are no subsitutue. 3g/4g signal is more unreliable than FM and apps use data. This is a real deal breaker for me as far as both phones are concerned. Will be sticking to my S3 which I love.

avatar

Frank Dernie

When my iPhone 4S lost wifi instigated by a software update and neither Apple nor O2 would pay for the repair I bought an unlocked S4.
Lovely machine, but I didn’t like the way by default it contacted for upgrades etc when it decided, not me. That meant I was using my 3G data allowance, rather than choosing when to do things myself, by wifi at home, for example.
I hate software that does background stuff I’d rather it didn’t…
At my home 3G signal is very low, leading to poor phone reception and high battery drain. On iOS one can switch off 3G which is ideal for me, on the S4 the choice is 3G only or 3G/2G autoswitch, meaning the phone never was very useable whilst at home.
I loved the idea of Android in principle, was underwhelmed in practice. I am afraid I haven’t gone back to the S4 since my iPhone 4S came back repaired. Maybe just specific to my situation and requirements, but I am surprised since the web reports led me to expect more of both Android and the S4.

avatar

M

It is possible to stop auto update by going into the play store, clicking menu and settings then changing auto update to preferred setting. It is also possible, tobswitch to 2G only although I’m not sure how to do it on the s4 (I’m a nexus 4 user)

avatar

Ian

[Play Store],[Settings] “Auto-update apps” options: 1. Don’t, 2. Any time/place, 3. WiFi Only

avatar

Frank Dernie

Yes, I found and disabled the auto update, but IMHO it should not be the default I -hate- any software that thinks it knows best.
I had hoped switching off 3G was an option, but it is not on the S4, the options being only the ones I mentioned in my first comment.
This reminds me of another thing I disliked about Android. Different makers seem to use different flavours of the OS, meaning nobody can confidently give good advice over the internet since their Android device may not behave the same way. This is a classic example, dozens of people with non-S4 android devices have told me it is possible, which it is not – a waste of their time and mine.

avatar

Ian

Apple’s monopoly approach verses the free market choice of Android and Windows phones.

I guess Google agree with you (as I do), as the later Android versions have tried to standardise menus but at the end of the day each manufacturer can tinker in a minor or quite major way. My son in law has a Nexus phone which runs Google’s vanilla version of Android, it is quite useful to see the differences that different manufacturers make, not just to the graphics and colour schemes as one would expect but also to menu options which can be completely missing on other Android phones that are running the same version of Android.

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gradivus

I think it would have been fairer to include the iPhone 5c in this comparison.

But, for me, the massive advantage of the iPhone 5s (or, indeed, any iPhone) over Samsung is the perfectly seamless integration with my Apple laptop. Any change to my diary, address book, emails, notes, messages, etc. is instantly replicated on the other device. My tech-savvy daughter has failed miserably in setting up anything similar on her Samsung.

The choice is a no-brainer for existing, and might-be, Apple owners.

avatar

Ian

All Android phones have done all of these for ages to.
And calendar plus documents spreadsheets etc.
But not music and video as with Android you don’t have to be tied into iTunes and their expensive purchase system.

avatar

Lost my contacts

I agree that it’s important to pick a phone for its features but what about how it synchronises with Outlook? I had a Galaxy SII and Samsung’s sync software managed to wipe all of my contacts and diary from BOTH the phone AND outlook! Now I’ve got an I-phone and its synchronises wonderfully.

avatar

Adrian Tucker

I think it is time that anti-virus protection for phones (small computers) is discussed.

An ‘I.T. professional’ work colleague of mine recently advised that anti-virus software be installed into any device that you shop or bank with.

This is easy with the Galaxy but no APPS seem to exist for Apple devices, it seems because they believe they are unnecessary due to a ‘sand boxing design’.

What does Which? have to say about the need for phone anti-virus (etc) software for phones?

avatar

Ian

The S4 like all Android phones has widgets (the large apps on the home screens that the video completely ignored) – mine has widgets for Clock, Weather, Music Player, Podcast player, Calender, Tasks Chrome short-cuts & pedometer on five swipe-able home screens, together with square icons of my most favourite other apps, as a result Android users don’t go to the 6 x 4 squares of apps that the video focused on much. To me Apples home screen seems very cluttered as a result.

The lighter iPhone5s feels more toy like and easier to drop than the heavier S4 and the S4′s bigger HD screen displays a larger font making reading easier and allowing me to use the phone to read ebooks, this large screen is also very useful for playing videos such as BBC iPlayer. In fact surprisingly I now watch more video on my phone than on my laptop or on a TV. It is also worth mentioning that the S4 has a memory card slot mine has a 32Gb card providing loads of space for music, videos and photos.

Icons is an area where the S4 has improved on the more childish Samsung S3 icons, although Sony’s graphics are even better, but Apples iOS7 icons have gone backward to become quite childish in style that would perhaps most appeal to young girls rather than adults, and I note that my 21+ year old daughter is seriously considering ditching her iPhone5 because of this whilst my 14-year old daughter has found an app that allows her to change the icons on her iPhone 4S to something less comic – both daughters were also annoyed to find that Apple forced the iOS7 update on them and both have lost apps somewhere in that process.

Overall, I feel that Apple is still playing catch up and this new phone does not really seem to have overtaken the S4 or any Android phone and lacks the wow and ‘must have’ factor that iPhones used to have, and remember that Samsung are themselves working on an uprated version of their S4 so it seems likely that in a few months this will make the iPhone 5s look old and tired as happened with the iPhone 5. I am also unhappy that Apple force the use of iTunes which ties the customers apps, music, and other download purchases to Apple only. This monopoly reduces consumer choice and makes it harder for users to leave Apple, as a result Apple seems to be able to get away with charging extortionate prices for it’s phones (Android phones are between £100 – £500 cheaper) and has more expensive apps and downloads. My last phone was a Sony Ericsson, and I have no idea what my next phone will be, but all the cheaper apps, downloads and music I have bought will transfer to this new Android phone regardless of manufacturer.

With the loss of Steve Jobs, Apple phones are not moving forward as fast as the competition and the company do not seem to have any new ideas of their own, I feel Apple is past it as a company and that their phones are only going to become less competitive and tired. With the monopoly of the expensive iTune tie in, I would not recommend new customers to buy this phone and would suggest to existing iPhone uses that they should check out what they are missing before they have spent too much in the iTunes store.

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