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Galaxy S3 vs. iPhone 5: Which Is the Better Smartphone?

Steven Blum
9

(c) AndroidPIT.com

Galaxy S3 vs. iPhone 5? It's a tough decision...

So, you're on the prowl for a new smartphone. You want something that will last you for at least the next two years, and possibly even longer. Maybe you own an Android but are wondering whether the iPhone 5 might be your next, or maybe you're an iPhone owner unimpressed by the latest offering by Apple and wondering whether you should finally go Android buy a Galaxy S3. Well, whoever you are, you should get something out of the comparison we've written today. While we can't tell you which smartphone to buy, we can help point you in the right direction..

Design 

The iPhone 5 is feather light in the hand and dangerously droppable. That said, its negligable weight will be a major plus for the majority of users: never has a flagship model felt this light. Moreover, it's clear the design has been held to the highest of standards, even for Apple. The phone is beautifully constructed with a more robust aluminum back that protects the phone from cracking when dropped, unlike the all-glass iPhone 4S. Even after hard-to-watch five-to-six-foot drops, most iPhone 5 units only have minor dings to their grame. 

The Galaxy S3, on the other hand, is made of polycarbonate plastic and is a bit thicker than the iPhone 5 (8.6mm vs. 7.6mm). It feels solid, and has been ergonomically-designed to feel great in the palm of your hand. While it's significantly larger than the iPhone 5, it doesn't necessarily feel larger. In fact, in some respects, it feels much more appropriate to this day and age to have a wider phone with a larger display. But despite having a display made of Gorilla Glass, the Galaxy S3 doesn't drop as well as the iPhone 5. 

Because of that, and because of the fact that the iPhone 5 simply has an unbeatable form factor and feels incredibly well-designed, we're going to hand the design award to Apple. I know, big surprise right?

Winner: iPhone 5

Display

The iPhone 5 has a Retina display with 326 PPI and a resolution of 1136x640p. According to Displaymate.com, it's the brightest smartphone ever tested and has the highest contrast rating as well.  It's color calibration is second only to the new iPad. But running the phone at the highest brightness level will deplete your battery very, very quickly.

(c) AndroidPIT.com

The Galaxy S3 has a 1280x 720p Super AMOLED display with 306PPI. According to Displaymate.com, it's able to maintain only about half the brightness of the iPhone 5 due to power limits and greens are a bit more staurated than red and blues, which can lead to slightly distorted or exaggerated colors. 

In all, it looks like the iPhone 5 wins this round, although its small display size could be a turn-off for some users.

Winner: iPhone 5

Operating System

 

(c) AndroidPIT.com

Ah, the age old debate: Android or iOS? While Apple's OS has had the same homescreen ever since the introduction of the first iPhone, Android owners are spoiled for choice; they can install widgets, live wallpapers and endless numbers of lockscreens. The Galaxy S3 also features NFC technology for sharing content with just a bump of the phone. Photos and media can be shared with any app you've installed, not just Facebook and Twitter like on the iPhone 5. Meanwhile, Google Maps offers a far superior mapping service compared to Apple Maps, Android owners can also install apps outside the Google Play store, wheras Apple owners are locked into a walled ecosystem, and multi-tasking on Android is far easier. 

So where does iOS succeed? Well, we like the idea of Passbook – Apple's voucher, plane ticket and coupon organizer. Other than that, there's not a whole lot to recommend.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S3

App Store

By this point, you really can't call Apple's App Store superior to Google Play. Both have an insane number of apps for sale, both offer a range of both paid and free apps, and both organize their apps along basically the same categories. While you could say that Apple's App Store is more aesthetically pleasing than Google Play, that's a subjective matter. Sometimes they get apps first. But the fact that Android devices can sideload apps from outside the Google Play ecosystem has got to be seen as a big plus. For now, we're going to say it's a tie.

Winner: Tie

Camera

According to tests made by Gizmodo, the Galaxy S3 is much better than the iPhone 5 at taking photos in the dark without a flash (see here for more). That said, it's more of a toss-up when it comes to photos taken during the day. We're more impressed by the color saturation in the iPhone 5's photos: images look crisper and more alive, whereas the Galaxy S3's photos look a bit washed out in comparison. That said, some light sources appear with a purple halo in pictures taken by the iPhone 5, and this problem is essentially unchangeable since it seems to be a problem with the sapphire crystal laid over the iPhone 5's camera lens. We even noticed it when taking photos around the office: 

The iPhone 5's purple haze put a damper on our photo fun. (c) AndroidPIT.com

Because of this, and the iPhone 5's problems in low-light settings, we're calling this a tie when it comes to camera performance.

Winner: Tie

Storage and MicroSD

This one is a pretty easy fight. While the Galaxy S3 offers expandable memory up to 64GB, the iPhone 5 offers zilch. So, when it comes to saving lots of photos and music, you're going to need to be careful – or spring for a model with more memory. Samsung also offers more in terms of cloud storage – a special deal with Dropbox snags you 50GB in free cloud storage for three years, while Apple offers 5GB in iCloud storage. Yes, Samsung still makes money by selling models with more GBs to clueless customers, but at least their phones are expandable. 

Winner: Galaxy S3

Battery Life

iPhone 5 doesn't even make it into the top 3 smartphones, battery-wise. (c) Which?

In a test by the consumer electonics magazine Which? the Galaxy S3 absolutely clobbered the iPhone 5 when it came to battery life. The magazine is so thorough that they even broadcast their own 3G signal so that all phones start off equally, with no outside elements giving one or the other an edge. When it came to web browsing, the Galaxy S3 beat the iPhone 5 359 minutes to 200 minutes. In other battery tests, the Galaxy S3 outperformed the iPhone 5 by a large magnitude, as well. Apple didn't spend much time during their press conference praising the new iPhone's battery life for a reason: it's just not that impressive.

Winner: Galaxy S3

Summary

It's a debate that will likely continue to dominate the internet through the Christmas shopping season: iPhone 5 or Galaxy S3? While the iPhone 5 appears to have a superior display and design, it offers less abilities to customize, a shortened battery life and fewer storage options. But as to whether or not it's worth your next two years (assuming you're on contract) depends on what you're looking for. Are you head-over-heels for Apple's ecosystem or looking for more customization? Do you want a bigger or a brighter display? These are all questions to seriously consider. In the end, these phones are so vastly different that it's very hard to recommend one over the other. I will say this: as an Android owner who is VERY cynical about claims made by Apple, I was very, very impressed by the form factor, camera and display of the newest iPhone (minus that purple glare). But even considering all that, I wouldn't want to give up Android for iOS. I've seen the light, I guess you could say. But for others, this could be a great big toss-up.

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Comments

Write new comment:
  • Patrick R. Oct 15, 2012 Link

    Haha hard to watch 5 to 6 foot drop videos... honestly, i think surviving a drop is the last thing on a buyer's mind when buying a phone. I always had a little peeve for videos like that. If you want a phone that'll survive a 20 foot drop, go buy a Nokia 5110.

    Good article. Thank you for maintaining objectivity. Although I would give the itunes store a slight edge over the play store. They seem to get some apps first and they have a wider reach at the moment for media availability.

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  • ljhaye Oct 15, 2012 Link

    ok, that is one flagship phone, any comparisons with any of the other offerings from htc, sony, LG? Thats my problem with these comparisons who said GS3 is the best android flagship phone? htc one x+ is by far a better phone than GS3 so why dont we compare that one to the iPhone 5, also?

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  • Steven Blum Oct 15, 2012 Link

    We will! That'll come next, I promise.

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  • Atlas Oct 15, 2012 Link

    Once again a poor comparison of both smartphones, just for the sake of making a comparison without too much effort.

    I don't understand why most state the microSDHC support as the phone being extendable with blablabla storage. It's not entirely, because Samsung is becoming more and more like Apple and really copying them just to make more profit. I'm talking about the lack of ability to move apps to the SD card, just so that they can sell their ridiculously more expensive phones with more storage. Just the way Apple does it.

    Samsung now also has, just like Apple, not a standard microUSB but a different one, making all previous universal cables useless.

    Also does Samsung have to play it the non-customer friendly way by integrating the NFC chip into the battery so you only have the option to buy official batteries from them, and which mostly end up being fake ones if you buy them from a third party.

    All of the reviews, except this small one, praised the superior quality of the Galaxy camera. When I have tried it myself I've felt betrayed by these opinions of so called experts, because it turned out not so good at all. It's a decent camera and a splendid one for various mobile phone,but I preferred the quality of the camera of my Xperia Neo.

    Most complained about the pixels and shmixels of the screen, while drawing the focus away from the things that really matter. The screen is awesome, period. The looking angle doesn't make one difference for a mobile phone, as long as it's decent enough, it does for computer monitors and tv's on the other hand. It just may not the oh so great lifetime of LCD screens because it's amoled, that's all.

    I love my Galaxy S3 phone, but I hate half baked reviews like these, which lack important and useful details. I can't say anything about the iphone 5 because I never tried one. But one thing I know is that iphones can activate the wake up alarm while the phone is off, while android phones can't. For me that's important.

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  • Glostermeteor Oct 15, 2012 Link

    Personally I dont find the iPhone design particularly beautiful, they've kept the boxy look which I think kind of looks a bit tired. I like my phones like my women, with beautiful curves baby! And for me thats the S3!

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  • Steven Blum Oct 15, 2012 Link

    I thought the Galaxy S3 had an awesome screen, too. Then I tried the iPhone 5. I was simply blown away.

    Look, I know the expandable storage options aren't that great, but they win against the iPhone 5. 50GB in Dropbox storage doesn't hurt, either.

    I've tried to link to even more detailed articles so the reader can make up his or her mind about the points that matter to them.

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  • ljhaye Oct 15, 2012 Link

    consumer reports said all smartphones have some degree of purple haze in their photography

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  • David H. Oct 16, 2012 Link

    Here's a whole thread dedicated to saying how the S3 DOES have a universal micro USB charging and data port.
    http://androidforums.com/samsung-galaxy-s3/573352-charging-cable-must-samsung-branded-doesnt-matter.html
    What is different is the MHL pin arrangement, so if you're connecting to an HDTV through HDMI you will need an adapter compatible with this device, rather than a universal adapter.
    As for moving apps to the SD card, that is a choice made by the app developer, not the phone manufacturer. I am able to move most of my apps to the SD card with my Samsung Note, I avoid the ones with widgets/CPU clocking and homescreen customizations since that usually causes problems (not just Samsung, also with my Milestones)
    As for the battery and NFC, you should get many years of use from it, but if you need a spare the fake ones are never as good. I have a bunch for my Motorola Q, Motorola Milestones, all with "extended" battery performance and none of them last 30% of the OEM.
    Maybe it's a good move on their part because now noone will buy cheap crap batteries and then bash Samsung for making a phone with poor battery performance.

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  • PatPion Oct 16, 2012 Link

    @Atlas, in some cases I do agree with you. This comparison doesn't do much for me. I think that it's very difficult to compare an iPhone with any other device really, just like I wouldn't directly compare an Android device with a Windows Phone device. It all comes down to personal preference, really. It is quite easy to compare apples with apples though (no pun intended).

    If you do want to read a great, objective review of the Galaxy S3, check out this one:
    http://www.bandwidthblog.com/2012/07/11/hands-on-review-samsung-galaxy-s3/

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