Spec Comparison: Apple’s iPhone 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S4

| Analysis

Samsung cast the newest stone in the battle for (perceived) supremacy of the Smartphone Wars, and the Galaxy S4 packs a punch. Big, with a display than could prove to be higher quality than Apple's vaunted Retina Display, the GS4 is chock full of Samsung-specific technologies that build on Google's Android services. We're going to compare the specs and features of the GS4 to Apple's iPhone 5.

Does Size Matter?

The short answer to this header's question is yes, size matters. Unfortunately for those who want to declare winners and losers in a binary look at the smartphone market, the full answer is that size matters differently to different people. Here, let's just look at the two devices together:

iPhone 5 vs. Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S4 in Back, Apple iPhone 5 in Front
(This image is as close to pixel-level accurate as possible)

Some folks look at the GS4, and see that it is bigger, and pronounce that its betterness is self-evident, and woe be unto those who extoll the iPhone 5's ability to fit in their pocket or their hand.

Our spec comparison and opinion on the matter isn't going to change anyone's mind. If you're interested in screaming about this particular issue, go do it somewhere else. Seriously.

But, the GS4 brings something new to the equation. Last year's GS3 had a fine display with a 1280 x 720 resolution. It looks great, but it has a lower pixel density to Apple's iPhone 5 (306 compared to iPhone 5's 326). Physical size aside, the iPhone 5 has heretofore had the highest quality display on the market.

Samsung has dramatically upped the ante with the GS4, and that's where things get interesting. At 1920 x 1020 and a pixel density of 441, the GS4 may have the best display by every metric. We haven't seen it—remember that the GS4 won't ship for another two months—but we expect to be blown away by the quality of the display when it does.

Which leaves the preference for size. Some people want a phablet, and some people want a device they can easily operate with one hand. Your preference is all that matters, and it's a subjective area.

Our caveat here is that right now Apple doesn't address the part of the market that does want the larger screen. We expect this to change—Shaw Wu of Sterne Agee said on Friday that Apple was working on a larger product for 2014—but for now, the only phablet options are Android.

Note: Images are close to scale as we could get them.

  Galaxy S4
Model

iPhone 5

Galaxy S4

OS


iOS 6

Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean)

Updatable OS?

User storage (GB)

16/32/64

16/32/64

Subsidized Price (US$)

199/299/399

Unannounced

Carrier(s)

AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Regionals

AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, US Cellular and Cricket, Regionals

Network

GSM, CDMA, 4G LTE

GSM, HSPA+, 4G LTE

CPU type

A6 - 1.3GHz Dual Core

1.9 GHz Quad-Core
or
1.6 GHz Octa-Core

RAM (MB)

1024

2048

Display type

Retina Display - IPS LCD

Super AMOLED

Display res. (pix)

1136 x 640

1920 x 1080

Pixel Density

326

441

Display (diag, in)

4

5

MircoSD slot

x

√ (up to 64GB External Storage)

Rear camera (MP)

8, 1080p video

13, 1080p video

HDR Mode

Rear Camera Aperture

f/2.4

f/2.2

Video image stab.

Front camera (MP)

1.2 720p video

2, 1080p video
Camera flash

Dual LED

LED
Audio out

3.5mm jack

3.5mm jack
Speakerphone

On-screen video

Supports up to 1080p

Supports up to 1080p
Wireless video

AirPlay (720p or 1080p)

DLNA
Video Out port x HDMI via Adapter
USB port

x

microUSB v2.0
Lightning Dock Connector x
Wi-Fi 8.2.11 a/b/g/n 8.2.11 a/b/g/n
Wi-Fi Hotspot Carrier Dependent Carrier Dependent
Bluetooth 4.0 4.0
Compass
Gyroscope 3-axis
Accelerometer
Barometer x
Sensors proximity, ambient light proximity, ambient light, temperature & humidity, Gesture
NFC x
Size (in) 4.87 x 2.31 x 0.3 5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31
Weight (oz) 3.95 Unknown
Battery (mAh) 1440 2600
Talk time (min) 480 (3G) Unknown
Standby time (hr) 225 Unknown
Available colors Black & Slate, White & Silver Black Mist and White Frost (Additional colors later)
Announced Sep 12, 2012 March 14, 2013 - Scheduled to ship in late April)

OS

Jelly Bean, the version of Android the GS4 is built on, is solid. Google has come a long way with Android, and we believe that Google Now is a particularly attractive service/app. Unfortunately, Samsung's proprietary TouchWiz interface sits on top of its Android devices, and it is still ugly. We're OK if you personally like it, but to us it still looks like the bastard child of Android and Windows, and we aren't OK with that.

That said, Samsung is using TouchWiz to position its devices as separate from the Android masses. To that effect, neither Android nor Google were mentioned during Samsung's awful launch event for the GS4.

Rather than talking about Google Now, Android Voice Commands, Google Play, Google Translate, Google Maps, and the other nifty Android services that are part of Jelly Bean (and on the GS4), Samsung talked about its own proprietary services built into TouchWiz. Bizarrely (to us), this includes a couple of redundant features, including S Voice and S Translator that duplicate Android services.

To be sure, we haven't tested Samsung's new software services, but our belief is that the company is playing catchup to Apple and Google both. Worse, the company is trying to reinvent the wheel in some cases. While the idea of building its own ecosystem is ambitious, we think it will take years for Samsung to catch up to where Apple is today, let alone where it will be in those same years.

For instance, S Voice loses to Siri (and possibly to Google Voice Commands), and we don't see how it will be possible for S Translator to beat Google Translate. Google has enormous server capacity devoted to this, and it contributes to Google's profiling and ad-selling business model.

On the other hand, Samsung has made it possible for video calls to use both cameras at the same time. If 0.1 percent of users use this feature more than once, we'll be shocked, but it is a cool accomplishment. Similarly, we've remained skeptical of the practical applications of Group Play (sharing content with a touch), but maybe it will take off.

Music Share, which allows up to eight GS4 devices to play the same synced song through the external speaker feels like a solution in search of a problem. We could be wrong, though. Maybe it will be so awesome that roving gangs of GS4-wielding hipsters will soon be roaming the streets of New York City and San Francisco reenacting West Side Story with a live soundtrack the rest of us will be forced to listen to.

::snap snap:: "POW!"

Right?

But, it's there. For those who want some of these Samsung-added features, they are there. Samsung is to be commended for spending resources to develop software and services that will set its devices apart from the rest of the Android universe. Who cares that it's a step towards forking Android and kicking Google to the curb? If the result is awesome, it's a win for consumers.

So who wins the OS war? Android (even with touchWiz) has advanced to the point where this is a personal, subjective issue. If you want an open, more customizable system; if you want live widgets and/or Google Now; if being able to download more types of apps is more important to you than knowing that everything you download has been curated, well then the GS4 is for you.

If you want tighter integration between the hardware and software; if you don't want to worry about the integrity of the apps you are downloading; if you want the convenience of using iTunes to manage your mobile device; if you want to use Siri; and, if you want the convenience and capabilities of iCloud, then iPhone 5 is for you.

We prefer Apple's iOS, even while acknowledging that Google Now is Android's most compelling feature today.

NFC

We've written about NFC in the past, and the reality is that not much has changed. NFC has a lot of potential, but little is being done with it by end-users. The irony remains that Apple gets lambasted by its critics for not including NFC in the iPhone 5, while it's not yet useful because Apple didn't include NFC in the iPhone 5.

Oh, life. You're such a sassy wench sometimes.

If NFC matters to you—especially if you're one of the few who has made use of RFID tags for location-based automated tasks—Samsung's GS4 has NFC and iPhone 5 doesn't.

Horsepower

Apple's A6 processor is a marvel of power and efficiency. The company designs its own processors and the software that runs on them, and that allows Apple to do things no other company can do.

That said, the Octa-Core processor Samsung will use in some markets is nifty. At the very least, it will close the real-world performance edge Apple has enjoyed heretofore. It could even take the lead. That, in turn, could lead some enterprising developer to design a killer app that runs better on the GS4 than any other device. We won't hold our breath.

The Quad Core processor Samsung will use in its other markets probably won't have much of an edge over the A6, despite having more cores. It's hard for some folks to grasp just how much of an advantage Apple's whole widget approach is, and we are comfortable with the fact that we aren't going to change anyone's mind.

In fact, think of it this way: No one who owns an iPhone 5 or Galaxy S4 is going to complain about their device being too slow. They're both awesome in the processor department, and they're both an example of how amazing technology can be.

Gestures & Smart Stuff

The GS4 has Smart Scroll and Smart Pause that seem like they could really be annoying. With Smart Pause, a video will pause if you look away from your device. That sounds cool, but that means that you better keep your eyes on the damned thing if you want your video to keep playing. We suspect that many video watchers will end up turning it off if they have the option.

Smart Scroll, on the other hand, could be more useful. This combines a wrist gesture with where you're looking on your screen to automatically scroll an email or webpage. This could be the kind of thing that becomes so second nature to people that devices without it (iPhone 5 and everything else) feel incomplete without it.

We'll have to see when it gets out in the real world, because it's also possible that no one adapts to it.

Air View and Air Gestures allow users to control certain aspects of their device without actually touching it. Say your fingers are greasy, but you need to scroll down a recipe or preview a how-to video. You can do those things without touching your device.

On the surface, it seems like this is another nifty-sounding feature, But it might be addressing such a niche need that it doesn't see wide use. Maybe. Or maybe it will be so super awesome everyone's gotta have it. Time will tell, but the reality is that for those interested in these features, the GS4 is the device for them.

Health Stuff

The GS4 will monitor some health-related aspects of you. And don't you want Samsung to know when you are running a fever? Be that as it may, it seems like only a matter of time before Apple and/or Samsung subsume the kind of fitness-related features made popular by FitBit and other third party device/apps/services.

Samsung has a head start in this area with the GS4. We aren't convinced that out of the box this will be a hugely compelling issue for many people.

Quality

We haven't held the GS4 yet, but we have held and played with the GS3 and the iPhone 5. If the past is an indication of the future, the iPhone 5 has the perceived quality edge. As we said about the GS3 in September, this is not to say that the Samsung device will be a piece of junk. Far from it (we assume). We just think that if you hold both devices in your hand that most people would give the iPhone the quality nod.

Pricing

Samsung hasn't announced pricing. The company is probably still trying to work out subsidy deals with carriers. Samsung has always been cranky about Apple's ability to command markedly higher subsidies for the iPhone, and it may be hoping the GS4 finally changes this...

...because the reality is that the GS4 is not going to be cheap. The new display, the larger battery, the new sensors, the R&D on the new software features...these things aren't cheap.

So we look forward to seeing final pricing on the GS4.

Battery Life

Samsung was strangely quiet on battery life for the GS4. At 2600mAh, the GS4 has a huge battery. It's also pushing a lot of pixels and a lot of backlighting. It's also juggling Android and an interface that sits on top of Android. And NFC. And two extra sensors. And those Air Gestures.

We suspect that Samsung will be lucky if gets the same battery life out of the GS4 as it did out of the GS3. That battery life was roughly equal to the iPhone 5, but when you have such a big device, super long battery life would be kind of nice.

That said, we think it beyond question that if Samsung had achieved a marked improvement in battery life that it would have a really bad three minute sketch talking about it in that launch event we're so cranky about.

We also think that battery power is going to make the GS4 feel hefty. Note that Samsung didn't include weight with the specs released on Thursday.

Conclusion

The Smartphone Wars have reached a new level. As we stated above, the GS4 is a compelling device, especially if you want a large screen. Packing 441 PPI into a full HD display on a 5-inch screen is awesome. Samsung's tagline, "Less to hold, more to see" is even more awesome. It's very, very clever.

NFC and Air Gestures (and the other related features) will also be compelling for some folks, while Google Now is the most compelling Android feature of them all, even if Samsung didn't mention it at the launch event.

But Apple has the clear edge on ecosystem with iTunes, the App Store, integration with iCloud, iPad, and Macs, and the tight integration of hardware and software. The iPhone 5's display—while possibly running behind the GS4—is no slouch. The worst thing that could be said when the GS4 ships is that the iPhone 5's display is the second best display on the market.

It's important to remember that while phablets are popular, phablets as a whole don't outsell Apple's iPhone line. Samsung outsells Apple's iPhone, but that includes a lot of cheap devices that are not phablets. Our point is that clearly not everyone wants a phablet, and if that includes you, we think the iPhone 5 is the better choice.

Lastly, consider the business models of Google, Samsung, and Apple when making your decision. Apple's tightly controlled ecosystem works better in our opinion, but Android devices are more customizable. We think Apple's App Store experience is superior to Google Play, but Google Play has come a long way.

We don't care for the fact that Google is collecting huge amounts of information about users, their habits, where they go, who they talk to, and every other imaginable factoid, but some people couldn't care less.

We prefer to pay for our apps rather than have free, ad-supported apps, but that's not an issue for some folks.

The bottom line is that open systems vs. proprietary systems are a personal choice. If you choose your smartphone based on that factor, you will be happy with either the GS4 or the iPhone 5.

Note: Please let us know if you find a mistake in the specs. We work very hard on these comparisons, but we aren't infallible and want to get it right. Use the contact form in the byline to contact the author directly.

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Comments

chris

there’s a lightning-HDMI adapter for the iPhone/iPad.
http://store.apple.com/us/product/MD826ZM/A/lightning-digital-av-adapter

also, the battery is a 1440mAh according to ifixit.
http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/iPhone+5+Teardown/10525/2

Bryan Chaffin

Thanks for the note, chris. smile

That was something I forgot to double check before I published. I updated the spec list accordingly.

Constable Odo

A company would naturally hope that their latest model would have an advantage over last year’s devices.  SGS4 certainly outdoes the iPhone 5 in the feature list in every possible way.  I can certainly see why the SGS4 would be compelling to own if you’re into high-tech.  We’ll just have to see if consumers see it the same way.  There’s no way Apple can outdo the SGS4 even with an iPhone 6.  The SGS4 has packed everything possible into that monster phone and will have a very difficult time topping itself in the next go-round.  Whatever Apple can do it should be easy for Samsung to do slightly better.  Apple can only win through intangibles like ease of use, reliability, higher quality or customer service and those intangibles are worth nothing on Wall Street.

furbies

This maybe a stupid question, but how would a Mac user sync their Calendar, Address Book, iPhoto etc without iTunes compatibility ?

nealg

Bryan,

Didn’t Apple add video stabilization to the video package on the iPhone 5? I seem to remember Apple commenting on this.

Constable Odo,

<<SGS4 certainly outdoes the iPhone 5 in the feature list in every possible way>>

You must be looking at a different spec sheet than the one that Bryan published. From the look of things, most specs are about the same except that we don’t know battery life or talk time or price. On a portable device, I would say that those things are pretty important specs and to not have them available approximately 1 month before the product launch at the media event that introduces the product would seem to imply that the numbers are not good enough to mention or they are hoping for some tweaks that will improve things, especially on the battery life stuff.

<<Whatever Apple can do it should be easy for Samsung to do slightly better.  Apple can only win through intangibles like ease of use, reliability, higher quality or customer service and those intangibles are worth nothing on Wall Street.>>

I think you should take off your Google glasses before making comments like these. To say that ease of use or customer service is not worth anything on wall street, IMO, shows a poor understanding of the market. I know many people for whom those things are the most important issues. I know several people that have switched to Apple products from Windows and Android because of these things so I think Wall Street does value these things because they do impact the bottom line.

If I put my Apple fanboy hat on, I would also respond by saying your comment on Samsung being able to do things slightly better than Apple means that they are better copiers than innovators, which is where they have been in the mobile market since the iPhone has been released. But since I don’t have my hat on, I won’t mention it.

Just remember, Google glasses off before you press submit comment.

Neal

Lee Dronick

“This maybe a stupid question, but how would a Mac user sync their Calendar, Address Book, iPhoto etc without iTunes compatibility?”

I don’t think that it is a stupid question and in fact I have asked it a number of times. I am still waiting an answer.

Barry

Sync without iTunes? Hmmm, maybe iCloud comes to mind.

taojones

the answer is that the cloud syncs your mobile devices for you and i tunes is just one of the applications it syncs for you . i tunes does not update large apps for instance until you plug in but that is a rare thing most apps just download whee you are and the new versions are brought into i tunes from the phone on the sync . address books and calendar are synced through the cloud separately (do you see an address book in your i tunes?}

Lee Dronick

“address books and calendar are synced through the cloud separately (do you see an address book in your i tunes?}”

Synching the Address Book, Calendar, some other things via iTunes instead of iCloud is an option.

Anyway, the question is still unanswered about how one would synch an Android device with the OS X Address Book, Calendar, iPhoto albums, iTunes playlists, email accounts, and such.

Lee Dronick

Seek and ye shall find. Here is how you can synch an Android device to a Mac.  http://www.onebitzero.com/how-to-sync-android-with-mac-os-x/

ViewRoyal

Brian, just a correction to the comparison table.

Where you have “USB port”, there is an “x” for the iPhone. The iPhone 5 does have USB charging and syncing. Like the Galaxy 4, the iPhone 5 comes with a USB cable with a regular USB connector at one end. At the other end of the cable is a Lightning connector instead of the microUSB on the Galaxy’s cable.

The benefit of the USB-to-Lightning cable is that the Lightning connector is smaller/thinner than microUSB, and it is also reversible (the microUSB only goes into the slot one side up).

USB-to-Lightning cables are just as inexpensive as microUSB cables if you buy them from sources other than Apple. (I bought one for less than $2 on Amazon)

Lee Dronick

Here is a link on how to synch a Mac to an Android device

http://www.onebitzero.com/how-to-sync-android-with-mac-os-x/

buddhistMonkey

Aside from bragging rights, what is the advantage of having a pixel density that is much higher than the human eye can discern? The G4 is an inch longer than the iPhone 5 on the diagonal, yet it has nearly 3x the number of pixels, which in turn will require 3x the energy and graphic horsepower to display the same information. For a video, that’s probably not so big a deal, but for a 3D action game, having to drive three times as many pixels in real time is a real chore. A Gizmodo hands-on of the G4 noted quite a bit a lag throughout the operating system, which seems like a poor compromise for a screen that’s not perceptibly better than a Retina Display.

Bryan Chaffin

ViewRoyal, thanks for the note. As the iPhone doesn’t have a USB port, that listing in the specs was correct. You pointed out, however, that we aren’t listing the port the iPhone does have, the Lightning port. I added a new line to the table accordingly. Thanks. smile

nealg: You are correct about image Stabilization on the iPhone. I have edited the table accordingly.

Thanks for the assists, folks!

Steve Nagel

No battery life stats? No price? Not out yet? Obviously a killer diller.

taojones

Synching the Address Book, Calendar, some other things via iTunes instead of iCloud is an option.

Anyway, the question is still unanswered about how one would synch an Android device with the OS X Address Book, Calendar, iPhoto albums, iTunes playlists, email accounts, and such.

the operative word is OPTION . sync locally or with the cloud . I assume folks that buy an android device will find or buy a mac application that will recognize their phone and sync it with their mac . as v cards are cross compatible i cant see why an android developer would not be able to create a relational data base that does not allow duplicate records . looks like a moneymaker to me .

Lee Dronick

“Anyway, the question is still unanswered about how one would synch an Android device with the OS X Address Book, Calendar, iPhoto albums, iTunes playlists, email accounts, and such.”

I did a web search and found that it is possible with 3rd party apps, but it doesn’t look as easy as using iCloud and iTunes. I posted a link, but the spam filter here set the post aside for the moderator. Do a search.

Bryan Chaffin

Lee, I went to approve your comments and managed to delete them instead.  My apologies. Geoduck, if you’re reading this, I caught two of yours up at the same time.

Not sure why registered user comments got snagged, but I’ll let the team know it happened.

webjprgm

@nealg and @constable odo, I agree that a quick scan of the above spec sheet does make Samsung’s new device look to be slightly leading in every category.  It has 4 or 8 cores, vs 2; it has a larger screen with larger pixel density; it has more ports; etc.  The rest of the article, however, explains that the performance of Apple’s CPU is at least comparable to the 4 core CPU in Samsung’s device. As noted in @ buddhistMonkey’s comment there is no practical point to the higher pixel density.  And I personally think those monster sized “phones” are horribly unwieldy, though I know a few people who seem to like them.  So the article spins this to say the two devices are quite comparable.

As for wearing “Google glasses” when commenting, or commenting as an Apple fanboy, I think everyone here is biases some way but we do have to admit that Samsung *is* innovating, not just copying.  Did Apple make a screen where you can interact with it by hovering? Did Apple make a device that can tell if you are looking at it, or looking at the bottom edge of it? No, Samsung did that.  That is new and cool.  What we don’t know is if it’s useful or intuitive, so the jury is still out on whether Samsung’s innovation is good.

Personally I’m rather curious about how good the eye tracking thing works. I’ve seen someone who had to communicate with an eye-tracking device to type on a computer screen, and that thing had to be re-calibrated every 10 minutes.  Furthermore, it used two special cameras rather than a commodity 2 megapixel camera.  So how do they make this work reliably?  I can imaging that detecting whether there are eyes facing the screen isn’t too bad.  Using Apple’s face detection API I can do that.  But how do they tell if the user is looking at the bottom of the screen?  Or perhaps it’s the titling hint that helps avoid calibration?

 

dch

I have just recently used and played with a S3. Being older I actually do like the bigger display, it is easier on my eyes. I have had Apples forever and iphone from 3G but the S4 appears to be a nice machine. Does it have Apples great integration - No, but Apple also has the Walled garden to prevent you from using other things makes it much easier on them. With the margins they have now I can only hope that real competition of the S4 and the HTC One will force Apple to open the experience a little. ie micros SD slot, bigger MP camera, Easier transfer of data ( like a laptop would)  They should open up their ecosystem to have more than one all encompassing iphone. There would be nothing wrong with have 2 or even 3 size screens.  So the developers might have to work a little harder with different resolutions
Apple can’t assume that because they got people in the first place that will continue and if they lose all the new purchasers of smartphones they might be in a downward spiral. Android has come a long way. People in the end don’t care what is underneath, they want what they can see.

Lee Dronick

“Lee, I went to approve your comments and managed to delete them instead.  My apologies. Geoduck, if you’re reading this, I caught two of yours up at the same time.

Not sure why registered user comments got snagged, but I’ll let the team know it happened.”[/quote

No problem Bryan

“And I personally think those monster sized “phones” are horribly unwieldy, though I know a few people who seem to like them.”

I will have to heft one and see how it fits in my hand. There is a tradeoff between size and portability. I always carry my iPhone, but I only take my iPad when I know that I will have to drop anchor for a while. In regards to taking an iPhone, the latest version of Kirkland blue jeans (Costco’s brand) have a cell phone pocket instead of a watch pocket.

 

Lee Dronick

Damn, forgot the closing quote [/quote}

Sorry

scottnch

Good article, Bryan.

It seems that both Google and Samsung want to do their own “eye things”, so it’ll be interesting to see how use[ful/less] these will be.

Apple does i-Things quite well, though, so I’ll stick with what works for me, for now at least.

geoduck

Phone/Phablit
iOS/Android
Apple/Samsung
Metal-Glass/Plastic

I know which one I prefer. YMMV

“Quality is what you like”
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - Pirsig

Lee Dronick

See today’s Joy of Tech comic

http://tapastic.com/episode/2700

FlipFriddle

Thanks for that image overlay. I think the iPhone 5 is too big in my pocket so it’s obvious for me at least the Samsung isn’t even worth considering. That was easy.

Lancashire-Witch

Yep FlipFriddle. Me too.  If the new iPhone is physically larger than a 4 I’ll be disappointed. It has to be a good phone first, otherwise i’m back to using a simple (i.e. not smart) phone (and an iPad).

Kodac

MarkSpace (makers of MissingSync) was a company I used to use on Palm to sync my iCal and Address Book. They allow you to sync your contacts, calendars, photos, music, and videos. MissingSync also works with iPhone, Android, and Blackberry.  http://www.markspace.com/products/missing-sync-family.html .

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