Launched late last week, the Galaxy S5 has been making the rounds from one reviewer’s desk to another. The Android-powered smartphone has quickly made a name for itself, garnering a mixed reception and leaving some buyers on the fence. Many in the market for a new smartphone will consider the S5 alongside Apple’s latest (albeit now over half a year old), the iPhone 5s. Is either device worth jumping platforms? What’s the better overall buy? We attempt to wade our way through the matter. Read on for the full comparison.
Design and Build
Once similar enough to fuel patent disputes in courts throughout the world, the design and build of the latest Galaxy S is now one of the biggest differences between the device and its Apple counterpart. For starters, Samsung’s handset is larger, as is needed to accommodate the phone’s 5.1-inch display.
The Galaxy S5 measures 5.59″ x 2.85″ x 0.32″ while the iPhone 5s comes in at 4.87” x 2.31” x 0.30”. Given the varying screen sizes, perhaps the most relevant point of comparison is device thickness. If thinner is better, the iPhone wins with a profile 0.02” thinner than the S5.
In terms of device aesthetics and design, both the iPhone 5s and Samsung Galaxy S5 are intrinsically linked to the smartphone models that preceded them. For the latest iPhone flagship, Apple chose to change very little about the design first introduced with the iPhone 5. Likewise, while size changes slightly and other aesthetic aspects see some refinement — a dimpled backplate, for instance — the Galaxy S5 is not a drastic departure from the design of the Galaxy S4.
Comparing the two, the iPhone definitely holds a more premium feel, utilizing aircraft grade aluminum and glass to deliver a sleek and clean look. Samsung continues to rely upon a polycarbonate plastic for their Galaxy handset, which tends to give the device a slightly cheaper look and feel than the iPhone. Of course, we can’t talk about design without mentioning the GS5’s IP67 spec, meaning it can be submerged full underwater and continue functioning. It’s an awesome feature, but not enough to give the device the edge in this category.
Verdict: iPhone 5s
Samsung has once again increased the screen size of their Galaxy flagship, moving to a 5.1-inch, 1080p Super AMOLED display. The iPhone 5s is considerably smaller, retaining the 4-inch display of the iPhone 5 with no significant changes, including a resolution of 1136 x 640 pixels.
The display of the iPhone 5s, while boasting its “Retina” Pixel density of 326 ppi, is still sub-HD. It’s arguable, however, if the lower resolution is much of a downgrade or even noticeable on the smaller display size. The larger display of the Galaxy S5, however, manages to cram about one hundred more pixels per inch, providing a density of 432 ppi.
Samsung’s Super AMOLED displays are known for their rich color saturation and strong contrast. While many users prefer the vibrant display technology, it’s color profile isn’t always true to life. Apple’s Retina display, while slightly more neutral in color and contrast, is seen as providing more realistic image reproduction.
Ultimately, both displays look pretty great, though the iPhone 5s, utilizing a display that hasn’t changed much over two device generations, is starting to show its age in this area. While personal preference will dictate which looks best on a user-by-user basis, few will argue the superiority of Samsung’s display on a technical level.
Verdict: Samsung Galaxy S5
Processor and Hardware
While Android device manufacturers often cite clock speed and processor core configurations as a main part of device marketing, Apple has taken a slightly different approach, choosing instead to let the device’s performance speak for itself. That is not to say the Cupertino-based company has made no strides in this area with the iPhone 5s. All other elements aside, the most recent Apple flagship can boast one thing the Galaxy S5 cannot: 64-bit processing.
While this is the only tech spec Apple has made a point to mention, device teardowns reveal that the A7 chip found in the iPhone 5s features a dual-core processing suite clocked at 1.3GHz. Samsung’s device features the 32-bit quad-core Snapdragon 801, no slouch by any means at 2.5GHz.
If you continue such a hardware comparison on paper, the Galaxy S5 bests the iPhone 5s in many areas. RAM? 2GB in the S5 compared to the 1GB found in the 5s. Expandable storage via MicroSD? The S5 has it; the iPhone does not. An IP67 certification for resistance to dust and water? That, again, is a Galaxy S5 feature not found in its Apple counterpart. The Galaxy S5 even features a built-in heart rate monitor.
But for all the discrepancies in device configuration, there is an intangible element that keeps the iPhone 5s much closer to the Galaxy S5 in terms of device performance. Whereas Samsung seems content to bog down their powerful handset with a dose of heavy-handed software, the iPhone sees a hardware/software compliment designed from the ground up to work in tandem. The result? The iPhone 5s, in many ways, feels just as fast and responsive as the Galaxy S5, if not more.
And let’s not forget that 64-bit processing. While it is arguable whether or not the desktop-grade architecture is really an advantage at this point in time given the lack of software supporting it (the overwhelming majority of apps and games are designed for 32-bit systems), it does future-proof the iPhone 5s to a degree. Smartphones will inevitably move over to 64-bit as the standard, and when the time comes the iPhone will be ready. The only question is whether or not the iPhone 5s will still be a relevant device when 64-bit reaches critical mass.
Verdict: Samsung Galaxy S5
Software and Apps
When it comes to the software that runs on the Galaxy S5 and iPhone 5s, we might as well be comparing oranges to, uh, apples. What you get with Samsung’s TouchWiz-infused build of Android KitKat is a far cry from the simplified implementation of iOS 7. And that’s the main difference here: the Galaxy S5 is a device that is crammed full of device-specific software enhancements while the iPhone 5s is not. You get Kids Mode, Private Mode, Download Booster, Ultra Power Saving Mode, advanced multitasking, health monitoring apps, and much more.
We say this with the caveat that, in this case, more isn’t necessarily better. As mentioned briefly above, Samsung’s software at times stymies device performance. When it isn’t mucking things up, it can make for a steep learning curve (especially for newer Android users). While iOS 7 is lacking in many of these bells and whistles, many will find its clean interface accommodating and easy to get the hang of. The S5 is what power users might consider a dream phone, but it won’t be that way for everyone.
As for apps, the gap has closed substantially over the past several years between Android and iOS. The Google Play Store boasts some 700,000 apps while Apple’s App Store holds over 1 million. That is still a significant margin, but rest assured that most major services are available across platforms, and most new apps that launch exclusively in one marketplace or the other have a tendency to find their way to other operating systems (though it might be a few months).
Fingerprint Scanner and Heart Rate Monitor
Though not the first to introduce a fingerprint scanner to a smartphone, Apple’s inclusion of Touch ID on the iPhone 5s no doubt sparked their biggest competitor to mimic the feature in the Galaxy S5. Both implementation allow users to secure their device using a scanner embedded in their respective home buttons. Apple’s version also allows for the authorization of app purchases from the App Store. Samsung takes things a step farther, allowing users to utilize fingerprint authentication for third-party apps like PayPal.
While both methods have shown that they are susceptible to hacking via some rather involved methods (a physical recreation of a fingerprint must be made), Apple’s Touch ID is considered the more secure of the two. Apple implements additional security features such as the need to enter a PIN-type passcode if a device is rebooted, regardless of whether fingerprint authentication is enabled. The Galaxy S5 seems to lack these additional security layers.
This shouldn’t make or break the decision to go with either device, however. Fingerprint authentication is merely an option, and it still needs some refining if it is going to catch on. Not all will opt to use it. Companies like Apple and Samsung have big plans for the future of the technology, however, and it could soon become an integral part of our smartphones. In this regard, Apple has a leg up.
One technology the two handsets do not share is a built-in heart rate monitor. The Galaxy S5 is one of the first smartphones to include this feature, and it works adequately (and has a cool red light to go along with it), but it’s hard to say whether or not this is a must-have feature. A nice bonus, but it doesn’t set the Gs5 apart by much.
Verdict: iPhone 5s
The iPhone has long been known for housing one of the best cameras to feature in a smartphone, and the iPhone 5s is no exception. Since it launched last September it has continued to be the benchmark for what a smartphone camera should be. It’s still pretty great, but the Galaxy S5 might just do one better.
The hardware spec suggests that the Samsung-made device should have the upper hand. The Galaxy S5 sports a 13MP camera while the iPhone 5s holds steady at 8MP. Both are perfectly adequate in well lit situations both indoors and out, and you’d be hard pressed to spot any major differences. The real separation comes when taking the cameras into less than ideal lighting conditions.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 (above) shines in this area, while the iPhone 5s (below) leaves a little to be desired. The Galaxy manages to capture more light to compensate for dark areas, while the iPhone fails to do its best work in the same conditions. Color representation remains pretty even in all conditions for the Galaxy S5. Colors look muted on photos taken with the iPhone in darker conditions.
As for video, this area was harder to judge. You’d be hard-pressed to identify which camera was doing the shooting without being told. Both do a decent enough job, though colors begin to wash out in brighter conditions regardless of the device used. We give a slight nod to the iPhone for video, but it’s hardly a wide margin.
Verdict: Samsung Galaxy S5
Many will be quick to point to the Galaxy S5’s 2800mAh battery as evidence that it is the far superior handset when it comes to battery life, but as with other factors the true judgement can only take place after comparing the two in real-world settings. Yes, the GS5 features a much larger battery. It also features a much more power hungry hardware compliment. That big, bright display and quad-core processor need to get their juice from somewhere, right?
Still, the Galaxy S5 excels in terms of battery, getting at least a day of uptime during standard use. Power users might need to charge a bit more frequently, however. Samsung’s official claims are 21 hours of talk time, 11 hours of video playback, and 10 hours of LTE web browsing.
Likewise, the iPhone 5s also performs adequately and should get most users through a full day of use. Apple promises 10 hours of talk time, 10 hours of LTE web browsing, and 10 hours of video playback.
In our real world tests, we found nothing to disprove either manufacturers claims. In some cases the batteries over performed, in others the battery fell just shy. One place, however, where Samsung holds a clear advantage is the GS5’s Ultra Power Saving Mode. This feature switches the Galaxy S5’s power management system to provide juice to only the essential elements needed to keep the phone running. It strips away greater smartphone functionality, but can add an additional 24 hours of standby time to a battery already drained to 10 percent capacity.
Verdict: Samsung Galaxy S5
The Samsung Galaxy S5 emerges as a clear victor in many areas of comparison, but the scrappy iPhone 5s held its own in most respects. Let’s recap how the two phones fared in this head-to-head comparison:
- Design: iPhone 5s
- Display: Samsung Galaxy S5
- Hardware: Samsung Galaxy S5
- Software: Draw
- Fingerprint Scanner: iPhone 5s
- Camera: Samsung Galaxy S5
- Battery: Samsung Galaxy S5
Which is the right phone for you?
We can spend all day giving you our opinions on the matter, and we hope they help making an informed decision easier, but ultimately the device you buy comes down to personal preference. Do you favor a big, beautiful display above all things? Go with the Galaxy S5. Is an intuitive interface and access to apps a priority? Then the iPhone 5s is a no brainer.
In our opinion you probably can’t go wrong with either, but we’re interested in hearing what you, our readers, have to say on the matter. Let us know in the poll below!