Samsung Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5S

Vs Paul Briden 15:39, 30 Oct 2013

What are the key differences between Apple's iPhone 5S and the Samsung Galaxy S4?

It’s somewhat typical of Apple to have announced its new iPhone 5S and then selectively revealed only certain details about the specs and capabilities.

What we have is a bunch of slightly ethereal information which is very difficult to put alongside rival devices – we know, for instance, that it has a new Apple A7 processor and we know that this is based on 64-bit architecture. We also know it is twice as fast as its predecessor, but in all cases we only have Apple’s word to go on and in reality none of this stuff means anything in isolation.

The irritating truth is that we likely won’t know a more detailed spec list until one of those ‘let’s take it apart and see what’s inside’ sites such as AnandTech or ArsTechnica get their mitts on the iPhone 5S and tear it to pieces, in a controlled and precise fashion of course.

So with that in mind, I am going to attempt to make a preliminary comparison of the iPhone 5S, pitting it against what is arguably its chief rival in the smartphone space – the Samsung Galaxy S4. But, this isn’t going to be your typical spec versus spec duel, instead it’s going to be more of a back-and-forth discussion of the design and known capabilities of each handset.

Design and build

It’s fair to say that both Samsung and Apple are, to varying extents, a bit guilty of recycling the same design repeatedly.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is virtually the same size as its predecessor, the Galaxy S3, and while the larger display real-estate crammed in has narrowed the bezel and given the phone a slightly ‘broader’ face, it’s still got the softened edges, rounded corners and glossy plastic chassis.

Meanwhile other stylistic elements, such as the Home button design, silver trim and capacitive controls have also remained unchanged.

Likewise the iPhone 5S is largely the spitting image of its predecessor with the same 4-inch Retina display.

The colour choices have been revamped but you still get your black and silver/white options in one form or another, as well as the new bling bling champagne gold, but looking at the handset the only other significantly visible difference for the sharp-eyed is the metallic ring around the Home button – a slight giveaway that it now possesses that new fangled Touch ID fingerprint scanner, but more on that later.

Both devices are quite attractive and really well put together. As I’ve come to expect from each manufacturer, there’s no flex or creak to the bodywork. But Samsung’s choice of glossy, tacky plastic is less than impressive in the hand. Meanwhile, Apple is still very much trading on the ‘premium’ image with an aluminium build which is reassuring to get to grips with, if a bit more susceptible to scuffs and dings.


With the Samsung Galaxy S4 you get a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor clocked at 1.9GHz with 2GB of RAM and an Adreno 320 graphics processing unit (GPU). We know how well this performs and Samsung has become more adept at optimising Android Jelly Bean alongside its TouchWiz UI software to Qualcomm’s architecture, so generally you can expect some fairly fast speeds.

However, it’s not all flowers and sunshine, when KYM’s Richard Goodwin reviewed the Galaxy S4 he noted “the occasional stutter when flicking between homescreens and there was a hint of lag when scrolling through longer menu lists.”

The iPhone 5S is a bit of a mystery. Its A7 chip uses 64-bit architecture, just like a desktop computer, and according to Apple it’s the first 64-bit smartphone in existence. The ramifications for the end user are unclear and tricky to fathom at this point though. The potential is for much faster and more advanced applications, while enhanced graphical capabilities via Open GL ES 3.0 means gaming can become much flashier (although Android 4.3 supports this standard too.)

But, fast and clever apps on iOS have never really been a problem anyway, and overall performance has always been high thanks to Apple’s optimisations, so really it should mean business as usual. The gaming element seems more significant here, but then only if you’re into gaming, of course.

On the storage front Apple’s offering the usual selection of 16GB, 32GB and 64GB onboard with no microSD support while in the UK the only Samsung Galaxy S4 model to be released has 16GB onboard, but with only about 9GB available to the user, although you do get microSD support for cards up to 64GB.

Then of course there’s Apple’s party trick with the Touch ID fingerprint scanner built into the Home button. Personally I can’t get excited about this, I really don’t see the point as it’s only tied into unlocking the phone and making purchases from iTunes. Had it been incorporated more widely into eWallet services and real-world shopping I might have a different view, but as it stands, to me it seems like a gimmick.


Apple also claims the battery life on the iPhone 5S has received a significant boost with up to 10 hours of web browsing or video playback and 40 hours of music playback.

For Samsung’s battery life I will defer once again to Rich’s review:

“With its 2600mAh battery you get plenty of usage from the handset before it kicks the bucket. From a single charge with heavy usage – lots of browsing, calls, push email on, downloading large data files, and streaming movies – you’re looking at a full day providing you have auto-brightness activated. 

“With moderate, casual, usage you’re looking at a day and half at an absolute push. Compared to the Xperia Z and Nexus 4, the Galaxy S4 is a heavy hitter in the battery stakes and that’s an important win for Samsung. Even more so when you consider the Galaxy S4’s 5-inch 1080p display and the oodles of bloatware – sorry, software – it ships with.”


Apple has left the display on the iPhone 5S well alone as a 4-inch Retina IPS LCD at 1126x640 pixels. We already know the reasoning behind this, the company line is that it’s an optimised size for use with one-hand and yet is still suitable for multimedia consumption, while the pixel density at 326 pixels-per-inch is at the limit of what the human eye can perceive.

While the iPhone 5S’s display is certainly sharp enough, bright enough and colourful enough I do find that larger displays do provide a more enjoyable multimedia experience and these days bigger screens can achieve much higher pixel densities (pixels-per-inch or ppi) so there’s no loss of clarity. They’re also not that difficult to manage with one hand as long as they’re around the 4.7-inch mark or less.

Samsung’s Galaxy S4 hits a number of these points with its 5-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen, which features a full HD 1920x1080 pixel resolution at 440ppi. It’s sharp, bright, colourful and generally much more rewarding to use in my view.


Both camera setups are certainly improvements over their predecessors, but it’s important to recognise that camera capabilities are not exactly a speciality of either device and if you’re looking for something which truly excels at imaging there are now plenty of other options on the market.

Bearing that in mind, Apple has decided to stick with its 8-megapixel iSight camera but has tweaked things a bit. We’re now told it has a more advanced back-illuminated sensor (BSI), uses a larger pixel size to capture more light, a larger f/2.2 aperture and some other clever jiggery-pokery.

Chief amongst these smart changes is the fact that, like many rival devices, the camera will now start doing stuff even before you take a shot, apparently adjusting for focus, lighting and stabilisation dynamically. Apple says it has a Hybrid IR filter and the dual-LED flash, which uses one amber LED and one white LED, is designed to produce more natural colour by dynamically adapting to lighting conditions.

Samsung has upped the megapixel count to 13-megapixels (it’s still a BSI sensor) with an LED flash and it still has digital image stabilisation. However, the majority of Samsung’s changes are concerned with how it takes a picture. That means you get things like Dual Shot, which lets you capture images and footage with both front and back cameras and merge it all together. In other words, you’ve got a selection of new modes. Another included mode is the ability to capture multiple shots and create a time-lapse motion image, or pick the best snap.

Picture quality has improved though, as Rich writes in his review,“Images captured using the 13-megapixel backside-illuminated sensor are superb and a huge bump up from what we saw on last year’s Galaxy S3. Colours are crisp and highly detailed, even when zoomed in for closer inspection.”

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Very disaapointed in Apples rehash of the iphone why on planet earth would you pay £549quid for one beggers all belief.

After trying EVERY "top" smartphone on the market, im pleased with Apple. They dont promise more than they can deliver. it may have a £549 price but so does the S4. Why would anyone pay that much for PLASTIC? ios is far superior to android.

I think that the biggest question is:
Why should a customer that have an Iphone 5 upgrade to 5S, i cant see any reason at all and that is why this phone will be a dissapointment when it comes to sales.

The customers with Iphone 4S who waited to upgrade will most likely keep on waiting or buy iphone 5 on a sale.

A new customer will most likely buy a Samsung, it is only the people that is locked into Itunes that feel it is to expensive to switch that keeps on buying Apple.

The new Iphone 5C is a meaningless to expensive misstake by Apple, it should have been £250 and they would have gotten a new generation lured into Itunes

They shouldn't. The point of the S upgrades isn't to get owners of the previous gen to upgrade, it's to keep the phone competitive for either first-time buyers or upgraders from 4S, 4, older Androids etc.

Paul, I can tell you're trying to bring the news instead of a biased opinion. But I can tell you're an iPhone user by the way you complain about the Samsung's plastic skeleton over the "premium" aluminum of the iPhone. I know I'm no better as an Apple hater but I don't write the news. Still, a well written article.

You can navigate the S4 without touching it and it packs 2 GB of RAM, Quadcore processor, higher pixel density, bigger screen, flexible OS and is feature packed. You can actually get it for just over £400 on amazon. Plastic is generally more durable than aluminium as it doesn't dent. That's precisely why Apple decided to repack the iphone 5 in plastic and name it 5C.

You may be surprised to learn I'm an Android user. I just can't stand Samsung's plastics, and it's not even an aversion to plastics generally - I love Nokia and HTC's plastics, for example, I just disagree with Samsung on what a nice plastic feels like. I do like aluminium but some implementations are better than others and the caveat is always that it's a soft metal which dents easily, something I readily point out in the article.

You don't need to touch the iphone either,since there's Siri which has been vastly improved in ios 7.
2 gigs of ram for what?Oh,right,i totally forgot that android can't work well even with that much...quadcore processor,same as above,even with its quadcore processor,the S4 can lag like hell...all these android fanboys throwing around numbers,omfg 2ghz quadcore so good...and the phone still lags.Higher pixel density...okay,that just takes more battery life for pretty much nothing,since you cannot see the pixels even on screens worse than the iphone's.The OS is flexible alright,that's finally something you're right about...feature packed,wtf?Do you mean stuff like taking 2 pictures at once,which is like totally useless and any 3rd party developer would be able to make an app like that?Or the store?The droid store is filled with a lot of useless apps,so finding the good ones is a nightmare,on contrary to ios.
Durability?The s4 performs a lot worse in drop tests.
Final words: deal with it.

Unless you have owned both you can't really jump to conclusions. I have owned iPhones, Samsung and HTC and I have to say that the iPhone had the most lag and glitch. I am not going to argue with you because you have clearly made up your mind and don't want to hear otherwise. Just check on all the claims that the iPhone 5C was made on Chinese slave labour with unpaid overtime, and previous iPhone models were made by employees that were so badly treated that they actually jumped of the building they were working at, and they had to put fences to stop them.

I forgot to say. Unlike you, I am not a fanboy. I switched to Android cos I wanted to own cutting edge tech. If cutting edge tomorrow means microsoft, nokia or even again Apple I will consider moving again. I am not allowing any corporation to lock me down on their echo system. If you are a true techy you will always appreciate good tech no matter who makes it.

Okay guys, do you hear yourselves? You are argueing about which phone is "better." Hate to break it to you, but BOTH phones are great! Whichever one you choose to buy is simply what you prefer. I've used iPhone for years and I love Apple, however... I'm now moving on to buy the HTC or the S4 because of the screen size. Buy whichever phone you want because in the end thats the phone you will be using so who cares what other people think. Buy the phone you think is better for you and stop argueing childishly... "my phone is better than yours!" come on people. grow up.

Apple is way behind the likes of samsung when it comes to technology. The iPhone has a much smaller screen in comparison to the S4 for example, and the iPhone camera quality is crappy in comparison. Most likely the iPhone 6 will feature a big upgrade, if Apple wishes the iPhone to remain one of the best smartphones on the market that is. If you can wait, I would say hold on for the iPhone 6....something tells me its going to be released early 2014....

Lol, only a true fanboy would argue that a product with inferior specs in almost every measure is the better product. All your made up S4 problems is a nice touch. Guys like you never let the facts get in the way of your Apple worship, you're in a cult and it's both hilarious and sad at the same time. You're the most uneducated consumers ever.

I bought an iphone 4S the first day it was in the stores, my first smart-phone. At first I was very pleased, it was an artistic, classy, massive step up in technology for a former Motorola Razr owner. But after some time, I quickly became very dissatisfied with the 3.5" display. As the part of the phone I interact with the most, I find it very limiting, and the one part of the phone I now hate the most. The jump to 4" in the "5", was just not enough. My wife has that one, her first iPhone, and she hates it after just a few months. She wants to go back to an android phone, and I will now join her. Will either buy a Galaxy S4, HTC one, or Galaxy Note 3. There is just no way that Apple can complete with a 4" display, and I believe their iPhone sales and stock performance over the next months will bear this out.

You know what, this is no longer a fight between Android and iOS, its a battle between Touchwiz and iOS. No one ever pits stock android vs iOS. I hate samsung's touchwiz, and I couldn't get the nexus 4 on Sprint (ugh!) so I flashed the AOSP ROM on my gs4 and there is no lag at all. So to all you Apple people saying Samsungs flaw is that it lags... I think you get the picture. At least i get 4G though

I will upgrade from my iPhone 4 to the 5s not because I'm a sheep, because the iPhone 4 is the only phone to last the entire 3year contract and not piss me off or crap out and cause me to through it through a god damned wall like every LG or Samsung I have owned in the past. The galaxy may be a cool phone but the differences are too small for me to sacrifice quality.

Also the smaller phone size is better, why are the phones getting so big? It looks like people are talking into an etch a sketch!

Or maybe its because the iphone does feel more premium...i use a note 2 and the only thing i think it lacks is a more convincing build quality

ios is not superior in anyway to android...until ios7, they are now catching up

Buddy, Samsung plastic is to give you access to battery and microSD expansion. Why some people complain about plastic body? BTW,it absorbs more damage and lighter than others also. So,you can get more out of your phone.(they can add more hardwares inside)For me, I personally hate aluminium, it weights more and not accessible to battery and memory card, they are really needed to be accessible if you are a heavy user on smartphones. Hope it helps. The reviwer is too biased and really did work hard to protect the ip5. LOL!

Still iphone 5C didn't allow us to access the battery and memory card and I will keep on seeing users will run around like crazies when their sucky phone is dying. LOL! Good luck to them. :D

This clearly isn't true. There are plenty of phones with removable plastic back panels which don't use such horrendous plastics.

While, to my knowledge, no-one has done an aluminium phone with a removable back, I'm pretty sure it's technically possible.

As I said, I don't hate plastic, I appreciate its lightweight properties and durability as much as the next guy, I just specifically hate the plastics Samsung uses because although it has these advantages it feels gross.

Other manufacturers which use nice feeling plastics have demonstrated that this really isn't necessary. It can then only be a stylistic choice and I have no problem voicing my view that it's not a good one.

It seems impossible to write anything without being accused of bias, but I must be an Apple fanboy despite the fact that I use Android, don't really like the iPhone and pointed out that Samsung's screen is, for me, a much better option.

I upgraded from apple after using iphones over 4yrs only because I didnt like the integration with my pc and itunes I wanted simple drag and drop function from windows Explorer to my phone and after using s4 android I like it. phone itself quite good to feel and use but thats personal choice. I give samsung 8 out of 10 for seemless integration with my os and android.

Just on the aluminium phone with a removable back; does the Nokia slide 6500 count? I had it for ages before getting my first iPhone and I loved the aluminium feel AND the back was removable.. It wasn't solid aluminium, it still had plastic bits, but the majority of it was metal..
Just my 2-cents ^.^

Really well written article with no biased opinion. Really great work!

Apple fans do one test to see which is best. Let an android fan send you an audio file then try to store or us it on your phone. GOOD LUCK!

actually I can read and store any audio file you send me. There are lots of file manager apps that do that. For instance. Files app. Send any file. open it and store it from your email or bluetooth transfer. what else you got?

Why can't they at least use a slightly nicer plastic, or even a metal panel like the HTC One Max? Heck they can even use stitched faux leather and get the same capability

I agree, you can be an android user and dislike Samsung. I personally won't use a Samsung phone, mainly because of touchwiz but the build is a factor, as well. But that is the beauty of android; if you dislike an Samsung, you can just buy an HTC or Motorola device.

HTC one max doesn't give you any options like those which I have mentioned isn't it? :D

It does give micro sd expansion, and while it does not feature removable battery there is really no reason why it won't. You are right in the sense that the unibody construction of other phones, which is interpretable as higher build quality, does not feature sd or removable battery, but really OEMs are just being lazy.

Paul, I would suggest don't criticize Android phones but praises and a lot of it so you will not accuse of being biased by the Fandroids.

Wow are they? And we keeping the gap with 4.4 kit kat

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