The Apple iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S3. These two smartphones couldn’t be more different: aluminium vs plastic, size-conscious vs sizeable, iOS vs Android. But how do they compare in a head to head face-off?
Design and screen
The iPhone 5 is an undeniable stroke of design genius. While it looks like a simple reworking of the iPhone 4 and 4S, get a little closer and it’s all new. Despite its metal construct, it’s extremely slim at just 7.6mm, weighing 112g. It’s not the most comfortable phone to hold though and the black version (in particular) is prone to scratches on the back.
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The LCD display delivers Retina display sharpness spread across 4-inches. Bearing a longer aspect ratio, it’s much better suited to games and videos than its predecessors.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 packs a pure plastic chassis. Neither as striking to look at as the iPhone 5 or as premium, it definitely feels more ergonomic. The larger size is offset by the easy to hold glossy curved backing and light weight, ensuring it slips in the pocket with ease.
The HD Super AMOLED screen isn’t as sharp as the iPhone’s however delivers more vibrancy and at 4.8-inches commands attention.
The iPhone 5 interface - iOS 6 - revolves around a side-scrolling grid of apps and a pull down notification bar. You can collate apps into folders, but there’s little more to get your head around in terms of the main UI.
It has a fixed keyboard and a comprehensive suite of pre-installed apps such as iTunes and Passbook, with the option to easily download more through the Apple App Store.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 overlays Android Ice Cream Sandwich with Samsung’s custom skin, also known as TouchWiz. It’s bright, bold and busy, presenting you with home screens you can customise with both apps and widgets - such as weather, Facebook and mail - that update automatically.
There’s a separate page for all your apps and a more comprehensive pull down notification bar than iOS, letting you action notifications and toggle quick settings.
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Camera and multimedia
Two 8-megapixel camera phones, both offering very similar image quality, each great in their own way. The iPhone 5 will do all the work for you. There aren’t many options, so it’s very much a case of point and press. and nine times out of ten, you’ll get a great shot.
In contrast the Samsung Galaxy S3 gives you a host of options. You can tweak exposure, saturation, scene mode and even customise your camera UI. While the auto mode isn’t quite as on point, for any enthusiast photographers, the additional options are priceless.
Video is recorded in full HD 1080p and Apple take the prize with least noise and best digital stabilisation. The Galaxy S3’s offering is good, just not quite as good as that of the iPhone 5.
Both phones make fantastic media players. The Galaxy S3 edges ahead for movies thanks to the additional size and AMOLED screen tech, while the iPhone 5 makes for a more convenient MP3 player with access to iTunes and a more lithe form.
Both phones include GPS apps, with voice instructions and turn by turn navigation. Unfortunately the iPhone 5’s Apple Maps just isn’t as good as the Galaxy S3’s Google Maps, with built-in public transport options and more accurate maps - which is unsurprising considering Google has spent years steadily improving its maps.
Both these phones are as well connected as one another, with Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth and 4G (available on the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE). The Galaxy S3 does pack a few more punches thanks to its NFC chip for contactless payments and more standardised micro USB port for file transfer and charging.
Web browsing on the Galaxy S3 is slightly more comfortable with its larger screen, though the iPhone 5 delivers a richer visual experience, producing purer whites and sharper text.
Both phones are available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions with the Samsung Galaxy S3 expandable via microSD card.
The iPhone 5 includes a dual-core processor, while the Samsung Galaxy S3 has a quad-core processor. Don’t let this throw you though - Apple’s operating system is more efficient than Android. This means that performance on the iPhone 5 is actually for the most part smoother than on the Samsung Galaxy S3. Neither phone is a slouch though - the UIs are slick, 3D games look fantastic and full HD movies play back perfectly.
With call quality on both the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S3 being very comparable, serving up superior sound to most of the competition, there’s only one thing left to cover, battery life.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 has a large removable battery, so you can pick up a spare, while the iPhone 5 has a smaller fixed battery. Samsung’s S3 will last you a full day and give you the option to carry a spare battery therefore, whereas Apple’s iPhone may well die before your head hits the pillow.
Each phone has its strengths. The iPhone 5 is the refined contender with its premium design, simple UI and comprehensive app ecosystem.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 in contrast is the malleable option, making up for its comparative lack of polish with more functionality, customisation options and a more affordable price-point.