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Here I am with a much-delayed comparison between the rival smartphones.
Now because I know no one likes to read the same boring blab about iPhone 5 and Galaxy S3, so here is the ugly truth – this review is not meant for everyone, It is for those who have not yet decided which one to get.
November stats show that the most popular smartphone in the UK is the Samsung Galaxy S3. It has proven itself again and kept the top position for half a year.
The iPhone 5 is sadly resting on its laurels. But this has happened the first time and hopefully they will recover from this pit.
Samsung’s Galaxy S3 is the first smartphone outside the iPhone to break the control of wireless carriers and be released simultaneously on all four major U.S. carriers, and U.S. Cellular. It has even sold more than 20 million units in its first 100 days of availability, an unheard number outside of the iPhone. It’s one of the best examples of what Google’s Android operating system has to offer.
So the million dollar question is which phone is right for you if you’re struggling to make up your mind? Of course, if you are brand loyal then the answer is very easy, but for someone like myself – I’m going to have a tough time making up my mind especially when Lumia and HTC One X are released.
For now, we have Apple and Samsung battling their difference here. This is just a review, and the final decision is still yours to make.
The chart above shows an overall view of the specs of both phones. Below these specs are separately discussed. Both phones are pretty evenly matched, but we’re giving the hardware power edge to the iPhone 5 based on benchmarking tests by AnandTech and other sites. However, the Galaxy S3 wins out on smaller features with its inclusion of NFC, microSD, a removable battery, 2GB of RAM (double the iPhone’s), a higher resolution front-facing camera, and the size of its screen. Both phones are powerful and in regular use, I don’t see much difference.
Design and Construction
Crafting a beautiful, pocketable, durable phone isn’t easy, and Apple still knows how to do it better than anyone. The iPhone 5 doesn’t change much from the iPhone 4, but it remains the best-looking phone on the market today, and the best built. Apple has improved the scratch and shatter resistance of its glass, and used more aluminum in the frame, making the iPhone 5 much more durable than its predecessors and Samsung’s polycarbonate (a durable type of plastic) Galaxy S3.
The iPhone 5 is also suspiciously lightweight for the materials it uses, weighing only 112 grams, less than the S3′s 133-gram weight. This could be due to the thinness of Apple’s phone, which matches the Droid Razr’s impressive 7.6mm depth, but without any camera bump. The S3 is also an impressive 8.6mm thick. For reference, the iPhone 4 and 4S were about 9.3mm thick, which set a benchmark for its time.
Drop and shatter tests (like this one) seem to be unanimously coming out for the iPhone 5. Even after painful five- or six-foot drops, most iPhone 5 units have only minor dings in the aluminum frame. They somehow escape screen shattering far longer than the S3, despite Samsung’s inclusion of Gorilla Glass, which is known for its durability.
Operating System Features
Yes, both have app lists, app stores, unlock screens and Settings menus, but once you dig in, there are a lot of technical differences between Android and iOS, the two operating systems that run the S3 and iPhone 5. On the whole, iOS is a more airtight and stable OS, but Android offers more features. Because it runs Android, the Galaxy S3 can support NFC and has more robust support for apps and sync than the iPhone. On the Galaxy, apps can run in the background as you permit. Say you want to download podcasts or email every three hours without opening up the app again… you can do that, and the phone has a built-in task manager so you can kill running processes that bother you. The S3 can do a lot more things when your screen is off, and your phone is idle than the iPhone. This makes the S3 a phone with more real-time qualities to it. Apps can be open without being on the screen. This is a double-edged sword, as it also makes it easier for people to ruin their S3′s battery life by installing and letting too many apps run in the background at once. iOS doesn’t usually have rogue processes and apps running in the background and does have a rough task manager (double press the Home button). But this is one example where Android allows more control and features. The ability to install apps outside the Google Play store is another benefit of Android.
Though we love AMOLED’s strengths, those of you with the sharpest eyes might prefer the iPhone 5. According to in-depth tests performed by DisplayMate, it’s better calibrated and gets brighter. We can’t argue. Though OLED may be the future of displays, Apple’s good old LCD takes the crown today.
Though it’s difficult to argue that Apple’s phone is built better than Samsung’s, when it comes to comfort, the Galaxy S3 puts up a strong fight. Samsung has been tweaking the size, shape, and button layouts of its phones several times a year for several years now. The Galaxy S3 is a result of consumer migration toward phones with larger screens. Despite being significantly wider and longer than the iPhone 5, the S3 is more comfortable to hold and use due to its button placement. By placing the power and volume buttons on the sides toward the middle of the phone, users can more naturally press both buttons, interact with the screen, and reach the Home, Back, and Menu buttons on the device. The iPhone 5 is still a comfortable device, but Apple has not adjusted the placement of its power button to match the fact that it is now a longer (not wider) phone.
There are still differences between the Android and iOS app stores, but both stores are so massive that it almost doesn’t matter. iOS still has more quality-priced apps and games (especially games), but Android has cheaper apps and more free titles with ad-based revenue models. We do like that Android apps have made significant strides in auto updating, but both app stores are guilty of promoting a new dynamic where iPhone and Galaxy S3 owners have to download constant app updates to the point of annoyance. Still, both phones have great app stores. Just don’t buy anything from Samsung’s custom app store on the Galaxy S3. Stick to Google Play.
There are two levels of personalization: tweaks to the outside like cases and accessories, and options inside of your phone to manipulate the look of what appears on the screen.
The iPhone 5 makes no significant leaps forward in the area of software. You can change ringtones, your home screen, and lock screen backgrounds, and move your icons around or put them in folders. That’s about it. However, when it comes to cases and custom stickers and whatnot, the iPhone 5 already outshines the Galaxy S3, and that won’t change anytime soon. If you love quirky cases, you should opt for the iPhone.
The Galaxy S3, like other Android phones, does not have a robust case and accessory ecosystem, but it does better in the area of software. It comes with seven blank home screens you can customize with widgets — some already on the phone, some you can download — and app icons. You can also run entirely new skins on Android with tools like the CyanogenMod. Android also lets you customize ringtones, change backgrounds, add animated backgrounds, and all that jazz.
The Galaxy S3 has a decent camera. It works better than most Android phones, and you won’t be hitting yourself for choosing an S3. But if I told you it was better than the iPhone 5′s camera, I’d be lying. Apple’s camera user interface is incredibly simple, and the phone just consistently takes pictures that look better than what you get from any other phone. The new Panorama mode is also fun to play with and works intuitively. Samsung has packed in a lot of social features into its camera, but most are only usable if you and all of your friends own Galaxy S3s. Video on both devices still comes out a bit dark, though they’re both capable of 1080p recording.
When it comes to front-facing cameras, the iPhone 5 catches up to the Galaxy, but neither phone has a great webcam — or FaceTime camera if you’re on the iPhone.
Audio & Video
Enjoy music, video, and radio podcasts? The iPhone, which was born of the iPod, is still your best option. Though we don’t like the way Apple locks purchased content into its device ecosystem, it still has the best ecosystem out there. iTunes is the most robust digital music store and comes with PC or Mac software to manage your entire collection, something Android has never had. Through the App Store, you can access Pandora, Spotify, and countless other apps. Podcasts are also handled by the first-party app by Apple. The only downside is that if you purchase music or content in apps outside of Apple’s content, you’ll likely have to do it on the Web. Companies like Amazon, which sells, books, video, and music, do not allow you to purchase content on your iPhone or iPad because Apple demands a 30-percent cut of the sale. Still, it may be locked down, but getting content on the iPhone 5 is elegant, and it works.
The Galaxy S3 is more of a patchwork here, and will require some research to find the apps you need. Google has dropped support for Listen, its once-great podcasting app, leaving Android users to fend for themselves when it comes to radio. Meanwhile, its Google Play store does support video, but its music service doesn’t have the freedom of Amazon’s MP3 store. Samsung has its music offering that seems very cool, combining aspects of iTunes, Spotify, and Pandora, but it has made a stupid deal with AT&T and U.S. Cellular that prevents anyone not on these carriers from using it. Unless… you are purchasing the phone in another country altogether.
At the moment, this isn’t a contest. With the release of iOS 6, Apple has deleted Google Maps from the iPhone and replaced it with Apple Maps, a new free service that attempts to mimic and outshine Google Maps. The only problem is that it doesn’t, in anyway, do that currently, except for its beautiful 3D city view mode. There are no transit directions yet and, a lot of people are getting bogus directions from Apple Maps. It has placed cities in the ocean and guided people to the middle of nowhere. It’s a buggy, new product. Currently, Android is the best option for those wanting GPS turn-by-turn navigation and a stable mapping solution. Hopefully, Google Maps will be on iOS soon, but so far, Google hasn’t yet submitted it to the App Store.
With the iPhone 4S, Apple introduced us to Siri, its voice assistant. You talk to Siri and ask it a question, and it attempts to answer. To compete, Samsung came out with its “S-Voice” app, which tries to do its best Siri possible. To be honest, neither Siri nor S-Voice is excellent yet, but we have to hand this category to Apple for continuing to add new functionality to its service. I especially like that Siri automatically turns on whenever the smartphone is lifted to the ear.
Oh, battery life. The Razr Maxx may be your only real friend. Neither the Galaxy S3 or iPhone 5 make huge leaps in battery life, but if you play your cards right, both phones will last you through a day. In my opinion, using the Galaxy S3 and the iPhone 5 Verizon models, the S3 has lasted consistently longer than Apple’s phone.
Voice & LTE Data Service
Both the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S3 will supposedly support HD Voice, but where and on which carriers, I don’t know yet. Currently, voice service on both devices is just as crappy as it’s always been. Reception and LTE performance of both on Verizon Wireless in Manhattan, NYC has been similar. It doesn’t appear that either phone has a distinct advantage against one another in voice or data. However, I highly recommend you get a phone like these that has 4G LTE support.
Charging / Connecting Accessories
Normally, this wouldn’t be an actual category and Apple would win hands down. It’s 30-pin iPod, and iPhone connector is so widely supported that some cars come with support for it. There is more than a decade’s worth of speakers, docks, and other peripherals designed specifically for the iPod and iPhone while there are virtually none built for the Galaxy S3. However, with the iPhone 5, Apple has set the score back to zero by creating an entirely new 8-pin connector that isn’t compatible with any of its old accessories or devices. Worse, Apple is making an adapter so you can connect to older devices and it’s going to cost $30. Can somebody say “rip-off?” Apple should have included the adapter with the phone as a thank you for putting up with the transition.
By being a little arrogant with its charging port, Apple gives Samsung the advantage in this area. Though there aren’t a ton of Galaxy S3 accessories, the phone charges on Micro USB, which means you can use a commonly available cable to give it some extra juice. If you lose your single iPhone 5 cable, you’re screwed big time.
If you want to make sure your phone is supported, and you get updates in the future, the iPhone 5 is currently the most reliable bet. Apple reliably updates its operating system every year and delivers updates on its schedule whenever it pleases. With the upgrade to iOS 6, Apple brought every iPhone from the 3GS upward to the new version. Though Samsung has recently committed to taking updating seriously, it has no track record yet. It recently released a “schedule” of devices to get Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) but failed to give any dates. Also, Galaxy S3 updates are run by whatever carrier you happen to be on, or by Samsung itself if you have an unlocked version of the phone. Even if Samsung begins updating its phones constantly, chances are, you will still be four months to a year (or forever) behind Google’s official Android upgrades, which happen twice a year. Speaking from experience I’m still sitting with Gingerbread, I know, it’s pathetic
Figure out which categories are most important to you and do your math. You can’t make a wrong decision here.