Samsung Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5S
23rd Feb 2014 | 08:00
In the clash of the titans, which is the one for you?
Design, screen, OS, performance
Each handset has its own strengths, from amazing screens to epic cameras and a whole raft of different features that give each device its own personality.
We've given each our thorough run through in our in-depth reviews, but if you're still a little unsure quite which of these exceptional devices is for you, then this guide is pretty much tailor-made for you.
Gone are the days that the Samsung Galaxy range is accused of being iPhone-esque, with the Galaxy S4 looking quite a lot different than its Apple counterpart.
The most noticeable difference between the Korean and American offerings is the size. The Samsung towers over the iPhone, measuring in at 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm yet weighing only 130g. This dwarfs the iPhone at 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm, but makes it 18g heavier than the 112g Apple.
It is this smaller stature that makes the iPhone sit in the hand a lot easier, making one handed operation simpler on top of making it sit nicer in small skinny jeans pockets.
Apple has followed a seemingly industrial style design with the iPhone 5S, the all glass black (or white) front is almost unbroken, with a subtle hints of the home button/Touch ID sensor, front camera and speaker.
If you opt for the black front, space grey aluminium wraps around the side and the back, with more hints of the black glass present at the top and bottom. The white front options offer the choice of a silver or gold back, as well as a matching ring around the home button.
Samsung, on the other hand, has produced a curvier handset, which also comes in black or white. A silver band around the home button, a silver speaker grille and silver Samsung branding help to break up the front, with the black and white front/back also coming with a faint textured look.
A faux chrome band wraps around both versions of the Galaxy S4's plastic chassis. This construction aids in weight reduction and allows users to access the battery and microSD port, allowing heavy users that like to keep extra battery packs with them to swap them in and out, as well as able to keep multiple SD cards.
Both the iPhone 5S and the Galaxy S4 come with the home button at the base, something that led to numerous comparisons between the original Samsung Galaxy S and the iPhone 3GS. Soft keys sit either side of the elongated home button of the Samsung, whereas, home button aside, Apple relies entirely on on-screen controls.
Part of the reason for the size differences is just how heavily the screen dominates each handset. As with nigh-on all modern smartphones, the screen is very much the focal feature.
The iPhone 5S comes with a 4-inch Retina display; a 1136 x 640 resolution resulting in 326ppi. Opting for a 'bigger is better' mantra, the Galaxy S4 comes with a 5-inch Full HD Super AMOLED display meaning a 1920 x 1080 resolution and a massive 441ppi.
This added screen real estate means that it perfect for watching movies, or for playing one of the many games that grace the Google Play Store. Being Super AMOLED as well means that colours come highly saturated, although this can be toned down within the settings menu.
There are many that continue to mock Apple for not (yet at least) building a larger iPhone, but equally there are many that feel larger devices are less suited to making phone calls and also doing things like browsing the web more easily with one hand.
Whilst those looking or serious mobile gaming devices might assume the Galaxy S4 is the better choice, they shouldn't completely write off the iPhone, as even the smaller screen size doesn't spoil the fact it's excellent at graphical reproduction.
The fight between Android and iOS is one that has been raging for a while, and is likely to continue for a long time into the future.
Android is an open source OS, allowing users to customise to their hearts content. Don't like the keyboard? Download a new one. Don't like the home screen? Download a new one. Don't like the messaging app? Yes, you've got it, download a new one.
Widgets also play an important part of the Android experience, allowing users to get a quick dose of information without having to load up individual apps. Fancy weather clocks, email, text, and social media widgets are now populating the Play Store.
Navigation is done on screen, as well as through the two soft keys that sit either side. This aids the on-screen navigation, although at times makes the whole experience seem a little more convoluted.
iOS is far more locked down, opting for a simpler icon experience. This means that iOS is easy to grasp right from the start, with navigation between screens and settings all done on screen. The only physical navigation button is the home button.
Apple has also thrown in a Control Center, allowing you to control settings like screen brightness, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the torch with a simple swipe up from the base. This is very similar to Samsung's quick toggles that live in the notification bar, but is arguably more useful in some cases (well, just the torch really, but it's still a crucial part).
One of the biggest selling points of the iPhone 5S has to be the 64-bit A7 chip that Apple has included. It stole all the headlines at the launch of the 5S, and has sparked many a debate amongst mobile enthusiasts.
In the Galaxy S4, Samsung has included Qualcomm's quad-core 1.9GHz Snapdragon 600 chip, backed up with twice as much RAM as the iPhone, coming with 2GB.
When using the Galaxy S4 and the iPhone 5S side by side, there is little to choose between the two. We found that both devices booted up in a very similar time frame, and moving between screens was also slick and smooth.
Loading up apps such as the Calendar/S Planner, Phone and Messaging app were also done almost simultaneously. There did seem to be a more noticeable gap in loading larger apps, with the iPhone loading Youtube a little faster and leaving the Galaxy S4 standing when loading Sonic Dash, so it's worth noting that if you're after a more stable app experience.
Camera, storage and verdict
If you're buying a new mobile, the camera is also likely to play a very important role. Whilst not able to entirely replace compact cameras, modern smartphones can produce some spectacular images and are always to hand.
Samsung has fitted the Galaxy S4 with a 13MP sensor, whilst Apple has fitted an 8MP sensor to the iPhone 5S. One word of warning though, we found that the Galaxy S4 defaulted to 16:9 photography meaning that the pictures captured were only 9.6MP, rather than the full 13MP captured in 4:3.
This has some advantages. The majority of mobile screens are now 16:9, as are the televisions and monitors that grace our living rooms and offices.
With mobile photos generally ending up on PCs and social media sites, this ratio would seem more appropriate to those looking to share their images, rather than those looking to create the perfect composition.
Samsung has included some added functions to help create a perfect composition however, making it slightly more useful for amateur photographers and professionals alike.
Within the settings menu it is possible to change ISO levels, white balance, exposure, as well as enabling the use of guidelines that break the screen into 9.
More novelty settings include a range of modes, including Beauty Face, Sound and Shot and Animated photo. These allow toggling to certain presets, whilst allowing the S4 to capture a verbal message with an image, or create a moving GIF.
With all this, it might seem a wonder why Apple iPhones are currently the top 4 camera devices used on Flickr. This is because the iSight cameras are stereotypically Apple; accomplished and simple to use, removing the extra settings that often get ignored. This leaves the camera app very uncluttered.
Within the settings menu of the iPhone, it is possible to change two settings; the 3 by 3 grid and whether to keep the normal photo alongside HDR images captured. Apple also offers 8 different filters, allowing for the addition of Instagram-esque effects .
The flash on the iPhone 5S appears brighter than on the Galaxy S4, however colours appear more washed out with much higher contrast levels appearing on the Samsung.
The iPhone 5S is able to capture much more detail in extreme low light situations, with much more detail from the car and of the houses opposite.
Colours appear far more vibrant on the Galaxy S4, with the image also looking a lot brighter and sharper - although the iPhone 5S does have a more natural image.
Colours are more contrasted on the Galaxy S4, with the more detail also being captured in the brighter areas. Galaxy S4 image feels sharper, with the added pixels helping produce a crisper image.
Storage and Extras
In battle of pure numbers, the Galaxy S4 beats the iPhone 5S hands down in one simple way; microSD support. Both handsets come in 16, 32 and 64GB variants, although the Samsung supports up to a further 64GB.
These cards are also hot swappable, allowing potential storage to be infinite (well, you know what we mean). Those with extremely large music and movie collections are only limited by the amount of microSD cards that they can fit in their pockets.
We will always recommend getting a larger storage option if you can on either device, with many HD apps and games now commanding over 1GB of space each.
Both the Samsung Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5S come with some level of voice activated personal assistant in the form of S Voice and Siri. The latter is obviously more well known and in our tests performed slightly better, if not 100% accurate.
The iPhone 5S also comes with a feature that sets it apart from almost every other handset on the market; Touch ID. Building a fingerprint scanner into the iPhone 5S' home button means that it is easy to hit, and it makes unlocking your iPhone simpler and quicker.
Apple has also included an M7 chip that constantly gathers data from accelerometers, gyroscopes, and compasses without needing to engage the A7 CPU. This enables more accurate tracking of work outs, as the chip can track your movements and distinguish between different journeys.
To make use of this extra chip, you will have to find a compatible app on the App store.
The Galaxy S4 might not come with a built in co-processor, but it does come with the S Health app preinstalled. This makes use of the in-built thermometer and barometer to measure comfort levels, as well as tracking your runs and your daily calorie intake.
A glance view also allows users to swipe their hands over the screen to get a quick glance at the time, notifications and battery charge status, as well as coming with a notifications light.
Both the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the iPhone 5S are outstanding devices in their own rights, with very distinct personalities. Where the Samsung seems big and brash, the Apple seems calmer and more refined.
Having Android as the OS of the Galaxy S4 allows for levels of customisation that many iPhone owners dream of, with more control than just being able to change the wallpaper. It also allows for the addition of widgets, although this can sometimes make the UI feel cluttered where the iPhone 5S seems a lot simpler.
The added real estate, Full HD resolution of the 5-inch display coupled with expandable storage make the Samsung Galaxy S4 ideal for those that love to watch movies on the go, as well as those that have adapted to using both hands whist texting.
It also makes mobile gaming easier, with less of the screen being taken up with on screen thumbs.
Those looking to play more casual games may be more suited to the iPhone, although the 64-bit chip makes it slightly quicker to load the more graphic intensive games. Apple's iPhone 5S also comes with the added advantage of hooking up to iCloud, making it easy to sync between multiple iDevices.