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iPhone 5S vs Samsung galaxy S4 September 28, 2013

Posted by ronannarbor in Apple, Gizmos.

Upfront: I’ve used an iPhone since 2007 when they first came up, upgrading to each subsequent version. About three months ago, I plain old got bored of the iPhone and tried the Samsung Galaxy S4 for a month. This past week, I went back to the iPhone with the new iPhone 5S. This is based on my experience comparing the two.

Screen — Without a doubt the better screen is on the Galaxy S4 — it’s an inch bigger, which for my aging eyes makes all the difference in the world between being able to read a Kindle book on the phone vs squinting at the screen on the iPhone. The colors are super saturated, which I personally like, and everything looks fantastic. GS4 no doubt the winner here.

Battery — this is a tossup. Because the GS4 allows you to swap out batteries (which you can get on eBay for a couple bucks a piece) this would seem to be the no-brainer here — but its not. In real life, the iPhone 5S gets a good 2 hours more out of a charge per day with moderate use and similar brightness settings. That DOES make a difference and means you can make it through a normal day with one charge, which you can not with the GS4 without swapping out a battery in the afternoon, or recharging. In reality, the iPHone 5S wins here.

Memory — both come in 16, 32, and 64 GB models of built in memory. If you are a real music or video freak, you can add upto another 64GB of microSD memory to the GS4. I’ve never used more than 16-18 GB of data on my phones, ever, so if this is a necessity for you look at the biggest memory you can get. For others, the 32GB version of either phone will do you fine. Tie in real life, win for GS4 for the uber-memory hogs.

Software — another tossup as far as apps available — my experience (I am not a gamer so I can not talk there) was that every single App I had on the iPhone has an equal (or similar if not better) App on Android. They download faster on Android. And they are easy to manage within the Play store. BUT — in the years of having an iPhone I have never had a single App crash while using it. Not so on the GS4 — I had apps crash left and right every single day. I can’t remember that since the old days of Blackberry and Pocket PC.  Apps available is a tie. App Quality and stability, iPhone5S wins.

Ease of Use — iPhone5S, not even worth discussing here. Everything works right out of the box. Nothing crashes, and you can do everything one-handed.

Customizability — again, not worth discussing. Galaxy S4 all the way if this is your thing. I loved having widgets on the phone that instantly update MLB scores, or have a sticky note app, or the Google notecards. Apple can take a lesson from Android here, at least as far as widgets are concerned. Also you have complete freedom over volume, sounds, where buttons are placed on the control screens, etc. GS4 wins by a landslide here.

Music and Movies — iPhone5S wins. If you have a mac, an iPad, and iPhone don’t even think about switching to a Galaxy S4 — it won’t play any of your purchased iTunes movies, and it won’t play anything older in your iTunes library that has any DRM attached to it (most albums purchased the last few years are DRM free on iTunes — but almost my entire Broadway record collection dates from the early 2000’s when I replaced all my CD’s with digital versions by either ripping the CD’s or buying new on iTunes. Those won’t play. If you are not tied to the iTunes world, you’ll find Google Play more than an adequate solution with multiple music and video players you can choose from. Transfering music and movies and photos on the GS4 is ludicrous — this is a total win for the iPhone5S and its iTunes integration.

Build Quality — iPhone5S wins again. Its solid, feels good to hold, and you know its not going to break. The GS4 is plastic, and while its a good size and heft, I several times found the back cover coming off and needing snapping back on. It feels cheap. When you hold it and type you can feel the back cover “give” as you squeeze. The hardware is decent on both machines, but lets face it. the iPhone5 is the Rolls Royce of smartphones. I might have a different story to talk about if I owned a HTC One, which are superbly built. But the GS4 is not an HTC One, and its not an iPhone. Apple wins this one.

Speed — The iPhone5S wins by a landslide. The new iPhone5S is 2 times faster than the GS4 in day-to-day use, and it has a screen that is 3.4 x more responsive than the GS4. That means faster and lighter finger taps will get the job down. That isn’t Apple advertising, by the way — that is research data provided by Android just this week.

Keyboard — both the iPhone5S and the Android have touchscreen keyboards that, as far as I am concerned, SUCK. I hate them. I would trade for a real keyboard anyday for speed and accuracy. That being said, the iPhone’s keyboard sucks less than the Android but for different reasons. The iPhone tends to predict the correct words less often than the Android, but it spells them correctly. Android, on the other hand, can use swipe-to-type which rarely gets the correct words you want in a sentence, and otherwise is just a disaster when typing. If my Blackberry typing speed is 65 wpm (which it is), and my iPhone speed is 25 wpm (which it is – it sucks), then my Android speed was about 15 wpm and of those half were typed incorrectly, spelled wrong, or just gibberish. You can swap out the touch keyboard with many others available through App download — none of them were much better. I did find that Swift keyboard allowed me to at least type faster by their use of almost eerily correct text prediction — but that wasn’t typing — it was touching words as the keyboard would predict them, kinda like the old T9 thing only better. Not satisfying and not for me. iPhone5S wins for speed and accuracy, but not really for speed nor accuracy. Just better than the Android.

Accessories — the iPhone5S wins again. Cases, chargers, screen protectors, speakers, car stereo players are available just about everywhere. Cases look better and are cheaper for the iPhone5S and readily available without special order. Vacation sites sell iPhone 5 cases (i.e. Walt Disney World, etc) and none of them have GS4 cases. I was never able to get my Roadster2 to pair with the GS4 in the car. iPhone connected instantly. iPhone5S wins.

Camera — the iPhone5S has sharper photos hands down. Easy to compare and many websites have. I found it a battle to get a sharp photo with the GS4 even in sunny situations. Close focusing was very difficult with the GS4. While it comes with better bells and whistles software wise built in by Android and Samsung, you can get similar (and generally better) software post processing apps on the iPhone. But for sheer image quality, which is really all I care about, the iPhone5S wins.

Extras — iPhone 5S’s fingerprint ID offsets the many better hardware-based specialties of the GS4, so I’ll call it a tie.

No matter which phone you choose, you will be using either Apple or Samsung’s top of the line model. You’ll be generally happy with either — but I couldn’t help but think during my month of GS4 that I felt a bit like someone using the phone because I couldn’t afford the iPhone (not true). It has little glamor and certainly no “wow” factor other than the better and larger screen.

For your thought before purchasing or upgrading:

Do you own a Mac, iPad, previous iPhone and you use iTunes — stick with Apple, you will be very very very disappointed with the Android system and its sync and backups.

Do you prefer to customize things so they look and work the way you want, even if it takes hours sometimes to get it to do that? I.e. are you a gizmo-whiz and a tinkerer? Then the Galaxy S4 will be more to your liking.

Do you like setting a lot of different ringtones and notification sounds? Do you like customizing them with rings that you want or make yourself? iPhone is the way to go.

Do you want the sharpest photos possible? iPhone.

Do you prefer to use a PC and PC-based software (word, excel) etc? Then the Android will be more to your liking when it comes to smartphone features.

Are you using iCloud to sync your Mac, iPhone, and iPad for contacts, calendars, tasks, and notes? Then iPhone is the way to go. You can get third party software to sync to your iCloud — my experience was that it was spotty and slow, often VERY slow (things showed up in iCloud hours later). There are no guarantees that Apple will not block access to its iCloud ports with subsequent iOS updates. Don’t switch to Android if you are dependent on the Apple systems.




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