Apple Iphone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S3 head to head review

THERE'S NO DENYING that the Apple Iphone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S3 are the closest rival devices for top honours on the smartphone scene today, thanks to the ongoing patent war between the two companies.

Bitter rivals the two companies might be in courtrooms, but both handsets managed to win us over when we reviewed them, each scoring nine out of 10.

The Iphone 5 arrived just weeks ago with a 4in Retina display, an upgraded processor chip and a slimmer rectangular design. At its launch it was faced with the Galaxy S3 with its own 4.8in touchscreen, quad-core chip and a more streamlined design.

We've pitted the two smartphones head to head to see which one really comes out on top.


On paper, both the Iphone 5 and the Galaxy S3 are very thin, measuring just 7.6mm and 8.6mm thick, respectively.

Apple must be wearing a smug smirk, as it clearly has taken aggressive measures to ensure that the Iphone 5 is thinner than its Samsung rival.

This means that the Iphone 5 feels quite lightweight in the hand, almost as though it's an empty shell without any of the internal components Apple has stuffed inside. In fact, the handset weighs only 112g compared to the Galaxy S3's weight of 133g. That makes the Iphone 5 also the lightest.

Apple Iphone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S3 design

However, that's not to say that the Iphone 5 is the easier of the two handsets to hold. Thanks to the fact that Samsung has concentrated on designing the Galaxy S3 to fit the palm of the hand, it does just that.

It might be larger than the Iphone 5, but due to the angular body and harsh corners of the Iphone 5, we found the Galaxy S3 much more comfortable to hold and use, even if we did struggle to reach apps at the top of the 4.8in screen when using it one handed.

However, as we pointed out in our Apple Iphone 4S vs Samsung Galaxy S3 review, the Galaxy S3 might feel nice in the hand, but we don't think it feels worth £500 due to its entirely plastic chassis.

Saying that, while the Iphone 4S won this round in our previous head-to-head, the Iphone 5 feels much cheaper than its predecessor, due to its lack of glass-coated rear and feather light weight, which makes the handset feel like a toy. Saying that, the handset's aluminum backplate still gives the impression of a high quality device, so we don't begrudge the £530 price tag too much.

Winner: Iphone 5



This is a tricky category, as both Apple and Samsung are proud of their touchscreens on the Iphone 5 and Galaxy S3, touting a 4in IPS 1,136x640 resolution display and a 4.8in Super AMOLED 1,280x720 resolution display, respectively.

In terms of vibrancy, there's not much difference between the two, with the Iphone 5 boasting 326ppi (pixels per inch) compared to the Galaxy S3's 306ppi. While it sounds like the Iphone 5 wins this round on paper, the difference is only six percent and it's virtually impossible for the human eye to differentiate such a small variation in the sharpness of detail resolution beyond 300ppi.

Apple Iphone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S3 screen comparison

The 4in screen on the Iphone 5 is the largest to feature on an Iphone yet, giving users a better viewing window for films, TV shows and games. We think the screen is a great size too, as even with our small hands we managed to tap app icons placed at the top of the screen with just one hand.

However, the Galaxy S3 clearly cares a lot less about being compact than the Iphone 5. We found that the screen usually had to be operated using two hands, and we struggled to scroll through webpages and open apps using just one hand.

That said, the Galaxy S3's Super AMOLED screen technology makes for gorgeous viewing angles and extremely bright colours, making it fairly evenly matched alongside the Iphone 5's Retina display.

Of course, it's all down to preference here. If you want a reasonably sized screen, go for the Iphone 5, or if you're all about larger screens, pick the Galaxy S3.

Winner: Draw



On paper, the Apple Iphone 5 features a 1.2GHz dual-core A6 processor under the bonnet, which sounds pale in comparison to the Galaxy S3's 1.4GHz Cortex A9 quad-core chip.

However, performance wise, Apple's A6 chip in the Iphone 5 manages to keep up with its quad-core competition, and we noticed that pretty much all tasks, whether web browsing, playing games or watching video, were quicker on the Iphone 5 than on the Iphone 4S.

The same has to be said for the Samsung Galaxy S3 too, which - despite featuring a heavier custom user interface than the Apple Iphone 5 - proved just as speedy.

This evenly matched speed can be seen when benchmarking the two handsets. When we ran the Passmark Performance test on both the Iphone 5 and the Galaxy S3, the phones recorded almost identical scores of 66836 and 66837, respectively.

Winner: Draw


Operating system

Mobile operating systems are always difficult to compare head to head, as nearly every smartphone user in the UK will already have their preference, be it IOS, Android, Windows Phone or Blackberry.

Still, apps and software tweaks are things that both of these phones do extremely well, with the Iphone 5 running IOS 6 and the Galaxy S3 running Google's Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) with an upgrade to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean on the way.

The two operating systems, while both great, couldn't be more different, despite Apple and Samsung arguing otherwise.

Apple's IOS 6 isn't that much different from previous iterations of IOS, offering users an easy to use homescreen filled with application icons, with little room for customisation.

However, Samsung's tweaked Android 4.0 user interface (UI) lets users fill five homescreens with apps and widgets, offering a much more customisable, creative interface.

As with the screen size, it's all about preference. Those used to IOS might find Android 4.0 and Samsung's Touchwiz UI somewhat overwhelming and confusing at first. Those used to using Android, on the other hand, might find IOS 6 lacking customisation options and somewhat dull.

However, one area where the Galaxy S3 trounces the Iphone 5 is Maps. As has been well documented, IOS 6 introduces Apple's own Maps application, which struggles to keep up with Google Maps due to its inaccurate location placement and lack of public transport directions.

The Galaxy S3 running Android 4.1 and Samsung's Touchwiz UI, on the other hand, arrives rocking Google Maps, which as you would expect, works an absolute treat.

Apple Iphone 5 Samsung Galaxy S3 Maps

The Galaxy S3 handset's hardware and its Android 4.0 ICS operating system also support near field communications (NFC), a feature that is sadly missing from the Iphone 5.

While this one has to go to the Galaxy S3, if not just for Apple's Maps fiasco, it's worth pointing out that the Iphone 5 is better for those seeking a simple, straightforward smartphone experience that ties in well with other Apple products, while the Galaxy S3 will suit those looking for more personalisation.

Winner: Galaxy S3



As has become apparent throughout this review, the camera is another area where the Iphone 5 and Galaxy S3 are fairly well matched, with both sporting an 8MP rear-facing camera with an LED flash.

As we have noted in our standalone reviews of each handset, both of these 8MP cameras are excellent.

Although not upgraded on paper, the Iphone 5's Isight camera with backlit sensor is a big improvement over the camera found on the Iphone 4S, producing images full of detail and vibrancy with no noticeable fuzziness.

The Galaxy S3 camera managed to impress too, creating images full of minute detail and natural colours, although image colours tend to appear oversaturated when blown up to fill a computer screen.

Both the Iphone 5 and Galaxy S3 come with a built-in panorama mode, although the Iphone 5 far excels in this category, allowing users to create larger images.

Iphone 5 panorama mode1

Taken using the Iphone 5

Samsung Galaxy S3 panorama mode

Taken using the Galaxy S3

It also proved a lot easier to use than the Galaxy S3's mismatch panorama feature, which often left images looking slightly distorted.

Winner: Iphone 5 


Battery and storage 

Unfortunately, despite having a larger battery than its Iphone 4S predecessor, we didn't notice much improvement in the Iphone 5's battery. While it lasts an extra hour or so, we still found that we had to charge the handset every single night, although its rotatable Lightning connector proved easier to use than the old 30-pin connector.

The Galaxy S3, on the other hand, has an excellent battery. The handset's 2,100mAh battery easily lasts up to two days, which means that if you forget to charge the Galaxy S3 overnight you aren't left without a working smartphone the next day.

The Galaxy S3 is also great when it comes to storage. Like the Iphone 5, the handset is available with 16GB, 32GB and 64GB of internal storage.

However, unlike Apple's device, users can expand the memory with a microSD card slot holding up to 64GB extra. What's more, the Galaxy S3 comes with 50GB of free Dropbox storage - ten times the amount of Icloud storage that Apple offers to buyers of the Iphone 5.

Winner: Galaxy S3


Overall winner: Draw

No, we didn't want this to end up as a draw either, but these two smartphones are so evenly matched that it's impossible to crown either one as the clear winner. Of course, they're aimed at very different people too, so for us to say that the Iphone 5 won because of its simple user interface, or that the Galaxy S3 won because of its great battery life, simply would not be fair.

The Apple Iphone 5 is clearly aimed at those not especially interested in a large screen Android handset and are instead looking for a compact mobile phone that gets the job done. It's also the obvious choice for those who also own an Apple Mac computer or Ipad tablet, thanks to Apple's Icloud integration. As we pointed out in our review, the handset boasts an excellent rear-facing camera too, one of the best we've tested on a smartphone.

Apple Iphone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S3 head to head review

The Samsung Galaxy S3 will appeal to those who like to be able to customise their handset, a capability that's largely missing from the Iphone 5.

It's also a great handset for those seeking a smartphone with a large screen, which makes it a great device for watching movies and gaming. It's also a great choice for those who want a smartphone that excels in the basics, as its excellent battery life and expandable storage are definitely real plus points.

So, now that we've decided that it's a draw, maybe Apple and Samsung can shake hands and make up. µ

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