Samsung and Apple have been engaged in a war for the top-selling phone for as long as we can remember. Not only have they been outdoing each other in terms of the features they offer (which, from a consumer’s point of view, can only be a good thing), but have had controversial legal battles that continue to plague the headlines. That being said, we’re not here to mull over petty corporate squabbles, but to make up our minds on which is the best option.
We’ll be looking at various features and depending on the type of person you are and the lifestyle you lead, try to help you decide which will suit you better – the answer could very well be both, or neither.
There is no doubt that in the first few battles of the smartphone wars, the iPhone came out on top. Every hand on the Tube seemed to be attached to an Apple product, and for good reason; they had truly revolutionised design and function, creating the incredibly fast iOS that was adept yet simple to use. As time has passed however, Apple’s “innovations” have become more a matter of semantics and clever marketing, than actual breakthroughs in technology.
The iPhone 5S is faster, has a brand new camera and fingerprint reader. Is that enough? Techradar has labelled it the “S” conundrum: where Apple creates a new iPhone except that it’s nothing special, just a few add-ins here and there, a few cool features, nothing major, all the while claiming it to be a brand new phone. Is it the same this time around?
It is. But it isn’t. Design-wise, it’s pretty much the same, though it comes two new colours: champagne and space grey. It’s sleek with an impressive 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm and weighs in at only 112 grams. It will sport the brand new iOS 7 for the first time, which it seems to pull off brilliantly, with a brush palette the artist has taken liberty with! Further use leads us to think that it is even easier to use, which is saying something when comparing to other Apple products. There are features that some might find annoying, but they are minor and mostly negligible.
The finger print reader, branded TouchID, is a nifty little tool that avoids the annoyance of pressing in your passcode every time you need to unlock your phone, but it’s not a feature big enough to carry out the existence of an entirely new phone. It’s cool and makes things slightly easier, but that’s about it. It comes with an A7 Chip, which has turbo-charged it to a 64-bit CPU, which would mean, in the simplest terms, more tasks, more apps, running simultaneously. But to the common day-to-day user, this will mean little to nothing, its effect will go unnoticed. The new camera, at 8 MP, is where it was expected to shine and it kind of does, with an advanced User Interface and improved conditioning to low-light exposures.
All in all, despite being of the “S” variety, the new iPhone packs quite a punch but with the lowest model being priced at £549 (with monthly plans starting from £40), it is a hefty price to pay for not a lot of improvement. If you already have the iPhone 5, skip this one. If not, you’ll feel the jump slightly harder.
Samsung’s flagship model Galaxy has been the only one to ever give Apple a run for its money and with good reason. Its phones have evolved over time, adding new features, and completely eradicating some old ones; plus it is the only other phone to have a brand pull to rival Apple, with a fan-base that is almost equally strong. In terms of features, the HTC One may outperform both but it hasn’t occupied the markets as prominently. Not yet anyway.
With the S5, Samsung has introduced a larger battery, bigger and brighter screen, high-definition specs and a change in design. Which, on paper, seems to suggest an almost complete overhauling of its predecessor. In practice, it may very well be the same.
Internally, the phone boasts a 2.5 GHz quad-core CPU, 2 gigs of RAM, a 2800mAh battery and 16 or 32 gigabytes of memory (depending on model; extendable up to 128 gigs with a MicroSD card). This basically translates to performance of the highest order. No matter how many simultaneous tasks you choose to inhumanly attempt to complete, the S5 will keep up with you and provide you with the space required to store most of your relevant data, not to mention space left over for music and videos.
The camera on this baby is one of the most powerful on the market, offering 16 megapixel resolution and a severely quick autofocus (0.3 seconds). But it lags behind in terms of actually booting up, taking as much as 3 seconds before it’s ready to capture your favourite moments on digital film. So if you’re expecting to capture yourself in the moment, you may come away disappointed. It has the potential to be great, but Samsung still needs to tweak it just a bit.
It is, however, pretty unique in the several key features it offers. There seems to be a focus on the fitness-wary with S Health 3.0 getting quite the upgrade. Under the camera sits a heart rate monitor and the app allows you to track your daily activities to an impressive degree, especially when it comes to exercise routines and eating habits.There is also the Download Booster, which combines WiFi and your 4G connection to do what the name suggests: boost your download speed, which can be a pretty amazing tool when required.
If you’re stuck without a charger with your phone running out of battery but you still need to read that all-important e-mail or wait for that ultra-significant phone call, there’s the Ultra Power Saving Mode which basically shuts down many of its features, going black and white and allowing only key apps to be accessed (of your choosing, which is an extra bonus). Just like the iPhone 5S, it also has a fingerprint scanner, which is more motion-based and does not quite always respond properly – you’ll have to play around with it for some period before you get the hang of it.
Despite having an amazing screen though, it is in it’s design that the S5 is weakest. Even though you’d be looking at a display that is crystal clear even in daylight, it’s outer shell is unimpressive at best. It is uninspired and unlike the rest of its competition, it is plastic and not metal, feeling clunky and cheap in the palm. Sleek and sophisticated, it is not. With SIM-free prices coming in at £550 to £600 and monthly charges of similar to that of the iPhone, it is not a cheap friend to have around.
All things considered, Apple and Samsung are market heavyweights for a reason. Both their products embody an attempt at perfection and come close to it. But if you are forced to choose, it becomes a tough choice. For the daily user, the iPhone 5S seems like the way to go, with its exceptional design and performance. But if you’re looking for something extra and aren’t superficially inclined, you might find that the Galaxy S5 may just surprise you.