Which is the best smartphone in a straight-up battle of specs and features: the Samsung Galaxy S III or the Apple iPhone 5? These two are constantly clashing in court, but who has the bigger artillery when it comes to the phones themselves? Let's find out...
Galaxy S III: 4.8-inch, 137 x 71 x 8.6mm, 133g
iPhone 5: 4-inch, 124 x 59 x 7.6mm, 112g
The Samsung Galaxy S III is apparently ‘inspired by nature’, with its smooth curves that fit perfectly in the hand. We love the slender design but have to admit it’s a little too large to comfortably use one-handed, unlike the similarly slim iPhone 5 which is an almost ideal size. Apple’s iPhone also feels a little more durable thanks to its metallic rear and sides, compared to the Galaxy S III’s plastic finish (an aid to connectivity). Your personal preference will likely come down to how large your hands (and your pockets) are, but we reckon the iPhone 5 tops the Galaxy S III for desirability.
Galaxy S III: 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED, 1280 x 720 resolution [306ppi]
iPhone 5: 4-inch Retina display, 1136 x 640 resolution [326ppi]
We really love the Galaxy S III’s beautifully crisp Super AMOLED panel, which captures gloriously vibrant images without a trace of motion blur or other abnormalities, but there’s no denying that the iPhone 5’s newly-expanded Retina display is a work of art. It’s the sharpest screen out there, with a new ‘stretched’ look which makes it perfectly suited to widescreen movies, and it also produces bolder colours than the iPhone 4S. We found it was less reflective in bright sunlight than the Galaxy S III’s display, but both are bright enough to clearly read text when you’re out and about.
Choosing a winner is tough, and it really comes down to your personal preferences. Browsing the web feels more natural on the Galaxy S III’s spacious screen, but the iPhone 5 really is well suited to widescreen films, so we’ll call this one a draw.
Galaxy S III: 1.4GHz Quad-Core Exynos
iPhone 5: A6 Cortex processor
The Galaxy S III has a speedy 1.4GHz quad-core processor running the show, making it one of the most powerful smartphones out there (although the likes of the HTC One X+ now boast even faster quad-cores). Meanwhile, the iPhone 5 uses Apple’s brand new A6 processor, details of which are slim on the ground thanks to the firm’s notorious secrecy. However, both phones are easily zippy enough to run all of your apps and play the latest games, making this round a draw.
Galaxy S III: Android Ice Cream Sandwich
iPhone 5: iOS 6
Determining which OS is ‘better’, Android or iOS, is a thankless task. You might as well ask which is better, Nutella or Marmite, because everyone has their own preferences. It’s also a debate that often ‘stirs the emotions’, shall we say, and usually ends with one party in a headlock receiving a wedgie of epic proportions. We aren’t massive fans of iOS 6, thanks to the mind-boggling removal of YouTube, the broken Maps app and occasional interesting glitches, and it’s starting to look and feel long in the tooth compared to Android. Personally we side with the Galaxy S III’s Android Ice Cream Sandwich, complete with Samsung’s TouchWiz overlay. We’re hoping this will be upgraded to Jelly Bean as soon as promised, which can only improve the already slick user experience.
Galaxy S III: 8-megapixel with LED flash, 1.9-megapixel secondary
iPhone 5: 8-megapixel with LED flash, 1.2-megapixel secondary
We were surprised to see practically the same camera technology in the iPhone 5 as the 4S, and while the 4S is capable of taking fantastic daytime shots, the S III’s camera is just as brilliant. Colour reproduction is impressively realistic with both cameras, which also boast instantaneous photo capture when you hit the shutter button. However, the real difference is in the features.
One of the iPhone 5’s only new camera features is the Panorama mode, which the S III already had in the bag several months ago. The S III also gives you a ‘Burst Shot’ mode which takes around three photos a second if you hold down the shutter button, as well as the option to capture photos as you’re shooting 1080p HD video (the iPhone 5’s only other big new addition). The likes of auto-tagging and Buddy Share make the Galaxy S III’s snapper a lot more versatile than the iPhone 5’s.
Galaxy S III: 4G LTE, S Beam (NFC), AllShare Play, S-Voice, Pop Up Player, Buddy Photo Share
iPhone 5: 4G LTE, Siri, Maps, iCloud storage
We won’t go into the Galaxy S III’s full feature list, but Samsung’s monolith is packed with software, tools and neat little tricks that help it to really stand out from the crowds. Social animals will get a kick from the likes of Buddy Photo Share and S Beam, which uses the Galaxy S III’s built-in NFC. Conversely, the iPhone 5 doesn’t support NFC. Additions such as Maps proved to be a massive dud, but the updated Siri is undeniably superior to Samsung’s S-Voice, which is still too unreliable to be a useful tool.
The iPhone 5 and LTE version of the Galaxy S III will both support 4G on EE. Both phones come with a selection of storage options (16GB up to 64GB) but the Galaxy S III – a clear winner in this category – also has a micro SD memory card slot, so you can expand if needed.
Galaxy S III: Google Play Store etc.
iPhone 5: iTunes, App Store
We’re mighty impressed by the Google Play store (formerly Google’s Market), which boasts a fantastic range of apps and games as well as the latest books and movies. Add on independent vendors such as Amazon’s Appstore and nVidia’s Tegra Zone and Android has almost as much content available as the iPhone. Almost. But the App Store still boasts plenty of big exclusives, while iTunes gives you access to an enormous selection of podcasts, music, movies and TV shows, making the iPhone 5 better stocked for entertainment.
Galaxy S III: 6 ½ hours of media
iPhone 5: 5 hours of media
Despite the Galaxy S III’s larger energy-sapping screen and quad-core processor, the mighty 2100mAh battery gives it impressive battery life: we streamed video over a Wi-Fi network for six and a half hours on maximum brightness before the battery died. Conversely, the iPhone 5 (with a smaller 1440mAh battery which as usual is non-removeable) died after just five hours under exactly the same conditions. This round to the Galaxy S III, but you’ll still get a full day of moderate use from both phones (apps, emails, occasional camera/media play).
Samsung Galaxy S III 6 – 4 Apple iPhone 5
Many rounds were too close to call, but the Galaxy S III emerges triumphant thanks to its fantastic features and a superb OS.