Samsung Galaxy S5 vs. Apple iPhone 5s: Spec sheet showdown

Galaxy s5 versus iPhone 5s

Samsung and Apple are the two biggest smartphone makers in the world, so it’s only natural to pit their latest flagship devices against one another. And now that the Galaxy S5 has finally been announced, we can do just that. I’ve compared major specs for the two smartphones in the chart below.

iPhone 5s vs Galaxy S5

A chart, however, can only tell you so much. I’ve spent some time with each phone (well, only a very short amount of time with the Galaxy S5, but enough to check out the basics) and can say how many of these features compare in real life.

Display and design

Full disclosure: My primary device is an iPhone 5s, so in many ways I’m partial to Apple’s device. That said, the iPhone’s 4-inch display is really starting to feel small, especially when it seems like most flagship phones are starting at 5 inches and up. I think Samsung was smart to go with a 5.1-inch screen for the Galaxy S5, since it’s just the right size before the phone tips over into “phablet” territory. And with 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, the Galaxy S5 manages a whopping 428 pixels per inch, which is significantly more dense than Apple’s 326ppi “retina” display.

Galaxy S5 lock screen

Both screens look great, with sharp, distinguished colors, and they each get super bright. But at this point I want to see more of my apps and more of the Web, so I think the Galaxy S5’s larger display wins this round.

On the design front, however, the Galaxy S5 disappoints. It’s still made of plastic, which gives the phone a less-than-premium feel. No other phone on the market can match the aluminum iPhone 5s for sheer industrial beauty in my opinion, except for maybe the HTC One. The Galaxy S5 is water-resistant, though, so add points if you’re clumsy.

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Power and battery life

Processing power is a bit harder to judge, since I didn’t have enough time to run any benchmarks on the Galaxy S5. That said, I’m pretty certain I know what the results would show me: This phone is super fast. Powered by Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 801 chip, the quad-core 2.5GHz processor in the Galaxy S5 will likely make it the fastest Android phone available when it comes out.

Apple, meanwhile, doesn’t reveal the specifics of its chips, though tests have shown the 64-bit A7 processor is a 1.3GHz dual-core chip. That doesn’t sound so impressive, given that quad-core seems to be the minimum requirement for most high-end Android devices nowadays. But back in September, benchmark results for CPU and GPU performance showed the iPhone 5s was able to beat out all of the quad-core competition at the time, including Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 chip. It remains to be seen just how well the Galaxy S5 will perform, so until then, this one’s a wash.

Galaxy S5 camera

But the Galaxy S5 definitely has the iPhone 5s beat in the battery department. The S5 houses a 2800mAh cell, which Samsung claims is good for 12 hours of video playback or 10 hours of Web browsing over LTE on a single charge. It also has a power saving feature that can double your remaining battery life by turning the screen black-and-white and shutting down some background services. The iPhone 5s, on the other hand, is said to support up to 10 hours of video playback or 8 hours of Web browsing over LTE. Anecdotally, I charge my phone overnight and am usually able make it through a day of moderate use with about 25 percent left.

Camera and software

On paper, the camera specs look like another clear win for the Galaxy. It features a 16-megapixel camera sensor as compared to the iPhone’s 8 megapixels. Then again, megapixels don’t always tell the full story. While this means the Galaxy S5 will be able to shoot larger images, it doesn’t mean they will be of better quality.

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To my eye, the iPhone 5s has one of the best smartphone cameras on the market, even compared to 20-megapixel behemoths like the Nokia Lumia 1520. It also features a dual flash, which provides better balance when a flash is called for. The Galaxy S5 has its own special features, though, like Live Preview, which allows you to see a photo with a filter or HDR before you snap it. And Samsung claims it has the world’s fastest autofocus in as quick as 0.3 second.

The Galaxy S4 had a very solid 13-megapixel camera, so I expect the Galaxy S5’s to be at least as good. But I can’t judge this one until I give it a try.

On the software side, however, I prefer Apple’s iOS 7 to Samsung’s heavily modified version of Android 4.4.2 KitKat. I will say this, though: This is the best Samsung overlay I’ve ever seen. Samsung is exercising a tremendous amount of restraint here compared to TouchWiz on previous devices, which I always felt was too bloated. And I really like some of Samsung’s built-in apps like S Health, which can work with a heart rate monitor on the back of the phone to measure your heart rate.

Ultimately, though, this one comes down to whether you prefer Android or iOS.

Fingerprint sensors and storage

There are some other features that aren’t as simple to compare on a spec sheet, like a fingerprint sensor. Both the iPhone 5s and the Galaxy S5 feature a fingerprint scanner built into the home button, but each works quite differently. Apple’s sensor simply requires you to place your finger on the button and reads it automatically. I’ve unlocked my phone thousands of times this way at this point, and it works pretty flawlessly (unless your fingers are wet). The Galaxy S5, on the other hand, requires you to swipe your finger vertically over the sensor. I didn’t get a chance to try it, but it doesn’t look nearly as intuitive as the iPhone. Tentative win: iPhone.

Galaxy S5 back

The Galaxy S5 definitely wins out on storage, though, for the simple reason that it supports microSD cards. You can get the phone in either 16 or 32GB variants, then use a microSD card to gain up to an additional 128GB of storage. The iPhone 5s, meanwhile, tops out at 64GB. You do get 5GB of free iCloud storage, and you can pay to get up to 50GB. I’d still rather have the option for a microSD card.

Availability and a winner

If you’re looking to buy a smartphone right now, then you’re getting the iPhone 5s, since the Galaxy S5 isn’t yet available. It will be released in April, at which point it might also find itself on the shelves next to a new flagship phone from HTC. It will be available on all major U.S. carriers, just like the iPhone. There’s no word on a price yet, though I imagine it will carry a similar price tag as well.

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So you if you can wait until April, which phone should you get? Again, I’m still partial to the iPhone, since many of the other devices and services I use revolve around Apple’s ecosystem. But the Galaxy S5 is definitely the most impressive Android phone I’ve seen yet, which is saying something.

I think the real decider will be whether you prefer Apple’s iOS or the Galaxy S5’s version of Android. If you prefer Android and don’t mind Samsung’s UI modifications, it’ll likely be the phone to get come April.

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