Samsung Galaxy S5 vs. iPhone 5S: Flagship shootout

By Alexandra Burlacu | Feb 26, 2014 10:04 AM EST

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Apple and Samsung dominate the smartphone market and with the latest Samsung Galaxy S5 now official, it's only natural to wonder how it stacks up against the iPhone 5S.

The two heavyweight companies are well-known rivals and they are constantly competing against each other in the smartphone space. Apple released its latest flagship smartphone, the iPhone 5S, a few months back, while Samsung has just unveiled its new Galaxy S5 flagship at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2014 in Barcelona.

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Since the Samsung Galaxy S5 is now official, let's see how it compares to the iPhone 5S in terms of specs, features, design, and functionality.

Design

First off, let's take a look at the design, as that's the first thing you see. Samsung continues its tradition of gradually increasing the size of its flagship devices, and the Galaxy S5 is no exception. The new-generation flagship smartphone from Samsung bumps up the screen size to a large 5.1-inch display, otherwise in a very familiar design. Samsung kept the plastic casing, to the dismay of its fans, with the same oval button in the middle, albeit with a slight change. The rear casing of the Galaxy S5 now has a new textured finish on its rear and the smartphone gets a bit more colorful, but otherwise it's the same old Samsung plasticky design.

Apple stuck to the familiar as well with its iPhone 5S, with the big difference that the sleek, elegant aluminum design makes the iPhone feel more premium and classy. The iPhone 5S still has a 4-inch display, which is what Samsung packs on some of its "Mini" devices, and it does seem a bit small compared to other high-end smartphones out there.

While screen size depends on personal taste, needs and preference, Apple is the clear winner in this category. There's no doubt that the iPhone 5S looks and feels superior to the Galaxy S5 in terms of design.

Specifications

In terms of specs, the Samsung Galaxy S5 packs a Snapdragon 801 processor clocked at 2.5GHz and paired with 2GB of RAM under the hood. The 5.1-inch full HD display has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and a pixel density of 432 pixels per inch (ppi). With such specs, the Galaxy S5 sounds like a real powerhouse able to handle whatever task you may throw at it, and Samsung has also included some neat new features. The new heartbeat sensor adds a new focus on health, while the new system for optimizing the display aims to maximize the massive screen's potential. It may look largely the same on the outside, but the new Galaxy S5 sports some notable improvements over its predecessor.

Apple, meanwhile, has repeatedly outshined its Android rivals in both completing basic tasks and handling more complex things such as games. Under the hood, the iPhone 5S packs a 64-bit processor, which was highly regarded. The smartphone's 326 ppi Retina display, however, falls short of the Galaxy S5's 432 ppi screen. Moreover, the iPhone 5S has no optimizations beyond brightness adjustments for different environments.

By the looks of things, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is the winner in this category, at least on paper.

Operating System, Ecosystem & Features

Besides the same old Android vs. iOS debacle, Samsung devices are not just Android devices, they have their own sub-category. Samsung is among the few Android manufacturers that still use physical buttons, and its user interface (UI) is much like a private, Samsung-exclusive party.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 runs the latest Android 4.4.2 KitKat OS, topped with Samsung's own TouchWiz visual overlay and feature package. While there have been some complaints that Samsung's own software takes up too much of the device's internal storage, TouchWiz does have its benefits. Samsung has continued to optimize and improve its UI and exclusive offerings, and it took it up a notch with the Galaxy S5. The new flagship not only has a new heartbeat monitor, but also sports a new fingerprint scanner integrated into the smartphone's Home button, similar to the iPhone 5S' Touch ID fingerprint scanner.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 also benefits from running on the open Android platform with access to the Google Play store, which contains virtually any app you may want. Moreover, Samsung's OS also offers a kids mode and an easy mode for the UI, which are designed to give access to just some basic features. Users will be able to easily activate and secure these modes without having their normal phone operation affected in any way.

The iPhone 5S, meanwhile, runs Apple's latest iOS 7, which was designed with security in mind. The new Apple flagship comes with a Touch ID fingerprint sensor embedded in the smartphone's Home button, and the iPhone 5S also benefits from having a motion co-processor to handle some tasks without draining the main horsepower. Apple's App Store for iOS 7 is larger than Google Play, but many consider the two app stores on a level playing field. One drawback to iOS, however, is that it's a "walled garden," which is why many iPhone users prefer to jailbreak their devices.

At the end of the day, the winner in this category depends on personal preference. One user may get along better with Android and Samsung's TouchWiz UI, while another may prefer iOS with or without a few jailbreaks on the side.

Camera

Apple has been a winner in this category for a long time, but last year Samsung really upped its game and came up with its own impressive solution for its then-flagship smartphone's camera. Samsung took it a step forward this year in this department and packed a high-end shooter onto its new flagship. The Galaxy S5 has a 16-megapixel camera that can take photos twice the size of those taken with an iPhone 5S and its 8-megapixel camera. The iPhone 5S has a sapphire-glass covered camera capable of taking high-quality photos that require less storage space, but Samsung's new camera features are quite impressive.

Live Preview, for instance, allows users to see filters, HDR, and other enhancements in real time before actually taking the photo, thus ensuring they can capture the best image possible. The incredibly-fast 0.3-second autofocus is another welcome feature, and the camera is very powerful overall.

On the other hand, the iPhone 5S' camera boasts a very neat two-stage flash that creates the best light temperature for the photo. Due to this feature, images taken with the iPhone 5S won't seem too white due to flash or too dark because you preferred turning off the flash altogether. In other words, the iPhone 5S' camera will perform better in low-light conditions.

In conclusion, the Galaxy S5 wins this category with its Live Preview feature, which is something other smartphones don't offer, and its crazy-fast 0.3-autofocus. The iPhone 5S, however, may win in low-light conditions.

Battery

Battery performance is a big issue with today's powerhouse smartphones, as all those top-notch features and functionality will take a big toll on battery life. Android phones have received their fair share of criticism for poor battery life, while iOS devices received praise in this department.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 packs a large 2,800 mAh battery, nearly twice the size of the iPhone 5S' 1,570 battery, but it has to juice up a significantly larger screen and Android. According to Samsung, the Galaxy S5's battery will provide up to 21 hours of talk time, and the company also included a new Ultra Power Saving Mode that will turn off all non-essential features when the phone's battery gets to 35 percent, making it last for longer until you can charge it. Apple's iPhone 5S, meanwhile, will last for about 10 hours on a single charge, which is not always a full day for many users.

In this category, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is the clear winner, as it offers superior battery performance compared to the iPhone 5S. Even if you cut that alleged 21-hour runtime in half, you still get more than with the iPhone 5S, and battery life is crucial when your smartphone is an indispensable part of your daily life.

Who's the winner?

In conclusion, Samsung may not have done a very good job in offering a top-notch design with its latest iteration, but the Galaxy S5 is arguably more powerful than its predecessors. The iPhone 5S is a very impressive device that can definitely hold its own, but the Galaxy S5 may just outshine it in virtually every department. as a bonus, the Galaxy S5 is also dust- and water-resistant due to its IP67 certification.

 

 

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