iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S4 head-to-head review

Apple iPhone 5S vs Samsung galaxy S4 front
The battle for control of the top-end smartphone market between Korean contender Samsung and ruling US heavyweight Apple has become a yearly feature within the technology industry. The latest competition is between the new Apple iPhone 5S and Samsung's flagship Galaxy S4. We've put these two flagship handsets head to head to see if the older S4 can still hold its ground against the latest premium iPhone.

Design and build
Neither Samsung nor Apple chose to radically redesign their latest flagship smartphones. Outside of its extended Champagne and Space Grey colour options the iPhone 5S is visually identical to the iPhone 5 and features the exact same 124x59x7.6mm dimensions and 112g weight.
The Galaxy S4 is also close to identical to the Galaxy S3, featuring the same ergonomic, pebble-like design and measuring in at 137x70x7.9mm.
 Apple iPhone 5S vs Samsung galaxy S4 back
Despite being heavier and larger than the 112g iPhone 5S, the 130g S4 is more comfortable to hold. This is because the S4's slightly round edges make it sit more neatly in hand than the hard-edged 5S.

However, when it comes to build quality we have to give it to the iPhone 5S. The build of Samsung handsets has been an ongoing concern, with the firm's use of polycarbonate making even its most expensive devices feel fairly cheap. This has remained true with the S4, which has the same polycarbonate backplate and metal sides as the S3, and feels significantly less solid than the iPhone 5S.

Testing the two more thoroughly, our in-hand impressions rang true, with the S4 picking up marks and scratches when met with even the slightest force. That said, it's important to note the iPhone 5S is also fairly prone to picking up marks and scratches and is nowhere near as well built as a number of other top-end Android and Windows Phone handsets, such as the Sony Xperia Z1 and Nokia Lumia 1020.

Winner: The Apple iPhone 5S

The Apple iPhone 5S features the same 4in 1136x640, 326ppi Retina display originally seen on the iPhone 5. Back in the day Apple's Retina display was a game changer for the mobile device industry and the screens on the 5S and 5 are among the best ever seen on a smartphone to date. The 5S's display is wonderfully crisp, it boasts brilliantly vibrant colours and has great viewing angles.Apple iPhone 5S vs Samsung galaxy S4 three quarter
However, one year on from the iPhone 5's release, there are a select few devices that are able to match – if not beat – the performance of Apple's Retina display. The Galaxy S4 is one of these devices. The Samsung Galaxy S4 features a larger 5in full HD super Amoled 1920x1080, 441ppi display.

We found as well as being slightly brighter and more vibrant than the 5S, the S4's increased screen size made it far more useful for productivity purposes, for example editing Google Drive documents and spreadsheets on the move. In these situations we found the iPhone 5S's 4in display made highlighting and altering text slightly tiresome and fiddly.

Winner: The Samsung Galaxy S4

Apple made a big deal about the iPhone 5S's updated A7 processor, claiming that the 64-bit mobile chip will offer users 40-times better CPU performance than the iPhone 5. We were impressed with the 5S and found that there is at least some truth to Apple's claim. The 5S opened applications in seconds, streamed video seamlessly and ran the most demanding 3D games available on the App Store hassle free – in short we couldn't find a task or process the 5S couldn't handle.

The UK version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 runs using a quad-core 1.9GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor, not the powerhouse Exynos 5 octa-core chip seen in its native Korea. We found even without the upgraded octa-core chip the S4 was just as impressive as the iPhone 5S. The Galaxy S4 similarly opened webpages hassle free and we couldn't find an application or task demanding enough to make it pause.
In short, when it comes to performance both the iPhone 5S and Galaxy S4 are both powerhouses and can deal with pretty much any task you throw at them.

Winner: Tie

Software and security
The iPhone 5S comes with Apple's iOS 7 preinstalled. The Galaxy S4 comes with Google Android 4.2.2, though a 4.3 update is confirmed to arrive soon. Picking which mobile operating system is better is fairly difficult, as the answer is largely determined by which ecosystem the user is already embedded in.

This comparison has become even more difficult as Apple has bundled the iPhone 5S with a host of business-focused productivity apps, such as Pages. While you do have to manually download the app, the fact it's free is a big boon as, with iOS 7's iCloud sync options, it means you can continue to work on and edit presentations or documents on the move using the iPhone.

The inclusion of Pages means the iPhone 5S iOS 7 operating system is finally able to compete with Android, which comes with its own free Drive word processor and cloud backup services. This adds up to make it even more difficult to pick between the Samsung Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5S when it comes to productivity alone.
Apple iPhone 5S front
The deciding factor in the two smartphones' software appeal is security, an area iOS 7 clearly wins at. Apple has been quietly working to increase the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) appeal of its iOS devices for some time and the iPhone 5S is the culmination of this effort, featuring a host of custom security solutions and a newly added Touch ID fingerprint scanner. As a standalone piece of software iOS 7 features a staggering 41 security upgrades. These upgrades relate to a number of key services and code, including its certificate trust policy, data protection systems and Safari web browser, and they make it one of the most secure mobile operating systems available. The OS also features a Find My iPhone service that lets you locate and remote-wipe a lost or stolen iPhone.

The Touch ID fingerprint scanner is a new biometric addition to the iPhone. It works by scanning the sub-epidermal skin layers of a user's finger to verify their identity before unlocking. As a safety measure the user's fingerprint is only stored on the A7 chip and is never uploaded to Apple's iCloud. We were impressed by how well the scanner worked, with it reading the thumbprint we registered to the device in seconds, making it a quick and clean passcode replacement.

Being fair to the S4, Samsung has added its Knox security solution, which offers similar sandboxing services to BlackBerry Balance. The feature in theory will let users set up separate work and home areas on the phone, meaning businesses can have app management and data wipe powers on the work side, while being unable to touch non-work data stored on the user's personal side.

The service is not available on consumer S4 handsets, however, and requires buyers to request that it is activated when buying the smartphone from Samsung's business division or the relevant network carrier. The feature is a great addition to Android, but, given the amount of mobile malware targeting Android and iOS 7's robust new security offering, the iPhone 5S is still far more secure than the S4.

Winner: The Apple iPhone 5S

Next: Camera , Battery and storage  , Overall winner
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About Doru Somcutean

Hello, my name is Somcutean Doru and I'm from Romania.

I really like to read reviews and see what's new about technology, on D-BLOG I share with you articles/reviews that I find interesting. I also write some reviews in romanian...

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