If you are thinking about upgrading your iPhone, but want to know what the opposition offers, one handset you should certainly consider is the Galaxy S5 from Samsung. The Galaxy S5 is the current flagship from Apple’s arch rivals Samsung. As such it is a worthy rival to our favourite high-end smartphone.
Ever since the Galaxy S3 was the first non-iPhone to gain large-scale public interest, Samsung has been the obvious opposition to Apple at the top of the smartphone tree. The new Galaxy S5 will likely cause a lot of noise and Samsung makes many of the parts found in other high-end phones including Apple’s iPhones, and so it is worthy of your consideration.
We have tested the iPhone 5s and Galaxy S5 over a lengthy period. (For the full low-down on that handset read: iPhone 5s review: The only smartphone worth getting excited about.)
[Read about how Apple’s iPhone compares to the other phones launched at Mobile World Congress]
iPhone 5S vs Samsung Galaxy S5 comparison: Price and availability
The iPhone 5S is readily available right now with prices starting at £549 if you buy one off-contract from Apple. The Galaxy S5 is also readily available, and its SRP is £579. You can get it cheaper if you shop around, but price is not a good reason to choose the Galaxy S5 over the iPhone 5s. (See iPhone 5S vs iPhone 5C comparison review for more on the differences between Apple’s two phones.)
iPhone 5S vs Samsung Galaxy S5 comparison: Build quality and dimensions
As expected Samsung has launched a number of versions of the Galaxy S5, but they are all plastic – there were rumours that there would be a metal version, more akin to the iPhone. Instead, it comes in the following colours: blue, black, white and ‘copper gold’. These coloured backs feature a perforated pattern which Samsung states create “a modern glam look” (though we’re not so keen on them), they are are removable.
The Galaxy S5 is IP67 dust- and water resistant, according to Samsung. It isn’t waterproof, however, and you definitely can’t use it as an underwater camera.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 weighs 145g and is 8.1mm thick – this means it is slightly heavier and thicker than the Galaxy S4 (which weighed 130g and was 7.9mm thick). The S5 was always going to be bigger and heavier than the iPhone – it has a larger screen, after all. And Samsung’s Galaxy phones tend to be bigger anyway – big slabs that are striking to look at and offer great screen real estate, but can be physically harder to use and store. Which you prefer will be a question of personal taste.
The iPhone 5s is a similar size, shape, design and weight as the iPhone 5 – although it’s now available in silver, gold and space grey. It is the slim high-end smartphone: the one you can operate with one hand. The iPhone 5s weighs a far lighter 112g and is 7.6mm thick.
There’s a point to be made about the build quality and construction of both devices. We prefer the aluminium build quality quality of the iPhone over the Galaxy S5. Out of the box it is much nicer to look at. But don’t expect to use your iPhone without a protective case, at least not if you want it to retain that beautiful look and feel. We expect that the Galaxy S5 will be much more robust than the iPhone 5s, particularly thanks to the water and dust resistance. (You may also want to read: iPhone 5 vs iPhone 5S comparison review: What’s new in the iPhone 5S.)
iPhone 5S vs Samsung Galaxy S5 comparison: Fingerprint scanner and other sensors
Like the iPhone 5s the Samsung Galaxy S5 now offers a Finger Scanner. Samsung says this provides a secure, biometric screen locking feature and a seamless and safe mobile payment experience. We’ve heard that it is hard to use, but that hasn’t been our experience.
There’s a new Private Mode which works with the fingerprint scanner on the Galaxy to prevent unauthorised access to files.
Apple added a fingerprint scanner – known as Touch ID – to the iPhone 5s when it launched in September 2013.
There is also an LED below the rear camera on the Galaxy S5. It isn’t a flash or torch. It’s actually a heart rate sensor that records your pulse on demand when you place your finger over it.
iPhone 5S vs Samsung Galaxy S5 comparison: Wi-Fi and 4G
The Galaxy S5 offers full LTE coverage and Wi-Fi Mimo (802.11ac) in what Samsung claims is a world first combo. Indeed wireless connectivity is all pretty up-to-date with 11ac Wi-Fi (MIMO), NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, an infrared transmitter, and the latest 4G technology. Samsung has fitted the Galaxy S5 with Cat 4 LTE supporting eight bands and a download booster which uses your Wi-Fi connection combine with mobile data to give you a theoretical max download speed of 400Mbps.
Unfortunately wireless charging is not something which is built-in – look to Nokia’s high end devices and Google’s Nexus 5 for this. However, a charging cover will be available to add this facility.
The iPhone 5s offers 802.11n WiFi and full 4G coverage. There’s no wireless charging.
In this case it seems the Galaxy has the upper hand, although obviously 802.11ac is only useful if you have an 802.11ac router, and 4G only relevant to those with 4G coverage.
iPhone 5S vs Samsung Galaxy S5 comparison: Display
The Galaxy S5’s display is 5.1in and enjoys the now standard Full HD display, with a 432 ppi pixel density. It looks brilliant on a number of levels. It’s Super AMOLED as you would expect from Samsung so colours are vivid and pop out at you and contrast is good, too. As you might presume, the Galaxy S5 offers excellent viewing angles.
The Galaxy S5’s display performs better than most outdoors and we found we rarely need to up the brightness to gain visibility. Maximum brightness is good and about level with what we’re using to seeing but it’s worth noting that the display goes exceptionally dark which could be handy for saving battery or situations like reading in the dark. A handy brightness slider resides in the notification bar but it can be switched off if you prefer.
Smart stay is carried over from the Galaxy S4 and keeps the screen from switching off as long as you’re looking at it. By default, the screen is set ‘adapt display’ which automatically adjust elements like colour gamut, white tone and contrast but you can use other modes which tweak the settings if you prefer: Dynamic, Standard, Professional photo and Cinema.
Apple’s iPhone 5s still has a 4in display, in a 10:9 aspect ration. You get a resolution of 640 x 1136 pixels, which makes for a pixel density of 326 ppi. It is a more-than decent screen – one that until 18 months ago would have beaten out all comers. However, compared to the larger, Full HD displays of the iPhone 5s’s rivals, the screen is starting to feel cramped.
One thing to note: not everyone appreciates the full-blown colour of the Galaxy phones. They can make photos, for instace, look over coloured. And although a bigger display with greater resolution is categorically better than the iPhone 5S, it is unlikely your eyes will be able to see much difference between 316ppi and 432 ppi. And bigger, means a bigger phone to carry and use.
We’d say the S5 has a better display, but we’re not sure we’d choose it because of this. It’s not *that* good.
iPhone 5S vs Samsung Galaxy S5 comparison: Battery power
The Samsung S5 gains a clever way to get more out of a battery. The Ultra Power Saving Mode turns the display to black and white, and shuts down all unnecessary features to minimize the battery consumption. Samsung claims that this mode kicks in when your iPhone has 10 percent battery left, and can give users an extra 24 hours in this mode.
Samsung claims the battery offers 390 hours standby, or 21 hours talk time.
Apple claims the iPhone battery offers talk time of up to 10 hours on 3G, and Up to 250 hours standby.
Both batteries are good enough to give you a day of full use, but not quite good enough for two days.
iPhone 5S vs Samsung Galaxy S5 comparison: Processor and performance
nside the Galaxy S5 is the kind of high-end specs you’d want to find in a flagship. Like rival devices, the handset has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor which is quad-core but clocked a little higher at 2.5GHz. This is accompanied by a now standard 2GB of RAM, although a handful of devices do have more.
We’ve hit a point where flagship smartphone offer excellent performance – it almost goes without saying. They’re all running of powerful and efficient processors so we’re not surprised to find the Galaxy S5 nippy in day-to-day performance but it’s not flawless.
For starters, there is a slight delay between pressing the power or home button and the lockscreen appearing and the same is true when hitting the recent apps button. There’s also the fact that the camera app takes a good few seconds to launch and quitting to the homescreen from apps doesn’t happen straight away. These are minor gripes but the Galaxy S5 seems slow in these areas compares to rivals which can do these tasks seemingly instantaneously.
We take benchmarking results with a pinch of salt since it emerged that some manufacturers use benchmarking boosting software. However, in Geekbench 3 the Samsung Galaxy S5 scored 926 points in the single-core test, and 2869 points in the multi-core test. In SunSpider we recorded 824ms, and in GFXBench’s T-Rex test the Galaxy S5 managed 28fps.
The iPhone 5s, on the other hand, has a 64-bit A7 processor running at 1.2- to 1.3GHz. It’s a dual-core Cyclone processor paired with 1GB of DDR3 RAM. We’ve never found the iPhone to have any major performance issues but Apple says it’s twice as fast as the previous model in both CPU and graphics performance.
The A7 definitely makes iOS 7 buttery smooth. There’s nary a judder or stutter when swiping between home screens, or exiting an app and watching your icons fly into place. Apps launch and web pages load faster than ever: the iPhone 5S is simply a joy to use.
The A7 also has a motion co-processor – the M7 – which will come into its own when the developers of activity tracking apps update their software to use the new chip. It should mean the 5S can replace the likes of a Fitbit Flex or Withings Pulse.
Our benchmarks show just how much quicker the new A7 chip makes the 5S. In SunSpider 1.0, the 5S completed the test in just 417ms. The iPhone 5 (running iOS 7), meanwhile, took 721ms, and the Samsung Galaxy S4 922ms.
Similar gains were found in Geekbench 3, with the iPhone 5 scoring 721 points, and the 5S managing 1,076. Running GLBenchmark 2.7 (Egypt HD), the iPhone 5S managed 53fps, compared to the iPhone 5’s 41fps. However, a bigger difference can be seen using the T-Rex HD test, where the 5S scored 37fps versus the 5’s 14fps. That’s more than twice the performance.
But here’s the important point: the iPhone is just as quick as it needs to be. So has been every high-end Samsung since the Galaxy S2. There is no value in fighting it out over synthetic benchmarks, not least because some handset manufacturers are believed to write software that games benchmarks. The critical point is that the Galaxy S5 and the iPhone 5S will both be stable, and plenty fast enough to handle multiple processes at the same time, without feeling laggy.
iPhone 5S vs Samsung Galaxy S5 comparison: Storage
The iPhone 5S is available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB capacities but doesn’t have a microSD card slot for expansion.
The Galaxy S5 offers 32GB and 64GB models, with an SD Card slot capable of offering a further 64GB of storage. The SD card is a big win for us – if you store a lot of media you may choose to opt for Samsung.
iPhone 5S vs Samsung Galaxy S5 comparison: Cameras
he rear camera has a decent 16Mp sensor (3Mp more than the Galaxy S4) and it has a few new features to boot. Super-fast auto focus means you can take a photo in 0.3 seconds, according to Samsung. We can’t time this precisely but it does seem to be very nippy indeed. The problem is that the camera app takes a good few seconds to load in the first place – strange considering this is in no way a slow phone. Rivals all manage to start up their camera apps quicker, so you may well miss the moment when whipping out your S5.
A selective focus mode allows you to choose from three different focal points after you’ve taken a photo – near, far and pan. This is fun to play around with but is hit and miss – HTC’s Duo Camera takes this a step further with the ability to focus anywhere on the image.
Image quality from the 16Mp sensor is good, and the extra resolution compared to the myriad of 8Mp smartphone cameras is certainly noticeable once you start cropping photos. In other words, you shouldn’t be left with a blurry, blocky mess.
Photos are generally nice and sharp, and the 0.3 second claimed focusing speed seems to make a difference when trying to capture the moment. We did end up with a few blurry shots, but if you take your time and hold the phone still, you can get great results.
The iPhone 5S has two cameras, a front-facing FaceTime camera and a rear-facing camera known as an iSight camera. The specifications work out as follows.
The iPhone 5S iSight camera has what Apple describes as a ‘better 8Mp sensor’, than either the iPhone 5 or the iPhone 5C. It lists the sensor as 8 megapixels with 1.5µ pixels. It has ƒ/2.2 aperture and a True Tone flash which has two LEDs, one of which is amber. The FaceTime Camera takes 1.2Mp photos at a resolution of 1280×960, and offers 720p HD video recording.
Importantly, the 5S no longer uses an upscaled 4Mp mode in very low light as the iPhone 5 does, and photos taken in dark conditions have much less noise. In good light, you won’t see a huge difference between images from the two iPhones, but at night, the 5S does a better job.
iPhone 5S vs Samsung Galaxy S5 comparison: Software
Software is an area where there a huge difference. Android vs iOS is a big debate and with iOS 7 comes a major overaul of Apple’s mobile operating system.
On the plus side, iOS 7 now comes with a much needed quick settings feature called Control Center. There are also other tweaks and improvements such as better multi-tasking and lock screen access to the notification centre.
Apple has the strong App Store store on its side but iOS has a distinct lack of customisability which is Android’s major strong point.
The Galaxy S5 comes with Android 4.4 KitKat. This is Google’s most mature and easy-to-use mobile OS, albeit overlaid with Samsung’s TouchWiz interface. The surprise is that this time Samsung didn’t overload the phone with too many S-branded features, perhaps because of Samsung’s agreement with Google that it would not customize Android so much – but also because the S4 was criticised for the duplicaiton of features, with Samsung’s own apps and settings mirroring Google’s and confusing users.
If you’ve used a Samsung phone before you’ll know what to expect. The bottom line is a good and intuitive experience that may just lack Apple’s ultimate polish, but offers you the option to purchase music and other media from multiple sources. Android may be less secure than iOS, too. (You can find more on this in my companion piece: iPhone 5s vs Nexus 5 smartphone comparison review.)
If you are an iPhone user who is happy with iOS 7 it is unlikely much about the Galaxy S5 will persuade you to make the jump to Android. The Galaxy S5 will be fast, well built, full featured. It will have a big bright and bold screen, and good cameras, and it will offer good storage and connectivity options. But all of the above is true of the iPhone 5S. The days are over when Apple was far ahead of other smartphone makers, but it remains at the top of the tree when it comes to making high-class phones.