“Should I Buy the Galaxy S3 or the iPhone 5?” is one of the most asked questions in our inboxes. One has to imagine workers at Verizon, Sprint and AT&T stores constantly have to answer the same question. The iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S3 are two of the most popular smartphones available, and shoppers can choose either without switching carriers.
A year ago it was easier to tell many shoppers to pick the iPhone over the latest Samsung Galaxy S smartphone. But with the new Galaxy S3 shoppers face a much tougher decision, one that comes with a two-year commitment.
If you already own an iPhone or an Android device, it’s important to consider the cost of switching to the iPhone or Android. Apps and accessories are not normally compatible with each system, so many current smartphone owners may want to just stick with the type of phone they already own. But if you are trying to choose between the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S3 on any U.S. carrier, here’s what you need to know about each device.
Galaxy S3 vs. iPhone 5 Display
The Samsung Galaxy S3 features a 4.8-inch display, compared to the iPhone 5′s 4-inch display. Despite the larger display, the Galaxy S3 itself is not significantly larger than the iPhone 5.
The screen size and quality are two of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a smartphone because all the interaction takes place here.
The larger display on the Galaxy S3 is better suited for watching movies and mobile gaming, providing a more immersive experience than the iPhone 5.
The Galaxy S3 will also soon be able to use a multi-window mode that places two apps on the screen at once, so it’s possible to watch a video and check email at the same time without switching between apps. This is in the form of a Galaxy S3 Jelly Bean update that does not have a U.S. release date yet.
The Galaxy S3′s 1280 x 720 display is one of the best available on a smartphone. We called it “gorgeous” in our Galaxy S3 review, calling out the, “vivid and bright” display. The video below compares it to several screens, though not to the iPhone 5, as it was not released at the time of filming.
The iPhone 5′s 4-inch display is an upgrade from the iPhone 4S, and includes a higher 1136 x 640 resolution. The new 16 x 9 aspect ratio does help with watching videos, but it’s still noticeably smaller than the Galaxy S3′s display.
The iPhone 5′s display is rated at 326 ppi, slightly higher than the Galaxy S3′s 306 ppi rating. The higher the ppi (pixels per inch), the better text and photos look on a phone.
Display quality is too close to pick a winner, but users that plan to watch a lot of video content and want a larger canvas to compose and view photos should lean towards the Galaxy S3.
Galaxy S3 vs. iPhone 5 Design
Apple designed the iPhone 5 with anodized aluminum and glass, focusing on beveled edges and straight edges while Samsung opted for a plastic design with curves and flowing lines.
The iPhone 5 is a definitive upgrade from the iPhone 4S, shrinking to 7.6mm thick and replacing a glass back with metal to improve durability.The iPhone 5 doesn’t offer a user replaceable battery or a additional storage because of the unibody design. This design choice limits expandability, but delivers a solid phone that feels more high-end than the Galaxy S3.
The Galaxy S3 features a Gorilla Glass covered display for added strength. The sides and back of the Galaxy S3 are made of plastic, not metal like the iPhone 5. The Galaxy S3 is nice to hold, but it’s not as nice as the iPhone 5 in this area.
The Galaxy S3 is not a unibody smartphone, which means users can take the plastic back off to access the battery and a Micro SD card slot. Some shoppers will appreciate the ability to carry a spare battery or a larger battery and to expand the storage with an affordable Micro SD card later.
The iPhone 5 features a home button to control multiple features with a tap, hold or double press. The Galaxy S3 includes a physical home button as well as two capacitive buttons to control the Android operating system. Both phones include physical volume and power buttons, and the iPhone 5 features a mute switch on the left side.
The iPhone 5′s headphone jack is on the bottom next to the Lightning adapter. The new Lightning adapter means it is difficult to find a charger at a friend’s house or in an airport, but this should improve shortly. The Galaxy S3′s headphone jack is at the top, and a Micro USB port sits at the bottom for charging and syncing. This common connector is found almost anywhere.
The video below shows the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S3 in a drop test to illustrate the phone’s ability to survive drops from multiple heights.
The winner here comes down to personal preference, so head to a local store and hold each phone, but keep in mind the inability to swap batteries and add extra memory to the iPhone.
Galaxy S3 vs. iPhone 5 Features
The iPhone 5 and Galaxy S3 are well matched on features, but each phone handles some tasks better than others. The Galaxy S3 offers more software control of the camera and allows users to customize Android with new launchers, widgets and themes. The iPhone 5 is in the lead when it comes to Siri and camera quality.
The Galaxy S3 offers many more shooting modes than the iPhone 5, including Burst Shot and Best Photo, which can take multiple photos at once, and can select the best out of a group of photos. The Best Face feature should arrive in 2013, which will allow users to pick the best face for each person in a group photo.
The video below shows the Galaxy S3 camera features available on the Galaxy S3 now.
The iPhone 5 features a better overall camera with faster shots and better quality photos. The iPhone 5 can take panoramic photos and regular photos, but without a third-party app it does not offer the same number of features as the Galaxy S3.
S-Voice vs. Siri
The iPhone 5 features voice control with Siri and the Galaxy S3 with S-Voice. Both of these apps are accessible with a button shortcut and can perform similar tasks, but Siri is the winner in terms of usability and reliability. Neither service is perfect, but Siri is a better solution to voice control.
The Galaxy S3 allows users to control the phone with smart gestures, so that it’s possible to control the phone without touching it. One of the best smart features is the phone’s ability to keep the screen active when you are looking at it. This is something the iPhone 5 does not support. The video below highlights many of these smart features and gestures.
The iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S3 can last a full day of use, even with 4G LTE, for most users. During our time with both devices, battery life was close enough that there was no definitive winner, but it’s important to remember that the Galaxy S3 battery is replaceable and there are larger battery options.
The Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5 both feature 4G LTE connectivity for fast downloads and uploads on AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. The T-Mobile version does not feature 4G LTE. The speed test below compares the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S3. Speeds will vary based on location and network traffic.
Galaxy S3 vs. iPhone 5 Apps & Accessories
The selection of apps on Android is vastly improved over a year ago, but many apps still come to the iPhone first, and Android app piracy may limit the release and update speed for paid apps on the Galaxy S3 and other Android smartphones.
Because the Galaxy S3 features NFC (Near Field Communication), owners can use Google Wallet to pay at many stores and can share files with other NFC-enabled devices.
The iPhone 5 is also home to more app-enabled accessories like the Nike Fuelband. These accessories connect to the iPhone via Bluetooth to share information and extend the use of the iPhone. The Nike Fuelband and many other app-enabled accessories do not work on the Galaxy S3.
Galaxy S 3 vs. iPhone 5 Price
The iPhone 5 and Galaxy S3 start at $199 at the carrier, but there are deals out there. We talk about price last because it’s not worth saving $50 to $100 on a phone on day one, when the total cost of a contract over two years is over $2,000.
The best iPhone 5 deals are available from retailers like Best Buy with a price of $150 for a limited time. Several stores are price matching this holiday iPhone 5 deal.
The Galaxy S3 is available for as low as $49 from Amazon Wireless for Verizon, Sprint and AT&T, with the specific prices listed below.
- Sprint Galaxy S3 - $49 ($129 current customers)
- Verizon Galaxy S3 $79 ($99 current customers)
- AT&T Galaxy S3 - $99 ($149 current customers)
Should I Buy the Galaxy S3 or the iPhone 5?
Before deciding, we recommend using the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S3 at a local store. Both of these devices are a solid pick for your next smartphone, so the choice comes down to what’s most important to you and the personal preference about which phone looks and feels best in your hand.
If you want access to more accessories, first crack at apps, Siri and a better camera, the iPhone 5 is likely a better fit.
If a larger screen, advanced camera options, the customization of Android, smart gestures and sharing through NFC, the Galaxy S3 is a better pick.