Should I Buy the iPhone 5 or Wait for the Galaxy S4?

Apple’s latest iPhone, the iPhone 5, remains one of the most popular smartphones on the market despite its age, all the iPhone 5S rumors, and the highly anticipated Android smartphone launches in 2013. For many smartphone shoppers, the iPhone 5 will sit at, or near the top of their shopping list. Joining it will likely be the Samsung Galaxy S4, a device that has been rumored since December, and one that is already one of the most anticipated devices of the year.

Read: Should I Buy the Galaxy S4 or Galaxy S3?.

Despite the Galaxy S3 still being an extremely popular smartphone option, the Galaxy S4 rumors have been persistent. Already, we’ve seen a number of potential features leak out and right now, the device appears headed for a launch in March, followed by a release sometime in April. Needless to say, the rumors surrounding the device have consumers interested and asking questions.

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Lots of consumers are trying to decide between buying the iPhone 5 and waiting for the Galaxy S4.

Many readers, family members, and friends looking for a new smartphone have certainly been wondering about the Galaxy S4, its features and its release date. But quite a few have inquired about whether or not it’s best to wait for the Galaxy S4 or buy the iPhone 5 now.

This question is a bit new but unsurprising given the Galaxy S4′s status right now. Last year, while there were average consumers who questioned whether to buy the iPhone 4S or pick up the Galaxy S3, we’ve seen a lot more chatter this time around with the Galaxy S4. This, as we’ve pointed out, is for several reasons.

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First, the Galaxy S3 has helped to move the Galaxy S series onto the same pedestal as the iPhone in terms of customer awareness. The Galaxy S3 has sold over 40 million worldwide, shattering the records of the the Galaxy S2. Needless to say, it’s an extremely popular smartphone with both power users and average consumers.

Second, Samsung has produced some effective marketing including several that attacked the iPhone in several advertisements last year while proclaiming the Galaxy S3 to be the “Next Big Thing.” Apple fans scoffed but it’s clear that it helped to make the Galaxy name a household one.

And three, we’ve seen Samsung build up the Galaxy S brand year after year culminating with the release of the Galaxy S3 last year, a device that combined beautifully done hardware with useful software, an affordable price tag, and a host of carrier options.

Read: iPhone 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S4: Round Two.

So, with the Galaxy S series emerging as the most recognizable and most popular Android brand, it’s no surprise that consumers are asking more questions than usual about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S4.

One of the questions that we’ve heard many times is this:

Should I Buy the iPhone 5 or Wait for the Galaxy S4?

While we don’t blame interested consumers for asking that question, it’s a tough question to answer. We’re going to do our best to help answer it today, however.

Reasons to Buy the iPhone 5

Indeed, the iPhone 5 has been out since September, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t viable smartphone option. In fact, as we’ve said, the iPhone 5 is one of the best smartphones on the market. And while the Galaxy S4 looks enticing, the iPhone 5 still might be a better option for some consumers. Here are a few reasons to consider buying it.

Want a Smaller Screen

One of the trends that swept the smartphone industry last year was big screen sizes. Flagship Android devices like the Galaxy S3, HTC One X and Galaxy Note 2 took screen sizes above and beyond the 4.3-inch mark. The Galaxy Note 2 for instance, sports a 5.5-inch display. The iPhone wasn’t immune to this trend either.

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The iPhone 5 has a smaller 4-inch display.

While the previous iPhone models sported 3.5-inch displays, the iPhone 5 features a larger 4-inch display. For many (myself included), this is the sweet spot as it provides good sized content while also allowing for easy access for the thumb. Believe it or not, this is is big for many people. There are also people that don’t want a massive display with their smartphone.

The Galaxy S4, while not official, will almost certainly have a massive display, possibly to the tune of 4.99-inches or 5-inches. Those that can’t deal with that kind of size are going to definitely want to take a look at the iPhone 5 as it will likely feature one of the smallest displays on a high-end smartphone in 2013.

Longevity

One of the biggest issues with Android is the uncertainty around updates. Owners who buy an Android phone are not guaranteed to have lengthy support from manufacturers. At this point, two years of support for an Android devices is often a bit of a stretch and those that get it are considered lucky.

Read: iOS 6.1 on iPhone 5 Review.

The iPhone on the other hand has no such issues. Apple releases software for its older devices year after year. For instance, the iPhone 3GS, which is well over three years old, was updated to iOS 6. And while it likely won’t get an upgrade to iOS 7, the fact that it got that kind of support speaks volumes about what consumers can expect from the iPhone 5.

While it launched on iOS 6, Apple will likely be updating it with new software, both large and small, for years to come. This means those who buy it don’t need to worry about whether it will exceed the length of a two year contract.

Speed of Updates

Another issue that Android has is that carriers are heavily involved in the update process. This often leads to extremely long wait times, especially for devices that are on Verizon, which just so happens to have the biggest 4G LTE network in the land.

Manufacturers have made improvements in speed, but it’s still unpredictable which means that Galaxy S4 owners will likely have to endure some of the same issues in the months and years to come.

Carriers don’t interfere with Apple updates which means that the company is able to issue bug fixes in a timely fashion and updates are delayed by carrier interference. Instead, it’s way more predictable with major updates coming with the new iPhone and little updates to the OS coming in between.

Want Accessories Now

When the Samsung Galaxy S4 launches, it will likely only have a small selection of accessories like docks and cases. On the other hand, the iPhone 5 will have a well-established stock of accessories including, yes, docks, cases and more.

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The Mophie Juice Pack Helium is the company’s new iPhone 5 battery case.

For example, while the Mophie Juice Pack for the iPhone 5 is on the market right now, ready to deliver more battery power to iPhone 5 owners, it will likely take months after its launch before the same accessory arrives for owners of the Galaxy S4.

Don’t Need Next-Gen Hardware

A perk of Android devices is that they come with the latest hardware specifications. The Galaxy S4 is rumored to have some pretty powerful specifications including a quad-core processor and it will more than likely come with a lot of RAM as well. It’s also rumored to have a 1080p display with a high pixel-per-inch count which will present high quality images, video and more.

Not everyone needs that stuff in their smartphone though. In fact, for many users, the iPhone 5 will be just fine. It has a speedy A6 processor, it has enough RAM to handle multi-tasking, and it has a Retina Display that while not HD, still offers amazing looking content.

For many, those features will be more than enough.

App Enabled Accessories

Something that consumers often overlook is the fact that app-enabled accessories often work with iOS (the iPhone 5′s operating system) first and Android devices later.

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The Nike+ FuelBand doesn’t yet have support for Android.

One example of this is the Nike+ FuelBand, a fitness accessory, that is useless to Android owners because Nike has yet to release an Android application for it. The FuelBand needs the application in order to sync statistics and right now, and for the foreseeable future, it’s only available to owners of iOS powered devices.

Need another example? See the Lark Life fitness tracker which like the FuelBand, doesn’t offer any kind of support for Android devices.

Can’t Wait

Simply put, there are many consumers out there that simply can’t wait for the Galaxy S4 to arrive. The Galaxy S4 is rumored to be launching next month, possibly at an Unpacked event on March 22nd. If that is indeed the case, and there is no confirmation yet, it would likely mean that the Galaxy S4 won’t arrive in many regions until April which is a good two months out.

For those in the U.S., if that timeline is correct, it could mean that the device wouldn’t arrive until May. Those coming off contract with an older phone may not want to or maybe just can’t wait that long. If that’s the case, the iPhone 5 is an attractive option.

Reasons to Wait for the Galaxy S4

Yes, the iPhone 5 is an attractive buy right now and it will almost certainly be a device that lasts the duration of a contract. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some great reasons why consumers might want to wait for the Galaxy S4 to arrive.

Big HD Screen

The iPhone 5′s Retina Display sports non-HD resolution with 326 pixels-per-inch. And while it remains a fantastic display, rumors suggest the Galaxy S4 display could blow it out of the water.

With the Sony Xperia Z announcement at CES 2013, and the emergence of the Droid DNA last year, we saw the arrival of full HD 1080p displays, something that should be a hallmark of Android phones in 2013.

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Mock up of the Samsung Galaxy S4.

The Galaxy S4 is rumored to have a 4.99-inch to 5-inch 1080p display, which if true, should mean that the device will have an extremely high pixel-per-inch count, much higher than the iPhone 5 display’s. The resolution and PPI should translate into fantastic looking images, video, web and more, possibly even the best that we’ve ever seen.

What’s more is that the Galaxy S4′s display is supposed to be massive, much larger than the iPhone 5′s. So for those looking for a display larger than 4-inches, it’s best to wait for the Galaxy S4.

Removable Battery

A hallmark of Samsung smartphones, we’ve seen it with the, Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Note 2, are their removable batteries. Samsung likes to give consumers the ability to attach an extended battery if they need more battery power or if they need to change the battery due to an issue. It also likes to sell accessories.

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The Galaxy S4 should have a removable battery.

There is no word on whether or not the Galaxy S4 will have a removable battery but based on Samsung’s past, there is a good chance that it will. And even the possibility of having one means that for some, the Galaxy S4 is worth waiting for as the iPhone 5 does not have this feature.

Instead, the iPhone 5′s non-removable battery means that users are stuck buying battery cases or sending the phone in when the battery gets damaged.

Open OS

Apple’s iOS is a closed operating system which means that it’s controlled by Apple and is difficult to customize. Those that wish to make alterations to the software must jailbreak their smartphone in order to do so.

Android, the operating system that will likely appear on the Galaxy S4, is a tinkerers dream. It allows users to install custom ROMs, get updates before they leak, delete stock applications, and more. In a nutshell, it’s easy to tailor the software to one’s liking.

Those looking to get the Galaxy S4 on a carrier other than Verizon will likely have no trouble exerting control over their device. Those that buy the iPhone will be much more limited in terms of customization.

Wireless Charging

While many had hoped that the Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5 would bring wireless charging to the table, neither did. The Galaxy S4 on the other hand is heavily rumored to be coming with some type of wireless charging, possibly in the form of a back plate that will allow users to charge the Galaxy S4 without the use of wires.

We have seen devices like the Droid DNA and the Nexus 4 arrive with built-in wireless charging as well so it remains possible that Samsung will bake it into the Galaxy S4.

Given Samsung’s ambitions to include it with the Galaxy S3, we see no reason why it won’t arrive in some shape or form with the Galaxy S4 later this year.

Expanded Storage

Like the removable battery, another Samsung staple is a microSD card slot for expanded storage. For many users, the on-board storage of 16GB or 32GB or even 64GB isn’t enough so Samsung allows them to expand the memory with a microSD card.

The iPhone 5 doesn’t have a slot for expanded storage. Instead, it boasts three different sizing options which get increasingly more expensive. A 16GB iPhone 5 costs $199.99 while a 32GB iPhone 5 costs $399.99.

Assuming the Galaxy S4 16GB is priced at $199.99, users should be able to scoop up a 32GB microSD card for much cheaper than $100 and get 48GB of space.

U.S. Cellular Customers

For whatever reason, the iPhone 5 hasn’t come to U.S. Cellular, the nation’s fifth largest service provider. And there is, unfortunately, no sign that it will be coming to the carrier’s 4G LTE network.

On the other hand, the Galaxy S4 is likely to touch down on U.S. Cellular. We saw both the Galaxy S2 and Galaxy S3 arrive for it, and given that the iPhone 5 is not available, the carrier will likely be looking to offer the Galaxy S4 as its high-end device.

Nothing is confirmed, but it’s definitely worth the wait for those that want to stick with U.S. Cellular.

Instant Discounts

The price of the iPhone 5 will likely remain constant through Apple and carriers all the way up until Apple announces a new iPhone. That means that consumers are going to have to shell out $199.99 or more on-contract for the iPhone 5.

A nice thing about Android phones is that while they launch with expensive price tags, they are often discounted immediately through retailers like Wirefly and Amazon.

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Expect the same from the Galaxy S4 with the retailers knocking off quite a bit off its price tag through carriers, which should be $199.99.

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