Galaxy S5 vs. Galaxy S4 vs. Galaxy S3: 10 Things Buyers Need to Know

Thinking about upgrading from a Samsung Galaxy S3 to a Samsung Galaxy S4 or Samsung Galaxy S5? Thinking about buying the Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4 or Galaxy S5 to replace your current smartphone? If the answer is yes to either of those questions than you’ve come to the right place because here, we take a look at 10 key details that prospective buyers need to know about the Samsung’s three current Galaxy S smartphones.

In late February, Samsung introduced the Galaxy S5, a successor to the Samsung Galaxy S4 which launched last year to replace the Samsung Galaxy S3. And while the Galaxy S5 will take over flagship duties from the Galaxy S4, it’s not going to replace it outright. Just like how the Galaxy S4 did not completely replace the Galaxy S3.

When the Samsung Galaxy S5 release date lands this Friday, consumers will be greeted by three Galaxy S smartphone options: The Galaxy S3, the Galaxy S4 and the Samsung Galaxy S5. The Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4 won’t be as easy to find but they’re out there and they’re going to be options for those that aren’t looking to spend a lot of cash.

There are those that are looking to buy new and there are also those that are looking to use an upgrade. Galaxy S3 owners who bought the device when it first came out back in 2012 are coming off-contract and many of them will be taking a hard look at the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Samsung Galaxy S5.

Galaxy S3 owners aren’t the only ones. Galaxy S4 owners who signed a one year contract or bought the device off-contract will have to think about an upgrade as well.

With those two types of buyers in mind, we want to take a close look at the most important things to know about Samsung’s current Galaxy S lineup which includes the aging Galaxy S3, last year’s Galaxy S4 and the flagship Samsung Galaxy S5. We can’t make your next smartphone decision for you but we can perhaps help push you further over the fence.

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Before you buy a brand new smartphone, whether it’s the Galaxy S4, Galaxy S5 or otherwise, we suggest going hands on first. Same goes for upgrading. It’s an extremely intimate decision based on a number of different factors. The decision also isn’t a cheap one. So, we highly suggest going to your local store to spend some time with these devices before making a decision.

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The Galaxy S5 vs. Galaxy S4.

The Galaxy S5 vs. Galaxy S4.

With that in mind, we want to take a look at some of the key similarities and differences between the Galaxy S5, Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S3 to help paint a picture for those that are intrigued by the two.

Let’s start with the designs. The Samsung Galaxy S5 design is better looking and better feeling than the glossy polycarbonate plastic designs found on the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy S3. The Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S3 attract fingerprints and they feel extremely cheap. The Samsung Galaxy S5 does not.

Samsung-Galaxy-S3-wireless-charger-Review-006-575x380

What we’re trying to say here is that the Samsung Galaxy S5 feels like an expensive piece of hardware. Yes, it’s still plastic but it’s still a huge step up from the past two Galaxy S designs in terms of quality.

Durability

The Samsung Galaxy S5 comes with another distinct advantage that is going to intrigue those of you who are clumsy, like taking your phone into rugged environments or simply just want piece of mind when taking the device out into the world.

Samsung’s brand new Galaxy S comes with an IP67 certification which means that it’s water and dust resistant. There are some limitations, you’re not going to be able to take into the Mariana Trench, but the protection that it offers is the equivalent of the protection that many third-party cases offer.

Neither the Galaxy S4 nor the Galaxy S3 offer this kind of protection right off the bat. Those that need this kind of security will need to invest in a case and that means spending extra cash.

Size Difference

While there isn’t a massive size difference between the Samsung Galaxy S3, the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S5, there is still a difference that consumers should be aware of.

Here’s how the dimensions between the three stack up:

  • Samsung Galaxy S5 Dimensions: 142 x 72.5 x 8.1 (Weight: 145 grams)
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 Dimensions: 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm (Weight: 130 grams)
  • Samsung Galaxy S3 Dimensions: 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm (Weight: 133 grams)

Samsung’s Galaxy S5 is taller and wider than the Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy S4. It also weighs a bit more thanks to its design. These are things that consumers should certainly keep in mind, especially those that already consider the Galaxy S3 to be a big smartphone. Again, these are slight differences but it’s noticeable. The photos below shows the Galaxy S5 next to the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy S3 next to the Galaxy S4.

The Galaxy S5 is a little bit bigger than the Galaxy S4.

The Galaxy S5 is a little bit bigger than the Galaxy S4.

The Galaxy S4 vs. Galaxy S3.

The Galaxy S4 vs. Galaxy S3. The Galaxy S4 is only slightly larger, even with the larger display.

Those who learn better through video should check out the Galaxy S5 hands on video below. It shows off the Galaxy S5 compared to the Samsung Galaxy S4.

These should give you an idea about what to expect but again, we suggest going hands on with all three of these devices before making a final decision on a purchase or upgrade.

Storage & Colors

These devices all come with a microSD card slot for expanded storage and all three are compatible with the new 128GB microSD cards from SanDisk. That’s something to keep in mind because carriers haven’t come right out and said that. Their designs also come with removable backs for easy access to the battery. That means that it’s easy to replace if something goes wrong and easy to install an extended battery.

There are some differences though. The Galaxy S3 came in 16GB and 32GB form across the board. The Galaxy S4 did not as only AT&T and Verizon offer the 32GB version. The Galaxy S5 will be landing in 16GB form on Friday and it’s not clear if the device will come in 32GB in the United States. Those who need to extra storage should wait a few weeks for the dust to settle, we should know for sure sometime after April 11th.

Samsung Galaxy S5 blue

The Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4 are available in more colors than the Galaxy S5. The Galaxy S5 will arrive on Friday in black and white. The gold and blue Galaxy S5 options remain unconfirmed for the U.S. though like the 32GB model, they could make an appearance at some point down the road.

Those that are interested would be wise to hold off on an purchase because we should have some clarity soon.

Displays

The Samsung Galaxy S5′s display is only a little bigger than the Galaxy S4′s, 5.1-inches to 5-inches, but does offer a pretty significant bump from the Galaxy S3′s 4.8-inch display. However, when it comes to quality, the Galaxy S5 blows the Galaxy S3′s 720p display out of the water and it also has a leg up on the Galaxy S4′s full HD display.

Target offers a Galaxy S5 deal which cuts the price to at least $99 with a trade.

Target offers a Galaxy S5 deal which cuts the price to at least $99 with a trade.

It’s hard to argue with DisplayMate when it comes to displays, it’s the industry voice on mobile display quality. So when its says that “the Galaxy S5 is the best performing smartphone display that we have ever tested” and that “it has raised the bar for top display performance up by another notch,” consumers should probably listen.

Potential Galaxy S5 buyers and Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S3 switchers will be pleased to hear that the Adapt Display, Super Bright Mode, Ultra Dimming and other Galaxy S5 display features and options are more than Samsung gimmicks. DisplayMate’s thorough report analyzes the performance of the Galaxy S5 display across all these modes and finds the performance impressive.

The Galaxy S4 display looks very nice, even a year into its life.

The Galaxy S4 display looks very nice, even a year into its life.

The Galaxy S3 can’t match it in terms of quality, it doesn’t offer full HD and while the Galaxy S4 can, the Galaxy S5′s extra additions raise the bar even further.

For what it’s worth, we like the Samsung Galaxy S5 display too. A lot. More on that in our final review of the Samsung Galaxy S5.

The Camera

The Samsung Galaxy S3 8MP camera was solid in its day but the Galaxy S4 13MP camera surpassed it with an improved camera sensor and a fully loaded camera application that improved on Samsung’s best-in-class software. For the record, we really, really like Samsung’s camera application.

Samsung’s Galaxy S5 pushes the bar even further. The new Galaxy S5 comes with a 16MP camera sensor. There are benefits to sensor sizes and megapixel counts but the Galaxy S5′s major advantage comes from other enhancements that Samsung has tacked on.

The Galaxy S5 arrives with a new 16MP sensor and new features not found on the Galaxy S4.

The Galaxy S5 arrives with a new 16MP sensor and new features not found on the Galaxy S4.

Its new camera comes with a faster auto-focus system. Samsung switched to a hybrid focus system that it says can focus as fast as 0.3 seconds. The Galaxy S4′s auto-focus isn’t as fast as the Galaxy S5′s and neither is the Galaxy S3′s.

Other features include the ability to pick a point of focus after taking the shot. This allows uses to blur a background or foreground right on the phone. The Samsung Galaxy S5 can also show HDR previews live on the phone. It also shoots video in 4K resolution. The Galaxy S4 or Galaxy S3 cameras cannot do these things.

The Galaxy S4 comes with a 13MP camera.

The Galaxy S4 comes with a 13MP camera.

Samsung’s Galaxy S5 also comes with Samsung’s fantastic camera application and one that has received several upgrades thanks to the company’s new version of TouchWiz. We expect the Galaxy S4 and perhaps the Galaxy S3 to get upgraded camera features down the road, but certainly not the whole feature set.

The gap between the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S4 is pretty wide but it’s certainly not as wise as the gap between the Galaxy S5 camera and Galaxy S3 is. Those jumping from the Galaxy S3 to the Galaxy S5 are going to see the biggest changes.

Carriers

All three devices are, and in the case of the Galaxy S5, will be available on the largest carriers in the United States. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon all support the Galaxy S5, Galaxy S4, and Galaxy S3.

The three devices are also found on a number of smaller carriers including C Spire, MetroPCS, and more. One advantage that the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S3 have over the Galaxy S5 though is that they’re available on StraightTalk. The Samsung Galaxy S5 won’t be available for StraightTalk off the bat and those interested will likely have to endure a bit of a wait.

StraightTalk is always extremely slow to brand new flagship devices.

Accessories & Gear Fit

All three of these devices will work with Samsung’s Gear Fit and Gear 2 and they’re also compatible with last year’s Samsung Galaxy Gear. If you’re interested in any of these, you’ll be fine with any of these Galaxy S.

The Samsung Gear fit works with the Galaxy S5, but not the iPhone 5s.

The Samsung Gear fit works with the Galaxy S5, but not the iPhone 5s.

Those of you who do wind up buying a Galaxy S5, Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3 or upgrade from one to another will find that all three come with tons of accessory options. Even the Galaxy S3 is compatible with wireless charging kits. These are popular devices and thus, they get treated well by accessory manufacturers.

Galaxy S3 Software Updates

We can’t stress this enough. If you’re thinking about buying the Galaxy S3 new, know that its upcoming Android 4.4 KitKat update is probably going to be its last major Android update. Those who already own the Galaxy S3 would also be wise to take this into account.

Samsung typically keeps its devices updated for two years before kicking them to the curb and the Galaxy S3 turns two in May. Android 4.4 KitKat could be the end of the road.

That won’t be the case for the Galaxy S5 or the Galaxy S4. The Galaxy S4 still has a solid year of software support left and the Galaxy S5 should get upgrades for two years after its release on Friday. Those concerned with longevity will probably want to think long and hard before buying into the Galaxy S3 right now or at any point in the near future.

Price

All three of these devices are reasonably priced and you’ll get what you pay for. The Samsung Galaxy S5 stands at $199.99 on-contract across major carriers. Off-contract, it ranges from $650 to $660. This is standard for a brand new flagship smartphone. The Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S3 are obviously much cheaper thanks to age.

The Galaxy S3 is being given away for free at places where it’s still being sold while the Galaxy S4 has seen its price plunge since the arrival of the Galaxy S5 pre-orders. AT&T, for instance, is offering the Galaxy S4 for free. This price point makes a new Galaxy S3 an extremely difficult device to recommend.

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We’ve already seen Target and Amazon push the Galaxy S5′s price down to $99 on-contract and that makes it hard to recommend last year’s Galaxy S4, given the differences between the two.

Comments

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  2. masterofpuppets says

    Anyone with a galaxy s3 have problems installing some games in google play ? I’ve been trying to install https://play.google.com/store/… but it says that is is incompatible with my device which is not. It is for Android > 2.3

  3. Tessa Whitcomb says

    When will the s5 be available to purchase on straight talk? How long will I have to wait.?

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