The Samsung Galaxy S5 and the Apple iPhone 5s are two of the most popular smartphones on the market right now and should be at the top of shopping lists for anyone buying a new smartphone in 2014. In this Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5s comparison we’ll highlight the major features, differences and what buyers need to know to answer the question of, “iPhone 5s or Galaxy S5, which should I buy?”
After spending years playing catch up with Apple, Samsung is back with a new design that is a clear upgrade from earlier models and with a water-resistant feature that lets owners take the Galaxy S5 places that iPhone owners would need a case for protection. Samsung also boosted the display quality delivering a brighter, better looking display that uses less battery life and is also more than an inch larger than the iPhone 5s.
Apple stuck with what worked so well from 2012 for the iPhone 5s design, but thankfully this model does not scratch as easily as the iPhone 5. Users get the same metal and glass materials with Apple’s great build quality and software designed just for the iPhone. The iPhone 5s camera may not offer as many modes as the Galaxy S5, but in terms of quality they both deliver good photographs.
It is difficult to pick the best smartphone for your needs, but this buyer’s guide compares these two smartphones in key areas, and on video, so you can see and understand what sets the iPhone 5s and the Galaxy S5 apart. Most buyers will keep this smartphone for the next two years, so it is important to pick one that fits their needs and offers updates in the future and a long life of support.
Even after telling you everything there is to know about the Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5s, the best thing to do is go to a local store to personally go hands-on with each of these devices. The Galaxy S5 may be too big for some users or they may not like the soft touch plastic. The iPhone 5s screen may also be too small for others. No matter how informed you are, it is always a good idea to touch and hold the smartphones you are thinking about buying before you sign a contract or pay a hefty off-contract upgrade fee.
Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5s Video Comparison
Watch this 12-minute Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5s comparison video for a look at the main features that each smartphone offers and to see how these two devices compare.
Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5s Price & Carriers
The iPhone 5s and the Galaxy S5 are both available on the largest carriers in the U.S. including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular.
Apple offers a bigger reach to regional carriers like Alltell, Bluegrass Cellular, West Central Wireless and a number of other smaller carriers. The iPhone 5s is also available on a number of pre-paid and similar carriers like Virgin Mobile, Straight Talk, Net 10, Cricket and Boost Mobile.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 is available from Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile starting in May and we could see it roll out to other smaller carriers soon after. There is no Straight Talk Galaxy S5 at this time.
Most carriers offer the Galaxy S5 and the iPhone 5s for $199 on a two-year contract. Verizon charges $249, but includes a $50 mail in rebate to drop the price of the Galaxy S5 down to $199.
There are many deals available for both phones that help bring the cost down. Verizon offers a Buy-One-Get-One free deal on the Galaxy S5. Walmart and Sam’s Club offer the Galaxy S5 for $168 on contract and there is even a Galaxy S5 for $99 on contract through Amazon at times.
iPhone 5s sales drop the price of the iPhone 5s as low as $99 on contract in a recent sale at Radio Shack and there are also a variety of deals and trade-in deals that can drop the price to similar levels at other retailers.
T-Mobile, Verizon, Spring and AT&T all offer a $0 down option on the Galaxy S5 and the iPhone 5s with monthly payments of $25 to $32.50 a month to pay off the phone without signing a service contract. These may include a cheaper line of service than buying a phone on contract.
Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5s Display
The biggest difference between the Galaxy S5 and the iPhone 5s is the display. The Samsung Galaxy S5 display is more than an inch larger than the iPhone 5s. This larger screen results in a significantly larger viewing area that allows more of a book or a webpage on screen at once and a larger area to see photos on or watch movies on. Samsung also includes software to let users run multiple apps on screen at once.
A bigger display results in a bigger device, and some users will prefer the iPhone 5s with a 4-inch display over the larger 5.1-inch Galaxy S5 display. The Galaxy S5 offers a 1920 x 180 resolution while the iPhone 5s offers a 1136 x 640 resolution. The iPhone 5s packs in 326 pixels per inch (ppi) compared to 432 ppi on the Galaxy S5. A higher ppi rating means more pixels in a small area which delivers a bette looking image. The ppi rating on both phones is good and both phones offer a nice display to look at.
The iPhone 5s display delivers good looking blacks and vivid colors, but in a side-by-side comparison the Galaxy S5 display delivers more vivid colors. It’s not just our eyes-on opinion, DisplayMate says the Galaxy S5 display is the, “Best performing Smartphone display that we have ever tested,” beating out the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s.
Samsung also offers several display modes and Adapt Display which will tweak the display settings for looking at photos, watching movies and more. The Galaxy S5 display is able to boost brightness to deliver a slightly more readable display in the sun. Samsung also includes a mode that can turn the display to black and white to deliver better battery life offering up to 24 hours of life on 5% of battery power with limited functionality.
Ultimately both screens look good, and the design and size are an easier way to choose between the Galaxy S5 and the iPhone 5s.
Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5s Design
The iPhone 5s is made from glass and aluminum, just like the iPhone 5 before it. This design features chamfered edges and a slim profile that is easy to use with one hand. The Samsung Galaxy S5 is made of plastic and glass, but the plastic is now a soft touch dimpled finish that is nicer than the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S3.
Both phones offer a nice solid feel to the build quality, but if you like the feel of a metal phone Samsung is not going to convince you to switch with a new soft finish.
The iPhone 5s design includes a power button on top, volume buttons and a hardware silence switch on the left and a Lightning connection on the bottom near a headphone jack. There is also a fingerprint reader built-in to the home button.
Samsung’s Galaxy S5 places a power button on the right side, volume buttons on the left and an IR port to control TVs and a headphone jack at the top. There is a Micro USB port on the bottom of the device and the home button is a fingerprint reader as well.
The Lightning connection is easier to use thanks to the ability to insert the plug in either direction and the fact that nothing covers the iPhone 5s port. The Galaxy S5 is water-resistant and Samsung covers the Micro USB connection with a small flap. Users can charge or sync the Galaxy S5 with a standard Micro USB cable or a USB 3.0 cable.
When it comes to buttons and fingerprint readers, each phone stands out in different areas. While the iPhone 5s offers multitasking and other functions through double taps of the home button there is a multitasking button and a back button on the Galaxy S5 to the left and right of the home button. This lets the user push on buttons for faster access to features than on the iPhone 5s.
The iPhone 5s fingerprint sensor is vastly superior to the Galaxy S5 scanner. I can place one of five fingers on the iPhone 5s home button in any direction and it will read the fingerprint most of the time. The Galaxy S5 allows me to register three fingerprints and I must swipe the finger across at the right speed, angle and placement. This means no swiping down with my left thumb while trying to use the phone one-handed. I already switched to using the Gear Fit and a pattern to unlock the Galaxy S5.
The Galaxy S5 is water-resistant which allows the device to survive drops and dips into 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. That’s enough for a drop into the bathtub, sink or a puddle, but not enough to take the phone swimming. The iPhone 5s will not survive water without a case.
The back of the Galaxy S5 comes off to offer access to the battery and a Micro SD card slot. Users can only buy a 16GB Galaxy S5, but they can add up to 128GB of additional storage to it with a Micro SD card. The iPhone 5s is available in 32GB and 64GB models at $100 more for each storage jump and no way to add storage without buying a special case. Users can also swap in a battery on the Galaxy S5 and buy a replacement wireless charging back that lets users charge without a cable plugged into the phone.
Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5s Cameras
The iPhone 5s offers a 8MP camera that delivers very good looking photos in a variety of settings but a sparse camera app. The Samsung Galaxy S5 delivers a new faster auto-focus, live HDR previews and several shooting modes in the default camera app and a 16MP sensor.
Samsung delivers a new faster auto focus that is a clear upgrade from the Galaxy S4. The iPhone 5s is no slouch with a fast auto focus as well. Both will still have trouble focusing and capturing the first shot in limited light with a fast moving subject like a puppy, but overall the autofocus speed is very good.
Apple limits the iPhone 5s camera app to slow motion video, video, photo, square photo and panoramic. Samsung on the other hand includes a number of additional modes that can erase an object, show motion, create a virtual tour and more. Check out the Galaxy S5 camera app in the video above.
The iPhone 5s and the Galaxy S5 both offer HDR or High Dynamic Range photo options that essentially combine multiple exposures to deliver richer colors, but the Galaxy S5 goes a step further so you can actually see what the HDR photo looks like before you snap a shutter. Above is an iPhone 5s and below is the Galaxy S5 with HDR on.
Below is a small gallery of sunset photos taken with the Galaxy S5 and the iPhone 5s. Using the live HDR function I am able to see what is in the frame before pressing the shutter.
The Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5s photo samples below show the performance of these two cameras in similar settings that highlight pets, portraits, textures and more. Both of these phones deliver good looking photos, but some users may prefer the look of the iPhone 5s vs the Galaxy S5 or may appreciate the many more modes that Samsung offers in the stock camera app.
Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5s Performance
When it comes to speed, the iPhone 5s and the Galaxy S5 both deliver fast performance for every day tasks. For most users the processors and benchmarks don’t make a difference. If you strictly compare the numbers there are some tests that say the iPhone 5s is better and other that say the Galaxy S5 is better. After carrying the iPhone 5s for six months and the Galaxy S5 for two weeks it’s a draw. Even for heavy users both phones deliver solid speedy performance day in and day out.
Switching apps, multitasking, opening a new app, browsing the web, watching movies and playing games are activities I tested on each of these devices and while software or a bigger screen may occasionally deliver a better experience it’s not due to the actual speed of the phone.
If you need to compare numbers the iPhone 5s features a quad-core Apple A7 processor and 1GB of RAM. The Galaxy S5 brings a Snapdragon 801 processor and 2GB of RAM to the table.
Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5s Software & Features
The iPhone 5s runs iOS 7.1.1 a new version of the iOS 7 software that Apple released in September 2013. This marked a new look for the iPhone software and added a number of iPhone 5s specific features. The Samsung Galaxy S5 runs Android 4.4.3 with TouchWiz on top. This is the latest version of Android and features a new version of Samsung’s own overlay that adds a variety of features and software.
Picking the software that you like best is a very personal choice, but it is a good idea to look at both phones especially if you are upgrading from an older device. Apple and Samsung changed the software significantly in the last year.
At a high level the iPhone software delivers a more cohesive user experience throughout the stock apps and the OS. Third-party apps often look better on the iPhone and sometimes still come to the iPhone first. One major downside is that Apple does not let users set a default app to pick a new email client, web browser or maps app.
Android allows users to install apps from the Google Play store as well as other sources. Android 4.4.3 on the Galaxy S5 includes a flatter version of TouchWiz that plays down the gimmicky features that Samsung counted on to sell the Galaxy S4. These features are still there, but Samsung includes more useful features as well. It is easier to use features like Google Now, than in the past. One major downside to this new version of TouchWiz is that Samsung includes duplicates of many apps that Google already includes. This means two photo galleries, two browsers, two personal assistants and so on. Choice is nice, but users will need to work through picking many default apps.
The video below shows iOS 7 in action, including many of the features that Apple debuted in September 2013. There are some new features thanks to various updates to iOS 7, but this is a good overview of the features.
In the video below you can see a sample of the Galaxy S5 software in action. For a full look check out 50 Galaxy S5 tips and tricks for over 20 videos that show what the Galaxy S5 software is capable of.
Another important feature to look at is Siri and Google Now. Both of these phones offer access to personal assistant apps and dictation software. Both apps let users perform actions and open apps, but Google Now lets users pick the app they want to open, while Siri is limited to the default Apple apps. Siri works in a car like the Chevy with Siri Eyes free to control the phone using Siri with a push of a button on the steering wheel, but as Motor Review points out it is awkward to access Google Now on a vehicle with Siri Eyes Free.
When it comes to dictation Google Now is better thanks to the ability to see what you are saying appear on screen as you say it. Dictation on the iPhone will not show what you are saying until after you are done, which means a mistake early on can lead to dictation that is completely off.
Samsung includes the support for the Gear Fit and Gear 2, which can show notifications and track some health and fitness information. Our early experience with the Gear Fit is that it is a nice smartwatch, but the fitness features still need work. Sleep tracking works, but is minimal and requires a separate app outside of S Health. The pedometer tracks steps on the device, but will not transfer the steps to the device. Notifications work nice and the device looks great, but Samsung needs to do work on the software for both.
It is rumored that Apple is working on an iWatch that can deliver notifications and can track health and fitness through a variety of sensors, but it is not expected until late fall. There are several fitness accessories and apps that work with the iPhone including third-party smartwatches that can offer similar functionality.
Which Should I Buy?
Picking the best smartphone is very tough, and even tougher when comparing the Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5s thanks to the differences between Apple and Google software and services and features that only exist on one of the devices. It is also hard for users that are considering waiting for a device like the iPhone 6 which is likely arriving this fall.
If you want a big screen, longer battery life, the ability to add storage, run two apps on screen at the same time and other Android specific features you’ll want to look at the Galaxy S5 or if you aren’t certain compare the Galaxy S5 vs HTC One M8.
If you need a small smartphone with a large selection and first crack at apps, a variety of accessories with an ecosystem of products and a metal design with the conveniences of iOS 7 the iPhone 5s is a better option.