iPhone 5 vs. Galaxy S III: Full Head to Head Comparison

iPhone 5 and Galaxy S III goe head to head in this feature comparison.

I own both the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S III and love each phone. In the following iPhone 5 vs. Galaxy S III comparison I look at design, display, performance and other important factors to help readers pick the best phone.

Some said the iPhone 5 will blow away the Galaxy S III.

A recent Samsung ad slams the iPhone 5 and the phone’s buyers

So who’s right?

After spending a weekend comparing the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S III, here’s what I learned.

samsung galaxy s iii and apple iphone 5

iPhone 5 vs. Galaxy S III Display

I love the large 4.8-inch display on the Samsung Galaxy S III. Samsung packs in a 1280×720 resolution, giving it true 720p HD quality with 306ppi. The display is bright, crisp and beautiful. The iPhone 5 uses a 1136×640 resolution display with 326ppi making it more crisp even if users don’t get full HD video. The iPhone 5 display looks better and has a warmer color temperature. It’s brighter at maximum and middle brightness levels while the Galaxy S III shines brighter at lowest settings.

When I put the two phones next to one another, the iPhone 5 looks better, but not by a wide margin. I didn’t really notice a big difference until I laid them side-by-side so display quality isn’t a reason to pick one phone over another.

I like larger screens, but I chose the iPhone 5 mostly for the display quality, not the size.

Winner: iPhone 5

Siri vs. S-Voice

Both phones offer voice control. Siri on the iPhone 5 got a big upgrade in iOS 6 and now lets users launch apps, check sports scores and more. S-Voice could do many of these things from the start, but that doesn’t give it an edge now that Apple shipped iOS 6.

Siri on the iPhone 5

Siri on the iPhone 5: Actual Message was “Hi honey I’ll be home soon”

With my previous iPhone I didn’t use Siri because it usually failed to connect to Apple’s servers. Things work better now, but not enough to make it dependable.

S Voice on Samsung Galaxy S III

S Voice on Samsung Galaxy S III: Actual message was “Hi Honey, I’m Home”

S-Voice doesn’t work as well as Siri but it’s more consistently available.

Winner: Neither

Network Speed

Both phones run on 4G LTE from AT&T, Verizon or Sprint. Verizon blankets more of the U.S. with LTE than the competition. However, I’m an AT&T customer and tested the phones on LTE in Gastonia, NC.

Samsung Galaxy S III didn’t download data as fast as the iPhone at peak levels, but it provides more consistent results. The iPhone 5 speed tests varied too wildly to depend on so I’d pick the Galaxy S III.

gs3 speed test

The history shows that the results with the Galaxy S III are also all over the place. I got speeds below 3,500kbps and above 23,000kbps.

gs3 speed test history

On my iPhone 5 see the speed test below which shows 15.81Mbps which translates to 15,810kbps. The upload speed failed in this test.

iphone 5 speed test

Here’s the history of all my iPhone 5 speed tests.

iphone 5 speed test history

Comparing the extremes, the lowest iPhone test came in lower than the lowest Galaxy S III and higher than the highest S III. However, the S III is more consistent.

Both phones run fast on my Wi-Fi network, but iPhone 5 suffers some Wi-Fi connectivity issues for some, including me. See the Apple support posts with 30+ pages of people complaining of similar issues. We posted a fix that works for some, but didn’t work on my phone.

Due to more consistent LTE data speeds and more dependable Wi-Fi connections, the Galaxy S III takes this category.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S III

iPhone 5 vs. Galaxy S III Battery Life

The Samsung Galaxy S III offers better battery life than most Android phones thanks to the 2100mAh battery. Mine easily lasts most of the day if I keep things like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned off until I need them.

hyperion battery for galasy s iii

The Samsung Galaxy S III battery can be replaced by extended batteries.

I tested both phones in a single day’s time using them extensively with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi turned on most of the time and screen brightness set to about half. The iPhone lasted under 9 hours of heavy use. The Galaxy S III lasted 45 minutes longer. Also I can change the battery on the Samsung Galaxy S III which lets me install an extended battery.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S III

Operating System Speed

Apple iPhone 5 Running iOS 6

Apple iPhone 5 Running iOS 6

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich runs quickly and smoothly on the S III but iOS 6 runs just as well on the iPhone 5, with a faster processor than previous iPhones. Sometimes Android apps freeze temporarily taking over the interface. That didn’t happen on iPhone.

Samsung Galaxy S III Running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

Samsung Galaxy S III Running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

iPhone 5 doesn’t let me customize the keyboard or put widgets on my home screen. Since the Android crashes happen so seldom, the customizable interface wins. Also it’s easier to root an Android phone. Users can’t yet get an iOS 6 jailbreak on iPhone 5.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S III

iPhone 5 vs. Galaxy S III Quality and Design

The iPhone clearly looks prettier than the Galaxy S III. It’s a work of art while the S III just looks nice.

samsung galaxy s iii ding

Notice the ding in the corner of my S III

While holding both phones, the Samsung Galaxy S III with the plastic back feels cheaper. I thought it would hold up well, until I dropped mine. Now the corner looks like it melted. A recent drop test showed that the S III screen breaks easier than the iPhone 5.

The black iPhone 5 suffers from a scratched back problem. But my white iPhone 5 doesn’t. The iPhone 5 looks elegant and wins this category.

Galaxy S III vs. iPhone 5 back

Galaxy S III back is made of cheap plastic but iPhone 5 back scratches if you get the black model

Despite the scratches on the back, I’d give the nod to Apple based on the drop test and my experience of dropping my Galaxy S III and past iPhones.

Samsung Galaxy S III vs. Apple iPhone 5 thickness

Winner: Apple iPhone 5

Camera: Pictures and Video

I really like the Samsung Galaxy S III camera. It takes nice pictures and responds quickly. The burst mode helps me get some good shots of my kid’s soccer games when I forget to bring my DSLR. It will never replace my Nikon D5100, but I never carry a point-and-shoot thanks to the Galaxy S III.

samsung galaxy s3 camera app

Samsung Galaxy S III Camera App

The Samsung Galaxy S III camera app offers more control than the iPhone 5 app. I like the new Panorama mode on the iPhone 5 better than the Galaxy S III’s panorama mode, but both work.

iphone 5 camera

iPhone 5 Camera interface

The two phones offer HDR modes. They don’t work as well as a dedicated camera but can add some nice color to an otherwise tough shot to get, like bright skies mixed with shadows in landscapes.

Below, notice the two close-up shots. The iPhone’s looks less detailed but still looks good.

iphone 5 close up macro

iPhone 5 Macro shot

The Samsung Galaxy S III shot gives more detail and great color.

Samsung Galaxy S III Up Close

Samsung Galaxy S III Up Close

Here’s another comparison of a local homecoming parade.

Samsung Galax S III shot of parade

Samsung Galax S III shot of parade

Compare the colors of the two shots and the exposure. They’re nearly the same.

Apple iPhone 5 parade shot

Apple iPhone 5 parade shot

I prefer the Samsung Galaxy S III thanks to the burst mode and the camera app controls.

When it comes to shooting video, the phones again compare favorably with little difference.

I can’t see a real difference between them. The larger screen of the Samsung Galaxy S III makes shooting video easier so for that reason alone I’d give it a slight nod. It wins by a nose.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S III

Playing Video on iPhone 5 vs. Galaxy S III

Galaxy S III vs. iPhone 5 Screen Size

Galaxy S III screen is much bigger than iPhone 5 making it better for viewing videos

I play a lot of video on my Samsung Galaxy S III, from podcasts to movies. I love the larger screen. The iPhone 5 screen looks crisp, but doesn’t offer true HD resolution. Due to the HD resolution and larger display, I prefer the Galaxy S III.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S III

Apps on iOS and Android

I’ll keep this simple. Apple has more apps, but it no longer leads in the number of quality apps. When the Samsung Galaxy S III updates to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean it may suffer from the fragmentation issue since fewer apps run on the latest version of the OS. We get a similar issue with iOS 6.

letterboxed app on iphone 5

Note that you can barely make out the black bars at the top and bottom of this old app

Not all iOS apps run in full screen yet on the new iPhone 5 with the taller 4-inch screen. Older apps run in letterbox, meaning iOS places a black bar above and below the app in portrait mode or to the left and right in landscape. That’s because older apps fit a 3.5-inch screen and Apple didn’t want to stretch the apps.

Instagram in Google Play Store

I can now get nearly all the apps I want in the Google Play Store

The Google Play Store doesn’t offer as much content in the video, magazine or music areas of the store as iTunes offers. For that reason iOS gets a narrow victory.

Winner: iPhone 5


The iOS 6 Maps app controversy reminds me of the problem with the iPhone 4 signal that dropped when people held the phone tightly in their hands. My experience isn’t as bad as some report, but there’s a clear problem and even Apple seems to get that since their looking for Android app developers.

In the video below our own Xavier Lanier searches for a hospital in the new Apple Maps and it fails terribly.

I trust Android’s Maps and use it all the time. The app gives me accurate directions and a helpful picture of the destination that appears when I near the spot.

android maps arrival picture

Recently I experienced a strange issue with the Galaxy S III that required me to recalibrate the phone. I’ve never had that with an iPhone, but that’s a minor problem.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S III


The iPhone 5 comes with a new set of EarPods that sound great but don’t fit my ears because they’re too big. The pods kept falling out no matter how much I pushed them into my ears. I also don’t like that Apple put the stereo jack on the bottom fo the phone. Samsung ships the Galaxy S III traditional in-ear earbuds. They don’t sound as good as the EarPods, but sound good enough.

bottom connectors

I prefer the Lightning connector on iPhone to micros USB, but more Micro-USB accessories exist

I prefer the new Apple Lightning charging and sync cable because it’s easier to slide into the phone than a micro-USB cable, which the Galaxy S III uses.

iphone 5 lightning cable

Apple new Lightning cable compared to old 30-pin dock connector

Few accessories work with the new Lightning connector, but there’s a ton of micro-USB charging accessories and they’re cheaper which offsets the better connection from Apple.

Because both phones did and will sell millions, they’ll both get plenty of accessories like cases and chargers and car mounts.

Winner: Neither


Some would love to see both of these phones together in one device. I have to say I agree.

Here’s the list of features I wish I could take from both phones:

  • GS III Screen size and resolution with iPhone 5 retina display pixel count
  • Customizable version of Android Jelly Bean with the apps from iPhone 5
  • The Lightning connector with accessories as the micro-USB for the lower price
  • Ability to change batteries like I can with the S III but with the iPhone 5 housing and design elegance
  • NFC built-into Passbook

Samsung and Apple made great phones. Each has its strengths, but a user will win with either phone. I recommend people get the iPhone 5 if …

  • They’re heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem
  • They prefer elegance of design and see their phone as a fashion statement
  • They want a larger collection of apps

However, go with the Samsung Galaxy S III if ..

  • They want a bigger screen
  • Watch a lot of video
  • Take a lot of pictures or videos
  • They like to tinker and hack their phone
  • They use their phone for navigation a lot

I’d pick the Samsung Galaxy S III, but I’m glad I own both of the best smart phones money can buy today would miss whichever phone someone forced me to give up.