iPhone 5S vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 3: Key Things Buyers Need to Know

With the iPhone 5S release date and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 release date inbound, buyers are likely weighing the two big name smartphones. And while the smartphones remain unreleased, there are some key things that prospective buyers need to know when it comes to the battle between the iPhone 5S and the Galaxy Note 3.

Earlier this month, we saw the arrivals of two big name smartphones, one from Apple and one from Samsung. The first of these launches was for the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 which arrived on September 4th ahead of the IFA 2013 conference in Berlin, Germany. The device is set to replace the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and will be doing so with a host of features that Samsung hopes will entice smartphone shoppers around the world.

The Galaxy Note 3, like the Galaxy Note 2, launched ahead of Apple’s new iPhone. But not by much. Apple confirmed an event for September 10th, just a day before the Galaxy Note 3 launch, in an attempt to steal some thunder away from Samsung’s announcement. Apple did not confirm what would be on tap but given rumors, it was clear that it was for two new iPhones.

Rumors became reality as Tim Cook and company took the stage and showed off not one, but two new iPhone models including the plastic iPhone 5C, which is currently up for pre-order and the iPhone 5S, the true iPhone 5 successor that will be arriving in just a few days. And it will be the iPhone 5S that many consumers will look at next to the Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

While the Galaxy Note 3 is a niche device, thanks to its large screen and bundled S Pen, Samsung has made it attractive enough that average buyers will have it near the top of their shopping list. And the iPhone 5S, armed with its fingerprint reader, new 64-bit processor, new camera and more is sure to be at the top of lists as well. As it should be, the iPhone typically is among the best smartphone options on the market.

That said, it’s time to dig into the key things that prospective buyers need to know about the iPhone 5S versus the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 ahead of their arrival.

Release Dates Are Close

Maybe the most important things that buyers need to know is that the iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 release dates are going to be in close proximity of each other in the United States. This is far different than last year when the iPhone 5 touched down on September 20th and the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 didn’t arrive until the end of October and end of November.

Verizon will begin iPhone 5S orders at 12:01AM PST.

Verizon will begin iPhone 5S orders at 12:01AM PST.

Instead, buyers will be able to get up close with them very quickly. First up is the iPhone 5S which will be arriving on shelves on September 20th. Apple and the iPhone 5S’ carriers AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon will start taking orders on September 20th starting at midnight PST. Later that day, the device will go on sale inside retailer stores across the United States, giving buyers a chance to go hands on before picking the device up.

Those on the fence about the iPhone 5S and Galaxy Note 3 will be happy to know that the Galaxy Note 3 will land in early October, at least on a couple of carriers. Here is how the Galaxy Note 3 release date in the U.S. breaks down at the moment.

  • AT&T – October 1st
  • T-Mobile – October 2nd
  • Verizon – Shipping by October 10th
  • Sprint – Unknown
  • U.S. Cellular – October

So the iPhone 5S release date is a little more concrete but we fully expect all five major carriers to get the Galaxy Note 3 out during the month of October. This is crucial because it means that buyers can wait, do their research, and not feel pressured to buy the iPhone 5 thanks to a massive gap in between release dates.

Galaxy Note 3 Design Catches Up

Samsung is well known for its plastic smartphone designs. The Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note 2 and Galaxy S3 all featured polycarbonate plastic designs that differed greatly from Apple’s two recent iPhone designs. The most recent, the iPhone 5, combined glass and aluminum to create a beautiful industrial design that offered a much more premium build than the Galaxy designs.

With the Galaxy Note 3, Samsung upped the ante a little bit. No, the Galaxy Note 3 isn’t a metal smartphone, but it has what it thinks is an improved design over the Galaxy Note 2. Instead of polycarbonate plastic like the Galaxy S4, the Galaxy Note 3 uses a faux leather back that while made of plastic, looks and feels more premium than its previous designs.

While this may not completely close the gap between the designs of the iPhone and Galaxy Note, the faux leather is indeed made of plastic, it’s an improvement and one that buyers should be keen on.

iPhone 5S: Faster, Simpler Security

One of the big improvements found on the iPhone 5S is its fingerprint reader which, in conjunction with Touch ID, will offer users a greater sense of security on their iPhone. In true Apple fashion, the company has seemingly made it extremely easy to use, which is fortunate for those that aren’t savvy with technology. In other words, it’s easy to set up and easy to use, and users will be able to get their iPhone 5S protected in no time.

The Galaxy Note 3 also comes with a big security feature though it’s not as easy to use as Apple’s iPhone 5S. Samsung Knox is the company’s security software that allows users to enterprise users to separate their work from personal use allowing them to co-exist on the device without interfering with one another.

It will help to protect those that take their device into the wild but it’s simply not going to be as intuitive and fluid to use as the embedded fingerprint reader inside the iPhone 5S.

Huge Size Difference

Another big thing that consumers should recognize when it comes to the Galaxy Note 3 and iPhone 5S is the huge size difference between the two devices. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is not an ordinary phone as it dwarfs not only the iPhone but many other smartphones on the market as well.

The device’s 5.7-inch display means that the device comes with a massive footprint. Samsung was able to slim it down to 8.3mm and knock its weight down to 168 grams, those down from the 9.3mm and 180 grams of the Galaxy Note 2. However, that doesn’t change the fact that this is a massive smartphone and one that could pose problems, particularly when trying to hold it with one hand.

The Galaxy Note 3 will have a larger display than the Galaxy Note 2, seen here with the iPhone 5.

The Galaxy Note 3 will have a larger display than the Galaxy Note 2, seen here with the iPhone 5.

There are, however, benefits to the size. Movies are much more pleasant to watch, playing a game is a fantastic experience and the screen real estate will really allow users to take advantage of the bundled S Pen. It also allows users to run two applications, on screen, at once, something that the iPhone 5S will simply not be able to do in iOS 7.

The iPhone 5S is much smaller than the Galaxy Note 3. It features a 4-inch Retina Display with a design that clocks in at 7.6mm and 112 grams. That’s lighter and thinner than the Galaxy Note 3. This means that it’s going to be more pocketable than the Galaxy Note 3 though with its small stature, it won’t offer up the same advantages for things like movies or gaming.

It’s a size difference that many users aren’t going to be aware of right off the bat, but it’s one that users will need to take note of before deciding on one or the other.

S Pen

There are a lot of differences between the iPhone 5S and the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 but one of the most important ones to recognize is the Galaxy Note 3’s bundled stylus, something that Samsung calls the S Pen.

The S Pen has been around since the original Galaxy Note though it has received several upgrades since its inception. The Galaxy Note 3 comes with the most upgrades yet as it builds upon the foundation left behind by the Galaxy Note 2 and the Galaxy Note.

The S Pen is a huge feature that the iPhone 5S doesn't have.

The S Pen is something that the iPhone 5S doesn’t have access to.

It will not only come with a ergonomic S Pen, but some new functionality as well which will make the S Pen even smarter and easier to use. The S Pen experience is what makes the Galaxy Note 3 more than just a big screen smartphone. The S Pen is vital to the Galaxy Note experience and it’s something that just won’t be found on the iPhone 5S.

The iPhone 5S doesn’t come with a stylus or any software that specifically takes advantage of a stylus. Both devices will be great productivity tools but for those that really need something extra, the S Pen is something that should be considered.

Big Storage/Price Difference

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 will only be coming in one size, at one price point, in the United States. Carriers seem content on only offering the Galaxy Note 3 at $299.99 on-contract with 32GB of storage space. Of course, the Galaxy Note 3 comes with a microSD card slot which means that users can expand up to 98GB of storage should the need present itself.

The iPhone 5S on the other hand comes with three on-contract price points and three storage variants, which breaks down like this:

  • iPhone 5S 16GB – $199.99
  • iPhone 5S 32GB – $299.99
  • iPhone 5S 64GB – $399.99

Unlike the Galaxy Note 3, the iPhone 5S does not come with expandable memory leaving owners with the on board storage and Apple’s iCloud for expanded storage space. Galaxy Note 3 owners can also take advantage of the cloud should the need arise.

Galaxy Note 3 Price Drop

That said, we fully expect the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 to receive a price drop promptly upon its arrival. Android phones have a habit of dropping in price on their launch day, thanks to retailers like Wirefly and Dell that often slash the pricing in order to attract consumers. We expect this to happen with the Galaxy Note 3 in October so those looking for a deal will want to wait.

Expect an improved camera with supporting software.

We saw immediate Galaxy Note 2 price cuts.

Those looking for a deal in general will want to consider this. The iPhone typically does not fluctuate in price and usually stays pretty consistent throughout the year. Yes, there will be deals, perhaps as soon as Black Friday, but they won’t be as consistent or as attractive as the Galaxy Note price drop.

Choice of Carriers

Thankfully, both devices are going to offer consumers a choice of carriers. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon will all offer both the Galaxy Note 3 and the iPhone 5S. U.S. Cellular will carry the Galaxy Note 3 as well and we have reason to believe that it is currently testing the iPhone 5S ahead of a release date.

The carrier reminded us that it has iPhone products in the pipeline so while it may not have the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C on release day, it will likely have them in the near future.

A tip reveals U.S. Cellular is testing the iPhone right now.

A tip reveals U.S. Cellular is testing the iPhone right now.

Those looking to snag these devices on smaller carriers will likely have better luck with the iPhone 5S. Apple’s iPhone has, in the past, headed to pre-paid carriers like Cricket and regional carriers like C Spire Wireless. We haven’t seen any movement on this front but that’s because the iPhone 5S launch has been a strange one. Expect other carriers to announce the iPhone 5S in the future.

The Galaxy Note series on the other hand hasn’t come to smaller carriers and we don’t expect the Galaxy Note 3 to be any different.

Software Updates

Last but certainly not least, software updates. What we mean is that Apple does a far better job of keeping its iPhone updated throughout the course of the year and throughout its life time.

The iPhone 5S should see three major iOS updates before being discontinued and it should see multiple iOS 7 updates emerge in the year after its release, updates that tackle bugs and add a feature or two.

The same can’t be said for the Galaxy Note 3. Samsung has had a difficult time with the Galaxy Note series and its powerful software. For example, the AT&T Galaxy Note was missing a key feature in its Android 4.1 update, possibly due to performance, and it still has two major bugs on board months after the software arrived.

The Galaxy Note 2 still hasn’t received a significant update since its release last year and rumors point to issues that Samsung has been having with its powerful software. Updates on the Galaxy Note series are less frequent and more sporadic so those looking for better support may want to look more closely at the iPhone 5S.