It's no great secret that, in recent years, the smartphone world has been largely defined by the struggle between Apple and Samsung. On one hand, there's the runaway success of 2012's Galaxy S3 coupled with the rise of the Android platform; on the other, in Apple and its iPhone you have one of the most iconic companies ever and one of the most popular gadgets of all-time. The two firms and their product offerings are as closely matched as ever. Now that Samsung has unveiled its latest flagship handset - the Galaxy S4 - the battle for 2013 looks like it has kicked off in earnest, and the two bitter rivals are each looking to establish themselves as the industry's top dog. So how does Samsung's new flagship match up to the Apple iPhone 5? Let's take a look at the key specs before giving a (very) early verdict on the Galaxy S4 - jump straight to the "Price, availability, and opinion" section below to hear our initial thoughts.
Size and weight
Both the Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5 are super-slim devices. Samsung's new flagship measures a mere 7.9mm in girth and weighs an untaxing 130g. Apple's handset is even trimmer, however, measuring just 7.6mm in depth, and it's also slightly lighter at just 112g.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 joins the growing of ranks of smartphones with Full HD (1080p) displays. Its 4.99in Super AMOLED screen features a pixel density of 441ppi - considerably sharper than the 4in iPhone 5, which offers a 1,136 x 640 pixel resolution at 326ppi.
Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5 is a classic Android/iOS grudge match - it doesn't get much more divisive than this. Samsung's new handset comes with the latest version of Google's Android mobile OS, Jelly Bean version 4.2, complemented by the South Korean firm's custom TouchWiz skin. Apple's device runs iOS 6, a platform that - despite some teething problems - has found its legs and offers a characteristically slick user experience. Thanks to Project Butter, Jelly Bean also runs smoothly, though in our experience iOS tends to feel a little bit lighter overall.
Beefy cameras are all the rage in the smartphone world right now, and Samsung has accordingly fitted the Galaxy S4 with a whopping 13-megapixel primary sensor and a 2-megapixel front shooter. The iPhone 5's camera is far from shabby, though its specifications are more in line with 2012 standards, featuring a 8-megapixel primary snapper and a 1.2-megapixel rear camera. On paper, this is a clear win for the Samsung phone, but photography enthusiasts know that image quality isn't really about the numbers. We'll have to wait until we have both devices in hand to accurately compare camera capabilities.
Storage and memory
If Samsung can hold good on its promise to deliver a 64GB model of the Galaxy S4, then the South Korean firm's latest handset is a content hoarder's dream: factor in the microSD card slot, and you've got the potential for 128GB of on-board storage. The iPhone 5 also comes in a 64GB iteration, but it doesn't feature the microSD card slot, so there's no potential to augment that capacity. The Galaxy S4 offers 2GB of memory, while the iPhone 5 only comes with 1GB of RAM.
Some versions of Samsung's Galaxy S4 will feature the heavily hyped 8-core Exynos 5 Octa processor, though the LTE model of the handset - which we're discussing here in the interest of comparing like for like - will in fact feature a quad-core Snapdragon 600 chipset. That's not necessarily a bad thing - its 1.9GHz clock speed is one of the highest we've seen on a smartphone. The Apple iPhone 5's dual-core A6 chipset only reaches 1.3GHz, but again, we won't be able to pronounce on performance until we take the Galaxy S4 for a spin.
The Samsung Galaxy S4's mammoth 2,600 mAh battery should be able to keep things rolling pretty effectively, though talk time estimates are still up in the air at the time of publication. As with previous Galaxy S handsets, the S4's battery is replaceable, meaning that you can double - or triple, or quadruple for that matter - battery life by packing a spare. The iPhone 5 sports a more modest 1,440 mAh battery and comes with an eight-hour jabber boast.
Connectivity and wireless
Both devices are supported on the UK's 4G LTE spectrum. Like its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S4 comes with near-field communication (NFC) technology. Much to the disappointment of even its most ardent supporters, Apple failed to equip the iPhone 5 with NFC. The Galaxy S4 also supports the latest 802.11 ac Wi-Fi standard and will be available in a 3G-only model, presumably at a reduced price point.
Price, availability, and opinion
Samsung has indicated that the Galaxy S4 will be available globally from next month - 26 April has been mooted as a UK consumer release date. We also understand that EE will make the Galaxy S4 available for pre-order on 28 March, but 4G LTE pricing is still completely up in the air. You can buy the iPhone 5 from the Apple Store right now - it retails for £529, £599, and £699 for the 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB models, respectively. So, should you wait for the Galaxy S4, or would you in fact be better served by the iPhone 5?
The Galaxy S4 has a lot of potential selling points. In addition to top-notch hardware specifications, it has a bevy of slick software-based features. Following the example set by the HTC One, the Galaxy S4 features an infrared LED sensor, enabling your handset to double as a remote control in the living room. Then there's S Translate and S Health - the former is a real-time translation feature, while the latter monitors your activity and provides an insight into your health.
Elsewhere, Samsung Knox enables employers and IT departments to create a sandboxed work environment on the S4 to protect sensitive enterprise data. Smart Scroll and Smart Pause let you stop video and scroll pages via intuitive retina movements, while Air Gesture allows you to navigate your smartphone without actually touching the screen. We're no fan of the Galaxy S4's polycarbonate build, however – military-grade or otherwise, plastic is still plastic.
Of course, the iPhone 5 didn't exactly take the world by storm itself, though as with the Galaxy S4, there's a lot we like about Apple's latest handset. Siri has evolved from a precocious sidekick into a valued helper. The iOS platform is a huge selling point and offers the best overall mobile user experience out there. Though Samsung has its equivalent in Wallet, Passbook seems likely to develop into the definitive digital wallet app.
So where did it all go wrong? If Samsung's new handset had so much wow factor it all seems a bit try-hard and shallow, the iPhone 5 has come across as lacking innovation - lazy, in a word. What's more, many of its specifications, especially on the hardware front, look antiquated by today's standards. That said, we appreciate Apple's commitment to build quality – the iPhone 5 doesn't feel quite as sturdy as its predecessor, the 4S, but it's still a very well made smartphone.
It's tough to say which device is a more astute purchase. If it's the latest technology you want, then the Samsung Galaxy S4 is probably for you, but if design and construction is the key concern, then you may lean towards Apple. Ultimately, we'd probably hold off on buying either handset right now. We haven't had ample opportunity to play around with the Galaxy S4, and with Apple widely expected to launch the iPhone 5S in the not-too-distant future, it would seem foolhardy to snap up a new smartphone just for the sake of it. That, and if we were going to make an immediate purchase, it would almost certainly be the HTC One.
Samsung Galaxy S4 (LTE)
Apple iPhone 5
1,920 x 1,080 pixels
1,136 x 640 pixels
Processor and battery
PowerVR SGX 543MP3
Claimed 3G talk time
Up to 8 hours
Storage and memory
16GB /32GB / 64GB
16GB / 32GB / 64GB
1080p @ 30fps
1080p @ 30fps
802.11 a / b / g / n / ac
802.11 a / b / g / n
Integrated wireless charging
136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm
123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm
Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
iOS 6 (v.6.1.2)
£529 (16GB) / £599 (32GB) / £699 (64GB)