The Samsung Galaxy S5 was the undisputed star of the 2014 World Mobile Congress in Barcelona. It came a little earlier in the year than usual, but hey, nobody’s complaining. It’s a relief to finally see the real thing (and what a lovely thing it is) after months of speculation.
Before we throw them into a head-to-head battle, however, let’s keep in mind that the iPhone’s latest iteration came out last September, while the Samsung’s most recent flagship phone won’t be released until April. In the hyperfast arena of smartphone engineering, seven months is a huge deal and can mean huge improvements. Don’t be surprised, then, if Samsung comes out on top. Here are our findings from the MWC2014.
Beautiful and Rugged
At 142 mm x 72.7 x 8.1 mm, the 5S is physically larger than the iPhone S5’s 123.8 mm x 58.6 x 7.6 mm (look, their names have even caught up with each other), and is pushing into phablet territory. It’s not quite a phablet, however (the Note series takes care of that category), but the generous size will appeal to people who are always on the road and use their smartphones as their go-to computing device.
The 5.1-inch Super AMOLED 1920 x 1080 screen is a bit of a disappointment: all that hype led us to believe that Samsung would be the first to bring out a 2K screen. In theory, it’s actually a little less sharper than its predecessor because the larger screen size means the pixels are spaced farther apart: it’s now down to 415ppi from 441ppi, back from when it was only 5 inches.
Performance was still excellent, though, and clearly a step up compared to the S4, and more than holds its own against the iPhone’s Retina display.
The polycarbonate and glass fiber chassis is also a huge improvement compared to the shiny, plastic cover they had on the older Galaxy. It’s nicer-looking and has better heft grip because of the “leather-like” (Samsung’s words, not ours) dimples in the back.
Toilet-droppers and other clumsy people, rejoice: the S5 is now water-resistant for 30 minutes up to a depth of one meter. It’s also almost completely dustproof, so now you have one less thing to worry about when you’re on a hike.
The other big news is the fingerprint scanner they incorporated into the home button. Now, Apple fans are already hissing copycat, but hold your horses. Yes, they function the same way in that both phones incorporate this as security.
But hey, this feature was bound to come out on all smartphones, anyway, and Samsung’s version differs in one important respect: the S5 allows you to use your fingerprint as payment verification on Paypal. The iPhone doesn’t have this feature although Apple CEO Tim Cook is reportedly interested in the idea.
This data is only stored on the phone and not shared with PayPal. Rather, your phone will verify for PayPal that it has authenticated your fingerprint.
The question is how much security you’re really getting with this feature. A group of hackers have already proven how easy it is to bypass the system using just a home printer and some wood glue, copying the phone owner’s fingerprint. The good thing, though, is that because your fingerprint data is only stored on the phone, this method will only compromise that one fingerprint-owner’s data and that particular phone. It’s not a vulnerability gateway for any massive data breach.
Another much-talked-about development is the brand-spanking new heart monitor on the back, strengthening Samsung’s thrust into fitness and wearable tech. Just hold your finger to the sensor on the back and you’ll be able to read your heart rate on any of the fitness apps installed on the phone. This should work nicely with the Gear, Samsung’s smart watch.
The S5 comes with the top-of-the-line 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, significantly faster than its Snapdragon 800 predecessor. You also get 2GB of RAM and up to 32GB of internal storage, expandable up to 128GB with an external micro SD card. In contrast, the iPhone still comes with fixed, non-expandable storages of 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB.
Is the Snapdragon faster than the iPhone 5S’s A7 chip? That’s hard to tell. The A7’s architecture is different and in theory should be faster, but Apple doesn’t release its speeds as a rule.
The 16-megapixel camera is up from 13MP, and is now able to record 4k or ultra-high definition (UHD) video (which the phone isn’t able to fully display, unfortunately). It’s still a huge improvement, though, over the iPhone’s 8-megapixel camera that caps at 1080p. Both max out recording at 30 frames per second.
Capturing photos within 0.3 second (according to Samsung) is now possible thanks to the super fast auto focus. Another new feature, Selective Focus, allows you to alter the focus of your shot after it’s taken. This largely feels like a gimmick, though, and is more trouble than it’s worth. You have to turn on the function to be able to use it, and there really aren’t a lot of things you can use it on.
Other differences are no surprise: the S5 comes with a removable 2800mAh providing 390 hours (or over two weeks) of standby and 21 hours of talktime. Meanwhile, the iPhone has a built-in lithium-ion battery and gives you up to 250 hours of standby and 10 hours of talk time.
So back to our question: who wins between the Samsung Galaxy S5 vs. iPhone 5S? Again, that’s hard to tell. Individual features always have to be considered separately, and taste and needs are really huge factors. Despite some fluff, the S5’s brute power is still largely geared toward functionality and power, while the iPhone is still that sleek, sexy symbol of status.
The competition between Samsung and the iPhone will always be a game of catch-up in some respects, but they’re different enough that they’ll also be playing to their own strengths. You should know by now that as with apples and oranges, comparing Apple and Samsung doesn’t really work.