Sunday, August 24, 2014

Apple iPhone 5S vs. Samsung Galaxy S5


I've often loathed Apple products for several reasons. For one, Apple has traditionally marketed many of their products toward the elite, dare I say snobs. I've observed what I see as overconfidence about their devices in the personalities of many who own, or those who have owned the iPhone. Plus, Apple's business model keeps you locked into their products and infrastructure. However, in an attempt to become more objective about my opinion of the iPhone, I've decided to take advantage of the "T-Mobile Test Drive". Yes, T-Mobile will let you borrow an iPhone 5S to test on their network for 7 days. The simple catch is that you have to agree to let them put a $700 hold on your credit card. If you don't return the iPhone to a T-Mobile retail outlet when your trial is up, they will gladly charge you $700 for the privilege of keeping their phone. If you drop it, for instance, and crack the screen, they will charge you $100 to fix the phone. Luckily, a co-worker let me borrow his iPhone case. For me, this test was about testing the T-Mobile network as much as it was about expanding my experience of using an iPhone, and gaining an objective opinion of it. More about the network in another article. This article is not about comparing technical specs, but it is about conveying my actual real-world use of both phones. Now, onto the comparisons of the iPhone 5S vs. the Galaxy S5, which I happily own through the U.S. Cellular network.


Build Quality

Most people would agree that the iPhone is more elegantly constructed. Its metal body is sexier than the Galaxy's plastic build. To me, the iPhone feels dainty though. This is probably because I'm used to the bigger size of the Galaxy, and Android devices in general. I certainly wasn't going to test the durability of either phone in austere conditions. The Galaxy S5 is not only all plastic, but it is also highly scratch-prone. I've seen minor outer body scratches simply from taking the case off. However, the Galaxy is widely advertised as being water resistant. I tested this quality once, and it did happily survive.

Size and Screen

Of course, the first thing I noticed about the iPhone is that it's noticeably smaller than the Galaxy S5. The entire iPhone 5S is barely bigger than just the screen on the Galaxy S5. The iPhone defenders seem to think that Galaxy users are just blindly (no pun intended) giving their phone the advantage based on numbers. Well, I'm here to tell you that screen size makes a huge difference in many cases. For example, with the iPhone's 4 inch screen, it is hard for me to view web pages in Safari. This is especially true for web pages made for a desktop browser, as opposed to the mobile versions. However, with the screen on the Galaxy S5, I don't have to pinch-and-zoom the text, because of the bigger screen. Some of my friends have stepped over to the bright side of Galaxy because they grew tired of waiting for Apple to release a phone with a significantly bigger screen.
As for the like of the screen quality, it's a wash to me. I'm not getting into numbers here, because numbers don't tell the whole story. I think the iPhone Retina screen has a warmer, more fluid look to it. However, the screen on the Galaxy S5 appears to be brighter to me, with colors that just "pop", as they say. I think they both have great looking screens, so it simply comes down to size.

Unlocking the Screen

Both phones have fingerprint unlock. Apple's seems to work much better in this respect. The iPhone prompted me to set up a fingerprint profile when I activated the phone. It had me place my finger on the home button several different ways before it would save the profile. The iPhone lets you into the phone after placing your finger on the round home button for just about a second. This is more efficient than Samsung's elongated home button, which makes you swipe down from the screen. Inevitably, I have to swipe down two or three times before the Samsung phone finally unlocks. Also, the Samsung seems to have an annoying glitch with the fingerprint unlock. If I receive a text or call, and touch the notification on the screen to open it, the screen will go dark if I don't immediately unlock the screen. I'm talking about less than one second. Also, I've unlocked the screen only to have it go dark immediately after I've unlocked it. The iPhone seems to have similar annoyances, but to a lesser extent. Kudos to Apple for doing it better.

Visual Interface

It's hard to be objective here, because I've owned Android-based phones for 3-1/2 years. I'm used to the Android way of doing things more than I am Apple's simple, and in my opinion, antiquated interface. I just find it quicker to get things done on the Galaxy's Touch Wiz interface. Touch Wiz is basically Samsung's overlay of the Android interface, which adds Samsung-specific features.
In addition to the home button centered below the screen, the Galaxy, and most other Androids add two others. The Galaxy S3 and 4 had a 'settings' button the left, and the 'back' button on the right. Samsung replaced the 'settings' button with the 'recent apps' button on the S5. The iPhone has only the home button, so to go to your settings, you have to find the icon on your home screen. And, the settings for many of your apps are in the central settings screen. On the S5, you now access all of your phone settings by pulling down on the notification shade from the top, and touching the gear icon. To access the basic features, simply pull down the top notification shade. You can change those settings by holding down on the icon. For instance, if you want to connect to a different Wi-Fi network, simply hold down on the Wi-Fi icon for about a second. To access more phone features, you can simply swipe down with two fingers. Then, you can turn on NFC, for instance, and even change the order of the icons. For Apple's settings shade, you swipe up from the bottom. However, you can only access the very basic settings this way, like toggling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on and off. To my knowledge, you can't customize these on the iPhone.
The first thing a new Galaxy user may notice when viewing the home screen is that there are interactive boxes on the screen. These are called "widgets", and the iPhone simply does not have them. These "widgets" allow you to put things like weather, time, a photo gallery browser, calendar entry, or even an e-mail browser directly on your home screen without having to find the icon to touch. This is a feature I would definitely miss, if for some odd reason I decided to ditch Android for iOS. Also, you can add more home screens on the Galaxy if you run out of icon and widget real estate. Plus, you can pinch in to show all of your screens so you can select the one you want to navigate to.
The features that Samsung packs into their phones comes at a cost, though. I've experienced annoying lag issues with the Galaxy S5, but no such issues with the iPhone. Apple products in general have a reputation for being buttery-smooth and highly stable.

Call Quality

No complaints on the iPhone. However, it uses T-Mobile service, and the Galaxy S5 I have is on US Cellular. For those who haven't heard of them, they're the #5 carrier, and mostly regional. They cover a fair chunk of the Midwest, plus select markets on the east and west coast. Although I haven't experienced any trouble hearing calls on the S5, I've had many tell me that I sound muffled. I've turned the noise reduction feature off, and this doesn't seem to help. I didn't have any trouble with the Galaxy S4 as far as call quality goes, and I'm not sure what they changed on the S5. It certainly doesn't make me happy.

Siri vs. S-Voice vs. Google

Based on my experience, I give the nod to Google's voice service. It's been available the longest of the three, so it has had the most time to perfect. The S-Voice on the S5 sometimes has a hard time picking up my voice, but I seem to get decent results when it does pick up my voice well. I really like how S-Voice integrates with "Car Mode" for true hands-free use. "Car Mode" lets you make and take calls, send and receive text messages, start music, and get driving directions from a simplified screen that doesn't go dark. On the other hand, navigation is S-Voice's weak spot. I told S-Voice I needed to get driving directions to Red Robin, and it gave me directions to the Red Robin in another state! I had to pull over and call up the Google Now feature, which called up the directions to the CLOSEST location! The Apple doesn't appear to have this Car Mode feature at all.


In most settings, the true winner is the Galaxy S5, in my experience. I will have specific examples to prove this. I've even had my friends with iPhones make comments that they wish the iPhone camera was better. With the S5, you can customize advanced settings such as light metering, ISO range, and picture stabilization. Plus, you can perform a live comparison between HDR and regular camera mode. You also have a larger selection of shooting modes to choose from, and you can even download more from the Galaxy app store. With the iPhone camera, you have Slo-mo video mode, panorama, and a few effects to choose from. To be quite honest, I was really surprised at the clarity of the Galaxy S5 pictures over the 5S when I took some comparison photos in the same setting. The iPhone just didn't seem to do well in most low-light situations. I really expected it to do better in this regard. However, in adequate light situations, the iPhone does take very good pictures. Where the Galaxy S5 pics seem to be washed out, the iPhone pics appear to be more balanced. Disclaimer: I am not a professional photographer, so I don't know all of their fancy terminology.

These photos are from the Galaxy S5

The flash went off for this photo. It was set on 'Auto'. Notice that it is brighter and sharper than the one taken by the iPhone below.

The flash went off for this photo. It's pretty bright, maybe a little too bright.

The flash was turned off for this photo. It's rather grainy. The iPhone did better in this low-light situation.

The flash went off for this photo automatically. Notice the nice contrast, even if it is a little bright.

The flash was turned off for this photo. Not as much contrast as the iPhone photo, or the one with the flash above.

Outside shot with natural lighting.

These photos are from the iPhone 5S

The flash was on 'Auto'. With the iPhone, you don't have a choice to force the flash. Thus, the darker photo that's grainy and doesn't have much detail.

The flash didn't go off for this photo, but the iPhone still did a great job with it.

No flash, but notice on the left where pillows are slightly washed out from the window light interference. Not terrible, though.

Outside shot with natural lighting.


Although I didn't actually try to load music on the iPhone, I do believe it has a distinct advantage over the Galaxy S5 when it comes to ease-of-use. With the iPhone, you can simply use iTunes on your computer to transfer the music. Plus, you can use wi-fi transfer to move the music to your phone. Samsung does have a program called Kies for their line of smartphones, which is similar to iTunes, but it isn't widely promoted. In fact, I've had a lot of trouble using it due to technical glitches. Because of this, I avoid Kies as much as possible.

Other Features

Facetime – This feature that allows you to video chat with other friends who have an Apple device. The Galaxy has an app called 'ChatOn', although you have to sign up for it, and it's not easy to use. Most Galaxy users don't even bother with it. Try Skype instead.
Small size - Some people value pocket space, and actually like a smaller phone. If this is you, there's always the Galaxy S4 Mini, which has most of the same features as the Galaxy S4, and it's about the size of the iPhone.

Galaxy S5:
Water Resistance – The Galaxy S5 is built to be water resistant. We all know people who have accidentally dropped their phone in a body of water. The Galaxy is built to withstand this abuse, provided that you make sure the removable back is snapped in properly, along with the bottom plug cover.
Removable battery – Smartphones aren't known for having long-lasting batteries. However, I do have to say that in a totally non-scientific test, the battery on the Galaxy S5 outlasted the battery on the iPhone by at least 12 hours. Along that line, if you do happen to deplete the battery on the S5, you can readily swap it out for a fully-charged one because of the removable back cover and battery. This is not possible on the iPhone. Yes, the commercial where iPhone users are tethered to the wall appears to be true!
Charging cable – Do you ever forget your charging cable? If you're a Samsung (or most any Android phone) user, it's not a big issue. The Galaxy S5 will let you use the same widely available cable that almost any phone uses, except of course the iPhone. In true Apple fashion, the iPhone uses a proprietary cable that can only be used with other Apple devices. If you happen to forget your cable and you're not near another iPhone/iPad, sorry Charlie!
Power-saving – Get the most out of your battery life with the Samsung's "Power Saving" and "Ultra Power Saving" features. As I write this paragraph, I have not charged the Galaxy S5 for 26 hours, and I still have 25% of the battery life available because of the "Power Saving" feature. However, if I want to sacrifice a lot of functionality, I will gain an additional 72 hours of battery life by activating "Ultra Power Saving" mode. If I do this, I can still do the essentials like send and receive texts, and take and make calls on a grayscale screen. Well, there's always a trade-off, isn't there?
Media and file storage – This is where the Samsung Galaxy S5 has a huge advantage over the Apple iPhone 5S. With the iPhone, what you buy is what you get. If you buy an iPhone with 16 gigs (gigabytes) of space, that is the only space you have available to install apps, save pics and videos, and save local music. Yes, you do have iCloud, but you can't stream your music from it, to my knowledge. And, even if you could, it would count against your data allotment. If you need more storage with the iPhone, you have to buy another iPhone with the amount of storage capacity you need, for several hundred dollars. With the Galaxy S5, you only get 16 gigs of internal storage, but you can easily expand that storage with a microSD card. For instance, I recently purchased a 64 gb microSD card for $30. I now have 80 gb of total storage to store music, pictures, video, and even other apps. In my tech support job, I've had to urge iPhone users to save some of their pics and videos to their computer because when they ran out of storage space on their iPhones, they couldn't even download their corporate e-mail. Can you even imagine how uncomfortable I was when I had to tell one of my executives that they had to delete their personal stuff in order to get their corporate e-mail? I really just wanted to cower and hide!
Multi-window screen – With the Galaxy S5, you can actually do two things on your phone at the same time by using "Multi-window" mode. You can type a text message to send someone, while checking your Facebook at the same time. One of the apps will be at the top of the screen, and one will be at the bottom. You can even resize them so that one takes up more space than the other.

Multi-Window feature on the Galaxy S5. YouTube on top, and web browser on the bottom.

Multi-function remote – Because the Galaxy S5 (and S4) has an IR blaster, I can surprise my friends by turning off their TV. I can also program the remote app to operate a DVD player, set-top box, and even an A/V receiver…all from the Galaxy S5 phone.
S-Beam – If I want to send a picture or music file to another friend who has a Galaxy (S3 or above), I can simply turn on this feature, call up the picture I want to send to them, and tap my phone to theirs. They now have the same picture I do, in full quality. The iPhone does have the "Airdrop" feature, and it's probably similar, but I did not test it.



Although the iPhone 5S does have some good qualities, I would have to sacrifice a lot of functionality by moving to the Apple infrastructure. I still recommend the iPhone to those who value simplicity, and want to stay in the Apple "walled garden" as I call it, because they own other Apple devices. Although I have experienced some minor glitches with the Galaxy, I will gladly tolerate that so I won't have to give up the galactic features of the Galaxy S5. Bottom line: the iPhone just isn't for me to keep, because the Samsung Galaxy S5 is out of this world!




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ANG/USAF veteran, 2 kids, Peoria