Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Apple iPhone 5s: the weigh-in

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The stage is set for Apple and Samsung to duke it out for smartphone supremacy.

In the red corner, we have the iPhone 5s, Apple’s undisputed poster boy. Taking the fight to the iOS camp is the newly-announced Samsung Galaxy S5.

Let the games begin.

POLYCARBONATE IS STILL PLASTIC

Call it polycarbonate all you want, Samsung, it’s still plastic. But it has its merits – the Galaxy S5’s finish certainly looks more premium than its predecessor, and it’s light and easy to handle. Plus, the matte surface, unlike the ghastly faux-leather back of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, actually makes sense when you get a good, firm grip in your hands.

But there’s none of that cool, metal touch that gets you all excited when you hold the iPhone 5s for the first time. Samsung has improved upon the S4 with a more premium look, but somewhere along the line, it’s dropped the ball on the S5’s design. Again.

All that jazz about being waterproof? You don’t have to worry about sending the S5 into a watery grave when you’re at the beach. But when you’re about to charge the Android smartphone via its microUSB cable? The cover that protects the microUSB port from water will be a real pain to remove. Every. Single. Time.

And while we’re talking ergonomics, don’t forget: the iPhone 5s’ Lightning connector plugs in both ways.

Winner: Apple iPhone 5s

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PIXELS

Do we need to say who’s the clear winner here? No really, do we have to say it, if we tell you the S5 has a 5.1in display packed with 1920 x 1080 pixels? Oh, by the way, the iPhone 5s sports a 4in screen with 1136 x 640 pixels. Still not convinced who the winner is? Consider the S5’s pixel density, raking in 432 pixels per inch while the iPhone 5s doesn’t even come close at 326 pixels per inch.

Now if we’re not spelling this out clearly enough, the S5 uses a Super AMOLED display. You know, the type that treats your eyes to the most fantastic viewing experience even if you hold the phone at a distance. Try doing that on the iPhone 5s. Chances are, you’ll be squinting and bringing the phone closer to your eyes. Or maybe your eyes need an upgrade.

On the numbers alone, the winner is obvious. But just in case it’s still not clear, read below.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S5

YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH MEGAPIXELS

The Galaxy S5’s 16-megapixel camera doesn’t necessarily mean a better image at the end of the day than the iPhone’s 8-megapixel sensor. But it doesn’t hurt to jam more pixels into an image. The merits of the S5’s camera aren’t based solely on its 16MP count. Fast autofocus speeds of up to 0.3 seconds, an option to refocus your images post-shot (albeit not to Lytro levels of accuracy) and a live HDR mode so you can see how an enhanced image looks in real-time and recording slow-motion video at 120fps like the iPhone 5s. To us, these little features add up to an impressive package.

On the surface, the iPhone 5s’ simple features pale in comparison to Samsung’s offerings. That holds true for those who want more out of their phone’s imaging capabilities. But if you want skin tones to appear natural in your shots, the iPhone 5s’ dual LED flash has that covered.

Us? We like to keep things simple. Everything about the S5’s imaging features screams power user. But it’s the simple things, like a clean user interface, easy access to the photo gallery and a fuss-free sharing experience on Facebook and Twitter that makes the cut.

A good camera is one that lets you take great images, minus the hassle. And we know who has our vote.

Winner: Apple iPhone 5s

APPLE-EATING SNAPDRAGON

We kind of feel for Samsung Galaxy S4 users. Barely a year after it was launched, the S5 is moving on with Qualcomm’s latest 2.5GHz quad-core Krait processor; a Snapdragon 801, to be precise. A teaser graphic accidenally leaked by Samsung does point to a 2.1 GHz, octa-core variant – presumably running on Samsung’s own Exynos 6 processor. But nothing official has been announced.

Apple, meanwhile, touts the virtues of the 64-bit A7 processor in the iPhone 5s. But do you really need a 64-bit processor? In the long run, yes. But right now, the main purpose of Apple’s 64-bit processor is to power the iPhone’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Even without a 64-bit processor, having four cores running at 2.5GHz on the S5 is going to make the iPhone 5s’ dual-core A7 look like a chump. Theoretically. We won’t know for certain until we run some benchmarks and see how the devices fare in daily usage.

What has piqued our interest is the S5’s concurrent 4G and Wi-Fi download feature, which supposedly combines both network types to download those large attachments that you keep telling your colleagues not to send via e-mail.

Winner: undeclared for now

EVERYTHING BUT THE KITCHEN SINK

Features? The S5 has loads. Wireless charging, checked (with an optional case). Siri, we mean, S Voice? Still there. How about Samsung’s famous air gestures that lets you cycle through images without even touching the screen? All included.

That fingerprint scanner? True on all accounts. Like the iPhone 5s, the sensor is located on the home button, allowing you to secure the S5 with a swipe of your thumb. It does more, too – Samsung’s integrating PayPal payment with the scanner. Watch out for chopper-wielding thieves.

That heart rate monitor we spotted beside the camera? No more excuse to be a slob, especially when the S5 keeps reminding you to get off your lazy backside.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S5

THE MAKINGS OF A DURACELL BUNNY

2800mAh versus 1560mAh. If only it was this simple to determine the winner based on numbers. While the S5’s battery is nearly twice as large as the iPhone 5s, don’t rule out the fact that the Android smartphone is a hungry hungry hippo with its larger screen, more pixels, and all those power-consuming features that run in the background.

However, Samsung has packed in an ultra power saving mode that’ll reportedly last for a full day on standby mode, even when you only have 10 per cent of your power left. Any phone that lasts for more than a day, in our books, is a winner. But until we run the S5 through a proper battery and daily usage test, we’ll have to hold our verdict.

Winner: undeclared

SAY NO TO BLOATWARE

It’s the classic Android versus iOS match-up. The S5 has none of the limitations that the iPhone 5s imposes on its users. You can freely transfer files between the S5 and your desktop or laptop. It has loads of apps on the Google Play Store, and at times, exclusive apps only available on Samsung devices. Everything that’s great about the Android interface gets bumped up with more customised features to give you easier access.

But it can get overwhelming. Samsung – and almost every other Android phone manufacturer out there – have packed their phones with bloatware that complicates the user experience. Its calendar app, for example, is a far cry from the simple UI on the stock Android interface. Samsung’s customised apps, meant to integrate the features of the phone, add too much to the table.

On the other hand, for iDevices, even when it comes to wireless file transfers, you’ll need to use AirDrop. Apps are curated before it even makes it into the App Store. Say all you want about the Apple’s restrictive measures on iOS, it works if you’d rather be told what you can or can’t do with iOS.

It’s a matter of personal choice which you prefer, but for most day-to-day users, the certainty that the curated App Store offers will likely make the difference between Android and Apple.

We await the flurry of outraged comments on our Facebook page with bated breath.

Winner: Apple iPhone 5s

VERDICT

On paper, the Samsung Galaxy S5 delivers much more with its larger and higher resolution display, bigger battery and innovative features (some of which are inspired by its rivals). And in this spec weigh-in, the numbers make all the difference.

Once we’ve got our hands on the S5 for a full review, we’ll be taking a more in-depth look at how it compares to its smartphone rivals – but on specs alone, it’s carried the day against its iOS rival.

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