iPhone 5s vs. Galaxy S5: A closer look


May 11, 2014

Gizmag goes hands-on to compare the Apple iPhone 5s and Samsung Galaxy S5

Gizmag goes hands-on to compare the Apple iPhone 5s and Samsung Galaxy S5

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There are lots of great smartphones out there, but you won't find two more popular names than iPhone and Galaxy. How do the latest versions of these two flagships compare? Join Gizmag for a hands-on look at the Apple iPhone 5s and Samsung Galaxy S5.

There's no single way to make a great smartphone, and these two phones are a great example of that. One is small (at least by today's standards), with an equally small screen, a premium build, and hardware and software both made by the same company. The other is much bigger, with a spacious screen, plastic finish, and a boatload of eye-catching features.

So which do you go with? Well, I don't believe that there's going to be one universal answer for everyone, so let's take a closer look at what each phone brings to the table, and try to help you to find the phone that works better for you.

Pick each phone up, and you'll immediately see a difference. The Galaxy S5 is 15 percent longer, 24 percent wider, and 7 percent thicker than the iPhone 5s. What that translates to, at least in my hands, is a phone that slides right into the meat of the palm (iPhone) vs. one that I have to stretch my fingers a little to get a good grip around (Galaxy).

Apple is a design-driven company, and I think it shows in the iPhone 5s. Its appearance is starting to look pretty familiar these days (externally, it's almost identical to its predecessor, the iPhone 5). But I think it feels like a higher-end phone than the GS5. You can chalk a lot of that up to the Galaxy S5's faux leather (plastic) finish – with dimples. And the edge of the GS5, which has a metallic look? Well, it's actually made of plastic too.

There's nothing wrong with smartphone-makers slapping plastic chassis onto their devices. But if you're looking for the more premium feel, the iPhone wins this showdown hands-down. The iPhone looks like it was chiseled and crafted from a piece of aluminum, with chamfered edges and a jeweler's attention to detail. And, go figure, it was. The Galaxy S5, from a distance, looks like it might have been made of leather and stainless steel. But when you look closer, you realize that it's all just plastic.

If you can get past the whole looks like one thing, is actually another aspect to the Galaxy S5, then I think its pleather finish is actually pretty comfortable in hand. The slightly soft-touch finish helps to lessen the blow of having to hold such a huge device.

Big phones like the GS5 are now the de facto industry standard, but there's a place for smaller, more compact devices like the iPhone. For starters, it's extremely light (at 112 g, it's 23 percent lighter than the Galaxy). It's also a cinch to use with one hand, and you barely notice it when it's in your pocket.

If Apple's next flagship iPhone has a 4.7-in screen, as Apple's leaky supply chain is suggesting, then I hope the company also keeps a 4-in iPhone around. If Apple does go all-in on big iPhones, then the 5s might be the last terrific smartphone with a 4-in or smaller screen. It's no secret that the tech industry often leans towards "me-too" sameness, but why can't we have great smartphones in all sizes? I see the positives in 4-in phones, 5-in phones, and even larger phablets.

The biggest plus that large phones give you is, of course, plenty of screen real estate. The Galaxy S5's display is big and beautiful. Diagonally, it measures 5.1 inches, with 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. The iPhone's screen is 4 inches, with 1,136 x 640 resolution. To put that in perspective, the iPhone only gives you 62 percent as much screen as the GS5. It also only gives you 35 percent as many pixels (though I don't think that sharpness difference is nearly as noticeable as the size difference). If you're on a mission for maximum screen and maximum crispness, then your choice is clear.

Both phones have great cameras. The GS5 takes shots in a higher resolution (16 MP to the iPhone's 8 MP), which can help if you're blowing up shots to enormous proportions. But it also has one big Achilles' heel. When you fire up the Galaxy S5's camera from the lock screen, it takes a good five or six seconds before it's ready to snap a shot. On the iPhone, I can jump from lock screen to taking a picture in about 2.5 seconds. If you have to wait over twice as long as competing phones to use the Galaxy S5's camera, well, that's a big strike against it.

The iPhone's camera has a dual-LED flash. What this means is that your flash photography shots are going to look more colorful and balanced (less washed out). The Galaxy S5's camera doesn't have that feature, but I suspect that it's using some software-based processing to try to give its flash shots a similar result (though I still think the iPhone's flash photography looks superior).

You might have seen some Samsung commercials that advertise a blurred-background photography feature, where you can change your point of focus, on the Galaxy S5. The big drawback to the feature, though, is that your subject has to be very close to the camera. If you want a portrait of someone with a blurred background, then you'll have to hold your Galaxy S5 within 1.5 feet (0.46 m) of your subject's face – with the background at least 3x as far away. It's still a nice feature to have (and the iPhone doesn't have an equivalent shooting mode), but that distance requirement is the kind of detail that Samsung is going to gloss over in its ads.

If you asked me what the Galaxy S5's killer feature is, I'd go with its water resistance. In the last couple of years, several OEMs have made water-resistant phones (most notably, Sony), but we've never seen a phone as high-profile as the Galaxy S5 having the feature onboard. And it's a terrific feature to have.

The GS5 is rated IP67, which means it passed a test where it soaked in 1 meter (3.3 ft) of water for 30 minutes. So you can drop your phone in the sink or toilet, rinse it off when it's dirty, or even tweet from the bathtub. Just make sure its battery and charging covers are sealed shut, and you won't have anything to worry about. The iPhone 5s can't do that.

The iPhone 5s' killer feature is its Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Biometric sensors are all the rage these days, and I'd say Apple's Touch ID is the best you'll find in a smartphone. The GS5 actually has a fingerprint sensor in its home button as well, but it's a swipe-based scanner. On the iPhone, you merely rest your finger on the home button for a very brief moment.

Both sensors are good, but I find the iPhone's to be quicker and easier to use. You can also scan your print from any angle on the iPhone, while you'll need to swipe your finger from the same general direction every time you use it on the GS5.

So what do you do with a fingerprint sensor? Well, the biggest thing right now is using it as a passcode. Set up fingerprint security, choose a secure passcode, and you'll be able to skip the code and unlock the phone with your finger. Anyone else will be shut out.

The iPhone's Touch ID also lets you use your print to authorize iTunes and App Store purchases. Samsung's has a few extra tricks up its sleeve: you can swipe your print to login to PayPal, and it's also integrated with a few third-party apps (most notably, the LastPass password manager).

Samsung likes to throw lots and lots of features into its products. Why throw one biometric sensor into your new flagship when you can throw in two (gasp)? Ergo, the GS5 has not just a fingerprint scanner, but also a heart rate monitor. It lives on the phone's backside, just below its camera. Fire up the S Health app, hold your finger over the sensor (usually for 5-15 seconds) and it will give you a pulse reading. It could be a handy feature for workout enthusiasts or anyone watching stress levels.

But here's a little secret that Samsung's advertising agency doesn't want you to know. There are actually heart rate monitor apps for the iPhone too. The iPhone doesn't have a pulse sensor, so these apps use the camera and flash. Hold your finger over the camera lens, watch in amazement as the flash makes your finger glows red, and watch in equal amazement as a phone without a heart rate sensor reads your pulse. The moral of the story: I wouldn't recommend choosing the GS5 just for its heart monitor.

Like the Galaxy S4, the GS5 also has built-in infrared capabilities. This lets you use your Galaxy as a remote control for your TV and cable or satellite box. The iPhone doesn't do that.

Another unique iPhone feature is its M7 motion co-processor. It's a separate processor that lives inside the iPhone, with the sole duty of tracking motion. What this means for you is that apps that have been designed to use the M7 can track your steps throughout the day without draining your iPhone's battery. It can have your iPhone potentially replacing a dedicated fitness tracker, such as the Fitbit Flex, Jawbone Up, or Samsung Gear Fit.

Battery life is good for both phones, but the Galaxy S5 comes out ahead in that department. We like to do a test where we stream video on a device, with brightness set at 75 percent. In this test, the GS5 logged an impressive 9 hours and 27 minutes. The iPhone lasted 6 hours, 15 minutes. In regular experience, I don't think the iPhone's uptimes are any cause for concern, but the GS5 is typically going to be the longer-lasting phone.

When it comes to battery life, the Galaxy S5 also has an ace up its sleeve. Have you ever had a phone completely conk out, leaving you without even the most basic of functions, like emergency calls or text messages? Well, the GS5's Ultra Power Saving Mode is a clever solution. Turn the feature on, and the phone's screen will shift to black & white, and you'll be greeted by a new home screen with just the basics (phone, text messages, browser, etc). In this mode, Samsung says 10 percent of battery can last up to 24 hours.

Assuming it hasn't previously appeared on some phone I'm not familiar with, Ultra Power Saving Mode is the first breakthrough software feature I've seen from Samsung. As many gimmicky, space-wasting turds as Samsung phones have laid through the years, it's refreshing to see a new feature that a) is completely new, and b) can genuinely help out in a pinch (this time for actual human beings, not just the actors performing scenes in Samsung's cleverly-written commercials).

Any time you're comparing an iPhone with an Android phone, platform preference is going to come into play. If you're already heavily invested in either iOS or Android, then there will probably be nothing we can say to change your mind – and there shouldn't be.

For the as-yet undecided, though, my take is that today's iOS and Android are both terrific and mature platforms. My biggest beef with the iPhone's iOS is its lack of a Swype-like trace keyboard. My biggest beef with Android is the crapware (promotional apps you'll probably never use) that OEMs and carriers are allowed to pre-install on phones like the GS5. Samsung's TouchWiz UI (its own custom Android skin with unique software features) can also, in places, come off as a little crowded, unfocused, and chintzy.

If you're leaning towards the iPhone – or if you just wish you could have the GS5's big screen on an iPhone – then you might want to keep an eye on Apple's release timeline. Leaks are pointing to a 4.7-in iPhone 6 launching within the next three to five months. Another 5.5-in Apple phablet is rumored to land at some point after that. I wouldn't take any one leak too seriously, but the scuttlebutt has been pretty consistent on this one. If an iPhone with a bigger screen is what you really want, then you might regret throwing down for one of these two just a few months earlier.

As we said at the top, though, we don't pretend to have a one-size-fits-all answer for you. People have different tastes, which is part of what makes the world so interesting. What I do hope is that the key differences we've zeroed in on here help you to get a better sense of which phone will work better for you.

Still stumped? Then you can always hit up Gizmag's full reviews of the iPhone 5s and Galaxy S5 for more detail on each phone. And if these screens just aren't big enough for you, maybe our Phablet Comparison Guide will help you find what you're looking for.

Buy this on Amazon About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Before finding a home at Gizmag, he had stints at a number of other sites, including Android Central, Geek and the Huffington Post. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica. All articles by Will Shanklin

I have only had the GS5 for a few hours but i can save you all some time already.

No, it doesn't come with Spritz reader which Gizmag promised a few months ago and there is no one to complain to. Samsung ignored me and there is no way to contact Spritz.

The heart rate monitor is very poor and works maybe 1 time in 5. The Galaxy S3 was better with a heart rate app. It just used the flash and was dead on with hospital HR monitors.

The camera is amazing and launches right away for me. pictures and video look excellent.

Everyone says it feels cheap in the hand. Yes. It does.

The power saving mode doesn't appear to have a way to set it up to come on at a certain power level, rendering it useless IMO as typically the battery runs down because some app that drains it like Skype turns itself on in your pocket when you are unaware of it. If you don't turn it on, it doesn't help you.

As I bought it 35% for spritz reader I am a little disappointed. As to the rest, its a just noticeable difference from the S3 so questionably worth it and from the S4, highly doubtful that its worth it as a few free apps basically allow it to do the same things. Except the water resistance. The guy at the phone shop made me repeat that its not water-PROOF it is 'water-resistant'. I told him he should try selling Kevlar vests that way.


I have both Samsung an Apple phones I find Apple lasts longer but I use the Samsung more often because it has more features and the screen is larger so I can read then easier. Generally not happy with the not replaceable battery in the apple and sony phones.

Gavin Roe

Please Stop with the plastic stuff. I never bought a smartphone and didn't buy a plastic case for it. I believe all cases are made of plastic so that's not a big thing to me. So can you please tell me more about what's inside the phones and the difference and not the outside that's going to get covered in plastic anyway. Example Ram, Processor speed, Storage capacity and expandability. Because I need a new phone ASAP I have Att thinking about going with the next program.

James Smith

Pretty disappointed to not see any actual hardware specs here. Processor, video benchmarks, etc. This info would have tipped the scale quite a bit I believe. IPHONE doesn't hold up to Samsung, not even close. Who the heck wants a super tiny screen you can't see, you talk about it here like it's a good thing.

Travis Leach

The most useful camera feature is "HDR". Set to automatic, when you photograph a subject aginst a bright background, the iPhone shoots twice and merges the two shots, giving you a decent shot of the subject and the background instead of either a dark subject or a washed out background. Even my Nikon DSLR won't do that.


For a great little phone that is hand comfortable, has a 4.7" screen and voice interactive, get a Moto X. I swear by mine.


I agree about the bloatware, but you can turn most of it off. Several things about iPhone 5 and later models really turned me off, like the proprietary charge/data cable that nobody else uses. I can still use micro USB from a phone I had several years ago to charge my S5. As the article mentioned, there's no Swype-like app for iPhone. I inwardly chuckle when I see people typing on iPhones. Apple charges a premium for onboard storage, where I can simply add a much less expensive micro SD card to expand my storage. The ability to simply pull off the cover to replace the battery is another nice touch, where the iPhone must be disassembled. I don't really care about the feel of the phone because I put a protective case on it anyway. I just hope that Mophie comes out with a Juicepack case for the S5 soon, as I loved using one with my S3.


I find it kind of funny that so much angst is spent on the crapware/bloatware on Android phones. The best part of it is that you can simply hide or often uninstall those apps. You want an uncluttered screen? Easy. Just remove those icons by tap & hold, then drag them to the trash can. You can also get a lot of lovely widgets that show you most anything at a glance. Try that with an iPhone.

I got the S5, after using older Androids and even iPhones. iPhones now bug me because they don't have a Back button. It's a matter of preference. However, I can honestly say that the apps on an iPhone generally work more reliably. You just have to use iTunes to get much out of the iPhone. I hate iTunes. With the S5, I can plug it into my computer's USB socket and upload/download whatever I like to/from the phone. Not as easy on iPhone/iTunes.

As to tech specs, you can get that on other phone reviews. You probably will never notice the difference. This review pretty much nailed down some of the things you will notice--that the S5 takes a few more seconds to open the camera. On paper, the S5 has a faster processor, and if you need more space, the S5 takes a microSD card. You will probably never use up all the space an iPhone gives you, either.


Does anyone ever use these as a phone? Is there any review of them as a phone, with conversation using the spoken work?

I'm on the phone constantly, and need basic email and nav and text and everything else, but I need a telephone most of all or I can just use my laptop with the keys designed for fingers and a screen one can see.

Is this a stupid situation where we are using SMARTmarginalphones instead of SMARTPHONES?


Great article. Thanks.

Tommy Yoppy

Important Info. I was a pro photographer, so I know how to take photos. I had a Galaxy s4, camera was fine.. not the best in the world but would take clear photos... It died in the washer so I replaced it with the new Galaxy s5. OMG, I tried 2 of them in the store, neither would take clear photos up close.. or zoomed of a person at a distance, like across the room.. great for photos of like rooms and such.. This new s5 is crap for focusing on people up close.. so I got the nokia lumia 1020..Never wanted a windows phone, loved my android, loved my samsung s4.. but if you are looking at an s5, and like taking photos. you better try to take photos of people close up.. like 2 feet away.. try taking photos of faces, like 2 feet away.. all will be blurrrrrrrrrry... I promise you. Strange how Samsung is letting these phones out knowing of that problem. surely they know.. Got mine at AT&T

Alaska Live

I'm a iPhone user and I can tell you that if you undecided which phone to choose, think Microsoft Windows and iOS from Apple. Ask yourself which one is more reliable and efficient. I tried to use many Android phones in the past and they all failed my standard. Not only they become slow after a while (no sure why, but it must be the coding, sounds like Microsoft to you?). The other day I took my iPhone 1 from my drawer and used it for a couple of hours and I'm amazed how well it is built and still function perfectly (just a little slow but tolerable). So, what's the lesson here? Buy something that lasts and works. Not just something with tons of features. With Apple, I feel peace of mind when I browse because there is a company who stand behind it's products. Samsung only makes hardware and if you read carefully the agreement, Google Android is not responsible for anything that goes wrong because they are positioning themselves as "Open Source" and "Freeware".


My suggestion is to get neither of these phones. I do like the replaceable battery and SD Card but there are less expensive Android phones out there with pure Android and similar specs.

Rann Xeroxx

One month with my Galaxy S5. It's fantastic. Usually after a month with any new phone I would have several complaints but not with the GS5. It's quite impressive.

BATTERY: Long lasting battery is my favorite feature including the Ultra Save Mode which really came in handy during long trips to Lake Tahoe. I am a moderate user but I frequently get 24 to 30 hours off one charge.

BUILD: A lot of people claiming it's cheap plastic looking, but cases are really inexpensive and can really improve the feel and look. I bought this shiny chrome case for $3.90 and now I say it looks more premium than any iPhone5S or HTC M8.

CAMERA: I was in an auditorium sitting in a balcony and surprised how well the camera handled photos from a long distance. Also the instant swipe accessibility from the un-locked home screen is a great feature, within 3 seconds and I'm shooting a pic!

HEART RATE: I am using the heart rate monitor more frequently than I thought I would and that is because a lot of cardio equipment at my gym have faulty heart rate monitors. At first the Galaxy S5 HRM seemed difficult to get a reading at first, but once you get into the habit of finger tip placement it works fine.

FINGER PRINT: Eh. This is probably the only feature that is not impressive. It seems it takes 2 to 3 swipes to recognize my print and find it not efficient for daily use.

If you noticed, I only mentioned above Galaxy S5 features and left out all the great features that are available with the Galaxy S4.

John Destacamento

I would like to augment my comment from earlier today. What I am finding both interesting and delightful about the S5, is that the features I could never get to work on the Galaxy S3 seem to work automatically with the S5.

For instance the bluetooth headpiece, the same one I had with the S3, is now operating correctly, reading me contact names and answering when I tell it to and some of the commands it was always supposed to do, it actually does now.

Also it doesn't need to be rooted to do some of the functions I needed from the phone. The S3 did and I am uncomfortable with that as I am not technical enough to know if the rooting process compromised the phone or my security etc.

Vlad Tepesblog

For people with small hands, the GS5 has a really cool feature that only turns on about 80% of the screen (don't quote me on that percentage b/c I didn't look it up). Basically, it becomes the size of an Iphone. I don't use it b/c I don't need it, but it practically kills any kind of argument that people with small hands can't use the GS5.

Kel Speed

This is one of the most insightful reviews I have read! Not only was it written well, but it didn't seem bias, I appreciate the "Tell it how it is" philosophy. Great pics for details and descriptions, and the knowledge of information not released to the general public allows a more even playing ground for Apple or Samsung fans. Keep doing your thing!

Harold Bridgeforth

This article would be much better if it was more difficult to decipher the author's bias. The writing style heavily favors the iPhone. It's unprofessional.

Paul McNaney

In my impression, I phone apple 5s is the best cellular phone to use.I phone 5s is better in every facet.

Mark Cruz
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