Samsung Galaxy Note 2 vs. iPhone 5


March 25, 2013

Gizmag compares the specs and features of the Galaxy Note 2 and iPhone 5

Gizmag compares the specs and features of the Galaxy Note 2 and iPhone 5

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Samsung’s Galaxy S line has sold in bunches, and proved that a non-Apple phone can take the smartphone world by storm. But one of the company’s biggest game-changers is the Galaxy Note. Its super-sized screen and innovative S Pen present a stark contrast to the iPhone’s barely-changed-since-2007 simplicity. Let’s revisit two of the hottest – and most radically different – smartphones on the market, as we compare the specs and features of the Galaxy Note 2 and iPhone 5.


Looking at these size differences, it’s hard to believe that both devices serve many of the same purposes. But, as much overlap as there is, Samsung has established the "phablet" as a new product category in itself. The core question in this comparison is whether you want a classic smartphone, or a smartphone-tablet hybrid that has a productivity-based twist?

Though the iPhone 5's face is larger than any previous iPhone, it’s much smaller than Samsung’s huge Galaxy Note II. The Note is 22 percent taller, 37 percent wider, and 24 percent thicker than Apple’s latest.

The iPhone’s smaller size makes it easily pocketable and comfortable for anyone to hold. The Note II, meanwhile, offers a much larger display while still fitting (if just barely) in most pockets.


Plastic devices can still be well-designed, sleek, and attractive. But if you’re looking for more premium materials, the iPhone’s anodized aluminum wins that prize.


The iPhone 5 is 38 percent lighter than the Note 2. But the difference in size-to-weight ratio is minor, considering the Note’s much larger surface.


Do you want a small, discrete, just big enough display? Or do you want a screen that’s big enough that it potentially voids the need for a tablet? Those are essentially your choices here.

The iPhone has much sharper resolution, but don’t be fooled: the Note 2's display is still terrific. You’ll likely hold it a bit farther from your eyes, so the perceived difference in pixel saturation is minor.

The two phones also employ different display technologies. The iPhone’s IPS screen provides great viewing angles and accurate color reproduction; the Note’s Super AMOLED screen has higher contrast and hyper-saturated colors.


The Note’s Exynos chip looks better on paper, with more cores and higher frequency. In terms of benchmarks: the Note fares better in raw processing tests, while the iPhone scores better in browser tests.

... and in terms of experience? Both phones will handle just about anything you throw at them with ease. We’d recommend basing your decision on other categories – where they diverge much more.


The Note II doubles the iPhone’s 1 GB of RAM.


The three internal storage options are even (and priced accordingly). The Note II does, however, let you expand its memory with a microSD card. The iPhone doesn’t.


There is only one version of the iPhone. If your carrier supports 4G LTE (the fastest mobile data network), every iPhone 5 will take advantage of it. If LTE isn't available, it will default back to “4G” HSPA+ (fast, but not quite as fast).

The Note, meanwhile, offers different 4G capabilities by region. There is a model that supports LTE, and a model that maxes out at HSPA+ (it doesn’t have LTE radios at all). Check with your local carrier for the lowdown.


In terms of raw juice, the Note II’s battery trounces the iPhone’s. In terms of experience, it should also easily outlast the iPhone. In fact, the Note II offers some of the most impressive battery life of any “smartphone.”


Megapixels, schmegapixels. Once you’re over a certain threshold, things like sensor size take on more importance. With that said, both the Note II and iPhone 5 take great shots, and can easily replace a point-and-shoot.


The Galaxy Note II runs Android 4.1.2, which is a full version behind the most recent Android software. Though it retains some features from its Android core (including apps like the Play Store, Gmail, Google Now, etc.), your experience centers around Samsung’s TouchWiz UI.

Samsung has given TouchWiz so many unique features that it’s nearly its own operating system (and it may eventually ditch Android for Tizen on the back-end). On the Note, Samsung has a big bag of goodies, centering around the device’s (included) S Pen stylus.

These include the ability to preview things like emails and videos by hovering the pen over the corresponding thumbnail, multi-window support (potentially providing a huge boost in productivity), and the ability to scratch notes from anywhere. For all of the accusations of Samsung copying Apple, the S Pen provides some truly innovative software features that the iPhone (presently) has no answer to.

iOS, meanwhile, retains Apple’s trademark minimalist simplicity. The company has balked at adding too many new features to its mobile operating system since its 2007 inception. On the plus side, anyone who’s ever used an iPhone will know exactly how to use it. On the minus side, iOS is starting to look a bit stale and unchanging after almost six years.

One big software advantage for the iPhone is that it gets updates immediately after Apple releases them. Samsung has improved its devices’ long-term software support, but it’s still a far cry from the iPhone's always-up-to-date status.

Starting price

These numbers aren’t set in stone, as carriers and retailers often mix up their pricing (especially with Android devices). But there’s a fair chance that you’ll pay around US$200 – plus a new two-year contract – for the entry-level model (16 GB) of either handset.


Here we have two über-popular devices, with two radically different approaches, created by two bitter rivals. The iPhone is simple, elegantly constructed, and minimalistic. The Galaxy Note II is a gigantic powerhouse that opens doors for productivity that Apple’s mobile devices can’t match.

Fans of both platforms will argue until the cows come home – and you wouldn’t be crazy for thinking it all sounds a lot like the old Mac vs. PC arguments. We’d recommend filtering out all of the one-upmanship, and simply asking “which phone would I be happier with?” Both have their merits, and we hope this points you in the best direction for you.

To see how these two compare to other top phones, check out our 2013 Smartphone Comparison Guide.

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'm really at a loss. Why can't you just SAY it... iPhone is outdated technology and rather than dancing around the subject just say it! The Galaxy Note2 is vastly superior and really cannot be compared with little outdated toys like iPhone. Too big? Bollucks! I just come back from a trip to Europe and in Seoul I saw all the girls walking with either the Samsung Galaxy S3 or Note. Too big? Not for their (little) hands! And being on the subject: why continue comparing size, pixels, etc where the only thing that REALLY matters are battery life, ability to stick in a new battery when you run out of power. Who cares about an extra few grams if it gets you a decent battery life? The extra size of the S3 and Note2 is a HUGE plus! Stop belittling it! And talking about ueber popular devices: iPhone is well on the way out; I have already given my iPhone to my gf and when I purchased my Galaxy S3. Now she's getting jealous because she's now stuck with an iPhone and can't wait for me to upgrade to the Note2 or S4 so she can have my S3.


I agree with Willemco. The one suggesting I will make for the Note is a permanent backup battery so that when you do swap out batteries the phone doesn't have to restart. This way I can charge a battery or two at home and just swap out the battery and never have any down time. Without this option I have to either switch the battery and be down a couple of minutes or charge it and be stuck to the charger for the next 30 minutes (both suck when you want to make a call and move at the sametime.)

Matt Fletcher

I have the razor Max I was thinking of the HD but I'm gonna get the Samsung Galaxy note 11 it is way much better than the razor plus put a ext battery and its got more battery than the razor galaxey is the way I'm going


I'm sick of reading these fanboy comments on this site. If you can't see the comparative benefits of each OS you shouldn't really be on a tech site.

Inappropriate Response

We need to stop calling these devices "phones". They do so much more. In fact, my Galaxy Note has spent less than an hour in actual voice calls six months into owning it. But I think it's downloaded about 20 GB of data in that time.

Joris van den Heuvel

Aside from being absolutely beautifully designed and constructed the iPhone is actually a very serious precision machine for engineering apps like the i41cx+ which is programmable. So It wins hands down for intellectual elegance and supreme aesthetics.

The fact that the App Store outsells the nearest competitor by a factor of 4 will certainly influence many... there are just so many more apps. Many of them the leading solution.

It was ingenious that Steve set up a situation that many people could develop programs displaying their programming and design skills. He essentially enrolled thousands of skilled programmers and gave vent to their creativity.

While I am older and wouldn't mind a format of 5 x 5 icons so that I wouldn't have to be constantly searching for my glasses to read the text you still have to give his creation a huge +, And many owners now have the mini iPad as well so that takes care of the size issue.

The mini iPad easily fits in most cargo pockets.

Isn't it amazing that this little device has way outperfomed GM.


Island Architect

Did you guys actually test the cameras? "Megapixels, schmegapixels" is a cheap throwaway comment, but when I put my Note next to my iPhone - one takes excellent photos, and the other is so rubbish that it's completely unusable.

If you're publishing a "Comparison", I think you should really actually do the comparison where possible... Most people out here don't have the luxury of both devices on-hand to literally compare stuff.

As for "browser tests" - which browser was tested, and where are the test results? Sounds again like no actual test got done. DUDES!!! Seriously. I just put my galaxy-note (chrome) beside my iPhone (safari), and loaded the home page on each simultaneously (I've never used either on that site before). Chrome was about 500% faster. YES - MASSIVE 5x speed difference.

Tch tch tch...


Totally disagree with Bill. How can you, on the one hand, say that the iPhone is next to heaven and then go on telling us that you can't even READ the outdated device BECAUSE IT'S TOO SMALL? That's why Samsung created a much BIGGER device... Samsung has listened to the PEOPLE - not the fanboys and created a device that is people-friendly while Apple spent their time suing their opponent on silly matters like rounded corners... FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! Samsung... PLEASE continue on this track. Make it heavier and give us more battery power. Even supply an extra battery; happy to pay a little extra for that. I have my Galaxy S3 now since July 2012 and not a single scratch on my 'plastic' cover. My previous iPhone (made from the same material as beer cans) was full of scratches and my gf hates me now (joke). Big is beautiful in the world of smart phones! POWER TO THE PEOPLE!


"Plastic devices can still be well-designed, sleek, and attractive. But if you’re looking for more premium materials, the iPhone’s anodized aluminum wins that prize." That is until you slap a case on it like most iPhone users do and now you are holding a bulkier cheap rubber or plastic encased phone. Where as the Galaxy Note 2 does not require the same rigorous protection save maybe a screen protector but I don't even have that on my own device.

"the Note’s Super AMOLED screen has higher contrast and hyper-saturated colors." While the Galaxy Note 2 does come pre-configured for hyper-saturation, Samsung did include a color-accurate mode that you can enable by turning off the AUTO-ADJUST SCREEN TONE and switching the SCREEN MODE to MOVIE. This provides color accuracy on par with the iPhone 5.

"The Note’s Exynos chip looks better on paper, with more cores and higher frequency." More cores & higher frequency looks better on graphic intensive games and software like Autocad not just paper.

"The Note II doubles the iPhone’s 1 GB of RAM." More RAM quicker application switching and smoother application responsiveness from RAM hungry apps.

"The Note, meanwhile, offers different 4G capabilities by region." You are confusing the Galaxy Note with the Galaxy Note II. The Galaxy Note II in the U.S. market is only limited by the carrier, like the iPhone 5.

"Megapixels, schmegapixels." You can't be serious, try reading your own link. Also, has Apple addressed the 'purple flare' problem or are they still of the opinion that the user is holding the phone incorrectly when taking a photo?

"The Galaxy Note II runs Android 4.1.2, which is a full version behind the most recent Android software." Android 4.1.2 aka Jelly Bean. Android 4.2.2 aka Jelly Bean (Latest stable version). Key Lime Pie is still in beta.

Fabrizio Pozo-Mazzini

The metal bodies result in two deal breakers for me. One is that unless the case is made of nickel (very heavy), the anodized coating will scratch off leaving it looking like your old Maglite bouncing around in your tool box. Secondly, if you can't change to a fresh battery right away, I'm not getting it. Having the second battery as backup has been a Godsend on my aging Galaxy S.

Beyond that I remember the old PC/Macintosh wars. Once they got over the design appearance issues (and once Windows got running in about 1995), the only decision came down to which software did you want to run. Pick the computer that runs the software you want need. I want to run Google Earth with custom overlays that I make. The iPhone runs neither - deal breaker!


The clear winner here is summed up with just two words. Custom ROM's. If you don't know what they are then best stick to that iPod. The whole being forced to run a certain OS sure seems as if that 500 plus dollar device does not, nor ever truly belong to it's owner, merely it's user.

The Note 2 however gets truly personal with the freedom to run custom ROM's. Whether it be a tweaked stock Samsung, community developed, or of your own creation. Custom is king. Why stop there, why not dual boot various combinations? Heck, why not Android and Ubuntu dual booted? Firefox OS sure to be around sooner or later. Just the opinion of a Note 1 & 2 owner, booting whatever I please.

Jason Budgell

@Jason Budgell, I agree with you there. I currently run Clean ROM on my Galaxy Note II and Black Star XI on my Galaxy Note I (which is permanently mounted in my car for recording video and handling forwarded calls from my Galaxy Note II both while I drive).

I dual boot Ubuntu 12 on my Galaxy Note II so that I can use Open Office and actually work on PDFs, Excel and Word documents. These essential yet simple tasks are either fatally flawed or utterly clumsy on Android and iOS.

Fabrizio Pozo-Mazzini

I see that most people here are very tech savvy and realize that the iPhone is so outdated and so small that is completely unusable. It is only applicable for kids...


Here it’s my point of view, both iPhone and Samsung have very strong points, I will always like the iPhone but I use an note 2 for the reason my carrier doesn’t offer the iPhone yet, so this is a comment hopefully INPARCIAL. This is my first post so don’t offend me because my English it’s not the best or because I think different than you.

The iPhone: 1) It’s a solid platform your phone wont get outdated every 6 month 2) You won’t find a better phone to synchronize with iTunes 3) From the point of view as OS I think it’s much better than the Android OS just because you buy and iPhone and you will be able to up date on your OS for 2 or 3 years with out the need of changing your phone at the end it’s cheaper to own an iPhone that to own an Android phone if you want to be up to date. 4) It’ butifful design 5) I like to be able to back up all my contacts and settings on my mac with out having to use an iCloud or Google drive or Internet, but I could use it if I want.

What I don’t like from the iPhone: 1) You have to pay for many apps you can get free on Android 2) I think apple is focusing in making money than getting a better product 3) Screen could be a little bigger and still fill great on your hand 4) They limit some data usage.

Samsung Note 2: 1) It’s a great peace of equipment it’s a great Hardware 2) Fast CPU 3) Great display 4) Some application take great advantages of the hardware 5) Some great apps are FREE

What I don’t like from the Note 2: 1) I know I will be outdate soon and most likely if I want to on top of the game will cost me U$ 700.- 2) I can’t synchronize with iTunes my movies or music EASYLY you can go around but its hard and complicated. 3) I hate the idea to have to buck up all my contacts on a cloud.

What do they have in common for me: 1) I don’t like either one of the cameras I used a DSLR, but both are very useful for emergency pictures. 2) I like both screen each one as their goods and bad depending on what you want. Deeper black or natural colors. 3) There is no doubt that both phones are GREAT peace of equipment that’s why everyone it’s always talking and comparing to an iPhone. But one focus in software the other one in hard ware.

I think both are running side by side and nether one it’s better than the other because both offer your something different if you have the money to update every year Note2 it’s the best phone right now. If you are like me that $700 dollars it’s a lot of money to pay for a toy the iPhone will keep you up to date for much longer time and easier to synchronize.

I can list many other things but I think this give you a pretty good idea.

If you have U$50.000.- would you buy a dully pick up truck or a Mercedes Bens? ALL DEPENS ON YOUR NEEDS.

Thank you


@pafaraco did you just call the note 2 a pick up truck? You obviously dont know anything about the note 2. If you think youre going to be outdated with a 2g ram, quad core processor, and a 5.5 inch screen, we have a problem. I am pretty sure that the iphone 5s or 6 is going to have what the note 2 has right now soo.....

sum up, read more about the note 2, and discover the potential of your device.

Fadi Jaouni

It depends on your needs. The iPhone is your "out of the box" phone. The Samsung lets you customize. Can you run torrrents on your iphone? Nope. For me the use of iTunes was the main reason for originally using the iphone. Sycing iphoto and itunes was a must. now I'm playing far more on my phone and look to do more with it, so being able to run open source software is a nice feature. Plus, iTunes and Apple are getting pretty greedy as far drm and all the software they put out. Again if you wanta phone that's "easy" and self contained go with the iPhone, if you want to upgrade, and customize until your hearts content go with Samsung. Know your needs.

Ryan Rodriguez

Hi guys i have the iphone 4 and hate it!! Getting galaxy note apple doe not have a sd card slot and it never will have . I had the original galaxy and loved it we switched to get an iphone . Also you have to go through itunes for everything android just click and drag i got so mad at itunes i almost threw the laptop away hurry up august i want to kiss the iphone gooobye galaxy note 2 here i come

Joey Ownbey

I am a bit of a tech geek. I have had both platforms multiple times. I currently own the Note 2 but previously had the 4S. Apple can be quite greedy but there is no doubt that the OS is smooth, elegant and simple. That being said, Apple phones can't hold a candle to the Note 2. It is a powerhouse. Unfortunately there are hardly any apps that can take advantage of that power. However, to those of you talking about Apples superior app store, we are not in 2010 anymore. Google play has almost the same amount of apps as Itunes. Yeah, apple still has some apps that Google doesn't but they are catching up and the OS is pretty much stable by now. Apple needs to change their attitude. People are becoming more tech aware and those that are want to be able to do lots more than they use to with their smart phones. Android is the next superpower.

Karl Mersh

@Karl Mersh...did you just say the Play store is catching up? Quantity is not as good as quality in this case. I left Apple for the Note 2. I was bored of the ios platform and wanted more freedom. But quickly found that the apps I enjoyed on mu iPhone weren't there or massively downgraded. Developers can't keep up with the demand of making their apps compatible with over 1000 different Android devices. The so called high def intensely graphic games are like old Dreamcast games. I enjoy Android for it's freedom but I miss my iPhone for it's smooth abilities. Trading my Note 2 tomorrow for a 64 GB iPhone. I can't wait... Guess I'm simple and a kid cause I don't want to run ROMS or Ubuntu...

Damien Manley

I think that's the big point. iOS devices are "smooth and creamy" while Droids are "wild and wacky."

I think it's interesting that no one talks about a jailbroken iOS device. It's awesome. However, I also enjoy rooted Droid devices.

The iPhone is without a doubt, very smooth. I had issues with my Galaxy S2 at times, but I sure loved the camera. But smooth it was not.

Ask a's much easier to develop for iOS because one app essentially runs the same on all devices (some changes for iPads because of resolution.) But with Droid there are so many versions out there, that developers are tempted to just write for the "lowest common denominator." What good are super features if apps aren't being written for them?

That being said, Samsung has so many units out there, that I imagine there ARE a lot of apps that take advantage of their cool features.

It's rediculous to just say that one is flat out far superior than the other. It's like arguing Windows vs. Mac OS. They're different. One is "out of the box smooth" and the other is a "tweaker's dream. I will say though, that jailbroken iOS and the cydia store has some AMAZING tweaks.

I was in line at a store one day, and I was drooling over this guy's Galaxy Note II (I personally am wanting one.) I asked him about it and these were his words, "I miss iOS !!! But the iPhone 5 was just too small. I got the Note II because of the screen size and that's it. Otherwise, I would have stuck with the iPhone. There's just no comparison in operational smoothness." So it just depends...want some cool fancy hardware? Do you want smooth? Why does one have to be better? Apples and Oranges.

Edward Hillers

I have an iPod touch which I always carry with me...I wanted an iPod touch but the size of the future galaxy note 3(6 inches or so).That was a few years ago...but at that time Mr.Jobs was at the helm of Apple and he was like mr Henry Ford ... my wish was for a large screen to be Able to read files comfortably without too much eye strain....but apple believe in what they believe in and I am so glad that Samsung saw sense in the value of large screens apart from the sense of removable batteries and SD CARD SLOTS...were it not for Samsung we would be slaves to the whims of APPLE THINKING for a lot longer....I have my Note 2 and I also have my Note 1. And I am a very happy person able to read my files and articles on a large screen of my Note 2..... But I also carry my IPod Touch with me all the still is quite useful in many ways.....If only Apple was not so SELFISH in its outlook....if they priced their products more fairly....if they had more care for their customers...and if their products actually matched customer requirements then they would do very well into the long distant future....BUT I AM VERY HAPPY THAT SAMSUNG IS MAKING SENSIBLE PRODUCTS WITH PEOPLE LIKE ME IN MIND....AND SO ...POWER TO SAMSUNG.....I ONLY WISH ...APPLE COULD LEARN SOME LESSONS FROM SAMSUNG.


The size of the screen on a smartphone is quite important. Ask anyone if they would consider a smaller screen phone and the answer is always no. A larger screen increases the enjoyment of movies and images and games. It makes the phone a much more useful tool. After using the Note 2 for some time, I couldn't imagine going back to a 4.5 inch screen and certainly not a little 4 inch like the iPhone. I watch movies on it often and I don't use the PC as much now.

Don Bowen
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