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Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. iPhone 5

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March 15, 2013

We compare the specs – and other features – of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5

We compare the specs – and other features – of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5

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In a market swarming with competitors, it’s remarkable that Apple and Samsung are the only two smartphone makers seeing significant profits. In some parallel universe, perhaps the two could comfortably coexist, content with their virtual duopoly ... but there’s way too much bad blood for that. Will Samsung’s new Galaxy S4 help it to pull away? Or will the iPhone 5 stand strong after six months on the market? Let’s see how their specs – and other features – compare.

Size

Pick your cliche: bigger is better, or less is more?

Android flagship phones keep growing bigger, while Apple is more discerning about changing the iPhone’s size.

Do you subscribe to a “bigger is better” mentality? Or do you prefer simplicity and “less is more?” If you lean towards the former, then your decision is easy. The Galaxy S4 is larger than the iPhone 5 in every dimension.

The flip side is the argument that Android phones have grown too big, and the iPhone hits a more comfortable sweet spot. Before making a decision, you might want to get your hands on both devices to find out which size you prefer.

Build materials

The Galaxy S4 is made primarily of plastic, while the iPhone 5 rocks anodized aluminum

For all of the Galaxy S4's outstanding components (as you'll see below), its composition isn't exactly premium. It's primarily made of the same plastic that composed the Galaxy S3. The iPhone 5 is made primarily of anodized aluminum.

The Galaxy S3 showed that millions of customers can still fall in love with a smartphone that's both high-end and made of plastic. But if you're looking for a premium-feeling build, the iPhone 5 and HTC One both stand head-and-shoulders above the somewhat cheap-feeling Galaxy S4.

Weight

The iPhone 5 is significantly lighter than the Galaxy S4

If you’re looking for a light phone, the iPhone 5 is still King. Though the Galaxy S4 is a smidge lighter than the Galaxy S3, it’s still 16 percent heavier than Apple’s flagship.

The flip side to that is that an extra 18 g (0.63 oz.) of heft in the GS4 nets you significantly more screen real estate ...

Display

The GS4's display is both larger and sharper

In addition to an extra (diagonal) inch of display real estate, the Galaxy S4 also gives you over a million extra pixels.

Will your eye notice a huge difference between 441 pixels per inch (PPI) and 326 PPI? Probably not. But, as hardware vendors run out of obvious selling features, pixel counts will continue to rise – whether your eyes can discern much of a difference or not.

Pixel count aside, the S4’s bigger display inches closer towards “phablet” territory, potentially voiding any need for a seven or 8-inch tablet. It’s harder to argue that the iPhone’s 4-inch display could substitute for an iPad mini’s 7.9-inch screen.

Processor

There are two different models of the Galaxy S4 – maxing out at eight cores

On paper – and likely in benchmarks – both versions of the Galaxy S4 beat the iPhone hands-down in a CPU showdown.

In terms of experience, though, it’s harder to see this making a dramatic difference. How many iOS apps push the iPhone 4S’ A5 chip to its limits – much less the iPhone 5’s A6? Apple’s vertically-integrated model (creating both the hardware and software) may deem more cores and faster clock speeds somewhat less relevant than on Android phones like the Galaxy S4.

RAM

The Galaxy S4 doubles the iPhone's 1 GB of RAM

Another encouraging sign for the Galaxy S4, as its 2 GB of random-access memory (RAM) double the iPhone’s 1 GB.

Storage

Apart from the S4's microSD support, storage options are even

Apart from the Galaxy S4’s microSD card (expandable to 64 GB), storage options are even.

Wireless

Where available, both phones support speedy LTE data

In regions where 4G LTE is available, both phones should support it.

Samsung will sell a separate GS4 model that maxes out at HSPA+ speeds (relatively fast, but not LTE fast) in select regions. The iPhone 5 will also default to HSPA+ if LTE isn’t available.

Battery

The Galaxy S4's battery holds significantly more juice than the iPhone's

Here’s another category where the Galaxy S4 looks great on paper. But you can’t take battery capacity as an absolute indicator of actual uptime – especially when the S4’s battery is powering a display with more than one million extra pixels.

Apple estimates eight hours of talk or internet uptime for the iPhone 5. We’ll have to wait for some hands-on time with GS4 before drawing conclusions about its battery life.

Cameras

The S4's camera is 13 MP, next to the iPhone's 8 MP

In high-end smartphones, 2013 is shaping up to be the year of the 13-megapixel camera. It’s possible Apple will join that club with the iPhone 5S, but, in the meantime, the iPhone 5’s rear shooter represents 2012’s defining benchmark of 8 megapixels.

Samsung is heavily pushing its software-based camera features in Galaxy S4. These include Dual Camera (it simultaneously snaps shots and videos with both cameras and lets you imprint one inside the other), Drama Shot (a burst mode that combines the images into a collage), and Sound & Shot (records an audio clip along with still shots).

Intangibles

Android hiding under a layer of Samsung, or Zen-like simplicity? (disguise image: Shutters...

The Galaxy S4 runs Android 4.2.2 Jellybean – and includes Google’s apps like the Play Store, Gmail, and Google Maps – but this green robot is hiding under a big honkin’ layer of Samsung. The company is trying to differentiate its software from its fellow Android handsets (and perhaps paving the road for a shift to Tizen or an Amazon-esque forked version of Android).

Some of the S4’s new software features sound promising. S Translate could help you to communicate in foreign tongues on the fly (though there are third party apps that already do this). If S Voice (Samsung's answer to Siri) is improved, it could prove valuable – particularly in its new S Voice Drive car mode.

The value of other features, however, is more questionable. Adding audio clips to your still photos? Scrolling through web pages and emails via facial recognition? Browsing through photos with mid-air gestures? There’s a fine line between inventing something that’s truly game-changing, and simply cramming in as many “new features” as possible. Is Samsung toeing that line a bit too closely?

... which brings us to those zen-like balancing stones (pictured above). Apple treats simplicity like a religion, and the company has followed it to a T with iOS and the iPhone. While Android and Samsung try to evolve as quickly as possible, iOS has only changed incrementally since the first iPhone in 2007.

Each approach has advantages and disadvantages. The Samsung angle may mean beating Apple to the punch on some important features, but it might also mean growing bloated with confusing, extraneous crap. Apple’s angle, on the other hand, might be too minimalistic for some customers: primitive, childlike, and unchanging.

Maybe one approach isn’t more “right” than the other, and it’s up to you to decide which better suits you. After all, with just two companies standing atop the smartphone mountain, there should be plenty of room for more than one approach.

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

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About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin covers consumer technology for Gizmag. He's previously written for Android Central, Geek, GottaBeMobile, Android Police, and The Huffington Post.
He lives in New Mexico, U.S., with his lovely wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
32 Comments

Well, I'm ready to purchase the Galaxy S4. Being that our son works handling the premier accounts for a major phone provider I get to test out many a mobile phone. His personal favorite and the one he uses for business is the Note 2. Apple has a lot of catching up to do if they want to be more than just trendy. He told me yesterday that even before the S4 was announced that his customers were calling him incessantly to see if they could get one. Surprisingly, he also said that there is interest in the new Blackberry. Now, before you say he's biased, I can tell you he's sick of talking about mobile phones and dreads me calling him to talk about them.

Fahrenheit 451
15th March, 2013 @ 04:42 pm PDT

I'd take the S4 over the Iphone 5 for the bigger screen. Not JUST because it's bigger but because I am a guy with large hands. Trying to type on a touchscreen is murder on smaller phones. The fact it's a Droid is icing on the cake.

On a side note, I got to play with the new Blackberry Z10 for about 2 hours today. It has a nice mix of features and while I'm not in love with it, I don't hate any one thing, other than a lack of a home button. If you are a Blackberry user, and have been holding out. Wait no longer. You're upgrade is here.

VoiceofReason
15th March, 2013 @ 10:27 pm PDT

I'd wait for the iPhone 5S especially since it might be coming earlier than expected. It is rumored to have a lot of interesting new features such as fingerprint scanner, iOS 7 which is rumored to be completely new and finally NFC. And by the way these are features that count and are useful. The S4 was somewhat of a disappointment for me what with it's new useless software features such as Smart Scroll. It's not revolutionary but just an evolutionary update with the camera and processor updates. And proof that Samsung disappointed is that Apple's stock prices shot up after Samsung's announcement of the Galaxy S4.

Nirmal Dhandapani
16th March, 2013 @ 12:05 am PDT

The GS4 is made out of polycarbonate; a type of plastic. Calling it plastic sounds off putting. It'd be like saying the iphone5 is made out of soda cans.

evgonzz
16th March, 2013 @ 05:28 am PDT

Total Apple fanboy comparison. He left out NFC again like he did and was called on in the S3 comparison. The SD card is a huge advantage with high def video capture yet that's glazed over as well. Apple makes a good product, but it can't compete on features.

01000111
16th March, 2013 @ 07:17 am PDT

One BIG aspect of battery life that wasn't mentioned is how ridiculously easy it is to pop-open the S4's rear cover and insert a fully charged replacement.

BleedingEdge
16th March, 2013 @ 04:46 pm PDT

it's odd that Samsung gets picked on for choosing a plastic case.

You have to buy an after-market plastic case for the iPhone so it won't shatter as soon as you drop it. That makes it thicker than any other smart phone.

Aluminium case might feel nice, but it's no cushion, and it transmits too much force to the screen when you drop it. Yes... when not if.

There are plenty of side-by-side drop tests of Galaxy x vs iPhone y.

these reviews should be done with the bump case attached, to get a real-world experience comparison.

Adrien
16th March, 2013 @ 05:15 pm PDT

@Nirmal

Your post said you are waiting for iPhone 5S because NFC counts and is useful. Samsung has had NFC since S3 and iPhone 5 doesn't have it.

The hardware is updated but some of the software updates look cool too. S Health used the acceleromiter to work as a pedometer kind of like fitbit and fuelband.

Knox lets you create separate sandboxes/profiles for personal and work. It lets you separate your work/personal contacts easily, stick your work mail in the work sandbox, and if your IT department needs access to remote wipe your phone they can wipe just that portion. It is useful for people who were previously carrying around 2 phones. This is something BB10 was going to support and now it's available on S4.

It will come with SwiftKey built in which is probably the best Android input app.

The iPhone 5S won't be out for a while so the Samsung will have the dominant product for 5-6 months or longer if the iPhone 5S doesn't deliver.

It is evolutionary over the S3 sure but most S3 owners are still locked into contracts anyway. If you compare it to the SII generation phones it's pretty significant.

Daishi
16th March, 2013 @ 05:41 pm PDT

About the mass... The Samsung Galaxy S4 is relatively lighter:

S4: density = g/mm^3 = 130/(70*137*7.9) = 0.00172

iPhone 5: density = g/mm^3 = 112/(59*124*7.6) = 0.00202

So, the S4 is less dense, and if it had the same dimensions as the iPhone 5 it would weigh about 95.4g, about 15% lighter than the iPhone 5.

Relative mass matters, not the mass itself!

Yasser Almalky
16th March, 2013 @ 07:15 pm PDT

everyone states that the S4 is 'Plastic', Asthough it is some cheap household plastic which degrades the phone somehow...

It is polycarb plastic. Extremely durable, Scratch resistant. It doesn't dent or mark like aluminum. You can bend the back cover in half so the top and the bottom touch each other. It'll ping back to its original form without causing any issues, stretching or tears. It's an expensive plastic too!!

Least I add, It doesn't get really cold and uncomfortable to hold in cold weather like the I phone!!

i wish people would get educated on the subject before dismissing something due to ignorance. The next Iphone should be polycarb, it'd make it a half decent phone just for that alone.

Dean Richard Ashby
17th March, 2013 @ 10:55 am PDT

@Yasser I've no idea how you think that's an advantage. What it says to me is that Samsung is not as good at getting so much into a given volume, and has to increase the size to get everything in, especially when you consider than nearly all the volume is taken up with the battery, which won't be be much different in density between the two. Despite the much bigger size, they've had to make it thicker than the iPhone. I still find it entertaining that a 14-year-old Nokia will beat them both on battery life (Nokia 3210 has a reliable 10+ days on standby).

Synchro
17th March, 2013 @ 02:30 pm PDT

Biased.

+ From a price point of view they are both going to cost the same, which does mean that the eierPhone5 is just more money for less hardware/performance/resolution

Stefan Padureanu
18th March, 2013 @ 03:08 am PDT

The GSIV is a good looking device, but all the Samsung bloatware is what's keeping me from wanting to buy the device. Why use S-Beam when Android Beam is integrated withing Android; that goes for S-voice/Google Now, S-Drive/Google Maps, etc. I don't need your crap on the phone if it doesn't do these things better than the native version, nor can I get rid of it. I'll wait for the speculated LG Nexus 5 to be announced.

Kevin Jones
18th March, 2013 @ 06:29 am PDT

I do not think the GS4 is made of cheap material. You call Iphone made of anodized aluminum but to me it is just scrap metal and GS4 is polycarbonate. You see? Now GS4 is more premium suddenly.

DaveBG
18th March, 2013 @ 06:53 am PDT

From someone who has often said that Apple will always be on top, this is the first Samsung I am really excited by.

I can't wait to use some of the Apps I made on the, now MIT hosted, App Builder.

Since Steve Jobs died, so has the magic of Apple.

Tim Cook hasn't, from what I've seen/heard got the same following.

I looking to Cupertino to see their reply and I'm not expecting to be amazed, but I should be if they hope to compete.

This is the tipping point.

Seth Kazzim
18th March, 2013 @ 07:29 am PDT

This review, although factually accurate, spins toward Apple for some reason. I think we all want Apple to do well, but it needs to objectively look at their product and realize they've slipped to second out third place in performance in virtually every feature.

I, like many men, have fat fingers. I tried to use smartphones for two years before 4.5"+ touch screens became available... What a nightmare. I still can't type on the iPhone 5 for two simple reasons, Apple will not allow a Swype keyboard and its little screen. Not being able to type is the primary reason reason Apple can't be considered as a viable smartphone.

Having a replaceable battery, SIM card (for international travel) & microSD slot are not insignificant factors when choosing a phone. Both the Apple & Android OS's are simple and work well... doesn't really matter any more because they both perform the same tasks equally well.

Another major mention is Samsung's use of the ubiquitous microUSB connection and non-proprietary accessories. I picked up the HDMI cable for$12 on Amazon. Apple can't even do HDMI out and we all know they'll charge $40 for it. I use my phone to connect to a 1080p projector at work along with a small BT keyboard & mouse ($30). I no longer carry a laptop.

Apple isn't a viable work machine... that point should be made in these reviews so Apple doesn't continue to slide off the competitive hill.

For full disclosure reasons, these comments were entered using 1" wide fingers on an Android while using Swype.

Simons Engineering
18th March, 2013 @ 10:07 am PDT

Why are these articles not written by a an unbiased person? It seems that Gizmag always pulls for "Apple" products.

Mr. Shanklin: Never use the word crap, when you compare 2 distinguished companies' products!!

.....The Samsung angle may mean beating Apple to the punch on some important features, but it might also mean growing bloated with confusing, extraneous CRAP."

yaj
18th March, 2013 @ 10:38 am PDT

Could people PLEASE:

Label which is which in the photo caps for those who don't instantly recognize brands.

PROVIDE SCREEN SIZES IN A MEANINGFUL (SQUARE UNITS) COMPARISON.

Since TV was invented manufacturers have used the stupid 'diagonal' measure to make their screens sound larger.

While misleading, this was barely tolerable while screen aspect ratios were the same, but today, aspect ratios are all over he place, making diagonal comparisons even more useless.

While there seems little hope in getting the manufacturers to change this, there's no good reason for reviewers not to provide a reasonable metric or retailers for that matter.)

Charles Barnard
18th March, 2013 @ 04:28 pm PDT

Looks like there are fans of both. I am getting a new phone and looking at Galaxy and iPhone. Never had, Apple phone before, had Androids for last two phones. However I have gotten annoyed with simple apps like camera or gallery or something else not opening easily all the time. I think I get some apps interfering with them. Also I have had to remove the battery when it locks up multiple times in the past. I have not heard that complaint from iPhone users. However I like having SD card slot for more memory, larger screen, and everything I have previously bought for my Droid phones not having to be replaced with iPhone accessories. I might be starting something here but can I get some help in what I should think about when deciding? I use it for phone, text, browsing, camera a lot with new baby (both still and video), and sharing with social media. Maybe some streaming of video but not a lot. Help the noob here?

phonenoob
18th March, 2013 @ 07:02 pm PDT

Come on Gizmag, is this really the best you can do? As an owner of an Android phone and an iPad, I am not anyone's fanboy. But I am pretty good at sniffing out bias and this article reeks of it. If you want to shill for Apple, that's your business. Just don't try to pass it off as an unbiased product comparison.

Mark Lewus
18th March, 2013 @ 11:13 pm PDT

@ phonenoob. You are right that iphone users won't report those niggles you have described with your android experience. If this was a year ago I would say go for the iphone5 (esp if you've never tried one before). The UI is smooth and consistent...but it is so rigid and outdated now. I have recently moved to an android phone (which is awesome). But if I look at what you want the phone for, I would take a serious look at the lumia 920, best low light camera, slick UI, amazing screen.

Omair Malik
19th March, 2013 @ 03:38 am PDT

I'm really getting tired of Web Site Reviews working so hard to disparage superior devices. It almost seems like they're getting backdoor Payola or perks from Apple to do this. GS4 is Plastic? lol.... Are you kidding me? So I suppose this reviewer and every other Apple Religious iFanatic would claim the Polycarbonate part of Carbon Fiber Plastic body and $55,000 Removable Roof on Million+ Dollar Buggati Veyron is somehow CHEAP TOO!

Hey buddy.... the World is onto Apple's ploy of only using cheap die cast aluminum in iPhone 5 to get Recycling Tax Credits. I say cheap because Die Cast Aluminum is notorious for having impurities that won't hold anodization, dings & chips easy and yet is so hard it doesn't afford protection to internal parts. Quite frankly the Die Cast aluminum on cheap Chinese MP3 players is better quality and holds it's anodization better w/o ignorant lame chamfered edges!

We are now coming up on 1 Billion Android Smartphone Activations in a few months. So apparently well over twice as many people in the World have chosen Android Smartphones over Apple's Same O Same O Thing Mao Suit Wearing Fascists still totting last gen hardware. Why? Because the majority of them are at least smart enough to take the better quality (sort of) iPhone 4 FREE on Contract! .....well here in the US at least, where the majority of their sales are!!!

And those so called gimmicky new GS4 Features? hahaha... yeah right... lol... I think people will be using those more than Suri or Apple Maps for sure. Plus this little known fact: With Apple still locked into HFS+ with it's lack of Journaled Parse-able System Volumes and FILE Manager no less, they can never run the System Wide Pervasive Multi-threading and Multi-tasking required to do on the fly PiP and PoP features in GS4. Let alone run many widgets (Essentially Live Running Web Apps) along with numerous Apps all running consecutively instead of locked to preemptive task management in IOS stacking tasks to run in order of importance!

These are all reasons why our own Military has Opened their own Android App Market and why the only devices GSA has purchased lately are either Motorola or Samsung devices. Now with Security Enhanced Linux NSA kernel, in Android Jelly Bean and Samsung's Knox Enterprise Security, I don't think Apple has a chance in hell of winning any government contracts. Not to mention that Google's Maps and Services are being deployed on DOD/NSA Linux Based Global Network and rumor has it..... that Google is already working with General Dynamics on a version of Google Glass for Military Nett Warrior Use! ;-P

iGizzedIt
25th March, 2013 @ 01:21 pm PDT

@ synchro.....' I still find it entertaining that a 14-year-old Nokia will beat them both on battery life (Nokia 3210 has a reliable 10+ days on standby)...'

Yes, 14 year old Nokia's are so much more advanced in functionality than smartphones....

habakak
26th March, 2013 @ 12:10 pm PDT

Samsung is still trying to catch up to the Iphone, while Apple is going to be releasing new devices (iwatch, itv, iglasses). The smartphone market is saturated and Apple knows this, there is only so much you can add to a smartphone. All Samsung did is add a bigger phone, bigger camera, bigger drive, bigger ram, bigger price tag, its like making everything bigger on a car, bigger is not better. Quality is no quantity.

Emily Lesner
3rd April, 2013 @ 01:58 pm PDT

Samsung already caught up and passed Apple in smart phones. They are the leaders in screen technology, including the upcoming flexible display which apple will have to buy from a company like Samsung like they did for years for their iPhones and iPads. Not to mention the main processors, main and flash memory chips until very recently. The S4 is not only twice as fast as the iPhone in web browing, but it also is far more flexible in terms of memory, functionality and has sharper screen than the "retina display" s small 4 inch screen. When it comes to smart phone screen size, bigger is better. I will be ordering the S4.

arubamd
8th April, 2013 @ 12:21 pm PDT

"I don't think Apple has a chance in hell of winning any government contracts"

The United States Department of Defense is reportedly ordering more than 650,000 iOS devices according to Electronista, which cites unnamed sources.

The report says the DoD will purchase 120,000 iPads, 120,000 iPad minis, 200,000 iPod touches and 210,000 iPhones. The devices will be used in a variety of situations, with more than 50% "headed to the battlefield, afloat, and to associated support commands." The rest will be used in office situations like the Pentagon.

Anything else?

Morgan Adkins
10th April, 2013 @ 07:47 pm PDT

I'm an iPhone user, currently tired of Apple, iPhone and iTunes. I dislike the new iTunes, it's bulky and runs slow. I have a brand new laptop and it still takes a good 3-6 minutes to load songs that are on my phone just so I can clean it out.

iPhone itself is having too many problems. Mine is slow and unresponsive. I've tried having it reformatted to factory settings by Apple it did nothing.

Now since I've read through most of these comments I would like to ask, should I switch from my iPhone, a phone I know how to use to the Samsung Galaxy? My iPhone is the only non-Samsung phone I've ever had. I'm just wondering if its worth it. Keep in mind I'm a music person, I like my music stored on my phone.

Shin SooMin
16th April, 2013 @ 06:19 pm PDT

Why are they comparing a device that has not been released yet, to a device that is 8 months old?

dookie
18th April, 2013 @ 05:04 am PDT

i like both of em but i'ed say over all people are more satisfied with Samsung then Apple as u see in all kind of comment between Samsung and Apple

weather know/no its about making more people satisfied about the device

overall Samsung got more positive comment then Apple

i'ed say in my states 60-80% are more satisfied with Samgsung

Ad Rh
21st April, 2013 @ 05:31 am PDT

The last point proves a good argument but Android users have big advantage simply by rooting the device, therefore removing all the crappy bloatware that manufacturers decide to throw on to it, overclocking the device to increase CPU speeds even more, and increasing the battery life.

Oli Laban
6th May, 2013 @ 04:08 am PDT

I couldn't agree more with most of this article.

Apple is waaay too slow with changes where as Samsung is packing too much BS into their phones too fast.

I personally have an iPhone 4 and have yet to see the value in the "upgrades" from the 4s and 5. I WANT and in a way NEED a much larger screen (4.7"-5") before ill feel its worth upgrading. But I really prefer the iOS over android. (And windows is way behind on apps)

My girlfriend recently bought an S3, and the android os feels so cumbersome. Apps also seem to exist in multiple locations, and when you view "running" apps that aren't really running, it's hard to not worry about wasted data and battery power. There are so many more features but many she doesn't use and even gets annoyed are there. The auto face tagging on images drives her crazy. What's worse is its very tedious trying to figure out how to turn off features when you often accidentally turn them on.

Apple's iOS on the other hand does provide a more streamlined experience. But this streamlined feel is beginning to seem like I'm missing out on a lot features that should be here already.

I also do like that older iPhones can be easily updated to new iOS's via wifi or iTunes/pc connection. (Not sure if androids can be updated to new OS's)

If samsung could streamline their android to atleast appear to be functioning like iOS, I would get an s4. The LG Optimus g pro looks nice too. Or, if Apple would launch a 4.7" or larger iPhone, I would be all over it.

Will Murray
12th May, 2013 @ 11:09 am PDT

The hardware on the Samsung Galaxy S4 is better for now but the operating systems is crap. The IOS operating systems is 100 percent better.

Angel Ortiz
24th August, 2013 @ 09:11 am PDT
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