Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Apple iPhone 5

iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4

Should I get an iPhone 5 or a Samsung Galaxy S4? I get asked this question several times a day. I’ve had my iPhone 5 since it launched on September 21, 2012, and I’ve had my Samsung Galaxy S4 since early June 2013. I’ve read several reviews that describe the technical reasons to own one device over the other; you should not concern yourself with most of these issues. Here’s what you need to know.

The iPhone 5

The iPhone 5 works flawlessly out of the box. When you turn it on, it does everything it is ever going to do. Sure, you can add some apps that make your experience better, but if you don’t know an app from a hole in the ground, the iPhone 5 will guarantee you an emotionally satisfying experience with an almost zero learning curve.

This is not to say that you won’t have to learn how to tweak a few settings. You will. But a quick trip to the Apple Genius Bar or two seconds of Google or YouTube and you will have an answer to any question you could ever ask about an iPhone 5.

Notifications Are Key

When an iPhone 5 vibrates or makes a noise, glancing at the phone will tell you what you need to do. Right out of the box, nothing to press, nothing to set… it will just tell you what to do. Slide your finger over to answer a call, etc.

The Samsung Galaxy S4

Now, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is, arguably, a much better device. It has better hardware (by every measure), it has a much bigger screen – so big, you will not need an iPad mini or any other 7″ tablet in your life after you purchase it. The web is better, because of the larger screen, as is the Kindle eReader app, as is video viewing… no matter how you look at the S4 vs. the iPhone 5, the S4 wins… except…

When you get a Samsung Galaxy S4, you are thrown into the world of Google Android software. Now, you can do a search (on Google) for Android 4.2.x and you will see that it is Google’s answer to the inconsistent user experience issues of previous Android builds. However, since each carrier loads the S4 with its own bloatware and, since Samsung has added a ton of its own apps to the build, the Android 4.2.x experience you will have on the S4 is really nothing like the experience you’ll have on any other manufacturer’s Android phone.

What that means in practice is that, while Android gives you flexibility to customize your phone to your heart’s content… customization is not optional. You have to customize your phone or your experience will absolutely suck out of the box.

To give you a little taste of the kind of customization I’m talking about. Let’s look at notifications.

The S4 allows you the flexibility to have a lock screen, or not. Some people think that’s awesome, you just press the “on button” and you’re immediately inside your phone. That sounds great until you get a txt message and don’t know it. There is no unread txt message count native to the message icon, and even with the lock screen turned on, you will be spending time deciding just how to display your txt message notifications.

The good news is that you can purchase some awesome apps to help. I’m using Nova Launcher, Missed it! and Widget Locker to customize my lock screen and, I can tell you from personal experience, it’s awesome! Of course, it’s only awesome if you spend about $8.00 on apps and another 30-40 minutes tweaking the settings, fonts, sizes and applications to act the way you want them to act. With the apps I’ve just mentioned, you could make your Android device look, feel and behave like an iPhone 5, or… you could just buy an iPhone 5.

Final Verdict

In practice, the iPhone 5 is already so far out-of-date (hardware-wise) that I can’t recommend purchasing it – unless you really don’t want to (or have the time to) work setting up your Android phone the way you want it.

For me, setting up my S4 was fun and the results were absolutely worth it. For a normal person who just wants to make calls, txt, email and occasionally browse the web – you may be much better served with a phone that just works when you get it.



Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is Managing Director, Digital Media Group at Landmark Ventures/ShellyPalmer a technology focused Investment Banking & Advisory practice specializing in M&A, Financings, Strategic Partnerships and Innovation Access. He is Fox 5 New York's On-air Tech Expert and well known for his work on Fox Television's Shelly Palmer Digital Living as well as his daily radio report on United Stations Radio Networks. For more information, visit


  1. LondonStatto says:

    If all you want is “to make calls, txt, email and occasionally browse the web” you don’t need an Iphone or an SGS*.

  2. JimGramze says:

    I considered the S4 before I bought my iPhone 5 about 2 months ago. There were two biggest reasons for my decision:

    1. I went to both Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store and compared my favorite 3rd party apps. At the App store my favorite apps got, on average, 5-star reviews, and at Google Play those same apps got, on average, 1-star reviews. That means, according to users of each device, that the apps I want to continue using work great on the iPhone and don’t work well at all on Android.

    2. I am an Apple fan. The iPhone is an extension of a larger whole that includes a Mac Pro tower and a retina iPad. Granted I use the iPad for browsing much more than the iPhone, but that is part of the point. As the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts, having my phone be a seamless extension of that larger whole is not to be ignored.

    “Better” does not occur in a vacuum, but rather in context. And, granted, an iPhone with a larger screen would be great so long as it fits in my shirt pocket with no danger of falling out when bending forward. The S4’s center of gravity is too high for that. Maybe if my phone was my ONLY device I would think differently but that is not the case. Still, I have maany apps on my iPhone 5 and the Android community itself says that pps don’t work well

    • Dr.Phil says:

      Which apps out of curiosity?

      • JimGramze says:

        I only remember one off hand. A game called DropZap which I play a lot on both my iPad and iPhone. I remember that one because it is my go to game to kill time while the wife is reading ingredients on every item in the aisle of the grocery store. The bad reviews were not correlated with a specific model or OS version and I did wonder which specific phones the complainers were using. That’s a problem with so many devices and Android operating systems in use since someone like me cannot tell what is really being complained about. A complaint about an app on iOS is likely related to the current OS and one of a very few devices.

  3. Kristerpher Henderson says:

    The two comments below do a better job at describing the differences than the article itself. Seems like the article is focused on customizing the phone. The gas been arbitrarily the most coveted thing about a phone. Everyone wants this and is willing to sacrifice simplicity, craftsmanship and refuse to see the big picture to have it.

    That is the most distinct differences between iPhone and Android. The comments prove it. I tell people all the time, you experience on the Android stops after you set it up. With iOS it’s immersive and brings you to new horizons.

    Being that I own both iOS and Android devices I can say that the quirkiness and extra steps needed on Android to do anything – annoying and frankly not interested. I only need to customize the device once.

    • Dr.Phil says:

      Meh, I really don’t understand how an iphone, mac combo is any more powerful than using android (or an iphone for that matter) with google drive.

      • Kristerpher Henderson says:

        Exactly. That’s not geared towards just one platform. I’m talking more of in home entertainment, device in car and other technologies the integrate or extend the features of the phone. I’m not going to spend time discussing something that’s meant to be universal but describes what’s unique. I’ve found that Android does a lot but you can find it on any phone for that matter. iOS tends to be the front runner when it comes to branded app experience and uniqueness.

        • Dr.Phil says:

          Right now yes. In a year I’m not so sure. So many manufacturers have access to Android that what I think we’ll see, in the next couple of years, is a sort of exponential growth and evolution. Now that Android is mature I think we’ll start to see it creeping, more and more, beyond the mobile space and into televisions, cars, and even washing machines and refrigerators. Not necessarily because Android is better, but rather because anyone with an idea can use it.
          Apple will either have to hurry up and start producing every kind of device known to man or they’re going to have to learn to play nice with Android, just like they did with Windows.

          • Dr.Phil says:

            Assuming Tim Cook doesn’t run Apple into the ground, I think there’s room for both iOS and Android in mobile computing, however I also think that if Apple tries to treat this as a zero-sum game, then they’re going to lose.

          • Kristerpher Henderson says:

            Gadget spam is not the answer. That’s the current PC market. On the other hand this is why there is success of GS4. The fact that there is a solid choice is the reason why it succeeds. But because of Android’s fragmentation – that’s the problem with incapability, stability and security. Android has been around long enough to mature to that. And given how competitive both sides, you hear a lot from the Android crowd saying iOS is behind Android.

            I think what a lot of people don’t understand about the two platforms, is because it’s open, doesn’t mean it’s the choice platform for development. Linux/Windows is a prime example of where the choice is because of the experience. Arguably though, each of those OSes have their place, so I’m not sure if it can be compared.

            Apple doesn’t need to hurry up because they are more mature than Android. From a developers perspective, I need to compile many different versions of my applications in order to support all the different versions of Android. Plus with carriers introducing different UI’s it can be difficult even if you developing for different build. The SDK’s for apps on Android aren’t there either.

            Apple has done an outstanding job with their developer portal and their SDK. I’ve watched (and participated) in two huge releases for products (Pebble and SmartThings) where the Android version lags behind the iOS version.

            All-in-all if you are going to argue that the Android is more “open” then have to respect that you are going to have less quality apps, that are simply multiple versions of the same thing. As a user, they will have to decide which to support, and which “flavor” they will push forward. This maybe a good idea in general but along with the gadget spam, we will get app spam.

            Apps are 80-90% of the experience on a Smart Phone. Just like the first comment said, you can see people are not as keen on the Android experience as iOS. I willing to bet you money that this will continue to be the case, and we will not see the ubiquity of the iPhone and iOS with Android and any handset.

            Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve engaged both Android and iOS users and they aren’t even concerned with the OS let alone their unique features. More than half of the folks with Android were on Gingerbread. Those on later versions were not taking advantage of any of the features like swipe text, or Google Now. The same went for iOS. So it really comes down to preference. iPhone folks are very simple and they like the “just works”. I want to take a picture and send it to Facebook. It works. Android folks are concerned with not being Apple and open. Which is fine. Both of those are preferences.

            All of what I said extends into this. Open is great, but it makes your platform susceptible to security issues and fragmentation. Whereas Apple has brought iOS in line with it’s entire ecosystem. I take a picture. It’s on all my devices. Geotagged and ready to be share elsewhere. I don’t like how on my Android tablet orchestrates the same process. It’s a different experience for every device, and doesn’t translate well.

  4. D Comora says:

    Does anyone know which of the 2 phones shoots better quality video and still photos? Also, which phone records higher quality audio? I have an older HTC EVO and have been very unhappy with audio quality.

    • Kristerpher Henderson says:

      I would suggest heading to your local carrier store and asking if you can demo the phones. In particular, those features you ask for are going to be hardware specific. Nokia boasts a really great camera for their handset. As for audio quality from mic, you’re only going to be able to get so much out of it. Sure you’d like a device that at least picked up sound correctly and accurately, but SmartPhones are going to put other features in the front.

      All in all I think you would do very well with the iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S4. You should also check out the Nexus 4.

  5. tommo says:

    Why is price NEVER mentioned in these comparisons? iPhone 5 is quite a bit more expensive, even if you are just on coontract, the monthly payments will be more. That has to factor into a normal human being’s equation right? odd.

  6. Shrey Seonerds says:

    Nice blog,but still some points are missing in comparison,just refer so that remaining points can also be covered in your blog.

  7. JP says:

    I have a Galaxy 3 and I am ready to upgrade. Never had a Iphone but everyone I know has one. I am torn to try out the newest Iphone or get the Galaxy 4. I love my galaxy 3 but the screen is cracked and getting worse everyday. I was thinking of giving the Iphone 5s a try but as I said I am not really sure. Any useful comments would be appreciated.

  8. qasim khan says:

    iphone is the best mobile ………………………………………………………………..””””’okkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk

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