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.