Mobile Technology

iPhone 6 vs. Galaxy S5: A closer look

iPhone 6 vs. Galaxy S5: A clos...
Gizmag goes hands-on to compare the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Gizmag goes hands-on to compare the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The iPhone 6 has a much bigger screen than pre-2014 iPhones did (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The iPhone 6 has a much bigger screen than pre-2014 iPhones did (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPhone 6 has a 4.7-in screen (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The iPhone 6 has a 4.7-in screen (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The gorgeous back of the iPhone 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The gorgeous back of the iPhone 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPhone 6 is just 6.9 mm (0.27-in) thick (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The iPhone 6 is just 6.9 mm (0.27-in) thick (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The dimpled plastic back of the Galaxy S5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The dimpled plastic back of the Galaxy S5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Galaxy S5 is 8.1 mm (0.32-in) thick (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Galaxy S5 is 8.1 mm (0.32-in) thick (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Galaxy S5's fingerprint scanner is a nice bonus, but it isn't as easy to use as the iPhone's Touch ID (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Galaxy S5's fingerprint scanner is a nice bonus, but it isn't as easy to use as the iPhone's Touch ID (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Galaxy S5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Galaxy S5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Apple's Touch ID fingerprint sensor is effortless to use (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Apple's Touch ID fingerprint sensor is effortless to use (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Galaxy S5 gives you 18 percent more screen than the iPhone 6 does (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Galaxy S5 gives you 18 percent more screen than the iPhone 6 does (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
iPhone 6 (left) with the Galaxy S5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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iPhone 6 (left) with the Galaxy S5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
iPhone 6 and Galaxy S5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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iPhone 6 and Galaxy S5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
iPhone 6 and Galaxy S5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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iPhone 6 and Galaxy S5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Another look at the Touch ID sensor and build quality of the iPhone 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Another look at the Touch ID sensor and build quality of the iPhone 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The GS5's fingerprint-scanning home button (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The GS5's fingerprint-scanning home button (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPhone 6 (left) is 15 percent thinner than the GS5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The iPhone 6 (left) is 15 percent thinner than the GS5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Gizmag goes hands-on to compare the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Gizmag goes hands-on to compare the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPhone 6's aluminum design (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The iPhone 6's aluminum design (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
We handled the silver/white variant of the iPhone 6 (it's also available in space gray/black and gold/white) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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We handled the silver/white variant of the iPhone 6 (it's also available in space gray/black and gold/white) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The GS5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The GS5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Galaxy S5 has a plastic (faux metal) band running around its edge, with a dimpled softish plastic back (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Galaxy S5 has a plastic (faux metal) band running around its edge, with a dimpled softish plastic back (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
A dark closet, taken with the iPhone 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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A dark closet, taken with the iPhone 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The same dark closet, taken at the same time, only with the Galaxy S5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The same dark closet, taken at the same time, only with the Galaxy S5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
iPhone 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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iPhone 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPhone 6 has a beautifully-designed aluminum unibody build (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The iPhone 6 has a beautifully-designed aluminum unibody build (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Reachability: Apple's answer to using the iPhone 6 with one hand (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Reachability: Apple's answer to using the iPhone 6 with one hand (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
With iOS 8, the iPhone finally gets third-party trace keyboards (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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With iOS 8, the iPhone finally gets third-party trace keyboards (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPhone 6 has an outstanding camera (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The iPhone 6 has an outstanding camera (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPhone 6 starts at US$650 full retail, or $200 with a two-year contract (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The iPhone 6 starts at US$650 full retail, or $200 with a two-year contract (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
iPhone 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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iPhone 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The GS5 has IP67 water resistance onboard (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The GS5 has IP67 water resistance onboard (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Ultra Power Saving Mode on the GS5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Ultra Power Saving Mode on the GS5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Galaxy S5 has a 5.1-in 1080p display (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Galaxy S5 has a 5.1-in 1080p display (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The GS5 also has a heart rate sensor on its backside (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The GS5 also has a heart rate sensor on its backside (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
A look at the black GS5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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A look at the black GS5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Build quality of the GS5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Build quality of the GS5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Galaxy S5 weighs 145 g (5.11 oz) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Galaxy S5 weighs 145 g (5.11 oz) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

There are more great smartphones than ever before, but you won't find two more popular brands than iPhone and Galaxy. How do their latest flagships compare? Read on, as Gizmag goes hands-on with the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S5.

We think these are two terrific smartphones. If you're looking for someone to say that one is perfect, the other is garbage and there's one universal right answer for everyone, then you'll need to look elsewhere. Both are among the best smartphones of 2014, and each can make many people happy. The question is which one is better for you.

When comparing the latest iPhone and Galaxy flagships, screen size used to be an enormous advantage for Samsung. But with Apple giving the latest iPhones much bigger screens than their predecessors, it's less of an issue. At 4.7 inches, the iPhone 6 gives you 85 percent as much screen as the Galaxy S5 does:

The Galaxy S5 gives you 18 percent more screen than the iPhone 6 does (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Galaxy S5 gives you 18 percent more screen than the iPhone 6 does (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

You still get more screen from the GS5 (18 percent more, to be exact), but at least the iPhone is no longer living by a 2010-era definition of screen size.

... and if you still want more screen from an iPhone, you can always check out Apple's phablet, the iPhone 6 Plus. It stretches into a completely different category of phone, but the option for an enormous iPhone is there if you want it.

There were two advantages to the pre-2014 smaller iPhone screens. They fit easily in your pocket and hand, and they were easy to operate using one hand.

But the iPhone 6 does a good job of staying comfortable in hand and relatively inconspicuous in pocket. I don't see any cause for concern there. It is, however, a bit trickier to use with one hand, if you're making the upgrade from an older iPhone.

Reachability: Apple's answer to using the iPhone 6 with one hand (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Reachability: Apple's answer to using the iPhone 6 with one hand (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

Both handsets have answers for one-handed use. On the Galaxy S5, a quick gesture shrinks the entire screen. On the iPhone, lightly double-tapping the Touch ID sensor slides top-level content down to the bottom (Apple calls this "Reachability").

I prefer Apple's approach for its smoother animation and for feeling like a more integrated part of the software (on the Galaxy, the one-handed shrinking doesn't always register the first time, and it also feels jerky). I do prefer Samsung's approach, though, for also shrinking the keyboard.

The iPhone 6 has a beautifully-designed aluminum unibody build (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPhone 6 has a beautifully-designed aluminum unibody build (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

Build quality is a big advantage for the iPhone 6. This is probably the most beautifully-designed smartphone I've seen. Like all of Apple's recent products, it has an aluminum unibody construction. But this time Apple ditched the boxy and angular look, opting instead for rounded edges. The effect is astounding: it looks and feels smooth.

The Galaxy S5 has a dimpled plastic back and faux metal plastic edges. I don't mind the back part: it might look a bit odd, but its slightly soft-touch feel is comfortable in hand and it gives the phone a unique identity. That plastic band running around the edge, though, is a big minus. On the Galaxy Note 4, Samsung replaced this with real metal, and it makes a huge difference in feeling like you're using a high-end device.

The Galaxy S5 has a plastic (faux metal) band running around its edge, with a dimpled softish plastic back (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Galaxy S5 has a plastic (faux metal) band running around its edge, with a dimpled softish plastic back (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

Both phones get A's for screen quality. The GS5's is sharper (432 pixels per inch, compared to the iPhone's 326) and uses Super AMOLED technology for deep blacks and rich colors. The iPhone's screen, though, has terrific contrast, color accuracy and viewing angles.

I have no complaints about either screen, and I doubt you will either. There are more important areas to base your decision on.

The GS5 has IP67 water resistance onboard (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The GS5 has IP67 water resistance onboard (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

The Galaxy S5 is water-resistant, which, depending on how you use your phone, could be a big plus. If you like to soak in the bath or hot tub, for example, you can bring your GS5 along for the ride. You could also leave it poolside, and swim to the edge and check your messages (you don't want to take it swimming, though). And of course it's great insurance against accidental drops in sinks, puddles or toilets.

Not all fingerprint sensors are created equal. Both phones have them, but the iPhone's is much better. On the Galaxy S5, you have to swipe your finger across the home button. You can only swipe from one angle, and I sometimes have to repeat swipes. On the iPhone, you just hold your finger on the Touch ID sensor for a brief moment.

Apple's Touch ID fingerprint sensor is effortless to use (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Apple's Touch ID fingerprint sensor is effortless to use (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

When the iPhone 5s launched, Apple's sensor was mostly hit, with some misses (especially after I'd been swimming). But after a year of software updates, Touch ID is damn near 100 percent accurate for me now. It's by far the easiest way to secure your phone – and now you can also use it with third-party apps. Password manager apps (Dashlane, 1Password, LastPass) are a perfect match for the sensor, and apps like Evernote and Dropbox also play nicely with Touch ID.

There is one area where Touch ID gets an "Incomplete." Apple Pay (branded as Pay) will let you buy goods at participating retailers by holding your finger over the sensor while hovering your iPhone near the pay terminal. Rival services have been trying for years to replace your wallet with NFC-based phone payments, but that never went quite as planned. Time will tell if Apple fares better (and stay tuned to Gizmag for more on Pay after it's completely rolled out).

The iPhone 6 has an outstanding camera (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The iPhone 6 has an outstanding camera (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

Both phones have great cameras, but I'd give the edge to the iPhone's. The GS5's takes higher-resolution photos, but even when zooming or cropping, I think the iPhone's shots look better. Generally speaking, the GS5's shots look very saturated, while the iPhone's capture more subtle nuances of color in all lighting conditions.

The Galaxy's camera is also annoyingly slow to fire up from the lock screen: on it I can go from locked screen to snapped pic in about 6 seconds, while on the iPhone it takes about 3 seconds.

The iPhone has a slow-motion recording mode that's terrific (it records in 720p at 240 fps). If you have pets or go to lots of sporting events, it's especially nice to have. The GS5 has a slow-mo mode too, but it looks grainy and choppy compared to the iPhone's. You also can't adjust which segments of the GS5's video are in slow-mo and which are in regular speed, like you can in Apple's version.

The iPhone also has the advantage in low-lit shots. I snapped some test pictures in a dark (and messy) closet, with the flash off. As you can see, the difference was, quite literally, like night and day:

A dark closet, taken with the iPhone 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
A dark closet, taken with the iPhone 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

The same dark closet, taken at the same time, only with the Galaxy S5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The same dark closet, taken at the same time, only with the Galaxy S5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

It's not that the Galaxy S5 has a bad camera. On the contrary, I'd say it's one of the five best smartphone cameras I've used. But, in my experience, the iPhone's is simply better.

Both phones have good battery life, but the GS5 has a leg up there. In our benchmark, where we stream video over Wi-Fi with brightness set at 75 percent, the Galaxy S5's battery dropped about 10.6 percentage points per hour, while the iPhone dropped about 14.4 percent per hour.

In regular experience, I've never had trouble getting through the day with the iPhone, but you can expect longer uptimes from the Galaxy.

Ultra Power Saving Mode on the GS5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Ultra Power Saving Mode on the GS5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

If you do get low on juice, the GS5 has a very cool trick up its sleeve. Ultra Power Saving Mode basically turns your expensive handset into a glorified feature phone, severely limiting available apps and turning its screen black & white. In this mode, it can turn 10 percent battery life into an extra 24 hours of uptime. Just toggle UPS Mode on when your phone is almost out of juice, and stay on the grid.

The GS5 also has a removable battery, while the iPhone's is sealed-shut. If you remember to a) buy a spare, b) keep that spare charged and c) keep it with you at all times (good luck with all of that), then it can give Samsung's phone yet another battery advantage over the iPhone.

If you like running two apps next to each other, then you might be interested in the GS5's Multi Window. I think this kind of split-screen multitasking works better on phablets and tablets than it does on standard smartphones like the GS5, but it's nice to have the option nonetheless. Just know that Multi Window only works with select apps.

The gorgeous back of the iPhone 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The gorgeous back of the iPhone 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

So which phone is better? As always, that's going to depend on what you're looking for. Want a premium design, effortless fingerprint sensor and better camera? Go with the iPhone 6. Fancy a bigger screen, longer battery life and water resistance? Then the Galaxy S5 it is.

Either way, neither handset has any major weaknesses. We'll see gradual improvements in future versions, but either of these flagships could easily be your go-to phone for the next couple of years.

iPhone 6 (left) with the Galaxy S5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
iPhone 6 (left) with the Galaxy S5 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

You're also looking at the same starting MSRPs for both: US$650 full retail, or $200 on-contract. You're more likely to see discounts on the six-month-old GS5, but you should be throwing down roughly the same amount of dough either way.

Still stumped? Then feel free to check out Gizmag's full reviews of the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S5. And if you're interested in either of their big brothers, there's also our iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4 reviews.

... and if you aren't dead-set on these two, you can cast your net wider with our latest Smartphone Comparison Guide.

17 comments
P17
If Samsung continue to price their offerings at the same price point as Apple, they will always lose. There is absolutely no comparison between an iPhone and a Samsung. I hate Apple as a company, but I'm afraid, their products are excellent and everyone else is always playing catch up. Water resistance is nice, but how many people don't use a case nowadays? My wife dropped her brand new 64Gb iPhone 5S down the toilet, two weeks after launch. After some rather mean jokes at her expense, I bought her a Lifeproof case at my expense. That iPhone 5S has now been in the swimming pool, in the sea and dropped in the loo again. Yes, it was additional expense, but until Samsung can outclass the iPhone in every way, I'm sticking with Apple.
rjr
You fail to mention video. I switched from the iPhone to the Galaxy so I can take some 4K video to view on my 4K monitor. But I know you're an apple fan and it probably was an honest omission.
Eric Britten
iPhone is the one playing catch up. iPhone just got NFC and a bigger screen, the finger print reader was out years ago on Motorola Atrix. Phone cases should not be needed, Apple makes their phones look nice for a reason, not to shove it in a ugly ass case. Plus after you buy a 600 dollar phone it sucks to buy a 80 dollar case for it. The S5 has shock resist and water resist, they are moving in the right direction. Apple innovation died with Steve. Sorry. I do like that apple is around, the competition is great. However I really think Apple is going downhill now. FYI the iCloud got hacked again.
Inappropriate Response
Measuring brightness would be a better way of testing battery life , 75% on phone can be vastly different on another and in fact punishes phones with better screens.
George Strnad
It's very Obvious you are partial to the Iphone 6 in your writing. I think they call that Fan-Boys right? Every little thing Apple does you magnify, and every thing that anyone else does better, you minify. Try and be more impartial as a writer, unless this is an Opinion column. Since steve Jobs is gone, Apple is dead. It is a slow death, but, death none the less. It's sad to say, but, innovations from Apple are gone. As can be seen by the 6, and the latest Ipad.
SpotandJerome
Why anyone would pay $650 (which you pay regardless of contract or not) for a phone is beyond me. Sure, they have all kinds of nifty little "hey-it-will-do-this" features, but their true value in terms of productivity hasn't changed in years. My sons have the newest, top-of-the-line phones, and they can't do anything any more productive than I can do on my Galaxy S2, which I got as a hand-me-down from one of them. It seems to me it's all about keeping up with the Jones's. For the readers of this online magazine, intelligent, educated, and upwardly mobile, keeping up with the Jones's is probably their No. 1 hindrance to building wealth.
ProjectDork
I agree with everything Eric and George are saying. Gs5 if anything has been ahead of the game in terms of specs. Apple however usually almost always has that more "premium" in hand feel. But honestly when it comes to smart phones it's all highly subjective. This article clearly had a huge bias favoring all of the iPhones glory. Like George said this writter needs to be more impartial. All this fan boyism I find quite annoying regardless if it's for Apple or for android. I could understand since devices are very personal objects that people grow almost irrationally attached to, so fan boys are unavoidable, but when it comes to writting an in depth comparison.....leave the fan boy at home.
John Peña
I had the iPhone for 3 years and really liked it (it was all I'd ever seen). I, decided to go with the Samsung GS4 about a year ago because of some of their features and now I would NEVER go back. I agree the iPhone feels more "premium" but I"ve had more problems with them (screen losing brightness, buttons not working, etc.) than with Samsung. But the BIGGEST thing is the OS. KitKat is leagues ahead of the simplistic IOS.
Roxann Souci
Thanks for the helpful reviews. When androids first came out, I burned through 2 of them in the first year .I went back to Apple. After having my 4 for 1 year, the antenna stopped working. Traded up. After 5 years in the same place I can no longer get reception at my home Yes, I realized it could be a tower issue with Verizon. My phone also takes crummy pix. Now it's time to upgrade, and I'm going to try the Galaxy. The bigger screen will be great. Apple hardware is beautifu, but I the "guts" to work longer than a year. Good reviews, although light on the Samsung.
Lou Franco
I just upgraded my S3 to the S5 and after stripping all the unwanted apps and setting up the phone to my liking, the S5 goes into Camera mode from the lock screen in 3 seconds. I don't know what you have running on yours that it takes you double that, but every single time I try (even while running other apps and locking the phone), I can't get it to fire up the camera slower than that. As far as the build quality, the S5 is weatherproof, and making it plastic makes sense (you know, to avoid rust). I would have liked a bit more info on how you took both comparison pictures also, as both phones have a 2.2f aperture (I can't get my S5 to take pics as dark as the one you posted on this article indoors, especially with HDR on, no flash). Neither phone will take better pics than my Canon 70D, but the S5 for me is a nice upgrade than the one on the S3 (and I love how I was able to get all my apps/settings done quickly, and that is due to the Android system simply being more flexible than Apple's).