Mobile Technology

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 vs. iPhone 5

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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The Galaxy Note 2's battery is superior to the iPhone 5's
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The Galaxy Note 2's battery is superior to the iPhone 5's
Gigantic plastic, or compact aluminum?
2/13
Gigantic plastic, or compact aluminum?
Both cameras take great shots
3/13
Both cameras take great shots
The Note II has more raw power, but both provide plenty of zip in their respective operating systems
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The Note II has more raw power, but both provide plenty of zip in their respective operating systems
That's quite a difference
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That's quite a difference
The Note II is most definitely a phablet; the iPhone 5 most definitely isn't
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The Note II is most definitely a phablet; the iPhone 5 most definitely isn't
Gizmag compares the specs and features of the Galaxy Note 2 and iPhone 5
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Gizmag compares the specs and features of the Galaxy Note 2 and iPhone 5
At most retailers, the phones will cost about the same
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At most retailers, the phones will cost about the same
The Note 2 has double the iPhone's 1 GB of RAM
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The Note 2 has double the iPhone's 1 GB of RAM
The Note 2 runs an old version of Android, but its TouchWiz software provides some amazing stylus integration
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The Note 2 runs an old version of Android, but its TouchWiz software provides some amazing stylus integration
Internal storage options are even, while the Note supports microSD cards
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Internal storage options are even, while the Note supports microSD cards
The iPhone 5 is much lighter, but it's also much smaller
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The iPhone 5 is much lighter, but it's also much smaller
Every iPhone 5 will support LTE (if your carrier provides it), but only some versions of the Note 2 support LTE
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Every iPhone 5 will support LTE (if your carrier provides it), but only some versions of the Note 2 support LTE

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.

Size

That's quite a difference
That's quite a difference

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.

Build

Gigantic plastic, or compact aluminum?
Gigantic plastic, or compact aluminum?

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.

Weight

The iPhone 5 is much lighter, but it's also much smaller
The iPhone 5 is much lighter, but it's also much smaller

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.

Display

The Note II is most definitely a phablet; the iPhone 5 most definitely isn't
The Note II is most definitely a phablet; the iPhone 5 most definitely isn't

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.

Processor

The Note II has more raw power, but both provide plenty of zip in their respective operating systems
The Note II has more raw power, but both provide plenty of zip in their respective operating systems

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.

RAM

The Note 2 has double the iPhone's 1 GB of RAM
The Note 2 has double the iPhone's 1 GB of RAM

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

Storage

Internal storage options are even, while the Note supports microSD cards
Internal storage options are even, while the Note supports microSD cards

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.

Wireless

Every iPhone 5 will support LTE (if your carrier provides it), but only some versions of the Note 2 support LTE
Every iPhone 5 will support LTE (if your carrier provides it), but only some versions of the Note 2 support LTE

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.

Battery

The Galaxy Note 2's battery is superior to the iPhone 5's
The Galaxy Note 2's battery is superior to the iPhone 5's

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.”

Camera

Both cameras take great shots
Both cameras take great shots

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.

Software

The Note 2 runs an old version of Android, but its TouchWiz software provides some amazing stylus integration
The Note 2 runs an old version of Android, but its TouchWiz software provides some amazing stylus integration

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

At most retailers, the phones will cost about the same
At most retailers, the phones will cost about the same

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.

Wrap-up

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.

22 comments
willemco
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.
Matt Fletcher
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.)
SJK
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
Inappropriate Response
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.
Joris van den Heuvel
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.
Island Architect
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. Bill
christopher
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 gizmag.com 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...
willemco
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!
Fabrizio Pozo-Mazzini
"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.
dchall8
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!
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