Apple iPhone 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S III: Smartphone Shootout

In this corner, we have the iPhone 5, “the world’s thinnest” smartphone that rung up 5 million units over its first weekend on sale. And in this corner, we have Samsung’s “next big thing,” the big-screen Galaxy S III, which crossed the 20 million mark in 100 days. Clearly, these two devices are the smartphone heavyweights of the year. 

Although they’re both incredibly popular, in many ways, the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S III couldn’t be more different. Apple’s lean and clean device is all about cramming as much performance as possible into the most portable package, while Samsung’s myriad software innovations literally redefine what a smartphone can do. So which fighter is the champ?

Apple iPhone 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S III: Smartphone Shootout

Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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  1. Confused Says:

    Did you honestly compare LTE speeds on completely different days and take that to be an accurate comparison? And you write for a tech magazine?

  2. john Says:

    lolz so biased.Well its better to do a comparison of s3 jelly bean as it has been released and also faster due to project butter and has better battery life also google now

  3. Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief Says:

    I don’t think those updates are available yet in the U.S. but we will certainly test those features out when the upgrade goes live.

  4. Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief Says:

    4G tests were conducted same days at same time and same location. Same thing for web browsing tests.

  5. AndroidFansPathetic Says:

    Hahahaha. So funny how pitiful and sad these Android fans are. Every time the iPhone is deemed a winner, in any way, shape, or form, they scream shenanigans.

    So predictable. Android fans: You may have your widgets and customization, but when it comes down to what people really want, the iPhone does that in spades.

    People want silky smooth apps and internet browsing, along with an easy to us UI. Apple has all that. Samsung/Android are still playing catch up. How do I know this? I own an HTC One X and an iPhone 5. Every time I find an awesome app on iOS, I check Android and 9/10 times its either clunky or a knock off.

  6. Rron Says:

    What about the prices?. Or all of a sudden, its no biggie that apple likes to overcharge with their products?.
    And to be fair, i own a galaxy S3, and i will not say that the iphone 5 is better in anyway, apple always lacked flexibility about their products, on the other hand android os proved to be much more user friendly, by this i mean modification. not just outside UI, but i mean modding the OS itself!. U can practically do anything u desire to the performance that the S3 brought up. So next time u judge, make sure u say this:
    People who only want a touchscreen, buy iphones.
    People who want revolutionary technology on the palm of their hands, S3 all the way.
    Bthw, i did own iphone 4S previously, so by all means, do not tell me what iphone is.

  7. Eddie1023 Says:

    Actually, I thought the article was very genuine, informative, fair, and honest. Although these phones can be further dissect as smartphones are more complex and feature riched now I think the author have hit it right on the nose as far as covering each phone’s main features.

    I had a Samsung Galaxy S3 as well for two tweeks before I returned it back due to the size I just couldn’t get used to. I had flashed it with JB 4.1 rom and made it perfect to improve speed (which was fast to begin with so hardly noticable) with the added features. The screen was nice and everything was snappy. One of the best Androids out in the market. But sadly, I returned it because I just couldn’t grasp the bigger size like I thought I would and I got average size hands.

    So I got the iPhone 5 instead for the first time using IOS. My first impression was “man, this is a beautiful phone!”.
    But beautiful or not, my main thing was the size(hardware) and the software and how well they gel together. Honestly, it only took me matter of minutes to learned all the ins and outs of IOS. It was simple and elegant but the downside was that there was nothing much you can do to customize and the lack of certain features. But everything else was polished and got things done quick. Apple made sure that the things we do need would just work. I also noticed the iPhone was a little snappier going in and out of apps and browsing online. But it was hardly noticable enough to make it a huge positive against the S3. But what it boils down to is personal preference. And what got me was the more compact size that fit more for my needs.

  8. chris T Says:

    haha what a biased report. I’ve played with my sisters Iphone5 and I admit that it is impressive as always. Apple never disappoints. But when compared to my s3, I wouldn’t trade it. The screen and battery is unreal compared to Apple. iphone is not a bad phone. But it is obviously playing catchup to Samsung now. The Siri is better than svoice though. That’s for sure, and not up to debate. But everything else is either a draw or Samsung has the advantage. Don’t listen to these biased reports written by Apple fanboy slaves.

  9. Dr.Fareed Ali Shamsi Says:

    Its not a match making or contrast between Samsung and Apple.Its sheer American arrogance that causes trouble to those who prefer Apple product just for status symbol,whereas Korean humbleness and politeness allows users of Galaxy to use and operate it the way they want.On the other hand Apple desires to enslave its customers even after getting price of its choice and desire.As such its wise to patronise humble people as against arrogant.

  10. dealkk Says:

    iphone have great design and simple. Android have much more choice and flexibility. One thing i hate apple most is it is overprice. They now come up with new connector and of course it better ,but way overprice. If you use phone alot, go with android big screen. If you just use phone moderate, go with iphone for simplicity

  11. Steve B Says:

    This is funny, I’m looking at the s3 users who are so biased its scary. its like “yeah I own a s3 so the iphone 5 is rubbish”.


    Both are great phones, Ive had a shot of both and would say there was a hair between them, but would take the apple. Why? because it works better with the systems I own better than any android I’ve used.

    If iphone wasn’t available?

    s3 all the way.

    I also own a big screen LED samsung TV and surround system so not going to slate them, Their displays are awesome.

  12. TechIsHereToStay Says:

    I have a Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon), which recently updated to Jelly Bean, and I’d like to offer a few thoughts regarding this review.
    Design: 1) Most people use protective cases, making the materials of the outer “shell” a moot point. However, regarding that issue…. 2) Scratches and scuff marks on the new iPhone 5’s finish, even brand-new out of the box, is a HUGE MINUS, in my opinion. And Apple’s lame excuse about the scratches being “normal”, to reveal the “natural silver color” should count as a DOUBLE MINUS. How insulting can you possibly BE to your loyal customers??? Geez. 3) The capacitive buttons don’t “disappear” — they purposely go down to very small, dimmed dots, so that you are not distracted by them on the edge of your line of sight, while looking at photos or viewing video. That’s a definite PLUS… not a minus. Touch them, and you instantly have the regular icons back.
    Expansion and Accessories: 1) I absolutely HATE plugging in my four iPods with the old connector. Especially the ones that you have to carefully squeeze to unplug. But plugging in devices that use a micro-USB connector has never been an issue for me. Even in a very dark room — if there is just the tiniest bit of resistance, just flip it over, and it goes right in. No fear of damaging it, and it takes about one second. Plus, almost EVERYBODY has a micro USB charger lying around. Easy to borrow one from someone else when you’re not home, but need to charge.
    Display: When I upgraded the last time, I had two MUST-HAVE criteria on my list, among other things… a larger screen, and replaceable batteries. I couldn’t care less if I have to use two hands. The larger screen is definitely worth it, for video viewing, as well as for surfing websites. Besides, most people turn their phones sideways and type with BOTH thumbs for texting, anyway. Phones just feel more comfortable for typing on the horizontal aspect.
    S Voice vs. Siri: The S3 will soon be updated to Jelly Bean, and the voice function on JB is AMAZING. The voice is more natural and human than Siri’s voice. If I open up Google Now, and then say “Google. Navigate to work.”, it will open up the Google Maps app, and immediately tell me via voice, and on the screen, how to get to work, or anywhere I ask it.
    Next, Android users are beginning to do some incredible things with the NFC tags. You can program them to do ANYTHING you want, especially if you’re already using Tasker (NOT the same as the app called Tasker in iTunes). Just search YouTube, or other sites discussing NFC tags, and check out what those little babies can do. For example, you can have one next to your bedside stand, and when you lie down at night, you just touch your phone to it, and it can instantly turn off your ringer, or other notifications, dim the display, set the alarm to go off in the morning, and turn on an app with soothing sounds, or whatever music app you want. Tap an NFC tag when you get into your car, and it will turn on bluetooth, and the GPS feature, or a music app, or podcasts, or whatever you want. Tap it again before you get out of your car, and it will turn off the bluetooth, or whatever you program it to do. The list of possibilities for NFC tags is getting longer every single day, as creative people continue to “play” with their Android devices. NO audible words even needed for NFC tags. :-)
    Next, the superior Notification Bar, even of Ice Cream Sandwich, should be worth mentioning. It’s even BETTER with Jelly Bean. The “Recent Apps” feature is also one of my favorite Go-To features. iPhone users just have no clue how much time that feature saves, and how many more possibilities are open to you because of it.
    And lastly, Android mobiles are capable of supporting live wallpaper. Dualboot Games is the BEST app developer for live wallpapers in HD. They are customizeable, and a lot of fun to look at. You can set them to cycle through their time of day with the REAL time of day (that is particularly enjoyable on their “My Beach HD” wallpaper, with the rising and setting sun on the water… and the bonfire on the beach at night, which turns into glowing embers just before daylight… a really cool detail. :-) On “Ocean HD”, there is a small locket that is hung on an anchor at the bottom of the sea. You can put your own picture in that locket (I have my beautiful grand-daughter’s pic in there), and when you tap the locket, it opens. The list of enticing details of the Dualboot live wallpapers goes on and on.
    Cost didn’t factor into my phone choice… I make a decent living, and I could buy any phone I wanted. After MUCH consideration, I chose an Android over an iPhone. I may not have the Android “flagship” S3, but I am more than happy with my sweet Galaxy Nexus. :-)

  13. Kevin Says:

    The iPhone 5 tends to win a lot of these comparisons and always there are a bunch of Android fans bemoaning the results. This comparison was very fair and even gave Samsung some unwarranted points when comparing the screen and camera (which are actually far better on iPhone 5)

  14. Chris Says:

    I’m sorry but Samsung should have won the expansion and accessories. Right now micro USB is a widespread standard that apples lightning connector cant trounce. You are comparing them based on speculation of accessories that will appear in the future. But in the future everything will start going wireless (ex. Bluetooth) which will make many accessories usable with almost any device with wireless capabilities. So Camparing what might happen in the future to what’s happening now is clearly unfair and kind of biased. And the S3 memory can be expanded beyond the iPhone 5 64 gb max. With the 64gb version of the S3 available, the s3 can be maxed out to 128gb with a 64 gb micro sd card. And speaking of what may happen in the future the S3 is gonna get jelly bean with google now which i have heard blows siri away. The rest of the article is great. have an iPhone 4S and I love apple products but I’m not an isheep or an izombie and I know what’s BS when I see it.

  15. mirekk Says:

    Whatever, I’m still NOT buying iPhone :P Apple is a vulture I do not want to support…

  16. Totesbetter Says:

    The HTC wildfire is totally better than both of these phones and the specs are much better.
    HTC Wildfire: 2Ghz Processor, 2GB Ram and 32gb internal memory.

  17. Brian Says:

    How much did apple pay you to choose them? Not all people care about lighter design. Did the gs3 have jelly bean when you tested it?

  18. Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief Says:

    Our unit did not have Jelly Bean. We look forward to trying that out when the update becomes available to U.S. customers.

  19. Mark Holle Says:

    As an owner of a GS3, my thoughts are “How can you go wrong with either phone”? I the customization, screen size, battery life, and performance of the GS3 but I can’t deny that Apple has ALWAYS delivered with the iPhone. This isn’t an either/or proposition (i.e. One stinks and the other is great). I love how both of these companies are pushing each other to deliver. That’s why I hope Windows Phone 8 and Blackberry 10 take off as well. When competition is hot, we benefit.

  20. Jason Says:

    In your comparison shots, why does the iPhone have a wider angle that the S3? The S3 has a wider angle and should be able to capture a larger area in its frame.

    Were the photos cropped, or did you stand at different distances, or used different zooms? Doing any of that could affect the detail, white balance, or ISO used in Auto Mode.

    A wider angle is usually better, especially for things like group shots in a crowded place, or shots of home interiors.

  21. Jason Says:

    1. Design. One big design flaw to me is the location of the headphone jack. Many people rest their phone on its bottom while they’re listening through headphones, like at the gym.

    No one has made a real fuss about this, but I want to be able to listen to music on my stationary bike–or what have you–while reading emails in portrait mode.

  22. MattMan Says:

    I honestly can agree with all things on the list, except the micro USB losing. Micro USB is better IMO.

  23. Josh Says:

    I think that you should alter the battery life test. Values should be normalized to the area of the display screen. This is the only way to decide which platform utilizes the battery more efficiently. I say this because powering the screen typically requires 40-50% of the mA.
    Apple also doesn’t allow battery replacement. For persons that own their phones for long periods, the ability to replace an old battery is of value, and may skew battery life test results performed at 1+ year of ownership.

  24. techme Says:

    For me, Apple is for the media and the design, and S III (also Note II) is for productivity such as multitasking and dropbox.. So, get them both people! :)

  25. kal Says:

    I diagree with Josh, S3 has bigger screen I agree but at the same time I has bigger battery so Why should I normalize to display screen

  26. Pres Says:

    Which one will become obsolete first? What is the length of time before new models of the series become available, that is a more important question? You can buy a Samsung now and they release a new version or a new model better than the one you have the following month.

  27. selena Says:

    The iPhone’s resolution being lower than HD means that video players need to perform some downscaling when playing HD movies.The GS3 screen settings offers a choice of 4 options (dynamic, standard, natural and video) that efficiently tame the “oversaturated” effect.One of the most interesting features in new Galaxy S III is the ability to create your own custom vibration notification

  28. Ricky Bobby Says:

    Seriously if you haven’t ever owned an iPhone you can’t say anything, I had every iPhone up until the 4s because my dumbass broke the iPhone 4, I had to use an S3 for about 2 weeks. Worst 2 weeks of my life nothing ever worked the app store stunk, the processing system was about as good as toilet paper, and it has a huge problem with typing. If I ever wanted to spell anything right, I had to go over it about 17 flipping times to make sure it was correct. Anything with Android in it hands down stinks, Apple is supreme. Samsung should stick with tv’s, haha those are damn good (:

  29. Dr MAK Says:


  30. Pritam Das Says:

    my iphone 5 no doubt is the best device ever made, i’ve compared it with my bro’s s3! Apps come to iOS app store first than go to google play. So an iphone owner will be the first one to play latest games, use latest apps. Safari browser is anyday better than s3’s default browser (nobody knows its name :P), music quality is better, camera is better, display is smaller but comfortable and ofcourse better. Iphone 5 rules.

  31. rebecca Says:

    Now I know this review is bull because on the the samsung galaxy picture comparison, half the bald guys head is missing from the photo. How is this a fair review when the s3 photo is tampered with?.

  32. Steve Says:

    I think the camera evaluations in this review were really comprehensive, but I can’t see how the result is a “draw”. The iPhone’s pictures are consistently nicer than the S3, which (to me) gives it an edge over more options. I would only concede it to a draw if there was some UI function on the Apple device that makes it frustrating or difficult to take pictures.

    I don’t own either device – I still have an old-school, simple cell phone, but I’m looking at getting a smartphone and for me it has come down to the iPhone vs the S3. I like both, and my roommate has an S3, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to get an iPhone 5. Here are my thoughts:

    – The Galaxy won’t fit in my pocket and to me it is awkward to hold due to its size.
    – The plastic back on the Galaxy feels really, really cheap. I’d rather deal with a few little scuffs in the aluminum.
    – The iPhone’s display is brighter, which is a big deal when you use your phone outdoors in the snow.
    – Apple has perfected the auto-correcting on-screen keyboard. For text entry, even the first-generation iPhone seems to work better than the S3. Apparently there’s a third-party app for the S3 that makes its keyboard behaviour more iPhone-like, but it seems silly to have to pay for something like that. Samsung has no excuse for this, other than wanting to get the product out the door before it was really ready.
    – I don’t usually like gesture-based shortcuts on devices because I don’t like accidentally triggering them. I admit I haven’t used them, but I can’t stand things like “hot corners” on computers either.

    Both products are really great technology, and the fierce competition between Apple and Samsung can only benefit us. It’s fun to watch the two manufacturers leapfrog each other. If I was in this market a few months ago, and it came down to S3 vs. 4S, I might have picked the Samsung.

  33. robbie Says:

    , no sd slot cloud stage the five bad GPS i use navtel for years. But sealed battery, Chinese labor, no SD a turn off
    Sealed battery downer
    Seen phone like it! Give it consumer replacement battery might think abt it!
    but some call quality bad!

  34. Bestcellphone Says:

    I used to use galaxy s3…but move on to iphone…that because i found some problems with s3…mostly hardware issues.

  35. Linda Says:

    Hi, would welcome any info that helps. I want a phone that has good bluetooth and voice recognition for calls when driving. I also want a phone that has good reliable internet access. I have been told the iphone4 is not good for bluetooth or hands free voice dialling in cars, but is great for internet. I have also been told the samsung s3 is great for bluetooth and hands free voice dialling but is no good for reliable internet access as in you can`t get it everywhere but you can with the iphone. Which one would be best for doing all the things I need, bluetooth, hands free voice recognition dialling and internet access???? Thank you

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