iPhone 4 vs. Samsung Galaxy S II: Which should you get?

Another week, another baddest ass Android phone on the market, and right now that's the Samsung Galaxy S II -- and Android Central has their full Sprint Galaxy II Epic 4G Touch review up for your reading pleasure. Now Sprint doesn't have an iPhone (yet?) so if you're on Medium Yellow and you need a phone this week then the Galaxy S II is hard to beat. If you're on AT&T, however, you have a tougher decision to make -- namely iPhone 4 today, or perhaps iPhone 5 next month vs. the AT&T Galaxy S II.

Since we don't live in the future, however, if really you really need that phone today, which should you get?


iPhone 4 is compact, with a 3.5 Retina Display (960x640 IPS LCD) screen, stainless steel antenna band, and glass on both sides. It's as much object d'art as mobile device, and some 15 months later it's still one of the best designed, best manufactured, best finished devices on the planet. The AT&T Galaxy S II isn't the almost obscene behemoth that Sprint has released, but at 4.3 inches and 800x480 pixels of Super AMOLED Plus, it's by no means small -- though it's considerably less than dense than iPhone or even some other Android devices. Even the plastic feels slightly better on the new generation of Galaxy. It's still Hasbro, but it's the higher-end Hasbro.

While iPhone 4 has a great 5 megapixel rear camera with nice, big, photon-friendly sensor that also shoots 720p video, the Galaxy S II will do 8mp with 1080p.

3G vs. 4G

iPhone 4 uses AT&T's 3G network with support for 7.2mbps HSPA downloads. The Galaxy II S uses AT&T's so-called 4G network with support for -- what, 14.4mbps? -- HSPA+ downloads. In real life, will you see a difference? Hey, insert AT&T network joke here.

Galaxy S II wins in a pinch, but it's only by a pinch.

iOS vs. Android

While iOS 5 is just around the corner, we haven't rounded that corner yet so we can only base this on the current version available, iOS 4.3. It's well polished, highly functional, and addresses previously lacking features multitasking, folder organization, FaceTime video calls, personal hotspot, and other features. Check out our complete iOS 4 walkthrough for more.

The Galaxy S II is running Android Gingerbread 2.3.4. You also get TouchWiz on top of that, which might look litigiously iPhone like, and could be a plus or a minus depending on your tastes. Still, Gingerbread is powerful, flexible and begins to address issues of consistency and UI polish. See Android Central for more on Gingerbread

Both iOS and Android handle Google services very well, though Android has more of them, including Google Navigation. However, only iOS gets Apple software and services.

Apps vs. Apps

Apple still technically has more apps in the iPhone app store than Google does in the Android Market, but the truth is most of the types of apps you're likely to want are available for both platforms.

iPhone apps tend to look better and provide a better user experience but Android apps tend to be able to do more and offer more options.


iPhone 4 has been on the market approaching 15 months so there's a ton of accessories available for it (just check out the iMore Store for a taste of what's available). Plus it ties into the massive iTunes and Apple ecosystems. Chances are you can find everything from the perfect case to peripherals that will check your blood or fly your toy helicopter.

Because Galaxy S II is so new and there are so many different Android phones, you can still find the basics but it will take a while for more accessories to show up and they'll fade faster when the next big Android phones splashes down in a few weeks (keep and eye on the Android Central store to see what I mean. Then again, it works with Motorola's laptop-style keyboard and screen terminal, which is very cool.


Here's what TiPb had to say about iPhone 4 when it launched:

An impressive new design, amazing new display, key features like multitasking, and an attempt to mainstream video calls, along with hundreds of other little improvements combine together to make this a substantial upgrade and clearly the best iPhone ever. (Given the success of previous iPhones, that’s no faint praise).

Here's what Android Central had to say about the Galaxy S II:

Here's the bottom line: The Galaxy S II is easily the fastest, thinnest and lightest Android smartphone you can get.

By now you've read our Epic 4G Touch review. (If not, go ahead. We'll wait. ... OK. Ready?) Much of what you read there stands for AT&T's version. They both have the same 1.2GHz processor and 1GB (more or less) of RAM, and so they pretty much feel the same in our initial use.

So if you're in the US and on AT&T, and you need a phone now, today, and are trying to decide between iPhone 4 and Galaxy S II, which should you get?

If you want the elegance of iOS and don't want to fuss around, if you want it to just work, if you want the biggest choice possible of apps and accessories -- as long as Apple approves them, if you want to stay in the iTunes ecosystem, and you want it wrapped up in what's arguably still the most solid, most iconic hardware on the market, get an iPhone 4 and enjoy.

If you want the sheer power of Android and like to tinker, if you want the latest, greatest specs on the market -- for the moment -- if you want to be able to customize without having to hack your phone, and if you want a big phone with big functionality, get the Galaxy S II.

However, if you can wait, if October isn't too far away for you, then hold off a few weeks. Apple just change the equation again with iPhone 5, and rumors of another Nexus are already in the wind.

If you need more help deciding, read TiPb's complete iPhone 4 review, compare it to Android Central's full Sprint Galaxy S II Epic 4G review and their AT&T Galaxy II S comparison, and if you have any questions, jump into our forums and ask away!

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Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

iPhone 4 vs. Samsung Galaxy S II: Which should you get?


The SGS2 has an 800x480 display. It does not have a qHD 960x540 display. That said, I'm sticking with my iPhone 4 as tempting as the SGS2 is.

I posted elsewhere about having both an iPhone 4 and a samsung captivate. Although the specs make for the iPhone to have a better screen, numbers aren't everything. The iPhone looks a little sharper on text while surfing the net, but the captivate's amoled screen has much better color depth. Watching a movie, playing plants vs zombies (the only game I play) or looking at pictures is more enjoyable on the samsung.

Get both. You'll actually use the iPhone. You'll keep the droid as a collectors' item. Time's running out for Google in the Oracle Java infringement lawsuit.

Well, first of all this isn't a "droid" as Droids are only on VZW.
Second, you haven't been keeping up with that Google v. Oracle suit.

And the iphone 4 still wins.. Which of course is the point of the whole comparison. The iphone 5 will simply be that much further ahead.
For all the hardware pluses or minuses, it still comes down to android vs iOS and it's not even a contest. Android doesn't come close.

well yeah, this is a iphone bias site duh. i knew the result as soon as i read the title.

I hear apple is coming out with a new phone model soon. Rather than waste time comparing a 1 year old phone against something brand new, I'd like to see this comparison done again when the latest iPhone comes out.

The Galaxy S II has technicaly been out for 4 months, it's just the US varients that are recently coming out. However, I do agree that comparing products that are 1 year appart doesn't make much sense.
Whatsmore you'd really have to hate Android to prefer an iPhone 4 over a GSII. Most reviewers call it the best smartphone in the world, and as much as it pains me, I honesly don't think the iPhone 4 can touch it. We should wait for the iPhone 5 to come out and then it'll be an interesting comparison.
The browser on the phone is really something else, it's so smooth that even flash doesn't slow it down and it's even faster than an iPad 2. I'm very tempted to buy it, howerver you'd be crazy not see wait and see what the new iPhone 5 has to offer.

I'd go for the iPhone any day.
Samsung has a bad history of keeping their products updated.
They put out too many models too often. Therefore they have a hard time keeping all their products updated.
Specifically, the Galaxy 2 Epic Touch has overheating issues.
Reports are starting to come in about the overheating....
I just hope the new iPhone doesn't suffer the same overheating problem.
I think when a product is designed too thin, you are suseptable to heat issues from the screen backlighting, battery, motherboard and CPU and also GPS chips. Its how well the heat dissipation is implemented.
The Samsung is plastic so retains heat more than dissipates heat. The iPhone (from rumors) is made out of aluminum so should dissipate the heat better.

Android sucks I hate android I love iPhone I had iPhone 3 3GS and now iPhone 4 android has to make a new phone every month to try to beat the iPhone and they just can't lol they're not authentic because apple does something nice and they copy and try to do better but they just cant lol ANDROID SUCKS

Seriously a comment with nothing to back it up you need to Educate yourself. I do not disagree that the Iphone was revolutionary, now saying that Android copied everything from the Iphone is wrong, in fact IOS 5 Bringing Notifications like Android is prove that it isnt a copy, now I'm not saying they shouldn't in fact is good that they take the best from each OS to Improve and make a better Experience for the Consumer. Now another thing that you said that brought me to comment is that they "bring every month a new phone to try to beat the Iphone" Well I have to disagree They are bringing Devices for every Kind of consumer like People that would not like to invest tons of money for a phone and can get an entry level android, or people that prefer Devices with Keyboards, or even Small Screen devices, and Big Screen Devices in other words Android is all about choice, but lets hope this companies keep up a friendly competition which at the end will benefit us, by bringing innovation.

I agree. I have the Droid Incredible which has a 3.7" screen and it seems flat out too small to me now. My buddy has a Thunderbolt and my brother the Droid Bionic which are both 4.3" and what a difference it makes doing almost anything! Also, both fit in the pocket nicely.

Don't worry, it won't shatter. I've had one for the past 3 month and it feels much better than my iPhone4.

Having an iPhone 4 and a samsung galaxy, I can say neither is really more solid. And having dropped them both, I can testify to how apples all glass design breaks and shatters...easily.
I actually use the samsung much more than the iPhone. Between predictive text, swipe, and not dropping as many calls, I feel the samsung is a better communication device overall. iPhone has more apps, but I don't play many games...

This is such a poorly writtenarticle on so many levels.
-grammatical errors - This may be a blog, but it can still have good grammar.
-context - why now?

Really? How is the processor in the iPad 2 faster? I thought they were pretty much the same, as they're both made by Samsung; the only difference being the graphics, and that Samsung has their Exinos clocked at 1.2ghz as opposed ot 1ghz from the iPad (Not even taking into effect that the Exinos can easly be OC to 1.5ghz, and graphics aswell). I'm not saying you're wrong, I was just under the impression they were practically the same.
As for the iPhone 5 being faster, I really doubt that. The general experience might be better for you, but I'll be really surprised if the browser and general speed of the phone is faster than the GS2.
It wouldn't really shock me if Apple decided to underclock the A5 to around 800-850mhz much like they did with the iPhone 4 to save on battery life.
Where did you see that the processor on the iPad was faster than the Exinos at 1.2ghz? I'd just like to know more about it, or was that just a guess based on your usage?

Speed ratings doesn't necessarily make a processor king, especially if the specs are the same but made by two different companies. The architecture and software are usually what determines which processor is better.

The web browser is really quicker in iPhone 4.
I'm the developer and for a long time using iOS 5.
In Microsoft HTML5 test the Safari gets 40 FPS, when SGS2 only 15. Get over it. Apple got better software. Contact me for proofs at: msqigi at gmail.com ;)
So if iPhone 4 with iOS5 is faster than SGS2, then iPhone 5 gonna be ridicules faster.

Embarrassing, are you guys serious? comparing a more than 15 month old phone with the brand new SG2. Really! Really! know i feel better about my iphone 4. The SG2 is amazing i played with gorgeous screen and size. Love it. But dont compare it with the iphone 4 it makes it look bad. wait for the iphone 5.


Double the connection speed and that's a "pinch" win? Nice one. Lol
Do this again when the iPhone 5 releases, as others mentioned.
Oh and I love the lavish explanation why iPhone might fit someone vs the weak GS2 case. I'd expect nothing less.
Last thing, pull a stronger quote from the AC article next time. They had some good ones in there.

How can you even compare the iPhone 4 released in market on June 2010 with SGS2 released in market to buy on ~June 2011?
Its like comparing the Galaxy Tab with iPad 3...

i got my s2 in april...also people in this tome and moment the s2 is samsungs flagship and the ip4 is apples flagship...theres is no 4s or 5 to compare to....if thats the case when the ip4s or 5 comes we should just wait for the gs3

Another flawed survey. Most ios fans will stay with ios. Most android fans will stay with android. Meaning only one choice for ios but many for android.

Thanks for the comparison Rene. Most people writing these comments are dumb! I have both and I can tell you that it's sad to compare two phones that are a year apart and the IPhone is still better. What is this? Fisher price my first phone?!? The samsung is great but is no iPhone. Apple just knows how to build devices that just work. Android, on the other hand is a cluster of millions of phones where not one is that much better than the other. That's sad. Apple's got it down!

apple knows how to build a device that just works sorry have to disagree it may be beautiful and have premium materials but if apple really just made devices that worked it would not have an antenna issue...no matter what anyone says it exist...i cant use my iphone without a case its as simple as that...one thing for sure the next iphone will not have any antenna issue so thats good...also was the iphone 3g/s not made out of plastic or was it made out of ''special'' plastic that was invented by apple

I agree. I love my infuse. I haven't use my iphone since i purchased it. The large screen makes a huge difference. Of course this is the wrong place to try to post something positive about an Android phone. The brainwashed apple fanbabies can't accept that there are alternative choices to the tiny little iphone. Maybe apple will package a free magnifying glass with the next one.

Now that iPhone 4s is coming out on the 14th and its has been said "everything is the same from iPhone 4 to iPhone 4s except the guts"... I think this review is pretty reasonable. My husband has not needed to choose a cell phone in over 3 years because it has been provided by his job. Now he is getting ready to start a new job and needs a phone! He was trying to figure out what he liked better, the new iPhone or the Epic Touch. He likes the size of the droid better and the standards of the iPhone. More or less I am just jealous. I have always been a mac girl when it comes to computers but I love my droid. An iPhone will work easier with my current iTunes (yes this is turning into me wanting something new)... This is turning into a hard choice! Sprint is putting everything they currently have for their droids into the iPhones... Such as navigation and Sprint Apps. These are fantastic features! My wonder now is will the iPhones on Sprint and Verizon be covered by the insurance program the cell providers have? At&t does not cover the iPhones under their replacement program. hmmm...

Hello, Neat post. There is a problem together with your site in web explorer, could test this? IE still is the market leader and a big section of folks will omit your wonderful writing due to this problem.

guys? WTF?!? if you owner of iphone it doesnt mean that gs2 beats 4g/4gs . Samsung galaxy s 2 is best smartphone in the world of 2011/2012-i hot em both an iphone and gs2 . id hold to gs2 cuz it NEVER lagged. and amazing fast with armv7 1.2ghz DUAL CORE processor and 1GB RAM ( btw it have a 16gb and a microsd slot)

Since the SG II is offered at a bargain contract in my country I tried to check out some about it and came across here.... I followed the link to geekaphone...and read to my satisfaction that the s2 seems superior to the iphone (I am not an iphone hater, just don't like that much hype). But how on earth they measure battery life will remain a mystery, it is stated as 12 days for the iphone, while here EVERY kid knows the iphone needs to be charged at the MINIMUM every other day, and kids keeping wifi on all day charge the battery twice a day. So if the samsung has less and tends to overheat while charging -I prefer to stay with an old nokia phone... :/

If only apple upgraded their batter power, it would be great! But still I would be sticking to my Android SG2. Android means freedom! Freedom to choose...