iPhone 4S vs. Galaxy S III

Apple's iPhone 4S has been on the market for 6 months already and the Samsung Galaxy S III doesn't even hit store shelves until the end of May. Yet the iPhone 4S remains the best selling handset in the world and the Galaxy S III claims to be the best handset on the planet, period, so let's put them head-to-head, Mobile Nations style.

(Technically Phil is using a Verizon iPhone 4 in the video, but lack of a SIM-card tray aside, it's physically identical to an iPhone 4S, and that's the phone we'll be talking about here in the text).

It's immediately obvious just how much bigger the Samsung Galaxy S III is, with a whopping 4.8-inch, SAMOLED PenTile screen. The Galaxy S III is so big, it looks like you could hollow it out and use it as an iPhone case. For people who don't have a tablet, this is as close as you can get without become a... Galaxy Note. On the downside, some (yours truly included), far prefer the color and pixel perfection of a non-PenTile iPhone- or HTC One X-style LCD LED display.

Unfortunately, Samsung still seems to be clinging to their Hasbro-style plastic casings, which are frankly terrible compared to the glass and stainless steel feeling of the iPhone, not to mention the unearthly good plastics Nokia and HTC have been using these days.

The software side is a bit of a mixed bag for the Galaxy S III as well, with the latest version of Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich all loaded up, but hidden beneath Samsung's TouchWiz. While intended to give a more consumer-friendly (i.e. Apple-like) look and feel, it also gives a slightly out-dated, Gingerbread-esque vibe to overall experience. Pro users will no doubt prefer stock (and will no doubt flash to that, or something close to it, at their earliest opportunity). The rest includes some interesting, innovative features like talk to wake, accelerometer switch from texting to talking, as well as versions of Siri and iTunes Match once again cloned directly from Apple's 2011 keynote.

The iPhone 4S is still running iOS 5.1, which is either familiar and comfortable, or stale and boring depending on your take.

The bottom line, however, remains the same -- Samsung makes fantastic, futuristic, totally uninspiring devices. They can spin out specs so impressive they literally make your nose bleed, but they don't really know how to innovate. Every atom and pixel just sort of reminds you of something you've seen before from Apple or Nokia or someone else. They're mechanics more than artists. Of course, that matters more to gadget divas than to mainstream consumers. That's why Samsung sells tens of millions of these big boys, and why -- like Apple -- they're actually profitable.

Still, this time around I think HTC stole a step on Samsung. The One X just looks and feels like a better next generation Android phone. (I've argued the Nexus One was far better for it's time than either the Nexus S or Galaxy Nexus as well -- Nexus one was the future of Android, Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus were both summations of Android as it was.)

Speaking of which, neither the Galaxy S III nor the One X are Nexus devices, however, so if/when Google announces Android Jellybean, it might well be a race to see who gets it first... or last... or never.)

Either way, we're going to have to wait until June to see iOS 6, and likely October to see the iPhone 5,1. Right now the new Androids are hitting the market against the old iPhone, which is a good bit of counter-programming. The more interesting war will be fought this fall, and Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10 might just make it a 4 way race this time.

As always, watch the video, check out the pictures, and let us know what you think.

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 4S vs. Galaxy S III


The 2012 phone hardware season is definitely in full swing. The GS3 is too big for my tastes, but it's got good hardware. It has a better CPU/GPU/RAM combo than the One X, but the One X has a better display. Choose your highest priority feature.
I'm not in the market for a phone this. The Cortex A15 hardware in 2013 will be dazzling. ;)

The problem with ambled displays is that they usually have too much color gamut, meaning that it may look great at first and look vibrant, but after a while it really looks bad, simply because nothing in nature looks that way. AMOLED Displays have excessive colors to look so gaudy (usually). If you like your TV set to "Vibrant" and you turn the color to the max, and you still like it, then you may like the AMOLED displays.
This website gives very good information about mobile displays:http://www.displaymate.com/mobile.html
(from: http://www.displaymate.com/iPadShootOut1.htm#Conclusion)
(referring to the new iPad): "The colors are beautiful and accurate due to very good factory calibration – they are also “more vibrant” but not excessively so or gaudy like some existing OLED displays."
"OLED Displays: Once their cost significantly decreases and their power efficiency and production volumes significantly increase we’ll start to see lots of Tablets with OLED displays. Until then, IPS LCDs can’t be beat."

I'm actually looking forward to a quad-core Cortex A15 later this year (not 2013). That'll be dazzling. A good OS is needed to take advantage of it, UNIX or Linux could do it. This would also be on 28nm or 32nm process. (We've already seen 32nm ARM chips).
I certainly hope developers finally start learning how to program for multi-cores (not just multi-thread, it's always that one thread that maxes the CPU out and we have to wait). This would then truly allow for everything to be quick. (Without better programming, with the exception of games, it seems that dual-core is all that's needed today, one thread for the App, and another for background OS, etc. and 2nd, or other, lower priority App threads)

Well if size matters, the screen on the Galaxy S3 does kind of make you feel inadequate, lol Though I would feel uncomfortable with a phone that size up against my head, lol

I used to have a 4.3 inch screen on the HTC Evo. It was just too big. I hope Apple doesn't go any bigger than 4 inches if they increase the size at all. I'm actually very happy with the iPhone. Obviously millions and millions of users are too!

The GSIII and One X are made of the exact same material. Only difference is the Samsung is glossy. Phil actuall y mentions this in his video showing the two side by side.
Man that GSIII makes the iPhone look so inadequate.

Whatever floats your boat I guess. The S III looks nice but is too big for my liking. The 4S does everything I need it to do for me.

Here,here. I agree. I am new to this site less than 30 days owner of an iPhone 4s and I got to say the video on the iPhone IMO blew my Photon 4G out of the water. Got spoiled having a bigger screen which I liked. Started my smartphone journey with original Pre. Will see how I like iPhone. So far so good.

The only thing I dislike about my iPhone 4s (sprint), is the fact I don't have any 4g speeds. Other than that, this phone is perfect.

The iPhone 4S is only HSPA+ on the AT&T network in the US, and other GSM networks around the world. The iPhone 4S can also do CDMA (the exact same phone, it's a World Phone, capable of all cellphone technology, except for LTE). On Verizon and Sprint, the iPhone 4S will never be 4G, because CDMA 3G is so slow. But the GSM HSPA+ on the iPhone 4S can reach 14.4 Mbps down and 5.8 Mbps Up. That's fast enough to fit the newer meaning of 4G.
However, I like to think of 4G still being the LTE Advanced, that is, a minimum of 100 Mbps Down and 50 Mbps Up from anywhere to anywhere on the planet. It won't be until LTE Advanced and 5G that we'll really have a continuous and reliable fast network everywhere.
Every generation has been about 10 years apart, 1G (Analog) in 1982, 2G in 1992, 3G around 1998, 4G around 2009, and 5G possibly around 2020. 5G won't likely be much faster, just much more uniform and reliable in any condition, still all packet switch and super low latency. (Perhaps less than 3ms? To the server that is, a message from exactly one side to the other side of the planet and back will still take a minimum of 135ms. Light, radio, etcetera is measurably slow in certain instances.)

@rene the one X, Lumua and s3 are all made out of polycarbonate, the only difference is samsungs is shiny.. So it seems to me you are just contracting yourself and my guess is you have not even tried the s3 so don't know how you can start a comparison with out using the device... Lol that's like me saying I don't like sushi without ever eaten one.

I've had the iPhone since the first gen. And I must say the Samsung phones look very nice and there os looks sweet to. The iPhone needs an os make over as well as the hardware. I really hope apple brings it software wise and hardware wise with the next gen iPhone. Competition isn't the same as 2007. The 4s was somewhat of a disappointment maybe not for new iPhone users but if youve been down with the iPhone since day 1 you can't deny these Samsung phone are closing in!

The iPhone still looks better. Classic and elegant. It's actually still the best looking phone for me. But you can do a hell of a lot more with the GSIII of course.
If only the GSIII didn't use those glossy cheap looking plastics...

Because, you know, plastic VS glass/metal really matters when most people are going to keep it hidden away in a case. >.>
I'm not big on plastic either, but I really am digging the hardware design. I like that they kept the menu button, if only because developers haven't made it so that their apps have an "action" buttion, which is basically an on-screen menu button.

I'm sticking with my iPhone only because I don't have pants with pockets large enough to hold the S III -- and I'm not about to start wearing those hip-hop pants with pockets so big you can comfortably carry an iPad.

You see, this is just asinine. I've seen skinny teenage girls (keyword there : skinny) carry large devices like the 4.5" GS2 WITH a case on it and are still able to squeeze it into their pockets. You're either wearing ken-doll shorts, skintight leather pants, or haven't actually used a larger device as your daily driver so you're bitching about the unknown.

Normal jeans these phones fit in fine. Let everything breathe quit wearing those skinny nut hugger jeans you're not hip...

If the iPhone doesn't increase the screen size to at least 4" this year, I will have to say goodnight and good luck!

haha because apple was the first to have voice actions? Uum no it has been on android for years. Not to mention I would take a plastic phone that doesn't shatter the first time you drop it over an all glass phone. Hopefully the iphone whatever they will call it gets rid of the fragile glass frame.

That's odd...the first time I dropped my Nexus S 4G I got a nice crack on the front glass. The GSIII is not all plastic, the front side is glass. Mute point.

Voice actions have been on the iPhone since the 3G S in 2009. S Voice is a play at competing with Siri and it is so obvious to anyone but the die-hard of delusional fandroids.

S-voice is pretty much their version of google search which has been in android since day 1. Check and mate fool. Once again the isheep who believe that apple was the first to do everything

Apple is rarely first to do anything major, it's just first to make many things work well. Work, as in easy, intuitive, usable.
Siri uses AI, Artificial Intelligence gets better and better with time. Siri is still in Beta, normally Apple would never release a product in beta, however, there really isn't any other efficient way to learn millions of voices give billions of commands over time.
Once Siri is released for prime time, (version 1), I hope it'll blow my mind with everything it can do and understand. It's just a baby for now.
I don't know about S-Voice. If it's not AI, then it'll never get better except with software upgrades, and those can't ever be as good as AI. It is impressive that a lot of the S-Voice recognition appears to be done within the phone and not at a remote server! (This is good when there is no connection, but can never beat a server, and without a connection, even if S-voice can understand you, many commands won't work without the internet anyway).
If S-Voice is AI, then I'll be watching for it's improvements!

Did you read the blog on these pages about Siri? Not everything Apple does works great. I have yet to see any voice recognition from anybody live up to the claims and be good enough to use regularly.

yeah yeah yeah.... its easy to make a big screen when you only have to put ALL your technology into ONE device!!! wheres the tablet,mp3,laptop(x2),desktop,airplay device,etc... etc...Why do you guys get so excited when you know the newest version of your iphone killer will be replaced before you can tear the box open!!!??? good luck. I'll stay away from imitators.

I still think 4" will be the sweet spot in phones. 4.8" is just too big. A little more and you have the Nook, or Kindle 6". It has come to the point where the competition has gone crazy in size, and these devices have become multi media devices, that just happen to have a phone ability. The phone is no longer the main focus.

The phone hasn't been the main attraction for me in a long, long time. Since 2008 when actual apps hit the iPhone.

Every an tell who like everything apple evenif it's crap or not... And you can tell who would like the biggest bang for their buck... If apple bring out a new 4s name it iPhone 5 and slap ios6 those same apple fans wil be raving how amazing it is...
Anyway for those wh likes hardware, amazing hardware the S3 is it

I own both an iphone (work) and an S2 (personal). Man, you can't imagine how much more I enjoy my s2! Sure, iphone is nicer. Even nicer than s3, but you cannot compare them, it would be much of a disadvantage for iphone..iphone is so boring! Bottom line, Galaxy S 3 will be my next personal phone.

So the iPhone is nicer, but its "boring"? Speak more plainly, because you say one thing and then just contradict it.
And comparing a mostly locked down work phone to a personal phone that you can do whatever you damn well please with ... you're right, there is no comparison. Enjoy the S3.

You're just being a prick. You know he meant the style of the iPhone is nicer but it's boring compared to his GS. Stop being a fanboy and pay attention.

if apple did this it would be an s2s, mediocre improvement over s2.
big screen if that floats your boat!
quad core in a phone is just gonna eat battery and provide minimal performance improvements in the real world.
oh and it looks like a kiddies toy.

lol im a fan of small screens for me the 3.5" is the limit for a phone,but this one??? 4.8" this is ridiculous lol now i will take my 42"TV with me.
we know bigger screen is better but when u say a phone has a limit and it is 3.5" otherwise have to put another name.To me apple is as Mercedes do everything for a reason not everything bigger is better.Everything samsung will do is predictable the next will be 5.6" screen processor 2.5 sixcore and who is the end? proc.4 22core and e screen 10" lol and nothing new.But Apple always brings something new and i like this...

of course, apple brings something new every time, in 2007 launched the iphone, a full touch screen mobile. let me think.. oooo i had a full touch htc back in 2006.
In 2008 apple add 3G on their iphone... oooh let me think again, my nokia 6630 had 3G back in 2004.. skip the 3GS. in 2010 iphone 4 with front facing camera, i owned the nokia n73 in 2006 with front facing camera. Retina display? do you remember SE X1 with 311ppi in 2008? Because all the other companies not advertise or propagate their products like apple do, doesn't mean that apple did it first.

i will tell u 1 thing i always use my phone in my car and my car have automatic transmission so 1 hand is always free and i can use my iphone 4s all the time but with 4.8 i cant simply i cant so this phone for me is FAIL!!!

Ever hear of a car dock? Better and more importantly much safer than what you are doing.

Lol i hate those things i need only my phone on my pocket and the charger on my home nothing more

How can u compare the galaxy to the 4s when they already made the GS2 and the galaxy s2 note. And it's still not gonna sell anything cuz android sucks. That's why the iPhone is the highest selling phone of all times. Wait 3 months 'til the iPhone 5 comes out then compare phones.

Thats a huge S Bitch! The design is pretty nice but that phone is just too damn big!! You can hang that thing on a wall! And I really hate all the S Whatever naming scheme.

Wow. The iPhone looks like a nano. Apple will have to come out with a larger screen or they are toast. I'll bet the fanboys who now love their small screens will then rave about the bigger one. Samsung is right on about the sheep.
This review takes the award for the most bias against the competition. How pathetic.

Because its the same phone thats been out since '07. Old hardware and software minimally changed to get the herd to buy another one

Are you kidding me?! The glass on the iphone is AWFUL! Its a phone, it needs to be practical. Glass back is not practical, unless it is in a china cabinet and not being used.

Why do we have to call the new iPhone iPhone 5,1? We all are aware of the iPhone 5/6 Naming bs. It's the 6th iPhone or iPhone 6 or the new iPhone. 5,1 just makes you way more nerdy than all this already is.

Is it just me or is EVERY android phone being compared to the iPhone? Every android phone is being touted an iPhone killer. I admire Samsung's Galaxy series, but we just have to come to terms with the fact that, presently, iPhones are setting the benchmarks in the cellphone market. Everyone steals, everyone copies, Apple is no less guilty. What matters is who ends up coming with an iconic product. And Apple got there first. Not being a fanboy. I still appreciate Android.

No, it doesn't matter what is more "iconic", what matters is who makes the phone that meets my needs the best.

Looks and Sprint's poor network aside, I think the EVO 4G LTE is probably the phone to beat.

Apple run on his own race.
When others running on the Hardware Race (NEWEST HARDWARE, NEWEST CAMERA and many more..) Apple still enjoy with current line up. Apple always born a new way to enjoy Mobile Smartphone. Let's see what will Apple bring in the Next iPhone.
And the happy for Old iPhone Customer iPhone 3GS still able to enjoy latest iOS (iOS 5.1.1)

I have an iphone 3gs that is running on firmware 4.3.5 and i have jailbroken it using redsnow and then i went and downloaded ultrasn0w and everything but all it does is search for service. any ideas on how to fix this?

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iphone 4s is useless phone the biggest problem in this phone is. it does not have good network coverage.

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