Galaxy S5 or iPhone 5s: Which phone should you get?

Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5s
Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5s (Image credit: iMore)

Everything you need to know to choose the best phone for you — Galaxy S5 or iPhone 5s!

The Galaxy S5 has only just been announced while the iPhone 5s has been available since September 2013. However, until the iPhone 6 launches — presumably in September of 2014 — they'll be the two top phones on the market. They'll also be very different experiences, from hardware to software to services and back. Some people will know immediately which one they want. Others will be pouring over every review, watching every video, sweating every detail, second guessing every decision. If you're one of those, if you're on the fence, I'll keep this short and sweet — if you're stuck between the Galaxy S5 and the iPhone 5s, here's the one you should get...

Samsung Galaxy S5

The Samsung Galaxy S5 sports a 5.1-inch 1080p SAMOLED display at 432ppi, a 16mp rear camera, 32-bit Snapdragon 801 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16 or 32GB of flash storage (expandable via MicroSD), 802.11ac MIMO Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, LTE networking, replaceable battery, swipe-based fingerprint identity scanner, and get this — water resistance with a IP67 rating. What that means is that the Galaxy S5 is a monster. Samsung has, as usual, thrown every spec and every feature they can at the wall, and for some people that's exactly what's going to stick.

On the outside you have glass and plastic. It's available in white, black, blue, and gold. The stock backing is soft-touch, over-saturated, perforated and... not visually pleasing. However, because the backs can be removed they can also be swapped out for different patterns and treatments. So what you give up in terms of overall build quality and device density you gain in accessibility and customizability.

Android 4.4 KitKat powers the Galaxy S5 but it also includes Samsung's own TouchWiz interface and ton of Samsung's own apps and embellishments. That's great in that you get features galore from both Google and Samsung. It's not so great in that the two don't always meet elegantly in the middle.

Here's what Phil Nickinson had to say in his Samsung Galaxy S5 hands-on and initial review:

Our main takeaway from our brief time with the Galaxy S5 so far is that Samsung is has been listening to customers and critics alike, and has finally gotten around to addressing many of our gripes with its build quality, software and UI. It's still a plastic phone, and a plastic phone running TouchWiz at that, but the GS5 represents a clear improvement for Samsung in a bunch of important areas. The new Samsung UI strikes us as something we might enjoy using, rather than software that's just there. And the soft-touch back feels infinitely nicer in the hand than the glossy, slimy plastic of old.The most interesting development out of the GS5's announcement might be the arrival of waterproofing as a mainstream feature. Other Android manufacturers, notably Sony, have been doing this for a while, but a waterproof GS5 is a big commitment on Samsung's part

We'll know more when the Galaxy S5 hits store shelves, of course, and we'll update as appropriate. It's a Galaxy S phone, however, and just like its biggest competitor, it's so popular, so established, that we know what that means now.

Apple iPhone 5s

The Apple iPhone 5s has a 4-inch 640p in-cell ISP LCD display at 326ppi, an 8mp rear camera, 64-bit Apple A7 processor, 1GB of RAM, 16, 32, or 64GB of flash storage, 802.11n MIMO Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, LTE networking, and touch-based fingerprint identity sensor. Apple, as usual, has focused on fewer things. The iPhone 5s remains conservative in some ways, still best in class in others. And that's exactly what some people want.

Made of aluminum and glass, it's available in white and silver, white and gold, and black and gray. The manufacturing and build quality and ridiculous. But it comes at a price — there's no removable battery and no way to chance the back plate or get anything other than the limited options Apple gives you.

From our iPhone 5s review:

Apple call's the iPhone 5s their most forward-thinking iPhone ever, and on that they deliver. From iOS 7 to Touch ID to 64-bit, it's next-year's technology in your hand today. It's going to be on most carriers, in most countries in the world, and with the usual, unmatched app, accessory, and media support. Ultimately, it's the best iPhone ever. Again. If that's not what you want, Apple has nothing different to offer you. If it is, get it now.

iOS 7 powers the iPhone 5s, which sports Apple's newly redesigned, physics and particle engine-based interface. It's a leap ahead in many ways, yet one that hasn't quite yet stuck the landing. Apple also sticks to smaller subset of features but that tends to allow them to be more consistent and coherent.

Which one should you get?

Neither Samsung nor Apple fundamentally changed their games in the last 12 months. Once again, each simply got better at implementig their existing strategies and strengths. And that's okay. But it means the decision remains essentially the same.

  • If a bigger screen and the ability to customize is more important to you than running iOS and all the high quality apps and accessories that come with it, or if you simply don't like Apple, we recommend the Galaxy S4.
  • If access to the iOS App Store, iTunes, and Apple Stores is more important to you than the power and flexibility that comes with Android, or you simply don't like Samsung, we recommend with the iPhone 5s.

The iPhone 6

There's one other thing to keep in mind before making a final decision: This isn't an s-year for Apple. This year they'll be launching an iPhone 6. If neither the Galaxy S5 nor the iPhone 5s are insta-buys for you, wait until the fall, check out the iPhone 6, and then make your decision. Who knows, there may even be a Galaxy Note 4 to throw into the mix by then as well!

Either way — leave a comment below and let me know, iPhone or Galaxy, which one are you going to get?

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.