Apple iPhone 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S3: In-depth comparison

iPhone 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S3

The iPhone 5 is out, but for the first time, Apple’s once-unstoppable smartphone has some serious competition. Samsung’s Galaxy S3 is the first smartphone outside the iPhone to break the control of wireless carriers and be released simultaneously on all four major U.S. carriers, and U.S. Cellular. It has even sold more than 20 million units in its first 100 days of availability, an unheard of number outside of the iPhone. It’s one of the best examples of what Google’s Android operating system has to offer.

So which phone is right for you if you’re struggling to make up your mind?

To help you make a decision you’ll live with for the next two years, we’ve distilled our extensive hands-on time with both devices down into the ultimate iPhone 5 vs. Galaxy S3 comparison. We’ve declared winners and losers in 16 categories that make or break a phone, but don’t think finding the right phone is as easy as keeping score. Which phone belongs in your pocket will ultimately depend on which factors are most important to you. Read on to see how Apple and Samsung’s finest stack up in this battle of the titans.

Make sure to check out our full Apple iPhone 5 review and Samsung Galaxy S III review for more information on each phone. Note that the review scores do not reflect their positions relative to each other, due to timing. The S3 came out months before the iPhone 5, when its primary competition was more dated Android devices and the iPhone 4S. The iPhone 5 must be compared to legacy iPhones and newer Android phones, like the S3.

Design and construction

Crafting a beautiful, pocketable, durable phone isn’t easy, and Apple still knows how to do it better than anyone. The iPhone 5 doesn’t change much from the iPhone 4, but it remains the best-looking phone on the market today, and the best built. Apple has improved the scratch and shatter resistance of its glass, and used more aluminum in the frame, making the iPhone 5 much more durable than its predecessors and Samsung’s polycarbonate (a durable type of plastic) Galaxy S3.

iPhone 5 vs Galaxy S3 angle left side by side apple samsungThe iPhone 5 is also suspiciously lightweight for the materials it uses, weighing only 112 grams, less than the S3’s 133 gram weight. This could be due to the thinness of Apple’s phone, which matches the Droid Razr’s impressive 7.6mm depth, but without any camera bump. The S3 is also an impressive 8.6mm thick. For reference, the iPhone 4 and 4S were about 9.3mm thick, which set a benchmark for its time.

Drop and shatter tests (like this one) seem to be unanimously coming out in favor of the iPhone 5. Even after painful five- or six-foot drops, most iPhone 5 units have only minor dings in the aluminum frame. They somehow escape screen shattering far longer than the S3, despite Samsung’s inclusion of Gorilla Glass, which is known for its durability.

Winner: iPhone 5

Feel

Though it’s difficult to argue that Apple’s phone is built better than Samsung’s, when it comes to comfort, the Galaxy S3 puts up a strong fight. Samsung has been tweaking the size, shape, and button layouts of its phones several times a year for several years now. The Galaxy S3 is a result of consumer migration toward phones with larger screens. Despite being significantly wider and longer than the iPhone 5, the S3 is more comfortable to hold and use due to its button placement. By placing the power and volume buttons on the sides toward the middle of the phone, users can more naturally press both buttons, interact with the screen, and reach the Home, Back, and Menu buttons on the device. The iPhone 5 is still a comfortable device, but Apple has not adjusted the placement of its power button to match the fact that it is now a longer (not wider) phone.

iPhone 5 vs Galaxy S3 back apple samsungOf course, those with Andre the Giant hands will undoubtedly lean toward the S3 and those with more petite digits will gravitate toward the iPhone 5. Still, we’re going to give this one to Samsung for somehow making a phone with a 4.8-inch screen completely usable and comfortable to hold. Perhaps more comfortable than the world’s leading smartphone when it comes to two-handed typing and other select activities.

Winner: Galaxy S3

Screen quality

The iPhone 5 and Galaxy S3 light up an age-old (that’s two years in tech time) debate over which screen technologies offer the best picture quality. Since the introduction of the ‘Retina’ (high resolution) display in the iPhone 4, other smartphone manufacturers have been scrambling to create screens that can match Apple’s impressive 326 pixel-per-inch phone screens, which are based on high-end IPS LCD screen technology. To counter Apple, Samsung has gone with AMOLED, a variation on OLED technology. We’ve already compared the difference between LCD and AMOLED screens. The S3 might be the best implementation of AMOLED we’ve seen yet, retaining the deep blacks possible with OLED (each pixel is lit up separately, so black pixels have no backlight behind them at all).

iPhone 5 vs Galaxy S3 angle side by side apple samsungThough we really love AMOLED’s strengths, those of you with the sharpest eyes might prefer the iPhone 5. According to in-depth tests performed by DisplayMate, it’s better calibrated and gets brighter. We can’t argue. Though OLED may be the future of displays, Apple’s good old LCD takes the crown today.

Winner: iPhone 5

User interface

Despite ongoing lawsuits over the similarities between Apple and Samsung products, the differences between the Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5 user interfaces are quite stark.

iOS 6                
iphone 5 ios 6 3d maps apple samsung galaxy s3 comparison   iphone 5 ios 6 home apple samsung s3   iphone 5 ios 6 notifications apple samsung   iphone 5 ios 6 passbook apple samsung galaxy s3   iphone 5 ios 6 playlists apple samsung galaxy s3
Android                
Samsung Galaxy S3 review screenshot calendar apple samsung   Samsung Galaxy S3 review screenshot google play   Samsung Galaxy S3 review screenshot homscreen   Samsung Galaxy S3 review screenshot multitasking apple   Samsung Galaxy S3 review screenshot settings apple

Visually, it’s hard to argue against Apple. iOS is simple, easy to use, and full of fun animations. No other touch operating system is so pleasant and enthralling (at least, at first) to learn and operate. With the Galaxy S3, Samsung is trying really hard to make Android a more consistent and beautiful experience, but its attempts feel contrived and, at times, misguided. In many ways, the Galaxy S3 might be a better phone if Samsung had left Android alone. Google’s recent Android interfaces may not be as bright as iOS, but they do have some personality. Samsung’s phone does not.

Winner: iPhone 5

Product Review

With the S10e and S10 Plus, do we really need the Samsung Galaxy S10?

The Galaxy S10 is the middle child in this year’s Galaxy S10 range, between the Galaxy S10e, and the Galaxy S10 Plus. There’s no striking reason to buy it, but it’s still an excellent phone you’ll be happy with.
Mobile

Huawei P30 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus: 2019’s biggest flagships clash

Huawei launched the powerful P30 Pro. It's a beautiful phone with tons of power and some extremely capable cameras. But you could also describe the Galaxy S10 Plus that way — so which is better?
Mobile

Huawei P30 Pro vs. Huawei P30: Should you go pro or save some dough?

The latest phones from Huawei are seriously powerful, eye-catching devices, but what sets them apart? We take a look at the Huawei P30 Pro and compare it to the Huawei P30 in various categories to uncover the differences.
Mobile

Apple's iOS 12.2 brings support for Apple News Plus and new AirPlay 2 features

After months of betas, the final version of iOS 12 is here to download. The latest OS comes along with tons of new capabilities, from grouped notifications to Siri Shortcuts. Here are all the features you'll find in iOS 12.
Mobile

The best Sony Xperia 10 Plus cases to keep your smartphone safe

It's always a smart play to safeguard your smartphone with a decent case or cover. We've identified the best Sony Xperia 10 Plus cases here, so take your pick from rugged protection to slim style.
Mobile

More than a screenshot: How to record the screen on an Android device

If you've ever want to record video of your Android screen, there are plenty of apps that can help. Here's an easy guide on how to record the screen on an Android device with the right settings and apps.
Product Review

Want to see how powerful the Snapdragon 855 chip is? Just rev up the Xiaomi Mi 9

How fast do you want to go? If the answer to this is “as fast as possible,” then take a long look at the Xiaomi Mi 9. It’s one of the highest performance smartphones you can buy. It’s a real monster, and we’ve been using it.
Mobile

Want to watch Netflix in bed or browse the web? We have a tablet for everyone

There’s so much choice when shopping for a new tablet that it can be hard to pick the right one. From iPads to Android, these are our picks for the best tablets you can buy right now whatever your budget.
Computing

Yes, you can use Android apps on your Chromebook. Here's how

You can now get Android apps on your Chromebook! Google has enabled the Google Play Store app support on its Chrome OS and Chromebook hardware, so to get you started, here's our guide on how to get Android apps on a Chromebook.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy Fold pre-orders will start April 26, with shipment on May 3

The Samsung Galaxy Fold has arrived, and it goes on sale soon. Folding out from a 4.6-inch display to a tablet-sized 7.3-inch display, this unique device has six cameras, two batteries, and special software to help you use multiple apps.
Mobile

Huawei P30 Pro is a gorgeous-looking smartphone packed with camera ingenuity

Huawei has kicked off the new year by launching the new Huawei P30 Pro and P30. With upgraded hardware, new software tricks, and some absolutely stunning cameras, Huawei's new phones are serious contenders.
Product Review

4 Lenses, 40 megapixels, and 400k ISO. Huawei’s P30 Pro is a photography freak

Huawei’s P-series phones place an emphasis on the camera. That’s why the company partnered with Leica on the camera tuning. The latest phone is the Huawei P30 Pro, and it must fill the big shoes of last year’s stunning P20 Pro. Is it…
Product Review

Compared to the P30 Pro, Huawei may have stripped too much out of the P30 phone

Has Huawei pulled all the best parts out of the P30 Pro to make the P30, its cheaper, smaller sister phone? Yes, but the answer is more complicated than that. Here’s our look at the 6.1-inch P30.
Mobile

Huawei P30 Pro vs. Mate 20 Pro vs. P20 Pro: Which Huawei flagship is best for you?

If you're after a Huawei smartphone, but can't pick between this year's flagship and the previous two, or maybe you're looking to upgrade, we're here to explain what makes the P30 Pro, P20 Pro, and Mate 20 Pro different.
1 of 3