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Apple iPhone 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S III: All rise


When we review phones we try to put them in context, and tie everything up with a snapshot of the market and the closest alternatives. Now, we usually keep droids and iPhones separate because honestly they just don't mix. But every now and then, they just cannot be kept apart. Never mind the risk of explosion.
iPhone 5 vs. Galaxy S III iPhone 5 vs. Galaxy S III iPhone 5 vs. Galaxy S III iPhone 5 vs. Galaxy S III
Apple iPhone 5 • Samsung Galaxy S III
So there you have it: the new iPhone 5 against the Samsung Galaxy S III. In case you're wondering why this has taken so long, we needed quality time with both phones - not just to get the reviews in, but actually use them day in, day out. Now we're ready to share our impressions and give you insights that will hopefully help decide which one is right for you.
The two phones are polar opposites in terms of design - starting from size, through the design language, to the OS philosophy, those two could hardly be more different.
Apple has everything tightly locked down. Perfection, as they see it, can only be achieved in their walled garden. With Android and Samsung there's little you're not allowed to tweak (but be careful what you wish for as the saying goes).
It's not a battle of light versus dark, it's a matter of values and beliefs - Zen-like perfection and simplicity versus nothing-is-off-limits freedom. Here's what kind of design choices that led to:

Apple iPhone 5 over Galaxy S III:

  • Thinner, lighter, more compact
  • More impressive build materials
  • Sharper screen with better sunlight legibility and more accurate colors
  • LTE on all models

Samsung Galaxy S III over iPhone 5:

  • Bigger, higher-res screen
  • NFC connectivity
  • Standard USB port for data transfer and charging
  • microSD card slot for (cheap) storage expansion
  • Mass storage mode, USB Host functionality
  • Native Google Maps
  • 2GB RAM in some versions
The new iPhone is taller and thinner than its predecessor, but keeps the same screen width and pixel density, and makes sure the hand feel is not impaired. Apple also went with a brand new connector design - the Lightning port. The inconvenience of yet another standard aside, it is better in every way and has allowed Apple engineers to build a more compact phone.
Samsung, on the other hand, went all out - bigger this, more of that, let's get this in too. It adhered to industry standards and the Galaxy S III has a microSD card slot and a user-accessible battery, which makes extending the phone's life easier (e.g. expanding the storage or changing the battery when the old one starts showing its age).
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Apple iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III going head to head
The differences in ideology are apparent in the software too - Apple's design is best executed by Apple, so they made their own maps. It's not an easy task and it will take years to get them right (it's how long it has taken their competitors to get where they are today).
Samsung on the other hand take advantage of Android's open, extendable design and piled on new features. There's barely a corner left in the OS that doesn't bear their mark.
We'll start by comparing the hardware of the Apple iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S III, with the performance of the two contenders in various real-life challenges to be examined after that.
Those hoping for an X-is-better-than-Y-period-! answer will be disappointed. The way the crowd at a boxing match will feel about a win on points instead of a knockout. Like someone running for office wins debates to lose an election.
Let's not get carried away though. It's just phones. Worse yet, they're soon to be last season's phones. Yet, we all vote for them with our hearts, minds and, ultimately, wallets. So, which one is better?
We know you look to our conclusions for buying advice and some kind of closure. We don't think you need to look any further. Just this once, go a few pages back. Each individual category was won by either the Apple iPhone 5 or the Samsung Galaxy S III.
It's up to you to go over the ones that matter to you and tally the score. And don't be swayed by popular opinion. The smartphone is probably the most personal thing you own (it knows your friends, has your photos, goes everywhere with you), so it's up to you to decide which one is best.
Before you look at the price of either phone, there's one last thing to consider - how invested you are in either ecosystem already. For example, you may have iPhone accessories worth a few hundred dollars (though the iPhone 5 pretty much wiped the slate clean on this one), or maybe various apps you've bought and don't want to lose.
That leads us to price and the difference is by no means negligible. SIM-free the iPhone 5 is probably the most expensive smartphone on the market right now, topping the Samsung Galaxy S III in Europe by almost 200 euros.
But then, resale value is another thing you might want to look at, after all it won't be long before the next Galaxy S and iPhone generation is out, tempting you to upgrade. Of course, you can easily use the Galaxy S III and iPhone 5 for a couple of years and not feel too far behind the flagship du jour.
Some would say that the most damning verdict for the iPhone 5 is that it's trading blows with a smartphone that came to the market 5 months before it, instead of wiping the floor with it. Others will point to the fact that the Galaxy S III took three months to achieve the sales numbers that the Apple flagship already has.
In the end, the iPhone 5 vs. Galaxy S III argument comes down to portability vs. screen size, LCD vs. AMOLED, closed vs. open, Apple vs. Samsung. The latter have been in and out of court for a while now but this particular dispute won't be settled in a courtroom. You'll be the judge, so the winner doesn't have to be the one with the better lawyers.

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