iPhone 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S4 – who will win?

As the jigsaw puzzle pieces of 2013’s most anticipated phones begin to form a picture, we pick a provisional winner in tech’s big match

Before you rush to your MacBook to accuse me of being on the Android community’s fictional payroll, let’s take a look at why. And no trolling till you reach the end, iPhone fans. Promise? Okay, then we’ll begin.

First of all comes firstness: because there is a near certainty – based on historical release schedules – that Samsung’s phone will be (a) announced and (b) on sale before Apple’s, just like its dad, the Galaxy S3 (above). At the time of its announcement, it will also likely have the finest spec sheet of any phone in the world. And the press – tired of championing Apple’s new wares – will jump on the opportunity to back an underdog. It’s what they do.

Companies change (ask a stockbroker). Samsung’s reputation is gaining, Apple’s is waning. Ten years ago Samsung made TVs you could only buy out of catalogues. Now it’s one of the biggest and most respected consumer technology brands on the planet. Roll out the same timeline for Apple and you’ll find a company that set the bar for innovation spectacularly high – only to stall itself into a rut after pioneering CEO Steve Jobs died in 2011.

Apple’s iPhone was a revolution in mobile phone user interface. Its iPhone 3G built on that to make sense of a mobile device that was so adept at browsing the internet on the move. The App Store caused an explosion of innovation outside Apple’s walls, but made the iPhone – particularly the gorgeously wantable iPhone 4 – peerless in its brilliance. But the iPhone 4S saw innovation falter in favour of a headline app called Siri. And when was the last time you used that?

By the time the iPhone 5 came along, there were no surprises. Apple cowed to popular demand for a bigger screen, but the design lacked the intuitive flair of earlier models and other improvements merely kept abreast of the median trends at the top end of the market.

Meanwhile, Samsung fought its way to smartphone supremacy by backing Google’s Android operating system. Its Galaxy series had consistently been good, but with the Galaxy S2, it really hit its stride. 2012’s Galaxy S3 combined big design, big computing power and a gloriously big screen to dominate its Android rivals; even the beautifully designed HTC One X couldn’t block its rush to the top of the Android smartphone charts. Outside the tech cognoscenti, there remain many people who think Android is a Samsung sub-brand.

Google Play (née Android Market) now offers a stunning collection of apps, with the best almost always optimised for use with the Galaxy S3 (and other top tier smartphones). It doesn’t quite rival Apple’s App Store, but it’s worryingly close and gaining. Worrying for Apple, that is.

Meanwhile, Samsung has stolen a march on its chief competitor. The Galaxy series’ build quality has improved considerably as the generations have progressed, and we expect another nod to solidity with the Galaxy S4. Samsung’s lush, large screens (also found on the Galaxy Note) are not born of a grudging acquiescence to consumer demand, but a real desire to offer new experiences to the hordes of customers looking for something on which to check their email, jot notes, browse the web and lob birds at frogs.

So I’m not just here to stir the virtual proverbial. I really do believe this is the year Samsung can stamp its authority on the top spot in smartphones. The Galaxy S4 will go up against the iPhone 6 this year. I’m here to call a winner – and it’s the Samsung Galaxy S4.

By Paddy Smith

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