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Samsung Galaxy S3 vs iPhone 4S

Sammy's thrown everything its got at the Galaxy S3 – but is it enough to beat Apple's six month old handset?

Read our Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs iPhone 4s – fight

Considering we just made the case for the Galaxy S3 being the phone the iPhone 4S should have been, you might think this will be an easy victory for the shiny, new Samsung handset. But then again, we are talking about an Apple product here. And even though the iPhone 4S wasn’t the iPhone 5 we were hoping for, there’s still plenty of reasons you might be swayed towards the best iPhone ever over the S3. There’s only one thing for it – fight!

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs iPhone 4S – design and build

We’re talking about two very different specimens of smartphone here – the iPhone 4S is a beautifully designed bit of glass and aluminium kit that sits nicely in the hand and will still look good 18 months into your contract. It does look a bit outdated now though considering it’s 9.3mm thick, chunky by 2012 standards.

The Galaxy S3 meanwhile is quite a bit bigger in size – where else are you going to stick a 4.8in display? So while it might not be so comfortable for the small-handed gadgeteer when making calls, the pebble-inspired “Hyperglaze” finish on the skinny 8.3mm plastic body looks much more premium than its predecessor, the Galaxy S II. For now, we’ll give this one to the iPhone 4S but it’s really down to personal preference.

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs iPhone 4S – screen

The iPhone 4S may have pin-sharp text and true whites on that 326ppi Retina Display but a 3.5in smartphone screen just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Apple’s been outdone by all the other big handset manufacturers on screen size and really needs to give us at least a 4in screen on the iPhone 5. The near edge-to-edge 4.8in Super AMOLED display on the Galaxy S3 is incredible. Hands down, the S3 wins on this round.

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs iPhone 4S – OS and features

This aspect might be another cop-out from us – do you want the customisation available on Android Ice Cream Sandwich or the simple, rigid joys of iOS 5? The two operating systems have pilfered so much from each other (notifications, folders etc) that it’s not TouchWiz but all the Galaxy S3’s new features that are keeping the fight interesting.

There’s S Voice to make sure your Siri-toting friends don’t have the voice control advantage, Dropbox and (the incoming Android app) Flipboard pre-loaded as well as the eye-tracking feature Smart Stay which stops the screen from dimming when you’re looking at it.

So out of the box, the Galaxy S3 seems like the more exciting option for intuitive control but don’t forget, the App Store has long been the jewel in Apple’s crown – you can still do a lot more with an iPhone than an Android handset thanks to all those third-party developers banking on iOS. So for next-gen controls, choose the S3 but for the latest apps and games go for the iPhone.

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs iPhone 4S – performance and camera

The iPhone 4S’ A5 dual-core processor is enough of a performance boost for Apple fans to upgrade from the iPhone 4 but how can it compete with the quad-core innards of the Galaxy S3? Since Apple is known for optimising the performance of its hardware for its “walled garden” software, this is more of a close call than you’d first think. In our brief hands on with the Galaxy S3, there wasn’t one stutter when using apps, swiping through menus or using the camera – though only an in-depth head-to-head review will be the judge of which is the smoother operator.

Camera-wise too, it’s too soon to say which handset is the best. Both sport very impressive 8MP, 1080p video shooting snappers on the rear with the Galaxy S3 upping the ante with tons of features plus a front-facer with 720p video skills for HD Skype calls. We reckon this calls for lots of moody, low-light shots of the Stuff Office Cat.

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs iPhone 4S – verdict

On paper, the Galaxy S3 is the best phone in the world right now – the screen is glorious, the features are well thought out and that beast of a processor looks set to rip through anything we can throw at it. But – and it’s a big but – Android still lacks the full espresso hit of Apple’s App Store, and if what runs in the blood is what makes the beast, the iPhone 4S is still shouldering some heavy resistance against an army of bigger screened, better specced competitors. The S3 paints the iPhone 4S in a dimmer light, but whether it can steal the Jesus phone Mk V’s thorny crown is a matter best left to a full comparative review.

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Profile image of Dan Grabham Dan Grabham Editor-in-Chief


Dan is Editor-in-chief of Stuff, working across the magazine and the Stuff.tv website.  Our Editor-in-Chief is a regular at tech shows such as CES in Las Vegas, IFA in Berlin and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona as well as at other launches and events. He has been a CES Innovation Awards judge. Dan is completely platform agnostic and very at home using and writing about Windows, macOS, Android and iOS/iPadOS plus lots and lots of gadgets including audio and smart home gear, laptops and smartphones. He's also been interviewed and quoted in a wide variety of places including The Sun, BBC World Service, BBC News Online, BBC Radio 5Live, BBC Radio 4, Sky News Radio and BBC Local Radio.

Areas of expertise

Computing, mobile, audio, smart home

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