Samsung Galaxy S3 vs iPhone 4S

Mark Hattersley
3 June, 2012
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Samsung Galaxy S3



Nice piece of hardware; extremely light; super large screen; some interesting interface ideas


Android isn’t as good as iOS; Google’s Play store isn’t as good as the App Store; some interface ideas are a bit strange

Variety of plans from Telstra, Vodafone and Optus


It’s fair to say that for all Google’s Android hoopla and Microsoft’s Windows Phone drum-beating, there really hasn’t been much competition in the smartphone market since Apple first launched the first-generation iPhone.

In short, Apple has consistently felt ahead of the game. Sure there have been phones claiming faster processors, larger screens, more connections, future ‘but-not-quite-ready-for-the-big-time’ tech like Near Field Communications (NFC) and so on. But when you examine whatever cohesive whole they have, alongside any failings, there’s really not been anything that truly matched whatever iPhone was on sale at the time. Which is why, we presume, Apple has sold so many.

Enter the S3

There’s often been a lot of fuss of so-called iPhone-killers, the near mythical phone that’s going to take on Apple, usually beefed up marketing-hype that only serves to show how disappointing each device is upon launch. In some respects the Samsung Galaxy S3 is no exception in this regards. However, many tech-pundits do genuinely feel that this time Samsung may be earning its stripes; the Samsung Galaxy S3 is regarded by many tech watchers to be the phone that finally combines the features correctly and can be considered a serious match for Apple.

Size matters

The first thing you’ll notice about the Samsung Galaxy S3 is the undeniably large 4.8in Super AMOLED screen which has an HD resolution of 720 x 1280. We found text rendering to be as sharp as the Retina display iPhone, but the larger screen provides more estate for web page rendering. It’s not quite the iPad, but turn it on its side and it definitely has more of that tablet feel than an iPhone does. And AMOLED is a technology that we’d dearly love to see implemented on the iPhone.

Screen estate does seem to be a dividing factor between people. This reviewer just wants a smaller phone (there’s no denying the larger screen is better; but I just feel all smartphones are too big and the sooner they shave the size down the better). Other people want a larger screen and all the rumours seem to be suggesting that Apple is gearing up to produce such a device in the form of the iPhone 5 (or new iPhone as we expect it to be named).

Getting physical

Well it’s kinda like an iPhone but not as much a carbon copy as the Galaxy S2. The Samsung Galaxy S3 is much thinner than the iPhone and despite the size is surprisingly light to hold. It’s weight (or lack of it) is one of the striking things that you’ll notice after the screen size.

We like the presence of a physical Home button and alongside it sit two touch sensitive ‘Back’ and ‘Menu’ buttons (which we find an oddity on a device with an entire touch-sensitive screen). The Home button is thinner than the iPhone and is itself touch sensitive, sliding left and right brings up menu options – we found this a bit clunky to be honest. Holding down the Home button brings up a Recent Apps menu, which we found less intuitive than the double press of the iPhone.

The Samsung Galaxy S3 is very thin and light for such a large phone at just 8.6mm and 133g. It’s a good combination of size and weight, if it had been any heavier it would have gone through a barrier and into ‘annoyingly large’ territory. As it stands it’s big but the lightweight styling prevents it from feeling unwieldy.

The buttons and ports are spread out around the handset with Power on the right, Volume on left, microUSB on the bottom and the 3.5mm headphone jack on the top. The corners are more curved than the iPhone (or the Samsung S2) and it could generally be summed up as ‘sleek’. It feels more plasticky than the iPhone’s glass and metal case, although we imagine it might be more resistant to drops. On the whole the build quality is extremely high and we think owners will be more than happy with the physical presence of the product.

Other connectivity in the Galaxy S3 includes the standard Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and microUSB as well as the currently all but redundant near-field communications (NFC) technology and support for the digital living network alliance (DLNA) standard.

Android vs iOS

After you’ve finished with the hardware you have to examine the other half of the equation: the operating system. We’re still not completely convinced by Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich variant of Android. It manages to be less of a copy of iOS than previous iterations, but feels clumsier and more complicated than either earlier iterations of Android or Apple’s iOS. We also find it slightly less responsive to our touch, a good example is scrolling in the web browser which has a slight, but just noticeable lag when you move your finger around. If you’ve never used an iPhone you’d find it perfectly acceptable, but to us it’s a little niggle that’s annoying. And Android is full of them. Everything just feels ever so slightly less well thought out or implemented.

Then there’s the argument over customisation and it’s true that there are things you can do with Android that you can’t do with iOS. A good example would be the ability to replace the keyboard with a different version, such as SwiftKey X from the Google Play store. This keyboard is significantly better than either the default Google Android version or the iOS keyboard. It’s word recognition is simply unsurpassable, not that you’ll ever find it on the App Store as Apple will almost certainly never allow you to replace the default keyboard in iOS. Score one to Android.

Mind you, then you can take into account the increasing amount of malware targeting Android’s more open system and the thought that you may have to consider installing antivirus software alongside on your phone. That’s a big no to us.

There’s also the matter of Google Play Store versus the App Store. For our mind there’s no argument that Apple has the stronger App Store offering, the range and breadth of apps available for the iOS platform is simply unmatchable and if you’ve owned an iPhone you should be rightly reluctant to have to purchase some or all of your apps again. And we imagine most iPhone owners will have some apps that aren’t available on Android. For myself it’s OmniFocus, which I use to manage all my different projects: it’s not available on Android; so I’m not using an Android phone. And there’s nothing Google or Samsung can do about that (short of convincing OmniGroup to get on board). So if you are thinking of changing device you should take careful note of the apps you’re using and see if there are Android versions.

Control scheme

There are some interesting ideas with controls going on, some work better than others. The device has eye-tracking technology that ensures the screen doesn’t turn off if you’re looking at it. Direct Call enables you to instantly call a contact you’re looking at just by lifting the phone to your ear and Smart Alert tells you if you have missed calls and messages when you pick up the phone. Another sweet touch is that you can turn the phone over or place your hand over it to mute the sound; you can also scroll to the top of a webpage or list by tapping the top of the phone. We found the ability to move around zoomed photos by waving the phone around less functional, but Samsung deserves points for trying to integrate new features into its phone and there are more hits than misses.

Say what S Voice?

Voice technology can hardly be called an Apple exclusive, but it’s clear that Samsung wants to ensure that Apple doesn’t have a lead and has produced a competitor called S Voice.
The software worked well most of the time but as we feared there were times when it didn’t understand what we said. We also had to wait for a long time while the dialogue was processed. It can tell you where you are by opening Google Maps but couldn’t tell direct us to the nearest post office, for example. There’s more bad news here because S Voice told us it was unable to send an email and we found the voice to be quite annoying. Generally Siri is a much more polished and usable experience.
So there you go. Siri is better, which is certainly saying something as Apple is reputedly embarrassed by Siri (which is still technically a Beta product). I really don’t care for Voice technology, maybe one day it’ll work flawlessly but I’ve yet to try any voice system that doesn’t make me want to strangle the device in my hand. In the meantime I have fingers and can push buttons.

Macworld Australia’s buying advice

For once Samsung deserves some credit. While the company owes a massive debt to Apple (something we’re sure Cupertino would rather they paid for) at least this time they’ve managed to create something genuinely nice that is not a complete iPhone-clone. The Samsung Galaxy S3 hardware is great and the larger screen is sure to appeal to some people. We still don’t rate Android as highly as iOS, but Samsung has integrated some great touches such as motion controls and rightly deserves credit for them. While we’d still choose iOS over Android there’s no denying that Samsung has definitely batted the ball back into Apple’s court here and the combination of features is much stronger than in other Android phones. We think competition is a good thing and this is sure to put the heat on Apple to truly deliver with the next iteration of iPhone, which we hope is a truly great riposte.

Samsung Galaxy S3 Specs

3G (HSPA+ 21Mbps)
4G (Dependant on market)
4.8″ HD Super AMOLED (1280×720)
Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
Main: 8mp Auto Focus with flash, zero shutter lag and BSI
Front: 1.9mp HD recording @30fps with flash, zero shutter lag and BSI
Video: Full HD (1080p) Recording and Playback
Wi-Fi- a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi HT40, GPS/GLONASS, NFC, BT4.0(LE)
Internal storage:
16GB / 32GB / 64GB
External memory:
microSD Slot (SDXC 64GB exFAT Support)
136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6mm, 133g
Battery capacity:
2,100 mAh


20 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. JS says:

    I would love Samsung for more if only android’s games are more graphical and fun as ios

  2. Mitch says:

    They are both Good phones but lets wait till Apple brings out the iPhone 5 or the “New” iPhone or what ever it be called. You cant compare both phones as the iPhone 4S is a 2011 model phone so it should be compared to the Galaxy S2, Google Galaxy Nexus Prime, Motorola Droid Razr and the Sony Experia S as they are dual core phones with similar specs etc.

  3. Mark says:

    For your touch response comments about Android there’s slight delays and lag with touch responses in iOS too. If you’re so use to one operating system you won’t notice them but notice delays in another.

    Your being a bit bias about Android being harder to use than iOS. This is simply not true. ICS with touchwiz may be slightly more complicated at times but only because there are way more options and things you can do. You may think it’s more difficult to use only because, again, you are so use to iOS. Just try to get a person who never used a Mac and only used Windows to do basic stuff on a Mac. You’ll see they be very frustrated as they can’t do things or use shortcuts that they were use to on Windows.

    I can’t wait to replace my iphone with the Galaxy S III when my contract is up in a month.

  4. cozy says:

    Why compare 4s with s3? FACT, SAMSUNG s2 was a much better phone than 4s. Please dont compare second rate smart phones with the Samsung s3. Iphone is old, did someone forget to tell the editor ?

  5. Craig says:

    You do know that you can scroll to the top of a webpage in iOS by tapping the clock part of the menu bar Right? Your review of this ability in android makes it seem like you are not aware.

  6. Craig says:

    @cozy. Haha. Presenting as FACT something that can only ever be subjective. You are funny. And that’s a FACT! ;-)

  7. Chris Way says:

    I much prefer the S3 and so do many other experts.

  8. Zeh says:

    @Craig… Sorry mate, but I have to agree with cozy, the galaxy S2 is in FACT much superior then the 4S full stop! Now if you believe the opposite (even knowing that GS2 got all the main awards of the year), it is a matter of personal taste and that is subjective.

    You see, after all YOU are the funny guy!

  9. Areef says:

    The quality and feel of iphone 4s is second to none. The phone feels good and solid to hold and worth the money spent. I don’t like big screen ugly smart phones. I am an apple fan because of iphone and I will only buy a apple iphone in the near future. Can’t wait for the iphone 5…

  10. Jarrod says:

    I have owned both android and ios phones. Currently I have the apple iPhone 4S and I hate it. Apples wall garden app system combined with it’s one way highway screen customization is awful in comparison to what I was capable of doing with my android. Don’t get me wrong when I first received my andriod I didn’t like how things were set up, so I changed them, the ability to tinker and change things is the number one important factor when it comes to any device for myself.

    Apple just has an “old person” or “kids toy” feel to it, alerts are big, the basics can’t be changed, and the potential is limited.

    I use to download movies and songs for free on my droid and then go home and hook it up to my computer as a mass storage device and copy and paste the files to my hard drive, it was simple and required no extra software and was a big part of what I used my phone for. Something that my iphone just can’t do, and will never be able to do.

    Making a song a ringtone was simple, Google Play was a delight, no file format was a problem, tracking wireless signals was easy and what I miss most of all are my widgets!

    Apple works well, but it is way to limited. Also apps lag all the time on the iphone so that statement is false. For the record my last droid was the HTC Desire HD, and I must preferred it over this 4S that I am now stuck with.

  11. Frank says:

    To those prefer iPhone small screen 3.2″, you might change your tune when iPhone 5 is released with size 4″+. Look like you are happy with whatever Apple offer. Don’t criticize big screen just yet because you might eventually get it on iPhone 5.

  12. Alx says:

    Nothing was said in the review about the superior quad 1.4 Giga processor of the new S3. Political reasons? Other cool specs were missed too. Check out the battery capacity!

  13. iphoner says:

    meh ill stick with 4s ’til thee ‘new iphone’ is released

  14. Decentt says:

    i m still confused which phone i shud buy…i hv choice in between iphone 4s,samsung s3 and HTC sensation. will u plzz tell me diffence in thses and which leads to come first….

  15. Josh says:

    The fact that Apple always scores higher in consumer satisfaction ratings kind of destroys any argument that Android is superior to iOS. I love that Samsung have done something great here, more competition is better for everyone. However, people who use iPhones are just plain happier…why is that? Many reasons but at the end of the day it is designed for average people, not techie people.

    Techie people who like to tinker and customise will never like the iPhone. Everyone else will.

    Satisfaction rating by OS…,2817,2402202,00.asp

    And for manufacturers…

  16. Nicolas says:

    “Cons: Android isn’t as good as iOS”

    Sure… This is true as my 1999 Ford Mondeo is better then 2012 Audi A6.

  17. Cheeky says:

    How’s that iPhone 5/ new iPhone coming along for you? Apple have once again failed to massively updat the iPhone at least Samsung are trying out and developing new software AND new phone designs … How much has the iPhone really been changed iPhone 3 was rounder iPhone 4 had squarer features iPhone. 4s has Siri WOW!

  18. flakefrost says:

    My iPhone 4s is a brilliant piece of engineering. I don’t think the S3 and 4s are even compareable. Android OS is a toy gimmick!!!

  19. Jason says:

    I have used both as i have just updated from the IPHONE 4 to the S3 and the reason being is i felt the S3 was far better, I am sure apple will come out with the iphone 5 and it could very well be better then the s3 time will tell. As for apps i had no problem finding any apps i had on the 4 on the android store or google play gee i even found some PS1 games for the s3 THAT I LOVED

    I think it is preferance as i will always use a Mac for a laptop and possibly a few years from now go back to an I Phone even transferring stuff from I tunes was easy including music.

  20. Luke says:

    I think this is a rather bias comparison. I own an iPhone but recently got my hands on a S3. I think it does a lot of things better than the iPhone. Obviously, the readers of this article are generally Apple supporters and I too love a lot of what Apple does but I really think Apple have slowed to innovate and Samsung are catching up if not overtaking.

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