Both the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Apple’s iPhone 5 have sequel-itis, if you go by the numbers after their names. But they’re as different as night and day; in fact, CNet’s Kent German and Jessica Dolcourt say “you can call [the Samsung Galaxy S4] the anti-iPhone.”
Which one should you get? That depends partly on whether you’re upgrading from an iPhone or an Android device, and partly on whether you like Samsung’s or Apple’s approach better. Here’s a look at what to expect, depending on what direction you’re going.
If you’re upgrading from an earlier iPhone model
If your current device is an iPhone 4 or 4S, the iPhone 5 is largely more of the same — which you just might see as a good thing. Its biggest improvement, besides under-the-hood performance upgrades, is the new 4-inch screen with a widescreen aspect ratio. That means more space for games and apps, and no letterboxing on videos.
The Samsung Galaxy S4, on the other hand, is so different it’s from another…planet. For starters, instead of having a small aluminum unibody chassis, it’s this big honking plastic thing, with a 5-inch, 1080p touchscreen that’s so sensitive you can use it with gloves on (or even gesture in the air above it). It’s loaded with bells and whistles, like pausing videos while you’re looking away (since it can tell by watching your face — yes, really).
It’s also more powerful than the iPhone 5. That’s mostly important for games and content creation apps (like iMovie) though, and the Galaxy S4 has practically none of the latter and fewer of the former. The games Android smartphones do get tend to be up to a year out of date, compared to their iOS counterparts.
If you’re upgrading from an Android device
The Galaxy S4 is going to be more powerful than whatever you’re using right now. Probably a lot more. Don’t look for it on prepaid carriers; they just recently got the Galaxy S2, and it costs more than you probably want to pay up-front if you’re going prepaid. It also probably has more “extra features” and built-in apps than you’re used to, even in the cluttered Android world; and while it has a powerful processor, it’s not compatible with “Tegra HD exclusive” games.
The iPhone 5 isn’t even available prepaid, but it may be a breath of fresh air depending on how much you like clutter and customization. Software updates don’t happen once in your phone’s lifetime; instead, they get pushed out regularly, regardless of what the carriers think. There aren’t home screen widgets, but there’s a much wider selection of games and apps. There’s also Siri, which is sort of like Google Now.
On the other hand, any games or apps that you’ve already bought won’t work on an iPhone, whereas most of them probably will on the Galaxy S4.