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Deathmatch: Apple iPhone 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S III

Galen Gruman | Oct. 4, 2012
Is Apple's svelte, skinny iPhone 5 strong enough to fend off the challenge from the big, bold Android muscle phone?

If you're a fanboy (about 5 million of you qualify), you've already ordered your iPhone 5. But for the rest of the world waiting for Apple to replenish its stocks so that they can get a better look at one of the most overhyped products ever, there's a choice to be made.

The iPhone 5 is the new standard-bearer for Apple, the company that invented the modern smartphone, but Android smartphones have made great leaps in the last year. The Samsung Galaxy S III is the first Android device to break into the "Very Good" rating in the InfoWorld Test Center's smartphone reviews, and it's the only non-Apple smartphone to score that highly. Apple's iPhone line has worn that "Very Good" rating for years.

They're very different smartphones. The iPhone 5 is the skinny model in the understated Chanel dress, whereas the Galaxy S III is the musclebound jock. Compared to the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, the iPhone 5 isn't that dramatic of an upgrade, whereas the Galaxy S III is heads and shoulders above the Android offerings of two years ago. On the other hand, the iPhone has been way, way ahead of Android, so Android smartphones needed big improvements to catch up. Apple has had the luxury of solidifying its offerings after making its great leap years ago.

Unless you're already committed to either the Apple cult or the Android cult, the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S III are the two smartphones you're likely comparing if you're aiming for the top of the line and need to be meet the security requirements of most businesses. (If you insist on a physical keyboard, then your only real option is the Motorola Mobility Droid 4.)

Read on for what you need to know to choose:

Smartphone deathmatch: HardwareThe big changes in the iPhone 5 revolve around its hardware, since its iOS 6 operating system is also a free upgrade for iPhone 3G S, iPhone 4, and iPhone 4S owners. (You can still buy the iPhone 4 and 4S.) What's new is a taller, 4.0-inch screen -- 640 by 1,336 pixels versus the previous 640 by 1,024 -- that basically adds a fifth icon row and lets you watch 16:9 widescreen movies at a larger size than the previous iPhones could.

The iPhone 5's screen (top) shows widescreen movies at a larger size than the iPhone 4 (bottom).

I don't like the look of the iPhone 5 as much as I did the iPhone 4 and 4S. The iPhone 5's all-black and all-white models simply have less character than their steel-banded predecessors. The iPhone 5's design is boring, simplicity taken to a cliché extreme. The black model looks like the slab from "2001: A Space Odyssey," but that was 44 years ago -- a time when people thought a solid-yellow canvas was a work of art, too. Does the world really need another all-black phone? No. The white version is a little better looking, as there's contrast between its bezel and the black screen. Either way, the sameness of the color makes it harder to properly orient the iPhone when you pick it up.


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