By Robert Schoon ( | First Posted: Sep 10, 2013 04:26 PM EDT

(Credit: Samsung Mobile)

Apple just announced the iPhone 5S, the newest top-of-the-line version of the iPhone. With all of the innovations it brings - not only to the iPhone lineup but to smartphones in general - how does it stack against the competition? To get a picture, we compare the iPhone 5S to the newest and most feature-rich premium Android smartphone to date, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

Just like the original "S" model, the iPhone 3GS, the new iPhone 5S promises to be twice as fast as its predecessor, the iPhone 5. It also comes with several improvements, including the much-touted iOS 7 operating system, as well as a fingerprint scanner, an all-new camera lens, and a new chip for motion processing, the iPhone 5S is bringing a lot of competition to the Galaxy Note 3.


Rumors were wrong when predicting that the newest iPhones would have a much bigger display. The iPhone 5S comes with the same 4-inch diagonal touchscreen Retina display, with 1136 x 640p resolution, giving you a resolution of 326 pixels per inch.

Now it may seem like comparing Apples to oranges, but measured against the iPhone 5S's display, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 still comes out on top. Even taking into account the fact that the Samsung Galaxy Note 3's display is 5.7-inches (a size which surely isn't for everyone), the Galaxy Note 3's resolution is still better. At 1080 x 1920p resolution, even on the larger display, the Galaxy Note 3 packs 386 pixels per inch.


Long-time Mac fans will know that in the late 90s and early 2000s, it used to be hard to compare Macintosh processor speeds with those of, say, Intel. The two were simply built differently, so if a Mac had a 366MHz processor, that didn't mean it couldn't compete with a process-inefficient 600MHz Celeron. Well, Apple just made comparisons pretty odious again, introducing the first 64-bit mobile processor in the A7.

While the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has the latest, blazing-est, quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 and Octa-core Exynos 5 processors in different versions of the device, the iPhone 5S's A7 - though it hasn't been officially tested independently - sounds a lot faster. The A7 packs twice the number of transistors as its predecessor (that's more than one billion, according to Apple's presentation), and the CPU and GPU are promised to be twice as fast. Twice as fast as the iPhone 5, which is still a competitor with the Android flagships of 2013, is really, really fast.


The iPhone 5S's new camera is also hard to compare with most Android equivalents now. That's because Apple designed a camera lens with a larger aperture (at f/2.2) and increased the size of the sensor. The closest equivalent to the iPhone 5S's still-8-megapixel camera might be the HTC One's 4-megapixel "Ultrapixel" shooter, which can compete with standard 13-megapixel sensors that produce smaller, less vivid pixels. The iPhone 5S's camera also has a "true-tone flash" which gives you the best shot based on correct skin tone coloring in the image, getting rid of those harsh LED-lit faces that are so common to smartphone photos. There's also a multiple-shot function that analyzes several captured frames and presents the sharpest one. The iPhone also now has Burst mode.

In comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 still stacks up pretty well against Apple (at least until we see true side-by-side comparison shots). It has a 13-megapixel sensor, which is supported by Samsung software that also does things like burst mode, or choosing the best smile or prettiest face out of several frames. Samsung also redesigned its flash to limit the harsh lighting effect. In addition, the Galaxy Note 3 comes with a 1080p HD video recording capability at 60 frames per second, while the iPhone 5S only does that at 30 fps. In fact, the Galaxy Note 3 wins in the video recording department, as some models will be capable of shooting 4K video at 30 frames per second.


We won't bore you with comparisons of WiFi, GPS, and other things like that, because with both the Galaxy Note 3 and iPhone 5S, you expect all of those features.

No, what Samsung and Apple are both good at is innovating new features for their flagship smartphones. So what's new with Apple?

Something big.

The rumors were right; Apple is the first smartphone with a fingerprint sensor. But that's not all. The fingerprint sensor, called "Touch ID," is built into the Home button, and it will not only work to unlock your iPhone without a passcode, it is also designed to do things like authorize purchases in the iTunes store. This is huge, though only nascent in its current form. The future of the fingerprint scanner, if it truly is a secure and reliable as Apple claims, may be the future of online security and computer passwords as well.

Compared to the fingerprint scanner, the Samsung Galaxy Gear and S Pen improvements almost look silly. Well, the Galaxy Gear does look silly, but the S Pen does bring a new way of multitasking on a mobile device, with a menu of options that appear anywhere - any app or screen - at the click of the S Pen's button. Options include a new smart copy and paste system, as well as handwriting information that can automatically be analyzed and plopped into the right app or setting screen.

Of course, other innovations for the Apple iPhone 5S include the new iOS 7, which has been teased and worked on throughout the summer and is finally going to be available - funny coincidence - right before Google's Android 4.4 KitKat is. As far as having the most advanced browser, we'll wait for KitKat to make it into the scene before making comparisons, but to be sure, the iPhone 5S will have its newer iOS system way before the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 gets Android KitKat.

Release Date and Price

Even though Samsung unveiled its Galaxy Note 3 last week, the iPhone 5S will be available worldwide before the Galaxy Note 3 hits any store shelves. All major carriers will have the iPhone 5S on September 20, while the Galaxy Note 3 is being released almost two weeks later, beginning at the start of October.

With a two-year agreement, the 32GB version of the iPhone 5S will cost $300 (a 16GB version is available as well, at about $200). Meanwhile, the 32GB Galaxy Note 3 will finally arrive in stores at roughly the same price point, but for as low as $250 on some carriers. 

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