Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy SIII

The two big phones on the market go head-to-head.

First look review: Hadyn Green

I am often asked "what’s the best phone?" The usual answer is “it depends …”. The short answer is the Samsung Galaxy SIII (GSIII). It’s one percentage point higher in our rigorous lab testing than the next-best phone, the iPhone 5 (see table below). However, that’s a very slim margin – and it’s not always the complete picture.

Analysing our test scores head-to-head shows an interesting give and take.

Performance

The two phones are equal when it comes to their handset score (this takes into account a number of factors including reception). The iPhone has a better score for screen display, despite the "retina" screen's lower resolution it has a much higher ppi (pixels per inch) density. But when it’s a case of using the screen, the GSIII wins. The GSIII also wins for general operation.

Are you likely to drop your phone? The iPhone’s better for durability and construction, though the GSIII is slightly harder to scratch. Both scored equally in our water resistance and "tumble” tests.

For making calls and texting there’s nothing between them. Both text-input systems have pluses and minuses. And even though the GSIII's screen is larger, its keyboard is no better or worse than the iPhone’s if you have big fingers.

Our tests show the iPhone has a better camera, surpassing the Samsung in photo and video quality. Battery life was less clear cut: the GSIII slightly outlasted the iPhone on most tests but was the same on others.

These are the testable numbers. What about other factors that could swing your opinion?

iPhone 5

iPhone 5

It might come down to personal choice. Maybe …

  • you like the iPhone 5 for its gorgeous handset: the retina screen looks beautiful and the styling is, well, stylish
  • you have an earlier iPhone and don't want to lose all the iPhone apps you’ve purchased
  • you want to use the many games and apps that are only available on iOS
  • all of your friends have iPhones and you want to collaborate or play games with them.

Or maybe …

    Galaxy SIII

    Galaxy SIII

  • you like the Galaxy SIII for its big screen
  • you’re enticed by the fantastic Google apps in the Play app store (and maps that actually work)
  • you aren't keen on buying proprietary cables and peripherals
  • all your friends have Androids and you want to collaborate or play games with them
  • your friends have GSIIIs and you share photos, videos, playlists with them via NFC (near-field communication) by simply touching phones
  • you use the GSIII as your Snapper card with a 2degrees SIM card.

And what about the downside? Both phones have flaws. The iPhone's have been the most public (as happens to celebrities): there are yet-to-be-resolved issues with the new maps app as well as purple coloration on some photos.

Other options

The market isn't just these two phones. HTC's One X (best for typing) and Sony's Xperia P (best handset) are both good Android phones with nice screens and we're still waiting on the release of the newest Windows phones.

Phone comparison table
Guide to the table

Price is from an October 2012 survey. This table shows only the overall score. We’ll be publishing more detailed test scores in our mobile phones report soon.

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