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Comparing Apples and Oranges: The iPhone 5s and the Galaxy Note 3

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To say that the iPhone 5s and the Galaxy Note 3 are comparable because they’re both flagship smartphones is like saying that an apple and an orange are both fruit. The similarity ends there. The differences, though, are pretty overwhelming.

Available for the same price range, the two are poised to collide from the start. This is not just a clash between two flagships. This is one crucial battle between Android and iOS which has been raging since the very first Android, the T-Mobile G1 battled in Apple’s court. Five years later, Android knows that it has the superior specs and the larger fanbase although iOS dare not waver this time. Wavering means defeat and defeat means obscurity, a fate Apple is keen on avoiding.

The Note 3 representing Android is not without rivals, though. The other Android flagships (Xperia Z Ultra, HTC One Max, LG G2) will be watching the rumble with unease and dread while the iPhone 5s is supreme and is unrivalled in the Apple camp.

I’m sure the fanboys of each brand are now salivating over the prospect of shredding the dignity of the author to bits and defending their pet devices to the death behind the usual internet anonymity. Anyway, let’s pit the two flagship beasts against each other now, shall we?

Design and Hardware

The two devices are very different when it comes to their designs. However, both sport evolutionary rather than revolutionary designs. The iPhone 5s, for example, mimics the iPhone 5: 4.87 inches by 2.31 inches, weighs 3.95 ounces and is 0.30 inch thick. The only noticeable difference is the gold-trimmed (depending on the color) Home button for the iPhone 5s.

The Note 3 also sports the same design language that people have come to expect from Samsung phones: slim and light plastic body with thin bezels surrounding the gargantuan screen. The main difference is the back. There is faux leather covering the back cover that is actually pleasant to the touch and adds a touch of class to the otherwise unimposing frame.

The main improvements over their predecessors can be found in the innards of the two flagships. The iPhone 5s features a 64-bit A7 dual-core processor with an M7 motion coprocessor which surpasses the iPhone 5’s A6 dual-core chipset. The Note 3’s heart is composed of a quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor clocked at 2.3 GHz and has 3GB RAM. The Note 2 is powered by a quad-core Exynos processor clocked at 1.6 GHz and has only 2GB RAM.

In terms of specs, the iPhone 5s might be a little future-proof with its 64-bit processor, yet in terms of raw processing power, the Note 3 clearly beats it hands down. The Note 3 further pounces the iPhone 5s in the camera department. While megapixels aren’t everything, the Note 3’s 13MP camera captures greater detail and more contrast compared to the iPhone 5s’ 8MP. In low light, though, the iPhone 5s is the clear winner. The images it captures, while no match for Nokia’s Pureviews, exhibit accurate colors and great detail thanks to its True Tone Flash.

As for the novelty feature of both flagships, I can say that the Note 3’s S-Pen is more functional than the iPhone 5s’ Touch ID. The S-Pen offers more functions such as handwriting recognition, action memo, annotated screenshots, and more. Touch ID, on the other hand, is mostly about security and convenience when purchasing from the Appstore.

Operating System

As for operating systems, the two couldn’t be more different. The iPhone 5s runs iOS 7, the latest iteration of iOS which comes with additional features such as Control Center, Notification Center, a new Multitasking Pane, an updated Camera app with filters, Air Drop, and iTunes Radio. To be fair, as we have come to know of Apple devices, there is virtually no lag or stuttering. The user interface is as smooth as ever, although the colourful UI is flashier and flatter.

The Note 3 comes with Android Jelly Bean 4.3 and the latest iteration of TouchWiz, Samsung’s love-it-or-hate-it user interface. The overall experience is great, although there is a bit of a lag every now and then due to the heavy TouchWiz customization. The general consensus on TouchWiz is generally negative, though to be fair, the user interface is more functional than stock Android albeit more resource-heavy. Rooting and then replacing TouchWiz with a lighter homescreen will result in a zippy and lag-free Note 3, though this will also remove the built-in S-Pen functionality.

Apples or Oranges?

Since both are priced somewhat steeply, you might consider selling your old smartphone on eBay or Amazon or to eCycle Best. You can add the money to your budget for upgrades. Apple charges an additional $100 for iPhones with bigger storage while investing in a 64GB microSD can make the Note 3 the ultimate multimedia device.

The Note 3’s default storage in the United States is 32GB while iPhone 5s devices are available in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB. Storage junkies can pick the iPhone 5s 64GB although that will cost $849 which is a far cry from the Galaxy Note 3’s $635 even after adding a $46.95 64GB Sandisk microSD.

Anyway, comparing the iPhone 5s and the Note 3 is like comparing an airplane and a train as transportation vehicles. Both will bring their passengers to their respective destinations and both are mostly fuel-powered. The Note 3 and the iPhone 5s will similarly be able to do the tasks required with all the advantages and limitations of their software and hardware.

They’re quite similar…save for one significant difference: while the train chugs, the airplane flies. Go figure.


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