Galaxy vs iPhone
March 31, 2014 9:53 AM   Subscribe

Help me decide between a Samsung Galaxy S4 and an iPhone 4S.

I'm joining my husband's family's Verizon family plan and get to choose between the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the iPhone 4S.

I've had an iPhone 3G since it came out (so, yeah, it's time to upgrade!). I've been happy with the iPhone and iOS, but we are not Mac people and I don't download a lot of apps so I don't have strong feelings about sticking with Apple. I'm a little concerned about the size of the Galaxy (I have smallish hands and I like putting my iPhone in my pocket instead of carrying a purse) but otherwise am open to joining the Android world. I'm not worried about the learning curve of customization - my husband's had Androids for years and will be getting the Galaxy S4, too. Either phone is free when I join the plan.

I mainly use my phone for:
* internetting
* texting
* calendar/alarm stuff
* photos & videos of my baby (I don't care about quality but I do care about how fast I can get the camera up - I like the iPhone's one-swipe camera access; I'm not sure if the Galaxy can do that)
* maps/GPS
* music and phone calls with the headset while the phone is in my pocket

Basically, either of these phones will meet all my needs, so I'm looking for opinions from current users. Which of these phones do you love and why?
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty to Technology (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Personally I would open up your Android candidates to include the HTC One M8 and the Sony Experia Z2 (which has been delayed until May unfortunately) - both better than the Samsung IMHO.

I switched from iPhone to Android two years ago. Here's my review - the iPhone was a smoother experience in that it crashed less often (though not never), had more consistency between Apps, and tight integration with iTunes, iPhoto and other OS X applications. However I still preferred the Android (a Galaxy Nexus in my case). It had a better screen, better multitasking, better Maps, better notifications, and a better browser (except for PDFs).

Many of these differences have been narrowed over the last two years, with both OS's copying each other's best features - so I think it'll be a wash for you. My advice - ignore the specs (phones are quickly becoming commoditized). Instead, go to a phone store and spend 15 minutes playing with each. See which one you like interacting with better.
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:04 AM on March 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

Both phones will be able to do all of what you want. Android has "swipe right from lock screen" (with PIN/passcode unlock) or "slide over to camera from lock screen" (without). The S4 is larger than an iPhone, for sure, and the sync features aren't as smooth as an iPhone. Customization, however, is off the charts with Android, for good and bad.

I know you only asked about these two but I'd like to plug the Lumia 925. Dedicated camera button, a very well-regarded music player, texting via voice recognition, and so on.
posted by fireoyster at 10:04 AM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well I switched over to Android from the iOS side of things and I was amazed at how much more fun I had using my phone over my old iphone. My girlfriend has an iphone and everytime I use hers I feel much more constricted. Now YMMV, but I really have enjoyed the android experience a huge amount over my old iphone. So if I had to pick I'd go android.
posted by Carillon at 10:16 AM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you use Google Maps/Calendar a lot?

What I most like about Android is the way it integrates with the Google ecosystem. I make a lot of custom Google Maps, and on my iPhone I needed to buy a third-party app and perform some manual syncing just to view my maps. On an Android device you log in with your Google account and all your info is there. The tight integration with Google can be a drawback too, for some of the obvious privacy reasons, but it's the main reason I'd switch ecosystems if my work let me.
posted by Gortuk at 10:17 AM on March 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have a Galaxy S4, which is my first ever smart phone. I also have small hands. I do not find it particularly or exceptionally large. If anything, I find I can hold on to it better, and the larger screen makes it easier for reading than the iPhones my sisters and everyone else I know has.

I don't use my Galaxy for more than you'd use it for, but one thing I've found useful that I guess an iPhone doesn't have is multiple screens. So my home screen keeps the apps I use the most, and then I have five blank screens, and one screen with a folder for knitting apps, a folder for games, and the icons for things like Chrome and Spotify.

I didn't care for the google directions, so I downloaded an app called Scout, which has been far superior.

There are about a gazillion ways I could customize the Galaxy even more, but I'm not a fancy tech person. So I disabled tons of things and deleted other things that are of no use to me.

The picture quality is AMAZING.
posted by zizzle at 10:24 AM on March 31, 2014

I recently found that my S4 pauses and stalls if I immediately try to unlock it after pulling it out of the charger and it's amazing how long two seconds feels when you are used to something immediate. Sometimes voice to text can be an adventure but if you speak slowly and clearly it makes for a fantastic hands free tool. Other than that the phone is quite capable though like others I have probably only explored 10% of it's capabilities.
posted by lstanley at 10:31 AM on March 31, 2014

I switched to an iPhone 5C in December from an HTC Sensation, and there was a bit of time to acclimate to the iOS landscape, I am happy with I work with now. The phone quality is much sharper. I really, really, really like the better camera quality of the iPhone. It does so much better in low-light situations, and the reverse camera is light-years better than the Sensation. I also have far fewer crashes out of my browser and the apps are much less ornery. So I consider it a good tradeoff.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 10:41 AM on March 31, 2014

I switched from an iPhone 4 to a Galaxy Note 2 (like the S4, but bigger) last year, and I will never go back. It's so nice to be able to customize things I never could with iPhone, it works more like a computer, it has a microSD card slot so you can expand the storage and easily transfer things between computer and phone, and the swype typing means texting and emailing is SO MUCH EASIER. I love it.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:33 AM on March 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

They are both great phones, as mentioned above. Basically, the Samsung comes down to more versatile and larger screen, the I-Phone has more apps, more intuitive. Truthfully you really can not go too wrong with either. I recently switched from an iphone to an S4, but I will likely flop back to Apple when they come out with a larger screen. My wife has the new Iphone (her previous phone was android) , I have the S4. We both like them, and we both joke about trading phones, they are that close. I will say this, having gotten used to the larger S4 screen I would not CONSIDER going back to an iphone until they make one with a larger screen. Also, that new HTC would sorely tempt me, in fact off top of my head I think I would prefer that to either the S4 or Iphone. Again, these are all great phones, and at the end of the day it IS just a phone.
posted by jcworth at 11:43 AM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

For work-reasons, I have both an iPhone and a HTC-something-smartphone.
I prefer the iPhone, because it is much more intuitive, there are several functions I've completely given up on on the HTC whereas I use most of my iPhone. Regarding your specific needs, right now I am very frustrated that I cannot seem to get my pictures of friends and family transferred from the HTC to my computer, which is very simple on the iPhone.
posted by mumimor at 11:57 AM on March 31, 2014

I would pick the iPhone 4s for the kid pics because of the fun burst mode feature. The S4 has a similar feature, but it's nowhere as easy as the iPhone's, where you simply hold down the button and it does it automatically. (S4 directions here - it involves going into the settings)

Also, OS updates. You're still getting them.

Is there a compelling reason why you can't pick up a 5 or 5s? I understand the 4s is free with your upgrade, but there's a huge jump between the two.
posted by drstein at 12:28 PM on March 31, 2014

(I know nothing about the quality of the Galaxy S4 or the frequency of its software upgrades or how Android might or might not suit you. No opinion about that.)

If you're going to go with an iPhone, if at all possible, upgrade to a 5S or 5C. You'll get a lot more life out of those than the 4S. The 4S was a fine phone, but there have been significant improvements to the camera, the processor, the general speed and responsiveness - you'll be happier for a lot longer with a newer iPhone than the 4S.
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:41 PM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

an iPhone doesn't have is multiple screens.

They do.
posted by kanewai at 12:59 PM on March 31, 2014

I have a Galaxy S4 and love it. I have not played with an iPhone in years and cannot comment.

As noted the S4 does allow swipe to camera from the lock screen, but only if you do not use any security. You can put the camera in your favorites tray (which will be at the bottom of every screen) to allow easy access.

I will also note that if you like burst mode it can be left on; it only activates if you hold down the button. You will still be able to take single shots by tapping the camera button or by saying "capture" or "cheese" (no screen wobble).

Phone OS aside it may be useful to have the same phone as your husband. If you find an app you like it's compatible with his phone, too. You can use the same car mount, HDMI-out cable and chargers. You can also share spare batteries (though I have found the S4 to have great battery life and have barely used my spare).
posted by mountmccabe at 1:20 PM on March 31, 2014

A few months I regrettably switched from an iPhone to Android. I like iOS and iPhone significantly more than Android. Everything on iOS is significantly more stable, and the build-in apps are far more fleshed out and useful. Listen to podcasts? That's practically a joke on Android (I found one app that works well, and it's buggy as hell). Listen to music? That's not as easy on Android as on iOS with its roots in iTunes. The controls are weird, it just isn't as intuitive as you want it to be.

P.S. If you go iPhone, I'd opt for a 5C or 5S; the 4S is getting a little long in the tooth and will be even longer by the end of your two years.
posted by General Malaise at 1:28 PM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

[Check your MeMail]
posted by filthy light thief at 2:13 PM on March 31, 2014

I went from an Android phone (an old Nexus S) to an iPhone a few years ago. The one thing that I do miss about the Android phone is how much it can be customized, from screens to widgets to the way that things are arranged. That said, I find the iPhone to be much more intuitive and I love the app selection (although Android is definitely catching up in terms of app availability).

Basically, if you want to be able to customize every little thing on your phone, you need to go Android. If you just want something to meet the needs you described, both phones will do them, but the iPhone will be more restrictive.
posted by anotheraccount at 2:50 PM on March 31, 2014

As hardware I much prefer the Samsung. Having a micro sd slot is great for story photos and music. Having the the phone poo up like a usb drive and transferring files by drag and drop is great. Keeping the accommodation that is iTunes off my computeris also great.
posted by smoke at 3:26 PM on March 31, 2014

I just went from a Samsung to an iphone (5s) and am quite happy. Both those phones will do all those things.

I am a PC girl through and through. A few years ago we inherited my grandparents desktop Mac and I hate it. When it goes kaput, we're going back to a PC. I can't wait. I want to be able to have control over and customize my computer - at that scale and that capacity, it matters to me.

What I have found in smartphones is that when all's said and done... it's a phone. I don't need my phone to act like a computer (I use my phone much like you do). Folks above are lamenting the lack of customization, but honestly, I have no idea what they're talking about because I don't use my phone that way. My iphone, thus far, "just works", which is what I wanted. I don't find the iphone restrictive at all, for me it's less restrictive - all the fun new apps (mostly photo, in my case) are out and they work when I got them. I'm happy.

I also like not having all my gmail/google stuff integrated. I don't want everyone I've ever emailed or Skyped turning up in my contact list every time I upgrade (grrrr). YMMV!

My husband has an S3 and it is too wide for me to hold and use with one hand, as I often do on the subway. I like that the iphone is smaller/narrower - I have small hands so this works for me. The small screen doesn't bother me, but I have 20/20 and don't watch TV/movies on my phone either. I will also say that I like the design of iphone's native apps (calendar, clocks, etc.) much better. I have heard that iphone's camera is better in part not because of megapixels or lens quality, but because the imaging software is for and dedicated to iphone specifically (and Mac is known for excellent graphics cards for their computers and whanot) - I know you said you don't care, but hey - bonus! (Plus, when that baby's all grown up you won't regret having higher quality pics.)

I don't have a lot of storage *on* my phone, but that's what cloud storage is for right? The only times I've had difficulty transferring files is when I was trying to do so between a Mac (desktop) and Android phone. What kind of computer you have at home, and whether you're a big say, Google+ user or iTunes user might matter to you.
posted by jrobin276 at 3:40 PM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I believe the iPhone 4S on Verizon does NOT have LTE, which is the fast "true" 4G data connection. The Galaxy S4 does. This means you should often see much faster downloads and uploads. For me, this would be a key criterion.

I won't add any more to the opinions others have already offered.
posted by ccl6yl at 10:11 PM on March 31, 2014

I've had experiences in both systems, and between the 4S and the GS4, it would be the GS4 by a long shot.

Basically the GS4 is over a year newer than the iPhone 4S, which is a very long time in the smartphone world. In addition, the 4S is also pretty much "last generation" for Apple and will begin to be phased out both by Apple (at the end of this year) and by app developers (who will start building apps that only target the larger 4" screen size).

The GS4 also has the following advantages over the 4S:
- LTE - works faster and in more places
- bigger screen - at first it seems annoying to use two hands but you can see so much more
- removable memory card - hold more music and pictures for very little cost
- better notification system

The main disadvantages of Android, which I'd consider a horrible security model and a second-place app catalog, are irrelevant since you aren't a big app person and don't care for games. The Android interface (and especially Samsung's modifications) seem ultra cluttered at first compared to Apple, but it's liveable.
posted by meowzilla at 12:36 AM on April 1, 2014

"I have heard that iphone's camera is better in part not because of megapixels or lens quality, but because the imaging software is for and dedicated to iPhone specifically"

The lenses that Apple has been using actually are pretty decent. Wired article about the 4s in particular. Megapixels don't usually matter these days, but the lens quality itself does. Apple has done well here.
posted by drstein at 1:26 PM on April 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I LOVELOVELOVE my Galaxy s4.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:00 PM on April 1, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! Lots to think about here and there were some points I hadn't considered that I will be keeping in mind when I head out to play with the phones themselves.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:01 AM on April 2, 2014

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