Deathmatch: Apple iPhone 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S III

Is Apple's svelte, skinny iPhone 5 strong enough to fend off the challenge from the big, bold Android muscle phone?

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Smartphone deathmatch: Hardware
The 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).
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.

The Galaxy S III has an even bigger screen (4.8 inches, providing 720 by 1,280 larger pixels) -- one that dominates the curved and coolly embellished plastic bezel. Its design is also simple, but unlike the iPhone 5, it's very bold. An iPhone 5 has the vacant feel of a runway model's facial expression, whereas the S III is the life of the party. The S III's screen is also brighter, its colors more vibrant. The iPhone 5's screen has a yellowish colorcast that makes whites look dingy when its brightness is set to medium or low. (The iPhone 4's colorcast is bluish, providing whiter whites, but making browns and oranges duller.)

I prefer the S III's screen. If you have middle-aged or older eyes, the bigger text of the S III (due to the fact its screen is bigger, as are its pixels) is easier to read than the sharper but smaller text of the iPhone. If you're in your 20s or 30s, the readability difference probably won't be apparent. The iPhone 5's Retina display does present text more sharply, which is helpful when reading the tiny text in so many apps.

The S III's larger size comes with a price: It's hard to use one-handed. Not only does iPhone 5 fit better in your hand, but its screen is accessible by your thumb. For the S III, only the Hulk's hand is big enough for the thumb to reach the full screen.

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