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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On the other hand, the iPhone 5 is a true worldphone. Even the CDMA models support 3G GSM networks globally, so you can pop in a SIM abroad and get service on your iPhone 5. (Verizon lets you do this in the United States with competing domestic carriers, but AT&T and Sprint do not.) The S III's CDMA models don't have SIM slots, so you can roam only in the few other countries that use CDMA -- at high prices.

The S III and the iPhone 5 are available on nearly all the first-tier carriers in the United States. The iPhone 5 is not available for T-Mobile, though you can use an unlocked or Verizon model on T-Mobile's network -- or you will be able to once the new NanoSIMs that the iPhone 5 is the first to use become available. If you have a MicroSIM from a previous phone or your iPad, it won't fit in the iPhone 5.

The iPhone 5 uses a new connector called Lightning for charging, syncing, and peripheral access. The cable has an embedded chip that assigns functions to each of the eight pins based on what it is connected to. That saves space and will let Apple add capabilities not anticipated today, which the old 30-pin Dock connector could not so easily do. But it also means the end of the cheap-cable era because the new connector is no longer solely a set of physical wires and pins. Also, the $29 adapter for existing 30-pin cables doesn't work with many peripherals, including anything that uses video-out, such as projector and monitor cables, or tries to control the music player, such as some stereos. Until new cables become available, the iPhone 5 is less connectable than previous models. Basically, you can't use an iPhone 5 to give presentations or do screen sharing today, but it will gain that capability in the future.

The Galaxy S III has just a MicroUSB port, which is fine for syncing and charging. But it doesn't support other kinds of peripherals, such as video-out connectors and musical instruments (two areas where the Apple iPad is often used). Although there's no MiniHDMI jack in the S III to connect to monitors and projectors, Samsung's proprietary MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) cable lets you connect to an HDMI device such as a TV to mirror the smartphone's screen or relay video. But you can't connect to VGA or DVI displays this way. The S III is limited to screen sharing with just HDMI devices, which rules out most projectors.

Both the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S III support wireless video streaming, but the S III's support for DLNA streaming over Wi-Fi does not work with non-Samsung peripherals, rendering it essentially useless. The iPhone 5 can stream to an Apple TV via its AirPlay service when on a Wi-Fi network; an Apple TV connects to any HDMI device, and through an adapter to VGA devices.

Speaking of Wi-Fi, the iPhone 5 now supports the 5GHz 802.11n spectrum, which is faster than 2.4GHz 802.11n and allows for connections over greater distances. The S III also supports 5GHz Wi-Fi, as well as near-field communications (NFC) short-range wireless connections and Wi-Fi Direct sharing -- useful when you don't have an access point to connect through. For data sharing, the NFC works only with other Android users, as well as a very limited number of payment terminals, building access readers, and the like. Wi-Fi Direct is also not commonly used.

Finally, the iPhone 5's battery lasts much longer than the Galaxy S III's. You need to charge the S III daily, even if you hardly use it. By comparison, an idle iPhone can go days without a charge. My tests of battery rundown rates while idle (with Wi-Fi, cellular, and Bluetooth all on) showed the iPhone 5 consumes 4 percent of battery capacity per hour, whereas the S III consumes 8 percent -- draining its battery twice as fast. An S III that gets heavy usage often can't last the day, while an iPhone 5 can. This is one hardware issue that could be the Galaxy S III's Achilles' heel for many buyers. The good news is that if you turn on the S III's two power-saving options for the screen, the battery consumption rate then matches that of the iPhone 5.

All in all, the iPhone's hardware is better for a business or professional user. But you're more likely going to need your reading glasses with it.

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