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: Web and Internet support
The iPhone 5's iOS 6 is a little Web-savvier than the previous iOS 5. You can now upload images from your Photos app to websites via a site's standard Upload button -- a boon for uploading photos to sharing sites, for example. Otherwise, the iPhone 5 surfs like the previous iPhones, with the capable Safari Web browser and the strongest support for HTML5 and AJAX of any mobile browser, which lets you use more interactive capabilities on an iPhone, including common facilities such as the Word-like TinyMCE editing widget.

The stock Android browser is quite serviceable, but it's less compatible with AJAX tools than Safari is, so it doesn't work with as many websites. For example, I cannot use an Android device to access InfoWorld's Drupal-based content management system beyond working with plain-text-only fields, while I can use most of our Drupal functions in Safari on iOS.

In the tests of HTML5 compatibility, the iPhone 5's Safari browser scores 360 points out of a possible 500, whereas the Galaxy S III's stock Android browser scores higher, at 380 points. Google's optional Chrome browser scores 369 points. Thus, for the first time since the InfoWorld Test Center began running these tests two years ago, Android browsers score higher than iOS's Safari.

The free Chrome browser is a bit more elegant than the stock Android browser, so I recommend you install it on a Galaxy S III. It also lets you sign in to your Google account, so all of your devices' Chrome bookmarks and state information are kept synced across the devices -- similar to what Apple's Safari 6 browser does in iOS, OS X, and Windows. But Chrome doesn't overcome the HTML5 and AJAX limits in Android.

Apple's iOS also integrates Twitter and Facebook in Safari and other messaging services, making it easy to participate in these common Web activities. Android is weak here, relying on the various social networking apps, which you must switch to to use.

Smartphone deathmatch: Business connectivity
Apple's iOS has long provided better business applications and better support of Microsoft Exchange servers than Google's Android has. But Google has been chipping away in this area in each Android update, and Samsung has gone beyond Google's own efforts by enhancing some of those apps in the Galaxy S III.

I prefer Apple's Mail app over Android's Email app because it's a little easier to navigate accounts and folders in Mail, and you can easily customize the accounts list, mark messages, and more easily move through messages. But the differences are minor. My only real beef with Android is the separation of Gmail from the other email accounts; Gmail email is accessed in a separate app than the rest.

Samsung's custom version of the Android Calendar app has a nice pullout feature to switch among calendar views, freeing more screen space for your calendar but keeping it easy to change views. On the S III's larger screen, you get more detail in the month view than on an iPhone. Plus, Samsung's calendar supports more types of repeating events than Apple's. In short, Samsung's calendar is better.

Samsung's custom Contacts app is also better than Apple's, thanks to its ability to add and edit groups -- and to let you send emails to all members of a group by using the group's name. Even in iOS 6, the iPhone still can't do any of those. Apple's Contacts app does let you assign more attributes to your contacts, but that doesn't make up for its backwardness about groups. Both the S III and iPhone 5 let you assign custom ringtones and vibration patterns for calls received from a specific person.

Both smartphones support Microsoft Exchange contacts, emails, tasks, and calendars, as well as email in IMAP, POP, and Gmail accounts. (Android supports iCloud email, as iCloud uses IMAP.) iOS does not support Google contacts directly, but it does support Google calendars. Android of course does not support contacts and calendars in Apple's closed iCloud service, though you can get apps that bridge the two.

Where iOS really shines is in its support for Gmail and IMAP (including iCloud) notes, a feature I rely on immensely. If I add a note on my iPad, Mac, or iPhone, it's available to every device immediately. Android doesn't even have a notes app, much less a cloud-connected one. The Galaxy S III does include Samsung's own S Note, which lets you create text and graphics in your notes. But it's more work to use than Apple's very simple Notes app.

iOS also offers the Reminders app, which is frankly too primitive (no shared task view, for example) for serious use. It does have the ability to set an alert based on when you arrive or leave a location. Android has no tasks app.

All in all, the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S III are close in this category. iOS holds a slight overall edge due to its notes and task support, but if you're an appointment junkie, you'll prefer the S III.

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