Apple has, at long last, introduced a panting, curious world to its new Super-Toy, the iPhone 5S, featuring a number of exciting spec and feature improvements over its predecessor, the iPhone 5. Is the iPhone 5s about to be crowned the de facto Apple flagship smartphone device for the whole lag-behind world to follow like lemmings? Or is industry leadership already in the crafty little hands of its South Korean archrival Samsung and its much-ballyhooed Galaxy S4?

Let Battle Commence!

The Galaxy 4S

Memory & Power: Apple’s new processor for the iPhone 5s is the 64-bit chip A7. The iPhone 5s can also run a 64-bit version of Apple’s iOS. Important? Not in the short run, but it’s a clear sign that this one – like your iMac desktop – is engineered to last.  Chips with more bits handle more memory. With a 32-bit chip designed to handle memory addresses of up to 32 bits, a 64-bit chip is designed to handle double the memory addresses. However, in order for this to really make a difference in performance, the processors need to have a bigger chunk of RAM that they can use. All that reserved power won’t deliver much of a performance boost for a device that still uses, at most, 2GB of RAM. In other words, what you have on your hands with this machine is about to become the missing link that will, if you so choose, render your iPad or Tablet clone redundant.

Apple claims that this hidden power will boost your current speed and graphics for your games; nevertheless, it’s much ado about nothing specific. It will have no genuine effect on performance until Apple go the whole hog and adapt the smartphone to carry 4 or more GB of RAM. In the relevant here and now, it’s twice as fast as the iPhone 5.

The Galaxy S4, powered by a Qualcomm quad-core Snapdragon 600, clocked at 1.9GHz, using 2GB of RAM, which can’t be reconfigured for a 64-bit environment. Both smartphones have 16, 32 and 64GB internal memory variations, or an optional microSD card for up to 64GB extra storage. Performance and speed-wise, the two are equals. Coupled to the new A7 processor is the M7. Its job is to collect data from its various sensors, processing information without waking the main A7 chip, allowing various apps and services to pull data from the phone’s hardware without sucking the juice from batteries. The only true difference is in the ultimate organized redundancy of the Samsung model.  When the time comes to trade in or sell your Galaxy 5.4, you’re not going to get much for it; however, even though Apple users are just as likely to want the next Superphone, they’ll be able to get far more value for their iPhone in trade or for sale.

iPhone 5S front

Device Workmanship & Display: Apple is also producing gold, silver, and ‘space gray’ aluminum-encased versions of the 5s. This allows the overall weight of the device to sit at a quarter of a pound, an ounce lighter than the plastic-encased S4. The S4 comes in black and white versions. In a non-scientific Facebook quiz of my friends the iPhone was preferred for feeling nicer in the palm, having smoother edges, and being lighter.

The 5s still has the same screen as the iPhone 5, a 4-inch IPS LCD Retina display (1136×640 resolution, 326ppi), while the Galaxy S4 offers a larger 5-inch full HD (1920×1080, 441ppi) display. The Galaxy wins that one clearly! But screen size is a hot topic. Apple’s risky decision was to stay small while Samsung, HTC and Motorola have gambled on 5-inch or larger displays.

Both phones possess physical hardware ‘home’ buttons. The S4 also features ‘capacitive touch’ buttons for ‘back’ and ‘menu.’  A committed minimalist, I go the Ramones route. You can never have too few buttons.

In the next installment of his extensive review, Jon E. Bagg will look at how the two phones compete on Special Features, Camera and Battery.

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