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Galaxy S III vs iPhone 4S vs HTC One X

The new 3-way fight for the smartphone crown

Product: Samsung Galaxy S III | Manufacturer: Samsung
Samsung Galaxy S III Android, thumbnail 1
So, after months of outlandish rumours and leaked specs, the latest flagship mobile from Samsung was revealed to a crowd of well over a thousand journalists and partners last night in London.

Pocket Gamer was there, touching and fondling the new Android Ice Cream Sandwich phone (and you can read our in-depth hands-on preview of the Galaxy S III by following the cleverly hidden hyperlink).

But, the big question on every smartphone enthusiasts' lips this afternoon is: which phone is best - the Galaxy S III, the iPhone 4S, or the HTC One X?

There's only one way to find out... Fight!

Or alternatively, we can compare specs and use our hands-on experience with each phone to carefully weigh up the pros and cons of each device.


Let's face it: while you can quote a spec sheet until you're blue in the face, a lot of our purchasing decisions in the end boil down to how nice the device in question looks and feels in the hand.

Oddly, while the new Galaxy S III is certainly curvy and large enough to justify it sitting on the 'premium' smartphone shelf, it doesn't have the same metallic, expensive feel as the iPhone 4S (and, by extension, the iPhone 4).

HTC's offering, meanwhile, could be confused for quite a few earlier models from HTC if it wasn't for the screen being larger than its closest brother in arms, the One S.

For my money, the iPhone 4S is still the most aesthetically and ergonomically pleasing of the three, but carrying it around does mean being constantly asked if you're using a 4S or a 4 all the damn time.


We knew the Galaxy S III would be fast, but initial benchmark results taken at the event surprised many with its sheer pace.

The new Exynos chip nestled inside the Galaxy S III racked up some seriously intimidating numbers on the Android benchmark software Quadrant Advanced, putting the processor well above that of the Nvidia Tegra 3 found in the HTC One X, and likely running the iPhone 4S's relatively modest dual-core A5X to the ground in the process.

There are a few caveats, of course, not least that we haven't been able to compare the Exynos chip directly to the Apple processor just yet. The biggest, though, is that while the Galaxy S III destroys the HTC One X in benchmarks, there's not going to be as many opportunities to demonstrate this in a real-world sense.

Whereas the HTC One X has access to Nvidia's dedicated Tegra Zone portal, complete with graphically rich console ports and Android exclusives, and the iPhone 4S has the App Store, the Galaxy S III will have to rely on Google Play (and, if you're in the US, the Amazon Appstore) for its high-end gaming.

That inevitably means loads of iPhone ports on the Galaxy S III, most of which won't truly test the graphical prowess of the device. To draw a boxing analogy, Sammy's latest blower will unfortunately represent a prizefighter who can only resort to slapping his opponent in the ring.


On the flipside, the Galaxy S III's extra power does mean that its camera - always a strong point in previous Samsung Galaxy phones - is now faster and more feature packed than ever.

A shutter time of 990ms may not be DSLR standard, but it's very impressive for a phone. It also carries the kind of software you'd expect to find on a high-end digital compact, like face recognition and burst shots, as well as nifty sharing features Samsung has bolted onto the side.

Its 8-megapixel resolution puts it in the same tier as both its main rivals, but, as every keen photographer knows, the megapixel count means very little when it comes to the quality of the shots. The additional software features on the Galaxy S III's camera, however, mark it out as a slightly better choice for me over the HTC One X - especially if you use your phone as your primary camera.

Can it beat the 4S's impressive light sensor and the editing power made possible with the paid-for iPhoto app, however? Sadly, we're going to need a bit more hands-on time with the Android device to find out, but it's certainly not going to be an easy one to call.

The lack of a dedicated camera button on the Galaxy S III, mind, is an omission that rankles with this writer and his fat fingers.


I can imagine that a few around the room were a little disappointed to find that this latest Galaxy handset has a 720p resolution on its large 4.8-inch display, but given the demands on the battery that would have resulted from trying to better Apple's "Retina display", it's not too big a surprise.

The Galaxy S III's Super AMOLED HD screen still looks great (in the darkness that was the exhibition room, admittedly), with bright colours and sharp contrasts very much in evidence. It's also 0.1 inches bigger than the HTC One X, which pretty much everyone I spoke to agreed was a very deliberate move to get one-up on its closest Android rival.

Is that 4.8-inch screen too big, though? Not quite. Indeed, the slimness of the device goes some way to compensating for what could have been quite the pocket destroyer. What I'm trying to say is that it's not another Galaxy Note.

Given just how dinky the iPhone screen is now in comparison, I'd be inclined to hand this category to the Galaxy S III, Retina display-besting ppi or not. (It doesn't, by the way. Not quite.)


Samsung made a big deal about how much extra software the Galaxy S III has and supports during the launch event, and this is definitely going to be one area in which the HTC One X can't really compete. With that in mind, we'll just be focusing on how Samsung's smartphone stacks up against the iPhone 4S in this category.

Dismissing "S Voice" for a second, which is as close to a clone of Siri as you can get without incurring the wrath of Apple's lawyers, the Galaxy S III comes with S Health (plenty of health apps on the respective markets already) and lots of rather nifty features, such as the ability to sense when a person is viewing the screen (thus preventing it from falling 'asleep').

We tried out the latter feature on the stand, but either it was too dark or our faces too ugly, because the screen definitely dimmed when we turned it away and the brightness didn't increase when we turned it back (without a swift tap, anyway). Not overly successful, then.

One aspect that I can very easily see Apple 'borrowing' sharpish is the "Direct Call" feature, which enables you to call someone you're texting by simply lifting the phone to your ear. It's that kind of "what would people actually want to do?" thinking that Apple employed when designing its pinch-to-zoom functionality and other iOS features back in the day, and it ranks high on my list.

Finally, the Galaxy S III benefits from running the very latest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich (albeit with hardware buttons and not virtual ones found on tablets). This already-good mobile OS has been augmented with what Samsung calls "Pop Up Play" - this lets you keep videos open while running other applications, e.g. the email client.

Yes, yes, it sounds like Windows on your PC, but seeing as Apple's multitasking abilities still only stretch to showing the icons in a tray, the Galaxy S III really puts some distance between itself and the iPhone in this regard.


Here's a topic I didn't think we'd be talking about quite so much going into the launch event yesterday - peripherals.

Samsung appears to be swinging firmly at Apple in this respect, coming out with not just an AirPlay alternative (a wireless dongle that allows for streaming to TVs), but also (sort of) aiming at the iPod nano with its "S Pebble" accessory, and shooting for the future with its wireless charging mat (that's supposedly faster and better than the current generation - we'll test that in our review)

The S Pebble is an interesting one, for it acts as a non-independent MP3 player to your Galaxy S III that lets you pop on a few music tracks (4GB's worth, to be fair) for playing on the go. A good one, possibly, for you runners out there that can't stand listening to your own breath.

If you're a big fan of adding bits and bobs onto your smartphone, the Galaxy S III is the clear winner here.

Battery life

Samsung is claiming that the Galaxy S III's battery life improves on the Galaxy S II's, which puts it firmly in standard smartphone talk time territory.

On paper, however, the Galaxy S III's 2100 mAh battery is larger than the one in both of its nearest rivals (much better than the iPhone's piddly 1432 mAh effort), and a quad-core phone could well outlast a dual-core, especially if it can step down clock speed intelligently between cores.

This is, as you might recall, one of the big selling points Nvidia has made about its quad (actually five)-core Tegra 3 chip, and HTC's official figures put its phone ever so slightly ahead of the iPhone 4S.

Again, this category really needs a good month of testing with each phone to ascertain exactly which manufacturer is telling the less exaggerated fibs (they never, ever last as long as the makers say on the spec sheet).

So far, Samsung hasn't revealed any (inaccurate in real-world usage) talk time figures, though, so I'd call this round a tie between the Galaxy S III and the HTC One X.


As you might expect, there's no easy way to pick a winner from the three phones just yet, despite our having tested them all in either controlled or real-world situations.

Despite that, it's certainly the case that the Galaxy S III stands up very well against its two nearest rivals on the market. With some competitive monthly plans already being offered (in the UK, at least), it's difficult to bet against this latest Galaxy selling impressively in the months to come.

However, it's not exactly leagues ahead of its two nearest competitors, and no matter which of the three you choose, you're going to be getting one of the best smartphones around.

Reviewer photo
Will Wilson 4 May 2012
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Show: Latest | Oldest
May 2012
Post count:
odnet | 04:59 - 8 May 2012
For those finding Ram an issue on the iPhone. Get the cheap app called SYS Activity. It lets you very quicker refresh the ram without having to restart
Apr 2012
Post count:
LearniiBurn | 19:10 - 7 May 2012
Despite the tired feel of iOS, I am happy I jumped back on with a 4S coming from an Evo 4G and an Evo 3D. Android is fun if you are born nerdy and love Linux. I had a blast messing around with it and tweakng it to my liking. But it never stayed stable. Constant problems with Android making it hard to rely on for work and normal phone tasks. I gave my Evo 3D to my GF and she has been using it lightly for 3 weeks. The camera is force closing non-stop. Rebooting randomly all day, losing signal and not getting it back without airplane mode. And this is all on stock (read: non-rooted), just the way HTC wants you to experience the handset.

Android is great for certain things, but in the longrun I think iOS is great, stable and much cleaner everywhere. I agree with the RAM though. 512 just ain't cutting it anymore.
Nov 2011
Post count:
Chivas77 | 18:25 - 7 May 2012
Hardware doesn't really bother me, as long as the device works well, that's all that matters. The biggest disappointment with the 4S is ram, Apple really could have spent a couple of extra pennies and boosted this to 1Gb, I've been getting a few app crashes on my 4S today (Safari and appstore mainly) and it's pretty clear it's because ram is being used up. The options are either, double tap the home button and then hold another icon down for a few seconds until they start to jiggle and then close each and every app. See how cumbersome that is, the other option is to turn your phone off and on, which I guess is a lot quicker.

Which brings to my next point...software, iOS is looking pretty outdated, everything takes too many steps, basic things like turning wi-fi/gps etc off and on, private browsing on safari etc. In the same way that Windows 7 caught up with OSX, the same has happened to iOS, actually I think iOS was overtaken in usability some time ago, which is sad.

Apple really need to refresh iOS this year, Siri is a gimmick, I haven't touched it since the first week I got my 4S. It's pretty obvious Apple know this, why do you think they stuck that very useful camera "button" on the lock screen in iOS 5.1, previously it would take ages to get to the camera, now it's just one slide and your camera is on. We need a lot more of this from Apple
Jun 2011
Post count:
chaos_envoys | 12:16 - 7 May 2012
@Mr Marv the reviewer is reviewing game platform too.. it's their job to let us know which platform is the best to put in our pocket..
Dec 2008
Post count:
klouud | 23:10 - 6 May 2012
@jeffyg3 - I seriously hope the screen stays at 3.5" because any bigger and you now have a phablet. If I wanted a tablet I would buy an iPad. The point of a phone is to fit in your pocket. The 3.5" is perfect.
May 2012
Post count:
monk | 21:34 - 6 May 2012

android is much better then ios and windozes only gays and women should own an apple and windows is for your grandfathers generation
May 2012
Post count:
Mr Marv | 13:47 - 6 May 2012
Reviewer, do yourself a favour and stick to the day job of reviewing games and not phones.
May 2012
Post count:
Tagman | 01:27 - 6 May 2012
I have been using my Galaxy S for at least three years and these has been no issues with the hardware and software which runs very smoothly. The Galaxy S2 was not enough to justify an upgrade but the S3 is very tempting.
May 2012
Post count:
iamanandroi | 14:28 - 5 May 2012
What happened to the iPhone 5.
Apr 2010
Post count:
jeffyg3 | 20:56 - 4 May 2012
Personally I'm waiting for the iPhone 6 coming out later this year. If it doesn't have at least a 4 inch screen I'm definitely getting a different phone. The Galaxy III looks nice, but I've gotten really tired of using the Android OS, it's sluggish, and easily not as stable, intuitive, or smooth as the latest update to Windows Mobile 7 or iOS. I've gotten a lot more app crashes and hang ups to the OS with Android, even on the Galaxy Note at work than I have with iOS. I'm really impressed with the new Windows Mobile OS. I think I might end up getting the lumina 900 if the iPhone 6 is stuck with the same tiny screen as the current models. But bravo to Samsung for the new Galaxy hardware.
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