Samsung Galaxy S5 vs. Apple iPhone 5S vs. Nokia Lumia Icon; Battle of the Flagships

by Sayan Chakravarty

The curtains have come down on the 2014 Mobile World Congress and the show has given us quite a few big releases for the year, but two of the most important unveils were the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the Nokia Lumia Icon, aka Lumia 929. So it’s only natural to pit the two new flagships against the Apple iPhone 5S to build up a comparison between the best devices running on three different operating systems. We’ll compare them spec by spec, feature by feature to find out which one edges ahead of the rest. But before we go further into the comparison, we must remember that the iPhone 5S was unveiled last year and a few key information on the two new flagships have yet to be made public.

Design, Build Quality and Colors
s5-comparison-colorFirst up is the aesthetics of the three flagships which is one aspect that sets the first impressions. The brand new Samsung Galaxy S5 was one of the most hotly anticipated smartphones to be launched this year and in the run up to the launch we were bombarded with endless speculations and alleged leaked information which started pouring in since last year. Some believed that Samsung might launch a few different versions of the Galaxy S5 to woo different sections of buyers; something what Apple tried last year. There were even speculations that the S5 might be the first Android device by Samsung to come with an all metal body with premium build quality. But all the speculations fell flat and the Korean technology giant stuck to its old mantra. The new Galaxy S5 looks strikingly similar to its predecessor; at least from the front. It’s still made of plastic and has faux metal finish to its sides. But on the rear, the Galaxy S5 has a dimpled texture on the back-plate which has a soft touch feel to it. It’s not one those things that gives the smartphone outstanding appeal but it isn’t that bad either. It has been launched in four colors which are black, white, blue, and gold out of which the black one looks the best. Coming to the Nokia Lumia Icon, the frontal view might not look inspiring but just about everything else is great. It’s arguably one of the best looking smartphone launched by Nokia in many years. Though it’s still blocky and hefty, but has a certain elegant appeal to it. Across the brands, it might not be the most charming smartphone but definitely looks the best amongst its siblings. Thankfully, it has been launched only in black and white rather than the unamusing candy colors. But design, build quality and looks is one department where Apple iPhone 5S just crushes the two competitors. There is a good reason why rose gold iPhone 5S is the most coveted smartphone today. So the round goes to iPhone 5S.

s5-comparison-dimensionsNokia Lumia Icon and Samsung Galaxy S5 are just big enough to fit into the phablet territory and on the other hand the iPhone 5S isn’t one. The Apple iPhone 5S has a smaller size of 4.87 x 2.31 x 0.3 inches and is quite considerably lighter than the two. But it has the obvious disadvantage of having a smaller display. The Galaxy S5 measures 5.6 x 2.8 x 0.31 inches and weighs 145g, which isn’t a lot different than its predecessor, but stacking it up against the Nokia Lumia Icon which measures 5.39 x 2.80 x 0.39 in and weighs 167g, the Galaxy S5 is considerably lighter and doesn’t suffer from having a boxy design. Comparing the iPhone with the Galaxy S5 and Lumia Icon won’t be fair and out of the two, Galaxy S5 is better in terms of dimensions.

s5-comparison-displayWhich brings us to the display; all the three flagships have great displays and there is very little to choose from when reading from the spec sheet. The display on the Galaxy S5 is the biggest at 5.1 Inches and has a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels which works out to be 432ppi. The display on Nokia Lumia icon is slightly smaller than the S5 at 5 inches but has the same resolution at 1920×1080.The smaller screen gives it a better pixel density of 441ppi, but it hardly makes any difference. We’ll like to have a better look at both the devices to decide which one is better. The 4 inch display on the iPhone 5S might be smaller and has lower pixel density but the retina display is very sharp and produces truer colors. But the small screen size makes lesser sense today and that’s one reason most of the brands are moving to phablets. This round is a tie between Lumia Icon and Galaxy S5.

s5-comparison-hardwareAs far as the processor goes, the Nokia has carried most of the good bits from the Lumia 1520 into the Lumia Icon. The Lumia Icon has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset with quad-core 2.2GHz processor. That coupled with the standard Windows OS makes the Lumia blazingly fast. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it other than the OS itself. The new Galaxy S5 on the other hand has Snapdragon 800 chipset with quad-core 2.5GHz processor which is the fastest. We’ll like to dig our deeper and do a hands-on to test the two devices to see which one’s better. The Apple’s A7 processor is mighty impressive too. All the three devices have all the important sensors and it really doesn’t matter. But where the Lumia misses out is the fingerprint reader which is the central feature of both Galaxy S5 and iPhone 5S. In addition to the fingerprint reader, the Galaxy S5 also has a heartbeat monitor which is a first for any smartphone. And that’s not all, the Galaxy S5 is also waterproof and dustproof in alliance with military spec IP67 which is a neat addition. We’ll like to reserve our comments on the battery performance as we will first put it into real life test to judge the results ourselves. The Galaxy S5 slightly edges ahead in this one with its cool new additions.

s5-comparison-cameraWe don’t have samples from the Samsung Galaxy S5 so we go into the judgment of the pictures but only compare the specs. The Galaxy S5 has a new 16MP rear and a 2MP front camera. On the iPhone is an ageing 8MP rear camera and a 1.2MP front facing camera. This round clearly goes to the Lumia Icon which has a top notch camera on the rear, a hallmark of all the Lumia devices. It has a 20MP rear camera with Carl Zeiss optics and 1.2MP front facing shooter.

Operating System
s5-comparison-osLast up is the OS of the flagships as all three have different operating systems with very different characteristics and flavor. The new iOS and Android both have been accused of copying each other’s features. But nevertheless they still are very different than each other. Microsoft Windows Phone 8 Black on the Lumia Icon isn’t really a bad operating system but the sorry state of its app store still is the worst thing about it and as a result it is dead last in the last round. The Galaxy S5 will ship with Android KitKat 4.4.2 out of the box with a TouchWiz interface which isn’t much different than before and still comes with a long list of features. The iOS 7 has had its own problems since it was launched but still has a lot of good features and not to forget the amazing UI. Though I am slightly biased towards the Android OS but this round ends in a tie between Galaxy S5 and iPhone 5S.

Final Verdict
s5-comparison-backThough the Nokia Lumia Icon is arguably the best smartphone launched by the company in ages but it still has a little catching up to do. But the good news is that it’s steadily getting there. It’s not a bad smartphone whatsoever but it does have its own deficiencies. In case you’re looking for a robust phone with a good camera, the Lumia Icon is a good buy. The newly unveiled Samsung Galaxy S5 is a great smartphone and a lot of its new features invoke interest but it’s just not that special to take away the cake from Apple iPhone 5S. We’ll wait for Samsung to announce the pricing for the S5 but what we can say that things are yet not threatening for Apple.

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