Display shootout: iPhone 5 vs Galaxy S4

By , Apr 26, 2013

Galaxy S4 iPhone 5

CEO Tim Cook during an earnings call re-iterated Apple very much remains focused on providing the highest quality mobile screens and argued his company would never compromise the experience by creating a Gorilla-sized iPhone with a subpar display. Specifically, Cook painted color reproduction, power consumption, quality and other factors determining the quality of a mobile screens as progressively suffering on larger displays.

“We would not ship a larger display iPhone while these trade-offs exist,” he said Tuesday. But is that really the case? Display wizards over at DisplayMate took Apple’s iPhone 5 and Samsung’s Galaxy S4 through a battery of tests putting the screens through their paces. The results are surprising…

According to DisplayMate president Dr. Raymond M. Soneira, there is no clear winner in sight as both devices incorporate mobile screens best in their respective class.

“Both displays are quite good and comparable overall – so it’s currently a tie,” he writes, adding it’s important to keep in mind that the iPhone 5 is now more than halfway through its product cycle while Samsung just released its S4 smartphone.

Key observations:

The iPhone 5 is significantly brighter than the Galaxy S4, particularly for screens with mostly peak white backgrounds. Its color calibration is a bit better, although the Galaxy S4 has a more accurate white.

The Galaxy S4 has a much bigger screen, higher resolution, higher PPI, much darker blacks, and better screen uniformity than the iPhone 5.

Check out the tech comparison table.

DisplayMate (iPhone 5 vs Galaxy S4)

The iPhone 5 rocks a four-inch 1,136-by-640 pixel resolution LCD screen. The display module is being assembled using the sophisticated in-cell process. At 326ppi Retina-quality pixel density, the iPhone 5’s screen also features IPS technology which allows for wide viewing angles.

Samsung’s latest flagship has a five-inch 1,920-by-1,080 display at 442 pixels per inch, based on Super AMOLED PenTile RGBG technology. Unlike the more accurate LCD, PenTile RGBG layout used in the S4’s Super AMOLED screen has green pixels interleaved with alternating red and blue pixels.

PenTile RGBG (Nexus One)

Such a subpixel layout is dependent upon subpixel rendering, which maps an input pixel to either a red-centered logical pixel, or a green-centered logical pixel. Put simply, the pixels on most current OLED displays have only two sub-pixels in each pixel instead of the standard three red, green and blue sub-pixels.

Now, you’d normally expect a lower quality from subpixel rendering, right? But with the S4’s pixels so densely packed at 442ppi, any visual difference in quality gets lost to an average human eye.

iPhone 5 (black, left angled, display 001)

Specifically, Dr. Soneira concludes that visually, the Galaxy S4 PenTile display delivers “excellent visual sharpness across the board.”

For digitally generated fine text and graphics with precise pixel layouts the eye can visually detect the reduced number of red and blue sub-pixels unless the number of red and blue sub-pixels per inch is very high.

And it is for the Galaxy S4 – there are 312 red and blue sub-pixels per inch, which is only a few percent lower than Apple’s benchmark 326 pixels per inch iPhone Retina Display.

Invented by Candice H. Brown Elliott, PenTile tech was licensed by Clairvoyante from 2000 until 2008. In betting big on PenTile technology, Samsung in March 2008 acquired Clairvoyante’s PenTile IP assets, moving these to a new company called Nouvoyance, Inc., specifically created to advance the technology.

Wrapping up, DisplayMate says the biggest improvements for mobile displays will come from “dynamically changing the display color gamuts and intensity scales to automatically compensate and correct for reflected glare and image wash out from ambient light.”

For the record, I own both an iPhone 5 and a Galaxy S3.

Unfortunately, not having a chance yet to check out the S4’s display quality in person, I really can’t attest to DisplayMate’s findings.

From your vantage point, whose mobile screen tech is better, Apple’s or Samsung’s?

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  • http://twitter.com/int3nsive Int3nsive

    So only now the so called “screen leader” could match the iPhone screen quality?

    • felixtaf

      Yes… Their 1080p with 441 ppi dsiplay nearly matched <720p 326 ppi display after 3 years…
      Samsung – "Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy"…..

  • Boss

    Wish Apple would make a 4 inch & 4.5-8 inch instead of this “budget” iPhone which should never be made as that’s the same route BlackBerry went with all their cheap phones and now their next to nothing

    • http://twitter.com/klouud Timothy Polumbo

      I was under the same impression – but the “budget” phone is only for market where phones are unsubsidized (or they will only sell well in those markets). In the US, everyone (except for a few outliers) purchases a subsidized phone – so the “budget” phone is the iPhone 4 right now ($0) and/or the 4S ($99). Honestly, I don’t see why the 5 ($199) is not a “budget” considering how much we all depend on and use our phones these days. I personally went with the 32GB 4S 2 years ago and my wife went with the 64GB 4S. I will be upgrading to the 64GB model of whatever is released this year (Apple). But yeah… the budget phone is not aimed at the US.

      • felixtaf

        Well said.. Budget phones are for markets with unsubsidized unlocked phones. iPhone 4 still selling for 500$ in some countries… So budget iPhones are mainly for those areas. It will sell in US too… Not evry1 will be interested in carrier tie-up and people may like to have a cheap iPhone, will buy them.. But, will Apple release a budget iPhone? – Only Apple knows….

    • http://twitter.com/Lagax_ Lagax

      Hmh… You know… I don’t think there will be a budget iPhone… That’s the same shit every year. Just like “there will be an iPhone released in spring.” Bullshit.

      • Gorgonphone

        im tired of phones…lol

      • TeddyBearStand

        One in a million comment here; I am feeling lucky.

    • sambuzzlight

      i really dont mind as long as it is less than 5″. But fragmentation would be a pain in the ass

      • Gorgonphone

        f they can make a retina iPad mini they can also make a better sized iphone..

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matthew-Cooper/100000164561256 Matthew Cooper

    Its one of those things where your eyes get use to it. When I jumped from the 4S to the GS3 I thought the screen was horrible. My eyes adjusted and then it seemed right. My point is that we are just getting silly with these ppi. We were fine with standard def TV then hi def came along and we just had to have it. We get 1080p but really can ur eyes notice anything past 720? Phones are becoming the same way.

    • http://twitter.com/Lagax_ Lagax

      That is not 100% right. The fact is you can determinate if the iPhone 3GS Displey or the iPhone 4 Display has more ppi using it with normal distance to your eyes. iPhone 5 and the S4 display… I don’t think you will see any difference in terms of ppi.

      • Mustang5Oh

        You are correct while those above are incorrect. The human eye can’t tell the difference above see numbers hence why apple named it the retina display.

    • http://twitter.com/int3nsive Int3nsive

      You should check first what PPI means. It’s nothing about resolution but about pixel per inch, which makes everything more clear, without noticing the pixels.

    • Dan

      That’s true. I used to have an iPhone 4, jumped to GS3 and loved it. Now I have a Note 2, and I find the GS3 screen horrible. Haven’t handled a GS4 yet so I can’t say, but I find Note 2 and iPhone 5 very similar in screen quality.

      • Raj

        Down vote for your comment explains which screen is better.

      • Gorgonphone

        iPhone 5 still best real world screen..

      • Kurt

        too small

      • Raj

        fits perfect in pocket

      • http://www.facebook.com/PwnHkr Dylan Lane C. Knox

        GS4 fits fine. its thinner. With a larger screen and i have no issues.

      • Dan

        what? learn to write.

        I simply agreed with the OP, we get used to the display we use on a regular basis.

      • http://www.facebook.com/cameronrc Cameron Chao

        The Note 2 and iPhone 5 screens are very different, ive seen them both and the iPhone 5 is by far clearer and more natural. I have no idea how can you say the Note 2 is on par with the iphone 5

      • Dan

        The point is you get used to a display. How often do you hold them side by side? Use it long enough and you won’t see it anymore. Anyway, done with this thread. Good day.

      • http://www.facebook.com/PwnHkr Dylan Lane C. Knox

        nuff said. lol

    • batongxue

      Single pixels could still be recognized on iPhone screens with 326PPI if you look a bit harder and closer. With 441 PPI offered by 1080P display on 5″ screen and 468 PPI offered by the HTC ONE‘s 4.7″ 1080P display, sub-pixels are basically invisible to human eyes no matter how hard and close you look.

      Be that as it may. There is not too too much difference if all screens are retina-level. But the 1080P display on smartphones like the HTC ONE is truely stunning. You would be amazed if you shift from the iPhone and other 720P Android phones.

      Of course, high PPI is not the only reason that the ONE’s screen looks amazing. There are other aspects that can determine if a display is good or bad, like color reproduction, contrast, brightness. And Apple happened to have the good tradition of handling all the aspects good enough.

      • Gorgonphone

        HTC one best android tech… S4 most popular android phone..lol iphone5 bests phone ever

  • Ian

    I still say iPhone 5 all the way.

    • Gorgonphone

      yup

  • Byron Castro

    S4 is the game changer. iPhone doesnt step it up, bye bye iPhone 5, S4 here I come…time for something new.

    • Guest

      If you like Copysung, why spent your time here, this blog is for Iphone Lover :)
      Or you are earning money

      • Gorgonphone

        exactly

      • http://www.facebook.com/PwnHkr Dylan Lane C. Knox

        How is the S4 like the iPhone? The software is more immersive, less bland. The S4 has Far more Raw power than the iPhone 5. The screens are almost exactly the same quality. It can be used as a legitimate remote, play amazing graphic content, multitask far better and faster than the iPhone, has way more customization and features, and is lightweight and durable. Rounded corners on a phone cant be copyrighted for ever. And they did copy Apple screenshots, but obviously they are trying to piss Apple off. In about 90% of screes, laptops, desktop monitors, phones, tvs, Samsung makes Back panels for all the displays… And if we want to point the copycat finger, android always had notifications, Apple took it, changed the background and dubbed in Notification Center like it’s never been seen before.

    • http://twitter.com/int3nsive Int3nsive

      This kind of “need” of having a new phone every year it’s what makes me sick. doesn’t matter if it’s a iphone or sadsung.

      • Gorgonphone

        welcome to capitalism

      • http://www.facebook.com/PwnHkr Dylan Lane C. Knox

        personal pref. i believe

    • Gorgonphone

      nope S4 is more of the same android BS… iphone still rules.. the HTC one is much nicer the S4

      • DeBugger

        My HTC One is a beautiful phone in all respects, but it also beats my i5 hands down. My wife still likes and uses the i5 however because it is easier for her to use.

      • Gorgonphone

        you have a great wife

      • http://www.facebook.com/PwnHkr Dylan Lane C. Knox

        The HTC one is okay, but not as fast as the S4. They advertised “First All Metal Phone” and that was bullshit, my Droid x2 is as old as the 3Gs/4 and it’s all metal. Second, the whole phone body isn’t even metal. And Sense is sluggish and too heavy.

    • Mustang5Oh

      Lol what did they do to make it a game changer? First 1080p (which is a waste on a phone)….nope HTC did that. First with a letter in front of every gimmick feature? Nope. I fail to see how it’s anything but an S3 with tech specs bump and new Samsung crap bloat ware.

      • http://www.facebook.com/PwnHkr Dylan Lane C. Knox

        Better than buying out-dated phones that are all the same every year. Rooting is just as simple as jailbreaking and its easy to remove bloatware. But it doesn’t come with crap samsung software. Bloatware is from your carrier.

  • batongxue

    Whose mobile screen tech is better, Apple’s or Samsung’s?
    LOL. Maybe the HTC ONE’s screen is best right now.

    There should actually be a comparison between the HTC ONE and iPhone 5.

    • lmao

      No point, as the iPhone 5 will lose, however the iPhone 6 with 1080p (one hopes) would be a great contender. For the record, I own an HTC One, and my wife has an iPhone 5. To be honest, they both look stunning, but 1080p and larger screen on the One makes my heart flutter every time I turn the screen on.

      • Gorgonphone

        no .. the iphone 5 wins all real word usage comparison tests.. best looking screen even though on paper it is beaten by many phones..lol

      • DeBugger

        Being a technophile, and owning many types of ios and android devices, I have to admit the i5 screen is nice, but sadly its time had come and has been surpassed by the One and SG4.

      • Gorgonphone

        only in size

      • http://www.facebook.com/PwnHkr Dylan Lane C. Knox

        The GS4’s screen density is only a few pixels smaller than the iPhone 5’s density and
        looks the same quality wise. The Samsung phone has a blue tint, but you get used to that as you do with every new phone you buy.

      • jilex

        yeah, those devices have amazing displays (not that the iPhone 5 doesn’t) but it’s just they cannot stuck with the same technology for a long time, and we’ll see it with the next iphone too (hope)

      • http://www.facebook.com/PwnHkr Dylan Lane C. Knox

        Everyone I know who owns an iPhone 5 complains about battery life… almost anyone with a phone period does. The iPhone five wont last a full day under moderate use. The GS4 does, but the CPU is intensive on the battery. Using an overclock program and changing the CPU profile to powersave helps, even underclocking it helps a lot, and with the GS4 you don’t notice a performance decrease. I work on phones day in and day out (it’s my job), so i know how long they last, but i bet i’ll told i’m wrong =P And a cool thing about android is, if i root it, i can download an app called CPU Sleeper to turn off all but one core with dual and quad-core phones when the screen is turned off, saving large amounts of battery, the GS4 will last me two days with all of that installed, without hindering performance.. And it’s as simple as jailbreaking, and oh did i mention, i can take my rooted phone back to the carrier and get it replaced without having to wipe it if something where to go? cant do that with the iPhone…

      • Mustang5Oh

        1080p on a cell phone is a giant waste. You can’t see pixels at this size anyways. It’s strictly a marketing ploy wether you want to see that or not.

      • DeBugger

        Not at all true, not when you get into the larger screen sizes. Being able to play a 1080p movie 1:1 is something to behold. My i5 looks good, but not as crisp compared to my new HTC One.

      • batongxue

        Exactly! My heart keeps fipping for the ONE!

  • lmao

    Having played with a SG4 demo, I do have to say it is a beautiful display which rivals that of my HTC One. It is sad to say however that the iPhone 5 display (which we also have) is looking dated compared to these new handsets. The iPhone 6 on the other hand would probably look beautiful, but that is a ways off and most likely a new series of HTC and Galaxy / Note will be out by then as well… leapfrog, but good for the consumers.

    • Gorgonphone

      iphone 5 has best display still only downfall is lacking size..

      • DeBugger

        No, not the best any more, but is no slouch either. When apple gets 1080p, it will be back in the running and display king again.

  • sambuzzlight

    would never buy a samsung phablet but people do tell me iphone 5 has one of the worst batteries ever and which i think is true

    • http://www.facebook.com/lance.baker87 Lance Baker

      Battery life on my iPhone 5 is quite good.

      • fewrewrdsv

        “quite good” is relative.

      • Gorgonphone

        iphone 5 will last 24 hours with moderate use and days on stand by…

      • DeBugger

        Not too bad, but not good either. My wife’s i5 lasts about that long too, and my One lasts close to 48 hours which is just shy of my retired SG3

      • http://www.facebook.com/PwnHkr Dylan Lane C. Knox

        Everyone I know who owns an iPhone 5 complains about battery life… almost anyone with a phone period does. The iPhone five wont last a full day under moderate use. The GS4 does, but the CPU is intensive on the battery. Using an overclock program and changing the CPU profile to powersave helps, even underclocking it helps a lot, and with the GS4 you don’t notice a performance decrease.

    • Gorgonphone

      phone is great best of all iPhones…. BUT it depends on what you do with it… texting and talking and ipod music only and it will last very long but start browsing with LTE and playing complicated 3D games and you batter will go down much faster

    • http://twitter.com/int3nsive Int3nsive

      The main reason why phablets exist it’s to have huge batteries. But people still look stupid talking on them.

      • Marcus Ingram

        Lol. So true.

    • Mustang5Oh

      The people who tell you this have obviously never used 95% of the Android devices currently on the market.

      • Gorgonphone

        android tablets are teh worst.. ipad is king

      • DeBugger

        Any phone that does not last a busy work day on a charge is not business friendly. The i5 barely has enough, but still needs a charger handy at all times as the battery can run down in 5 hours with heavy use. Heavy use is not video or games, but wireless or lte. My One (Successor to my i5) has lasted anywhere between 36 and 48 hours with the same usage.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Kero.UD07 Kero Shehata

    iPhone 5 =)

  • Gorgonphone

    iphone 5 looks the best of aLl phones even the phones with higher screen rez and better tech…looool

    • DeBugger

      I respect your view if that helps you sleep at night

      • Gorgonphone

        i dont sleep.. i play with my iphone5..

  • nyangejr

    i just don’t understand all this

  • http://www.facebook.com/LouisPei Louis Pei

    I love Iphone for its better performance. Not laggy and gives me a great experience while surfing the net. Also, even S4’s screen is much bigger, I prefer Iphone’s screen size much more. Because, it’s a phone ! It’s supposed to fit your one hand perfectly and your pocket as well. If I want to watch videos and movies on a bigger screen, I will go for a tablet.

    • http://twitter.com/int3nsive Int3nsive

      Bigger the phone, smaller the social life.

  • Ben

    The photo of the pixels is now made up of other, smaller pixels.

  • Touqeer Tanveer

    Iphone 5 Best :D

  • goluamna

    Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 6 parody: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sn5TElvpMvU‎