Apple iPhone 5s vs Samsung Galaxy Note 3



Timing is everything in the industry! One moment, one smartphone is being praised with acclaim, and the next, another newer smartphone is taking the spotlight – seemingly taking away the fanfare surrounding the previous one. Well folks, that’s exactly what’s going on in the space right now, as the iPhone 5s arrived on the scene a week ago, only to be challenged by the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 this week. Heading into that crucial holiday time frame, there’s no arguing that these two are vying for business from consumers, so let’s dissect them both to find out how they perform against one another.


Honestly, there’s nothing really new with the designs of both, as the iPhone 5s recycles the design of its predecessor – while the Note 3 receives a subtle redesign with its faux-leather rear casing. Regardless of that, it’s the iPhone 5s that continues to have the premium attachment with its design, which is mainly attributed to its sturdier brushed aluminum casing. Although Samsung mixes it up with a new textured rear casing, accented by the stitched pattern around the sides, the Note 3 is still a plastic device at heart, which doesn’t have the same luxury feel as the iPhone 5s. And when it comes to size, there’s no arguing that the iPhone 5s is considerably more form fitting in the hand and less taxing in the pockets than the ginormous Note 3.

Diving deeper into their arsenal, we really need to point out the Note 3’s extensive offerings – it’s just packed to the roof with so many goodies. Specifically, it features an IR blaster that turns it into a universal remote, the S Pen stylus for precise interaction with the Note 3, and a removable rear cover that grants us access to its battery and microSD card slot. There are still many other small details too, like its microUSB 3.0 port that exemplifies its features set. In contrast, the most noteworthy thing coming along with the iPhone 5s is its new biometric Touch ID finger print sensor, which is accurate and provides us with yet another security option.

Apple iPhone 5s

4.87 x 2.31 x 0.3 inches

123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm


3.95 oz (112 g)

Samsung Galaxy Note3

5.95 x 3.12 x 0.33 inches

151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3 mm


5.93 oz (168 g)

Apple iPhone 5s

4.87 x 2.31 x 0.3 inches

123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm


3.95 oz (112 g)

Samsung Galaxy Note3

5.95 x 3.12 x 0.33 inches

151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3 mm


5.93 oz (168 g)

See the full Apple iPhone 5s vs Samsung Galaxy Note3 size comparison or compare them to other phones using our Size Comparison tool.


Going off their size, it’s a battle between big and small in the comparison again, as the Note 3’s 5.7” display easily dwarfs the iPhone 5s’ 4” display. Heck, the entire body of the iPhone 5s can fit within the Note 3’s display by itself! To be exact, it’s a 4-inch 640 x 1136 Retina Display on the iPhone 5s, and a significantly larger 5.7-inch 1080 x 1920 (1080p) Super AMOLED screen in the Note 3. Naturally, the detail superiority goes to the Note 3, but it’s only evident when we look at the two very closely – just because our eyes can’t tell the difference from a normal distance.

Each has their strengths and weakness, naturally, but when it comes to outdoor visibility, it’s the iPhone 5s that continues to be the winner. And when it comes to colors, the iPhone 5s’ display produces the more realistic colors – whereas it’s over saturated on the Note 3 in the default mode. Putting these two side-by-side in a store, though, we certainly feel that the Note 3 would get more looks due to its iridescent glow and sharp looks.

Furthermore, it’s worth mentioning that there’s more tech involved with the Note 3’s display. In fact, it’s able to track our finger, or the S Pen, while we’re hovering it over the display. It definitely has some benefits, like in the web browser, where the S Pen is able to mimic the function of a mouse cursor.

Apple iPhone 5s 360-Degrees View

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 360-Degrees View

Interface and Functionality

Apple has done a swell job with the design of iOS 7, mainly because it has a more modern look than before and boasts some added functionality. Visually, we prefer it over the TouchWiz Nature UX experience running on top of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean on the Note 3 – there’s just so much more eye candy and spiffy looking animations in play with Apple’s mobile platform. iOS 7 is simply more precise and pays more attention to the smallest of details, while TouchWiz continues to look cartoony by comparison.

When it comes to functionality and personalization though, it’s the Note 3 that blows away the iPhone 5s out of the water. In the functionality side of the platform, the two share some of the same basic functions, like how they execute notifications and multi-tasking, but the Note 3 take it to a higher level. For starters, its enhanced Multi Window feature combined with the its Pen Window feature enables us to juggle around several apps at once – giving us REAL multi-tasking, as opposed to task switching with the iPhone 5s. And of course, there’s far more personalization with the Note 3 too, seeing that we can select different widgets, icons, and live wallpapers to fill up its homescreen. Indeed, iOS 7 now offers live wallpapers, but the icons littering up its homescreen continue to be static – albeit, the clock icon is one of the few dynamic ones.

Certainly going to please business oriented individuals, or those who are all about organization, the Note 3’s unique S Pen adds yet another element of functionality to the experience. Not only is it great for obvious things, like jotting down notes or drawing, but it’s yet another tool we can use to interact with the phone – like using it in conjunction with the various Air View features.

On the organizer side of things, the two phones offer the same basic features with their respective apps, but the Note 3 continues to show its worth in the experience by offering us with several S Pen related functions. Sure, their respective calendar, calculator, notes, and clock apps function in the same manner, but as we dive deeper, it becomes evident that the Note 3 offers a deeper experience. The multi-tasking aspect of the Note 3 alone shows its worth, as we’re able to juggle between all apps with more organization than the iPhone 5s.

Mainly because it has the larger display, it’s only natural that we get a more spacious layout with the on-screen keyboard of the Note 3. On top of that, we’re given a dedicated row for numbers, and access to a variety of punctuations all from the main layout. Conversely, the iPhone 5s keyboard is far more simplified, which isn’t a bad thing at all considering that it’s responsive, employs a better auto-correct feature, and is more encompassing.

Processor and Memory

Being high-end smartphones and all, they’re endowed with some of the most impressive hardware under the hood. On the iPhone 5s, it’s sporting a one-of-a-kind dual-core 1.3GHz Apple A7 processor, which is based on 64-bit architecture – something that by itself is unique in the mobile landscape. Equally as tantalizing, the Note 3 packs its own impressive set of goodies, a mighty quad-core 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC coupled with 3GB of RAM and the Adreno 330 GPU. Apple’s new piece of silicon is totally new, but its true processing potential has yet to be seen, just because apps and games aren’t optimized for it yet. Despite that, we still continue to see a snappier performance with the iPhone 5s. We’re not blowing off the Note 3, which is still one powerful smartphone on its own, but it still exhibits a pinch of choppiness every now and then.

In standard fashion, there’s no storage expandability on the iPhone 5s – so you’ll have to choose from the available options: 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB. As for the Note 3, it comes packaged with 32GB of storage, but it can be supplemented by inserting a card into its available microSD slot.

GFXBench T-Rex HD off-screenHigher is better
Apple iPhone 5s23
Samsung Galaxy Note326
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screenHigher is better
Apple iPhone 5s35
Samsung Galaxy Note326
Mozilla KrakenLower is better
Apple iPhone 5s5931.8
Samsung Galaxy Note37917.6

Internet and Connectivity

More than capable of delivering us a fantastic web browsing experience, their performances are accentuated by their speedy 4G LTE speeds, instant page rendering, and butter smooth navigational controls. However, we’d gravitate more towards the Note 3, mainly because its larger display, higher resolution, and S Pen functionality provides us with the more ideal experience between the two.

Here in the US, both smartphones are available in different GSM and CDMA flavors. As for the rest of their connectivity features, they pack pretty much the same set of gear, which consists of aGPS, Bluetooth 4.0, and dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi. Continuing to show us its more diverse portfolio, the Note 3 packs some additional niceties such as NFC and an IR blaster. Even though the iPhone 5s doesn’t offer NFC, it has something similar with its AirDrop functionality for quick sharing of content.


We’ll break their respective camera interfaces really quick here. The Note 3 offers many manual controls and an eclectic mix of camera modes. Oppositely, the iPhone 5s has very simplified experience.

Oh boy! It’s a close one with these two beauties when it comes to picture quality from their respective cameras – an 8-megapixel iSight camera on the iPhone 5s and a 13-megapixel snapper on the Note 3. Rather than talking about the tech behind their camera gear, we’ll go straight to the results and how they compare. Honestly, they snap some stunning looking outdoor shots where lighting is plentiful. Details are sharp, colors are natural, and exposure seems to be balanced enough between light and dark areas. However, it seems as though there’s just a smidgen more detail with the Note 3’s shots – albeit, it’s only noticeable looking deep into the shots.

Under low light, though, the iPhone 5s pushes slightly ahead of its rival, as it’s less prone to blurring and noise. It’s still pretty damn good with the Note 3, but its details appear softer in tone. In fact, it seems as though that the iPhone 5s has a faster shutter speed, enabling it to capture individual drops of water coming out from a fountain – whereas it’s more of a continuous stream with the Note 3. Using their respective flashes, we’ll mention that they cast a potent enough tone to give flesh tones a more natural color.

When it comes to video recording quality, the same elements from their still picture quality persists here – so they excel when lighting is plentiful, while details take a dip under low lighting. However, there’s just more noise evident with the Note 3 under low light, which naturally softens the overall tone of the video. The two also feature slow motion video recording too, but we actually prefer the iPhone 5s’ implementation more, as we’re able to apply the effect post recording. On the flip side, the Note 3 has the unique ability of shoot video in 4k resolution (3840 x 2160) – something that’s not offered by its rival.

Taking a picLower is betterTaking an HDR pic(sec)Lower is betterCamSpeed scoreHigher is betterCamSpeed score with flashHigher is better
Apple iPhone 5s3
Samsung Galaxy Note32.7
No data


Even with the new redesign of iOS, we don’t find its music player any better in the visuals and functionality department over the Note 3. At the end of the day, the music look players are rather conventional looking. Strangely, it’s the iPhone 5s that catches the attention of our ears, seeing that its output volume is noticeably more potent than the Note 3.

Playing high definition videos isn’t a problem with either smartphone, but there’s one obvious device that’s more ideal for the occasion. Partly due to its significantly larger display, we find the Note 3 to be the more optimal device for watching videos. On top of that, its Super AMOLED panel has that iridescent glow to catch our eyes as well. When it comes to multi-tasking, we really appreciate the Pop up Play feature in tow with the Note 3.

Headphones output power(Volts)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 5s1
Samsung Galaxy Note30.43
Loudspeaker loudness(dB)Higher is better
Apple iPhone 5s74
Samsung Galaxy Note376

Call Quality

Their earpieces have enough of a potent punch to allow us to discern voices even in noisy environments, however, there’s a hint of crackling heard with the Note 3. On the other end of the line, our callers tell us that they’re presented with natural toned voices with the iPhone 5s – whereas it’s more robotic on the Note 3. And finally, their speakerphone qualities pretty much rival one another, seeing that we’re able to carry on conversations will relative ease.


Impressively, the Note 3 provides us with more battery life than the iPhone 5s. To be exact, normal usage between the two permits us close to 2 whole days with the Note 3, and an average 1 day with the iPhone 5s. For power users, the Note 3 continues to show its longevity by providing us with a full 24 hours before charging becomes necessary – while the iPhone 5s taps out around the 10 hour mark.

We measure battery life by running a custom web-script,designed to replicate the power consumption of typical real-life usage.All devices that go through the test have their displays set at 200-nit brightness.
hoursHigher is better
Apple iPhone 5s
5h 2 min(Poor)
Samsung Galaxy Note3
6h 8 min(Poor)


The Note 3 is targeting to a specific demographic – those who heavily prize organization and hardcore productivity above everything else. Knowing that, the amount of features attached to it can make some people feel overwhelmed. Well, either that or they simply would never use any of those features to begin with.

In contrast, the iPhone 5s is the smartphone that’s going to be able to catch a wider audience, mainly because it’s simple and just works in the things we need it to do. Throw in the updated iOS 7 experience, it’s something that we certainly haven’t encountered before. Looking at the TouchWiz experience on the Note 3, it packs some new and updated features, but as a whole, it borrows from its siblings and very much acts like other Galaxy smartphones – save for its S Pen functionality of course.

Beyond the software experience, we’ll vouch that the iPhone 5s’ design continues to be the more favorable one – and that’s despite the obvious fact that it’s a recycled one too. We still appreciate the subtle level of sophistication attached to the Note 3’s updated design, but it lacks the premium construction of its rival to make it an equally compelling offering. At the end of the day, we can talk how one is better than the other in this or that category, but it’s all about what you need and want as an individual. If features and productivity are your thing, choose the Note 3. However, if you favor simplicity and ease, choose the iPhone 5s. That’s all folks!

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