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Interface and functionality:

Both the Apple iPhone 5 and the Galaxy Note II run the latest versions of their respective mobile operating systems - iOS 6 and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. 

Jelly Bean introduces iOS-like fluidity in the interface, making it run with 60fps, but it also leverages Google’s vast knowledge base of people, places and events by introducing the Google Now virtual butler. Google Voice also got an overhaul to the extent that it is now faster and more precise than the iPhone’s Siri voice-controlled assistant - the one which started the mad rush for natural language recognition.

The interface looks and functionality on the iPhone 5 are clean and simple to operate, but more limited than the Nature UX overlay on top of Android Jelly Bean that we find in the Galaxy Note II. Android’s big plus is also its widget system, allowing you to spread and interact with all the info needed for your daily routines on a homescreen or two, available with a simple glance right after unlocking. Having to go in and out of apps all the time, as it is in iOS, is a bit more time-consuming, and the lock screen and the notification bar are less functional. Apple also boxed older apps in with the iPhone 5, putting black stripes on the sides, until their devs update them for the new resolution, which will take a while.

When we add the multi-windows mode that Samsung introduced with the Note II, which splits the large screen in area sizes of your choosing, and you can run two apps at once there, the productivity round goes to Samsung’s handset.

Perhaps the most overlooked functionality introduction with iOS is Passbook - the iPhone’s mobile payment, coupon and ticketing system, which is gradually getting populated by companies large and small that are making it very easy for people carrying the iPhone 5 to pay for stuff, check in or take advantage of promotions with just their handset. Google has its Wallet system, which is more functional in terms of direct payment possibilities in some places and on some devices with NFC, but is not set up as the ultimate mobile payment hub eye-candy the way Passbook is.

Android, on the other hand, is better at its default Maps navigation app, whereas Apple Maps, despite its lower data consumption, has its share of teething problems that iPhone 5 owners might have to wait for a while to be improved upon. Both Google and Apple don’t offer true offline navigation and voice-guidance, though, so you might have to splurge for a 3rd party app anyway, if you are often on the road.

Processors and memory:

Apple uses a manually designed 1.3 GHz dual-core A6 processor with its own core architecture that sits in-between Cortex-A9 and the newest Cortex-A15 instruction set, making it the second company after Qualcomm to use homebrew processor cores, tailored to its own needs and optimizations.

The Galaxy Note II is equipped with a souped-up quad-core Exynos 4412 that is clocked at 1.6 GHz, and is a predominantly Cortex-A9 endeavor. The GPU is ARM Mali-400, whereas the iPhone 5 utilizes tri-core PowerVR graphics for the 3D tasks.

Which one is faster or marginally better we’ll leave for the silicon geeks to decide, but can attest that both are powering the respective interfaces and also any app thrown at them with ease, and both are made with Samsung’s 32nm HKMG process, so they are quite frugal.

The iPhone 5 has 1 GB of RAM, while the Note II sports 2 GB of the thing, and both have the basic versions starting with 16 GB of internal memory, going up to 32 GB or 64 GB variants. The Note II, however, sports a microSD slot for cheaper storage expansion.

Internet and connectivity:

The Apple iPhone 5 scored some record benchmarking points when its browsing prowess was tested, and its Safari browser is indeed very snappy and seamless. The Reader option comes very handy for stripping websites of all the fluff, and only concentrating on the article text. Our main gripe with Safari is the limited kinetic scrolling speed when you flick your finger, compared to the default settings on Android, which make the page fly by.

The Galaxy Note II’s browser is also extremely fast and a joy to use, plus it has the added benefit to be used on a large 5.5” screen, and with a stylus when you need things marked or cropped, which can add a lot to the experience. The AMOLED display, however, drains times more power than LCD when displaying white, as in most website backgrounds, so it is good that Samsung provided a beefy battery, making the Note II last just an hour and change shorter than the iPhone 5’s record 10-hour browsing sessions.

Both browsers don’t support Adobe Flash, so tough luck if you need a website where it runs rampant. You can sideload it on the Note II, though, after jumping through a few hoops.

Samsung paired its Exynos 4412 with LTE for the first time in the Note II for some US carriers, and the iPhone 5 sports a multimode LTE baseband radio, too, but, given the ragtag LTE frequencies around the world, both handsets have different versions for different carriers. The two phones can also run on 42 Mbps HSPA+ 4G networks worldwide.

As for other wireless connectivity, we have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, A-GPS and DLNA on both devices, but the Galaxy Note II throws in NFC and Wi-Fi Direct to sweeten the pot, with dedicated apps to take advantage of them.

When it comes to the cable snake, we’ve got Apple’s new Lightning port for plugging the phone into your computer or charging, and you will need adapters for hooking the phone to a TV, or for using older accessories. The Note II uses an MHL port, and you also need an adapter for hooking Samsung’s phone up to a TV's HDMI port.

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