iPhone 4S vs Samsung Galaxy S II

The iPhone 4S might be Apple’s top dog but Android has some pretty impressive breeds of its own. Right now, the No.1 in the Google mobile space has got to be the Samsung Galaxy S II with the LTE and even LTE HD editions to enjoy if you happen to live in the right parts of the world.

We’ve already seen how the iPhone 4S matches up to the iPhone 4 but there’s going to be an awful lot of people out there tempted to make the step over to Android given that the 2011 Apple phone announcement has been an S upgrade rather than an iPhone 5 in its own right. So, if that’s you, or if you just want to know how your Samsung superphone compares to the latest that Cupertino has to offer, then here’s Pocket-lint with the iPhone 4S vs Samsung Galaxy S II so you can see for yourself.

Form Factor

1st: Galaxy S2
125.3 x 66.1 x 8.49mm, 117g

2nd: iPhone 4S
115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3mm, 140g


As far as pure design aesthetics and ergonomics go, this one’s a matter of horses for courses. Both the iPhone 4S and SGS2 are good looking devices with neither a knobble out of place. So, what the form factor contest comes down to is pocket space. What we always go on first are the mass and profile of the phones and it’s the Samsung Galaxy S II that’s both thinner and lighter. Yes, it’s longer and wider but these tend to be the dimensions of least importance when it comes down to taking up the room where your wallet and crumpled up tissues go. Ultimately, what you want is less weight to carry around and something that keeps the lining of your clothes as close to the way which your tailor intended.

Display

1st: Galaxy S2
4.27-inch, 800x480px, 218ppi, Super AMOLED Plus

2nd: iPhone 4S
3.5-inch, 960x640px, 326ppi, LCD with IPS


A contentious one but, for our money, the Samsung Galaxy S II has a superior screen to the iPhone 4S. Why? Well simply because it’s bigger. At this point, there will be the cries of a thousand Retina Display-o-philes, but we’ve listened, we’ve considered and you’re wrong. The resolution on the iPhone screen is superb and there’s no doubt, but put an SGS2 handset next to an Apple phone and the latter just looks a bit too junior. At this kind of small size, it’s about having the space to browse the web and watch movies properly rather than the clarity at which you can resolve them.

What’s more, Samsung does have some seriously impressive panel technology from all of its TV work and that Super AMOLED Plus and the colours that it can produce are superb. The iPhone’s screen is good. The Samsung’s is better.

Engine Room

1st: iPhone 4S
Apple A5

2nd: Galaxy S2
Samsung Exynos 4210


As it goes, both of these systems on a chip are made by Samsung anyway and it’s of little surprise, therefore, that each contains a dual-core, 1-1.2GHz ARM Cortex-A9 CPU running the show. Where it gets complicated is the graphics. On the one hand, the SGS2 features the Mali-400 GPU - an impressive piece of kit in its own right. However, the PowerVR SGX543MP2 working the magic in the Apple A5 seems to out-bench the Mali by quite some distance. Even though the Samsung packs double the RAM of the iPhone 4S at 1GB, it looks as if you’ll just get a smoother video and gaming experience with Apple’s handset, and that might be key.

Imaging

Tie: iPhone 4S
8MP rear, 2MP front, 1080p video

Tie: Galaxy S2
8MP rear, 2MP front, 1080p video


Apple went to great pains to explain just how good the iPhone 4S camera is but the headline hard specs are identical to those on the Samsung Galaxy S II. Sure, there’s five glass elements, 74 per cent more light absorbed than the iPhone 4, temporal noise reduction and a maximum aperture of f/2.4 but Samsung simply hasn’t furnished the world with the same level of detail. Both have image stabilisation and face recognition and, ultimately, the only way we’ll ever know how they compare is once we get the new Apple phone in for a full iPhone 4S review. Until then, we'll leave this category tied with one interesting caveat from the Samsung Galaxy S II review and that’s that the autofocus does tend to hunt around a bit during video capture and that can ruin your clips at times. Worth considering.

Connectivity

1st: Galaxy S2
Wi-Fi, NFC, 4G, BT 3.0, DLNA, free Wi-Fi tethering

2nd: iPhone 4S
3G, GPS, BT 4.0, 4G, Wi-Fi


It’s pretty much of a muchness on the connectivity front but, the odd level of Bluetooth here and 4G standard there, it’s the Samsung Galaxy S Ii that brings slightly more to the table where it counts. Now, there are a few different versions here but the majority of the SGS2 phones have NFC built-in.

On top of that, there’s also the native DLNA functionality through Samsung’s All Share app that’s just more flexible than AirPlay on iOS. Granted, there’s nothing to match the AirPlay Mirroring on the iPhone 4S where you can witness exactly what’s going on on the phone’s screen on a larger TV but it, and the rest of the AirPlay fun, has to take place over Apple TV and that is seriously limiting.

Finally, you can tether your Galaxy S II to your laptop over Wi-Fi or USB to you heart's content, so long as your contract can manage the data. With the iPhone, that's very much under lock and key and something that most mobile providers get you to pay extra for.

Battery Life

Tie: iPhone 4S
Up to 8 hours 3G talk time

Tie: Galaxy S2
1650mAh


Sadly it’s not possible to tell which smartphone has a better battery at this stage. Samsung hasn’t been kind enough to furnish the world with any of its “up to X amount when blowing your nose with it” figures and Apple hasn’t talked milliampere-hours, so we just don’t know. What we can tell you is that neither will quite last long enough. They’ll just about both limp across the line as you crawl into bed at the end of the day but, if we had to guess, we’d probably say that it’s the iPhone that offers that little extra. We’ll have to wait for the full review for the answer, though.

Software

1st: iPhone 4S
iOS 5 + Siri

2nd: Galaxy S2
Android 2.3 Gingerbread + TouchWiz 4.0


The question of mobile phone OS choice is an ever-changing, ever-difficult to measure category but today we’re handing it to what you get packaged with iOS 5 on the iPhone 4S.

Let’s get the simple stuff out of the way. iOS offers more apps and greater ease of use. Android tempts with more flexibility and greater customisation potential. We know this. What tips the scales this time though are a) the highly intriguing Siri personal organisation, voice recognition software that’s been hard wired in to the iPhone 4S and b) the fact that iOS 5 has basically robbed all the best bits of Android and integrated them in to its own UI. This is not intended as a slur. Android has done plenty of robbing itself and, at the end of the day, it’s all to the consumer’s benefit if such systems borrow from one another. Right now, though, iOS is just a little fresher but that could all change when Ice Cream Sandwich arrives on the scene.

Storage

Tie: Galaxy S II
16/32GB + microSD

Tie: iPhone 4S
16/32/64GB


OK. So, it is just about possible to buy yourself a 64GB microSD card in this day and age and max your storage space out on the SGS2 to 96GB, you utter hoarder, you. But, bearing in mind that they cost over £100 and that working with a single fixed flash memory unit is much easier to manage than the dual internal/removable system on Android, we’re willing to cut the iPhone 4S a little slack here and call this one a tie. If enough SGS2 owners start actually forking out for massive microSD cards and tell us it’s the only way to fly, then we’re willing to listen. At the end of the day though, a smartphone is never going to have as much space as your computer, so you’re going to need to do some kind of management on your mobile. If you can’t do that with 64GB, then it’s you that’s the problem and not the phone.

Price

1st: Galaxy S2
£410 (16GB)

2nd: iPhone 4S
£499 (16GB)


Apple has stated that the UK price of the iPhone 4S starts at £499, making the equivalent storage size on the SGS2 nearly £90 cheaper, as quoted SIM-free and unlocked. That’s quite a saving and a clear winner for this category.

Conclusion

1st: Galaxy S2

2nd: iPhone 4S


Tricky, tricky, tricky. There are a lot of close run categories here and some small victories that perhaps don’t quite matter as much as others. The iPhone 4S A5 chip is a big plus point but that wonderful screen on the SGS2 is probably an even bigger one. It’s something that you’re aware of every single time you interact with the phone and effects the pleasure of anything that you choose to do with it.

The Samsung also has a slightly better form factor with some really useful features like DLNA and the promise of NFC if your locale happens to have any kind of infrastructure. So, with little to separate the two elsewhere and it having a lower price tag too, it has to be the Samsung Galaxy S II that takes the crown.

That’s the objective choice, but do bear in mind that the software on these phones may be quite a big factor for you when making your buying decision. If you’re frightened by the flexibility of Android and would prefer something that just works, then it might be that the iPhone 4S is the one for you. The success of Siri might also be something to keep an eye out for.

Think the 4S should have won? Let us know in the comments or check out the iPhone 4S vs iPhone 4 for something more its size.