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Two phones, both flagship models and both handsets that have reached the pinnacle of design, power and display. LG and Apple have created two incredible smartphones, the fingerprint-reading iPhone 5s and the powerhouse that is the LG G2. These two phones were both launched in September and are selling exceptionally well, the iPhone 5s more so. There is no better (or more expensive) Android or iOS device currently on the market, so choosing between one of can be tricky. When you break it down, it makes it even harder to find a clear winner, but there can only be one. Here’s what I thought of the iPhone 5s and the LG G2 and why in an ideal world, I’d own both. You can also skip right to the end of the article and discover who the winner is with a glance.
Decisions, decisions. The 5s and G2 make a handsome couple. LG’s is showy and bright, a beacon of screen technology squeezed into a 1920×1080 display. Apples’s, a pin-sharp screen that is almost too good for a 4″ display. The iPhone 5s’ decision to stick with a this tiny display in an age of monster screens is a puzzling design decision that works against it, especially after coming from the G2.
What this means is that if you care about watching videos, checking out images and playing games then the G2 probably isn’t for you. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time with both devices and the 5s’ screen actually feels like punishment when compared to the G2’s 5.2″ mega-display. Both screens when in the brightness wars. I could rattle on about luminance, but it’s hard to tell in practical terms which screen is actually brighter. So I maxed out the brightness on both phones and there was no light bleeding from the edges or open ports, an issue with less expensive mobile devices.
What the 5s and G2 don’t share is pixel count. Pixels per inch (PPI) dictate how crisp the display will be but none of this matters in the wrong hands. With LG and Apple’s expertise, we have phones with a 326PPI (5s) and 424PPI (G2) display, numbers that seemed like science-fiction a few years ago. While the 5s’ display features less pixels, the 4″ screen still copes well. Apple isn’t big on change, and iOS 7 was designed to look almost lifelike on the lengthy, but narrow display. And as great as Android is, the enormous display of the G2 doesn’t do it any favours. Because Android needs to work on thousands of devices, it’s not really that spectacular on 5″ or over displays. Once you get past the interface though, everything else is dreamy.
The G2 makes full HD content come alive, more than the 5s can ever dream of. YouTube becomes a haven for content and the G2’s sound (which is Dolby Enhanced) crackles with flavour. What I like to do is demo the G2’s HD films that come preloaded and whenever someone news sees the video in action, astonished remarks follow. No one comments on the 5s’ display because by now, we know to expect. And of course, it’s the same display from 4s. Actually, because the screen is taller now, there’s actually less pixels in the 5s, then there was on the 4s. How crazy? The LG G2 wins the battle of the screen, but how will it fare with under the hood?
Under the hood
Select a phone with either a dual-core, or quad-core CPU. Will you be able to tell the difference? Probably not, as it all comes down to performance which both phones deliver in spades. The 5s is a seamless device which never slows down, but tends to overheat and reboot at the oddest times. In comparison, the G2 screams performance from every inch, has a battery life other phones would kill for, and act like a phone a year ahead of the competition.
Comparing specifications and announcing a winner based on hardware alone is a wasted gambit. It’s what each phone does with what it has. And the 5s does it best.
You really need to have had a hands-on with both the 5s and the G2 to feel the difference. While the G2 has a buttery-smooth interface that pushes the limits like no other Android before it, the 5s just works. The interface is one with the hardware in a union that is a much Ying as it is Yang. What Apple most likely only realised after the birth of the iOS 7, is that its hardware and software need to run as a singular unit. The 5s is that exactly, one entity that runs its mobile OS better than any phone before it. Where Android is powerful and flexible, iOS 7 is a unified success. And the 5s hardware knows this.
On the 5s, apps load the instant you tap them. It’s the same on the G2, it just doesn’t feel as harmonious as the 5s. Android feels disconnected from the quad-core 2.26Ghz CPU and 2GB RAM. I know, LG has a proprietary UI that slips over Android 4.3 (and hopefully KitKat come 2014) but it’s not playing to the strengths of the hardware. The specs inside the G2 are as powerful or more so than an entry-level laptop, but you’d never know on the G2. If you buy it, you’ll want to use it to the fullest of its powers, or it’s just a waste. Play games, stream full HD content and install as many apps as you can, you won’t be disappointed. The 5s works from the get-go and uses its 1.3Ghz CPU to the fullest. There are screen transitions, quite a few preloaded apps and some highly intensive software at work, but this never gets in the way of the 5s.
As a new iPhone user, the design of the phone will at first delight you. But as older, more mature and bitter iPhone user, you’ll find that there’s little new on offer here, outside of a hardware experience that never says die. On the 5s, there’s no LTE and the battery is only half as good the G2 (1560mah vs. 3000mah) and it does overheat terribly. Consider the G2’s hardware for the battery life and LTE, yet the 5s conquerors the hardware war on usability alone. For what use is a powerful sword, without the skill to wield it? Dramatic, but that’s the G2 to a tee. Loads of power, little to take advantage of it.
In the Space Gray corner, the iPhone 5s’ camera: an 8MP sensor with a flesh-loving dual-LED, slow-motion video recording and a 1.2MP front-facing camera. In the Gun Black corner, the LG G2 with its 13MP sensor, a LED flash, dual-video recording and a 2.1MP front-facing camera. And the winner?
In looks alone, the G2’s pictures seem like a clear winner. Each 13MP shot has as much depth and colour tone as a modern, standalone camera can look. There’s little grain in the images and optical image stabilization (available in both phones) creates a smooth, blur-free image. Night shots are an issue though and despite a number of cool tricks and filters available to the G2, night shots even with the flash are washed out and unnatural.
The 5s’ camera however, plays an incredible hardware trick on our eyes. By using two LED’s (a white and warmer yellow light), the 5s’ manages to produce night shots with skin colours that look natural, and never overexposed. Its camera is nowhere near as fast the G2’s though, which goes from tap to capture in milliseconds. Apple seems to have purposefully designed slight shutter lag to the 5s, perhaps in the hope to replicate the feel of a old-timey camera? When I press “volume plus” key on the 5s (the physical shoot button), the camera “clicks” and a picture is captured. On the G2, there’s less sound-effects and more of an effort to bring imagery into the 21st century.
Both phones have sharing options, but the G2 has these in spades. Apple has limited sharing options to the usual suspects: twitter, Facebook, AirDrop (Apple’s wireless file-sharing), email, text, iCloud, YouTube (if available) and Bluetooth. On Android, it’s every option ever thought of – this includes sharing the image as a QR code, for goodness sake. It’s more than you’ll ever need. But on the 5s, you may be hungry for further sharing options.
Video has a clear winner, and that’s the 5s. This is based on slow-motion alone. No phone offers this as a native option and it’s a game-changer, for lack of cliché. Slow-motion works exceptionally well, showing off the movements of any scene in great detail. You’ll love it, and it turns the camera from a novelty into a device that truly wins over the hearts of any user.
But, the 5s failure is yanking images off the device. When an Android is connected to a computer, a folder pops-up like any other and you browse it for photos. It’s the same on the 5s, but Android’s ability to treat the entire device as a USB drive makes it a more powerful tool for backing up photos or relocating them to different folders. An Android is an amateur photographers dream: take a shot and back it up to a MicroSD card. On the 5s, there’s fixed storage with no option for expansion. The G2 wins through virtue of ease alone.
Designed to impress
The look of a smartphone is the primary reason for any purchase. It’s how both the prettiest birds attract a mate, and how the loveliest phones attract a new user. So selecting between two very different birds can become an issue, unless practicality is considered. The G2 is the heavier (143g) of the two and the 5s (112g) feels like nothing in the hand. There’s a decent weight to LG’s flagship phone that the 5s lacks, yet the size of the G2 makes for a sometimes uncomfortable holding experience.
Like the 5s, the G2 is designed to be held for long periods of time. So it helps that the curved edges of the G2 encourage two-handed viewing, whereas the 5s is uncomfortable to hold for hours on end, due to both heat and chamfered edging. Sure, the G2 is going to feel like an oven after an hour of HD streaming, but the 5s practically burns. Even though the 5s is half the battery-beast the G2 is, LG’s smartphone doesn’t overheat at the level of Apple’s flagship device.
LG has a dire hardware flaw though, namely the rear-mounted volume and power keys. Why in the name of all that is good did LG place this key on the back? If it wasn’t for the double-tap-to-wake-the-screen option, the G2 would have been an instant fail. But it has it, and this negates the use of a physical power button. Pity the volume buttons are still required.
The iPhone 5s is the slimmest, lightest phone you may ever own and sometimes its hard to believe that Apple has packed so much into such a slight device. This is especially true of the TouchID fingerprint reader which words beautifully 99% of the time. As iOS 7 improves, so will the fingerprint scanner and I’m glad to see that Apple has taken a novelty and turned it into a true time-saver. Everything else about the 5s is perfectly designed, from the space-age look to the texture of the metal, this is a phone that should be displayed at an art gallery.
Ultimately though, I need a phone that is equal parts tough as it is beautiful to stare at. The G2 feels tougher and less dainty than an all metal phone. Ironically, the G2 is all plastic yet wins the war. Also, scratches don’t look as dire on the G2. A single scratch on the rear of the 5s and you’ll quickly notice it.
There is nothing flimsy or loose on either phone, but it’s a matter of choice and because we tend to drop phones as human beings, I’d select the G2 over the 5s any day of the week.
There’s still a lot to talk about but it won’t take away from the winning phone. While I may have praised both smartphones in my previous reviews, there can be only one champion. And due to it having an amazing screen which smashes Apple’s best efforts, the G2 wins. The screen is how we consume content and after swapping from G2 to 5s and back again numerous times, it was the G2 that I came to miss the most.
I missed the speed of the G2, and the way that the screen was large enough to even let me edit articles on it. I adored the amount of space available to me, which was like coming up for oxygen after being trapped on the 4″ display of the 5s. The G2 simply feels like a more creative offering, despite the minor hiccup of the rear-mounted hardware keys. It’s also slightly more affordable than the 5s, which adds up to a very tempting offering. It’s not my phone of the year, but it is the better flagship phone.
Winner: The LG G2