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Smartphone Showdown: Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. Samsung Galaxy S3

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. Samsung Galaxy S3: Can Samsung best its last smartphone hit?

By Vlad Andrici for

Editor’s Note: Please check out our recent series comparing the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One: Part 1 and Part 2.

Also see our recent series comparing the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the iPhone 5: Part 1 and Part 2.

The New York City Samsung Unpacked” event has come and gone. The Samsung Galaxy S4 has been unveiled, and many smartphone enthusiasts out there are eager buy this new flagship device.

Nonetheless, it’s not out of the question for some of you to be unfamiliar with the Galaxy S4 and what it has to offer (both hardware and software-wise). If that’s the case then we advise you to read The Diplomat’s Galaxy S4 Overview where we go over the smartphone’s exponential features, in greater detail.

Now, as this article’s title suggests, we’ll take another look at the Samsung flagship, side-by-side with one of the bestselling smartphones of all times: its predecessor – the Galaxy S3. We have made several comparisons recently between the S4 and other smartphones, including the HTC One and the iPhone 5. Nevertheless, comparing the S4 with the previous “Galaxy S” iteration will give you a better understanding of the improvements brought forth this year by the Korean manufacturer.

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Hardware Comparison

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is definitely a better-equipped smartphone than the S3, but it remains to be seen just by how much. Let’s begin with the hardware.

The latest Samsung flagship packs a 5-inch Super AMOLED display featuring a resolution of 1080 x 1920 and a pixel density of 441 ppi. On the other side of the fence, the S3 packs a 4.8 inch Super AMOLED panel which provides a resolution of 720 x 1280 and a pixel density of 306 ppi.

Both smartphones feature Corning Gorilla Glass protection, but while the S3 boasts CGG 2, the S4 raises the bar by delivering the latest Gorilla Glass 3 iteration.

In terms of raw performance, Samsung’s finest packs an Exynos 5 Octa SoC (1.6 GHz + 1.2 GHz), or a quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor (1.9 GHz) and 2 GB of RAM. In contrast, the S3 arrives with either a Snapdragon S4 chipset (dual-core 1.5 GHz) and 2 GB of RAM (in LTE markets such as US) or an Exynos 4412 quad-core (1.4 GHz) and 1 GB of RAM.

The cameras are also much better on the latest model. The S4 boasts a 13 MP-2 MP combo, whereas the S3 arrives with an 8 MP-1.9 MP configuration (rear and front-facing sensors).

Probably the main features that have remained unaltered are the presence of a microSD card slot and the possibility of removing the battery. Storage-wise, both smartphones are on equal ground (16/32/64 GB expandable by up to 64 GB), but the S4 does offer a larger battery (2,600 mAh versus 2,100 mAh).

Software and UI

At the time of Galaxy S3’s arrival, Jelly Bean wasn’t as “mainstream” as it is nowadays, which is the reason why the handset arrived with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich and a new TouchWiz Nature user interface. Meanwhile, the S3 received its fair share of software updates and is now upgradable to Android 4.1.2. The aforementioned iteration also includes a handful of new TouchWiz features that have been “ported” from the Galaxy Note 2. These include a new gallery application, Multi Window, Pop-up Play, new widgets and more.

Despite the fact that the Galaxy S3 has been successfully kept up-to-date, software wise, by Samsung, the S4 manages to take the lead by running on Android 4.2.2. The upcoming flagship also introduces a newer version of the TouchWiz Nature UI. The new user interface is very similar to the older one, at least in terms of design. But similarities aside, the S4 manages to deliver more and newer software features than its predecessor. The list is fairly large and includes things like: Smart Scroll, Smart Pause, S Health, Dual Camera, Sound & Picture, Drama Shot, S Translate, a new gallery app, a new camera interface pulled from the point-and-shoot Samsung Galaxy Camera and much more.

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SGS4 vs. SGS3 – Design

Many have argued that the latest Samsung high-end smartphone is a bit too similar to its predecessor, in terms of design. At first glance it does seem to be the case, but there are several key design cues that give the S4 its own identity.

For instance, the display of the S4 is 0.2 inches larger in diagonal, yet the overall dimensions of the device are slightly smaller than those of the S3 (136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm vs. 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm).

Furthermore, the display bezel of the newer iteration is much narrower and gives the handset a more modern look. Also, although the S4 still features a “hyper-glaze” coating, it conceals an interesting “dotted” texture beneath the smooth surface.

All in all, the results are as expected. The Samsung Galaxy S4 is a better smartphone in nearly every aspect. Where it’s not necessarily better, then it’s at least on equal ground with the SGS3.

The question is, would you -as a possible Galaxy S3 owner- be interested in upgrading your device to the Samsung Galaxy S4?

Vlad Andrici is editor for and writes about technology issues.

Editor’s Note: The text has been updated from the original version.