Samsung Galaxy Nexus vs Apple iPhone 4S Review

Posted on Thursday, Feb 9 2012 on 12:00 AM

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone has arrived heralding the launch of Android 4.0, otherwise known as Ice Cream Sandwich. As ever, the beauty of the Nexus arrangement is that you get a pure, untainted taste of the latest Android dessert without any of the manufacturer UIs on top, be they TouchWiz, Sense, Motoblur or anything else.

As well as that, though, any would-be buyer is going to need to know whether the hardware on the Galaxy Nexus is something they’ll want in their pockets. So, as ever, to give you an idea of how the latest Android compares to the latest from Apple, we’ve squared Cupertino’s finest against the bruiser from the Mount View stables to bring you the Galaxy Nexus vs iPhone 4S. Spec sheet vs spec sheet. This is how it goes.


Form Factor
1ST: GALAXY NEXUS136 x 68 x 8.9mm, 135g
2ND: IPHONE 4S115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3mm, 140g

Everyone knows that the iPhone 4/4S is a good looking piece of kit whether you order the thing in black or white. As it happens, the Galaxy Nexus is no slouch in this department either. It might be longer and wider than the Apple handset but, as ever, it’s the mass and the profile that count when it comes to making as little impact on the line of your clothing as possible. And, indeed, it’s here where the Galaxy Nexus wins on both counts.

The slight curved shape of the phone might make it trickier to measure but the Nexus handset is 0.4mm thinner than the iPhone 4S and still a few grams lighter too. Ultimately, it probably comes down to how you personally react to the aesthetics and ergonomics of the two but, as far as the numbers go, it’s the Galaxy Nexus that draws first blood.

1ST: GALAXY NEXUS4.65-inch, 720x1280px, 316ppi, AMOLED HD
2ND: IPHONE 4S 3.5-inch, 960x640px, 326ppi, LCD with IPS

We often end up with a debate when it comes to the iPhone and this category. Is it more important to have a bigger screen or a higher pixel density? Thankfully, Samsung and Google have spared us this time by providing a screen resolution on the Nexus Galaxy that’s so high that, even though the phone comes with a display a whole inch on the diagonal bigger than the iPhone 4S, it still manages to keep up in terms of the pixels per square inch. Very impressive stuff. Combine that with the punchy colours from the AMOLED technology and we’ve got a real visual treat here for any would-be purchaser.

Engine Room
1ST: IPHONE 4SApple A5

Both the iPhone 4S and the Galaxy Nexus come complete with the same dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU. The difference is that, while Texas Instruments has chosen the 1.2GHz version, Apple has played it battery safe and underclocked the 1GHz model to 800MHz. On the flipside, the state of the art PowerVR SGX 543 GPU in the Apple A5 absolutely wipes the floor with the PowerVR SGX 540 from 2007 that’s still used inside the Galaxy Nexus. Yes, the Galaxy Nexus still has double the RAM of the iPhone 4S (1GB compared to 512MB) but it’s the Apple phone that’s going to feel crisper and speedier in both your average and more graphically demanding day to day use.


1ST: IPHONE 4S8MP rear, 0.9MP front, 1080p video
2ND: GALAXY NEXUS5MP rear, 1.3MP front, 1080p video

Apple went to great pains to explain just how good the iPhone 4S camera is with its 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 there’s currently nothing to compare from what the world knows about the Galaxy Nexus. What we are willing to bet though is that the Apple phone outstrips the Nexus on more than just the resolution of the rear camera. Even if it doesn’t - which we seriously doubt - we’d rather have more resolution on the main snapper than the front facer.

2ND: IPHONE 4S3G, GPS, BT 4.0, HSPA+, Wi-Fi

The iPhone never claims to be the highest spec device out there, so it’s no surprise that the HSPA+ mobile broadband offered is trumped by the fully 4G LTE version found in the Nexus Galaxy (only HSPA+ if you live in the UK, though). There’s also no NFC to play with on the iPhone 4S just in case you happen to live in a country which has a decent contactless payment infrastructure already set up.

DLNA home connectivity comes to the Nexus Galaxy via any one of the apps from the Android Market (Twonky, Skifta, etc) but you have to rely on Apple’s more guarded approach on iOS 5. Granted, there’s nothing to match the AirPlay Mirroring on the iPhone 4S where you can witness exactly what’s going 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. More flexibility and more kudos to the Nexus Galaxy.

Finally, if you’d rather do all you video by cable, then the Galaxy Nexus comes with an MHL port which doubles as both your USB and HDMI interface but the Apple's video-out is done via an adapter on the 30-pin dock connector.

Battery Life
TIE: IPHONE 4Sup to 8 hours 3G talk time

Battery life is a tricky one to quantify at the moment seeing as Apple and Samsung have decided to quote their relative power specs in a non-compatible manner. All the same, we’re willing to bet good money that it’s the iPhone 4S that will get you from dawn til dusk a lot more often that the Galaxy Nexus. There are reasons for this. Firstly, the iPhone runs a much lower clock speed, it powers a much smaller screen and with fewer pixels too. The other reason is that iPhones tend to be more efficient than their Android counterparts, anyway. Doubtless, the iPhone 4S will have a smaller battery pack - something around 1400mAh, we’d expect.

All this said, it just so happens that there have been a tonne of complaints coming in on the battery life of the iPhone 4S. It seems that iOS 5 is wreaking havoc with its battery efficiency. While we expect Apple will address the problem with a fairly swift update, for time being, we’ll have to call this one a draw.

TIE: IPHONE 4SiOS 5 + Siri
TIE: GALAXY NEXUSAndroid 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

The question of mobile phone OS choice is an ever-changing, ever-difficult to measure category but, today, with both phones featuring state of the art software for their respective systems, we’re calling it, yes, another tie.

Let’s get the simple stuff out of the way. iOS 5 offers more apps and greater ease of use while Android 4.0 tempts with more flexibility and greater customisation potential. We know this. Each has its own compelling voice control software - which may or may not turn out as something you end up using - and each is very pleasant to look at.

Ultimately, iOS 5 is going to be more intuitive but restrictive with no DLNA nor Wi-Fi tethering possibilities and Ice Cream Sandwich is something you can fiddle with a little more but just isn't quite as effortlessly slick. The reality is that you probably already know if you’re an Android or an iOS person.

1ST: IPHONE 4S16/32/64GB

Pretty simple stuff here. Both of these handsets are flash storage based only with no removable option to lose or expand when you’re looking for a little extra for your vids, photos and such. With Apple offering a hefty 64GB iPhone 4S, that trumps the Galaxy Nexus by a big, fat double. If it’s sheer storage that’s important to you, then it’s iPhone all the way.

TIE: IPHONE 4S£499 (16GB)

So far, the only announcements about the Galaxy Nexus are what it’ll cost on contract. Phones 4 U are pitching it for free if you’re happy to pay £46/month which is curiously exactly the same figures for grabbing the iPhone 4S on Vodafone without having to deal with an initial outlay either. Naturally, it’s the SIM-free price that will really tell the story and, although we suspect that the Galaxy Nexus will come out lower there, so far it’s looking like a dead heat.


A fairly close run thing and certainly not the result we'd have expected but it seems that the iPhone 4S wins on paper which is not something that Apple normally seek to do. Usually, the Cupertino company is all about the experience. Still, with a more impressive engine room and better imaging credentials, the Galaxy Nexus can only answer back with it superb screen when it comes to the categories that really count.

As it goes, the Retina Display on the iPhone 4S is excellent in its own right but if you really do think you'll want that extra real estate, then it might be that the Galaxy Nexus is more up your street. Perhaps the only other reason to lean the way of the Samsung-built phone is if NFC, LTE and tethering are things that make a big difference for you and where you live. Otherwise, it's the fast graphics, slick moving, speedy snapping of the iPhone 4S all the way.